Wednesday evening we arrived in Patna, a very small city in Bihar state–only 2 million or so people. It is about 50 miles from the Nepal border. From the airport we were whisked immediately to the offices of FFH’s partner here, Nidan, where we were treated by a blessing, with colored chalk applied to our foreheads, a beautiful chalk drawing on the floor, many smiling people, and the upstairs for a series of presentations by program managers and clients describing the amazing work this organization delivers to Patna–and to its garbage and household workers, street vendors, home handicraft workers, children, low-caste workers, etc. (Caste plays a huge role in Bihar, still, dictating whom you vote for, your profession, etc. )
The programs are creative and far reaching. For example, they have been organizing street vendors, providing them with hygiene training, setting up a highly successful street food festival in Delhi, getting a contract at the local government building which employs 10,000 workers to develop a food court (and $58,000 in funding to build kitchen and other facilities). They want to make street food enticing and safe for the middle class and for tourists. They have organized home handicraft workers, connecting them with foreign buyers, introducing newer, more modern designs so they can sell to a more diversified market, and opening a local retail outlet. Across everything they do, they use Freedom From Hunger methodologies to deliver health, nutrition, and hygiene training.
During much of the program we were served, as were the participants and program managers, a seemingly unending stream of food. Fried potatoes with a mint sauce, chicken kebabs, some fried patties (delicious), water, coffee, and then another round of chicken, fried potatoes, etc. When the presentations concluded they announced that now we would have dinner! Pooris, chicken, mutton, dal, rice, little cake things (savory), and fried fruit fritters for dessert. After we were all served they came around again to offer more chicken, more rice. We were groaning.
Tomorrow we split into two groups to visit programs in the countryside and in the slums of Patna. To bed!