Our First Day in Varanasi
Lijnie, Laurent, Wahing, Pearla and Madeleine finally all made it safe and sound to Varanasi! After an hour and a half of crazy taxi driving (most insane traffic any of us have ever seen), we arrived at our guest house around 1PM, local time. After dropping off our luggage and shortly exploring the apartment, we followed the owner of the house to his restaurant for lunch. He then showed us the surroundings of our guest house, such as where to find grocery shops. Once we made it back home, we proceeded to reaching out to our contacts in Varanasi: Devesh, our martial arts representative, and Shiva, the head of AshaDia.
They both agreed to come to our apartment early in the evening to say hi and discuss what the coming two weeks would consist of. It is the first time in India for the whole team, and although we have been following the India project closely for a while, it was great to finally be able to put faces to the names we have so eagerly heard about. Shiva has taken over Meera’s old position, so he was really interested in hearing FairFight’s story, our goal and why we do what we do. After a brief round of introduction, we began discussing the plan for the coming two weeks, and we can say that it is going to be incredibly busy, but we are all so excited to get started! Everybody was really involved throughout the meeting and we ended up discussing for two hours. I will be giving you a brief overview of what our plan consists off, but will attempt to post regular more in-depth updates throughout the project (depend a lot on how nice the internet decides to be with us...).
Saturday is the kite festival in Varanasi, and for the occasion Devesh very kindly invited us to celebrate with him and his family. Our second day in Varanasi will thus be spent truly immersed in the culture and we are beyond grateful for that. Furthermore, we really wanted to visit the girls at Disha and/or Asha as soon as possible. Fortunately, we were able to plan a visit to Asha this Sunday already! On Monday, we will leave for Sarnath in the morning to visit the temple before going to the school where the seminar will be held in order to give an idea of the space we have and how our team should organize their teaching. Finally we will attend one of Devesh’s classes before heading back to Varanasi.
Tuesday marks the beginning of five consecutive days of seminar, three in Varanasi and two in Gorakhpur, which means that we will spend the Sunday thereafter resting. Unfortunately, Wahing will be leaving us on that same day. We will spend the next week visiting alternatively Asha and Disha, and planning tours of Varanasi to get to know the holy city better. Once all of this will be done, it will be time to head back home.
I can say that the team is really incredible, and I could not wish to have any better people handling the project. Everybody is serious about what we are doing here but still manage to keep a very pleasant mood and atmosphere, especially thanks to Wahing’s out-of-nowhere-jokes that makes us all burst out laughing. However, we are missing our dear Floris that could not attend due to an injury to his knee, you are truly being missed buddy!
After a lovely dinner together, we all fell asleep quite early and quickly as none of us slept the previous night due to the overnight travels. Nonetheless, we are beyond excited to start giving classes and meeting all the rest of the people involved in this project! We will try to update you as often as possible, thank you so much for reading and supporting us. Do not hesitate to contact us via Facebook or email if you want to know more and/or have any questions, we would be happy to provide you with anything you need.
Until next time,
Return to Zimbabwe
This January, for the third year running, FairFight is sending a small team to Zimbabwe to carry on our work with young girls, women and communities. It’s been a tough year for our Zimbabwe teachers and students: the rains are late again, causing long draughts that have ravaged crops. The on-going cash crisis means day-to-day business is difficult for many and financial difficulties have made it difficult for our students and teachers to focus on their training, but our collaborations with Nagle house and Peterhouse have been able to weather the storm. We managed to organise the first FairFight indoor tournament in October 2016 in which competitors from both schools as well as the Harare and Chitungwiza Kofukan dojos took part.
This year, FairFight veteran and Jindokai Shihan Mark Caddy is coordinating the project, and is joined by Cambridge PhD student Nivedita Sarveswaran. Together, they’ve raised around 2000 US dollars through online fundraising campaigns. 500 dollars from that went on the purchase of lightweight gis for the girls and body protectors for upcoming competitions.
Nivedita says about her passion for martial arts: "Having started training as a shy young girl in a class full of grown men, karate showed me that I could match my peers in strength and skill through hard work and perseverance – a lesson I carried off the mat as well. I continued training throughout university, discovering the athleticism and mental resilience essential to sports karate, as well as the fierceness and technical fluency required of more traditional combat. While on the surface these traits may seem unique to the world of martial arts, they strengthen the body and mind in ways that inevitably help inspire self-confidence to make one’s way in the world"
They will take the rest of the cash to Zimbabwe, some of which will go to fund FairFight operations for the coming year, while the rest will be used to support local initiatives such as the Ida Wekwako Old Age Home, the Musha Wevana Orphanage, and the Svosve village and Musha Mukadzi women’s empowerment project. These are all charities and organizations that FairFight has worked with before through the EUCSA study trip.
The team lands in Harare on the 14th of January, where they will spend the first week of their trip. Their plan includes a series of trainings with our old friends the Jindokai Old Harareans, where FairFight trained last year. FairFight will also visit the Ruwa community dojo, a project located just outside of Harare and funded partly through Jindokai donations. During that week, there will also be the opportunity to train at Peterhouse and Nagle House in Marondera. The second week will be spent in Marondera, where Gerald Muusha and the team will spend time following up on the progress of our Nagle House project, ending with a grading session for the girls there. As the team will be staying on Peterhouse premises, they hope to engage with the successful Peterhouse Girls and Boys karate programme set up by FairFight and Gerald Muusha last year. During their stay in Marondera, they will also plan for the year ahead and meet with community businesses and organizations with a view to building up community involvement in our project. Gerald has big plans for future FairFight tournaments, in which we want to include the whole community.
For Mark Caddy, the main objective of this trip is to strengthen the bonds and relationships that we set up before. Mark is particularly interested to discover the Ruwa dojo and see how the students at Nagle House are progressing under Gerald’s hard work.