Vana Yatra is a program organized by Youth For Seva Hyderabad to connect volunteers with the ground realities in different parts of the country, and to expose them to needs and ongoing Seva activities there. As part of the same, a team of volunteers embarked on a 2-day Vana Yatra to Nallamalla forests near Srisailam to study the lives of Chenchu tribals.
Here is a report by Vennela, one of the volunteers.
What started as an exciting weekend getaway organized by YouthForSeva turned out to be much more than fun. The Vanayatra conducted by the members of YouthForSeva on Friday, March 1st 2013 as I soon realized was much more than a pleasure trip. The places we covered, the people we met are going to stay with me for a long time.
The first night, we camped at a Tribal Youth Hostel, Acchampeta which is almost 250km from Hyderabad. We had a memorable time participating in the routine that the Chenchu children followed there. Their way of life, prayer, food habits everything was a part of our journey. It made me realize how much work can be done so close at hand if only one is willing to help them. The fact that the children and young-adults in the hostel are so disciplined, orderly and gentle inspite of them being brought up without parents is even more wondrous.
On Saturday morning, we took off to Srisailam. We had lunch at Shivaji Spoorthi Kendra (a Memorial center which also runs many Seva activities) where we all received a warm welcome. The people who are in-charge of the center were attentive and helpful to all of us.
We had our lunch at the Shivaji Memorial Center and started for our next destination: Gokavaram via Atmakooru. The route to Gokavaram is beautiful and picturesque with green fields one after the other and tall hills always keeping up with our bus.
It was nightfall by the time we reached another hostel for Tribal Youth. Unlike the students at the hostel we have visited the earlier day, all students in this hostel have parents except one. This hostel houses almost 64 students at present. The person incharge at this hostel expressed his anxiety about the lack of funding and extra manpower to help him out with the growing strength of the hostel. We dined and rested here for the night.
Next day’s destination is a Chenchu settlement which is less than 15 km from Gokavaram. Our group got up early and headed to the settlement which could only be reached by foot or by water transport. We chose to trek our way to the Chenchu Goodem. It took us almost an hour to get there. It was hard for me to imagine how people from the settlement would use such a difficult route rain or sun to get to the nearby villages. People at the settlement were friendly and open. Women there told me that they travel almost 28 km to replace a gas cylinder. This settlement still has no electricity supply. The only source of electricity is a broken down solar power generator. It works well enough only to charge their mobile phones. Otherwise, it is quite useless. As our visit there grew to an end, many people requested us to stay for lunch. It is hard to find that kind of hospitality and good spirit among more educated and civilized people. I came away with a lifetime’s memory of their optimism and hope for their future.
When the sun is scorching, we started our way back to the Tribal Hostel at Gokavaram. This time we took the water route to Sangameshwaram Temple Ghat. Luckily for us, the boat halted twice and gave us the chance to swim in the Krishna waters. We reached the hostel at 3 o’ clock, and had just enough time to pack and board the bus to get start back to Hyderabad. I still have all the smiles of the children I met at Gokavaram Hostel.