Project Dignity: Video Album
Project Dignity, Videos
Project Dignity is the brainchild of Inner Wheel Club of Calcutta-Midtown and Sri Ramakrishna Ashram Nimpith to economically uplift rural women in the Indian Sundarbans (means “Beautiful forest” in Bengali). It is a river delta area designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 due to its exceptional biodiversity of halophytic mangrove trees, lush sandbars and rivers which shelter endangered Bengal tigers and Irrawaddy dolphins as well as many reptile species. 
Project Dignity awards in-home toilets to the neediest rural women and families of landless laborers so as to help raise their aspirations for a better, healthier life, through sustainable vocational training.

By ending open defecation and segregating human waste from water-centric ecosystems, it teaches the importance of hygiene and safe sanitation practices. Better health enables higher literacy levels, leading to improved living standards and economic prosperity.
Each toilet costs ~$210 (in 2015-17), and is constructed of locally sourced durable materials, and used by families of up to 10 members, with an assigned woman householder responsible for its maintenance and training in hygiene. Once their families regain health (reduced incidence of diarrhea) and children begin schooling regularly in SRAN's schools, these women are in time, offered free vocational training and employment opportunities to help raise their standard of living.


The Rotary Club of Ann Arbor North (RCAAN, in the US has adopted Water and Sanitation as its signature thrust area since 2010. Since 2011, RCAAN has partnered under facilitation of Inner Wheel Club of Calcutta-Midtown, with the Rotary Club of Calcutta-Midtown (RCCM) and Sri Ramakrishna Ashram Nimpith (SRAN), a leading interfaith organization dedicated to rural development in India.

In 2015, the Rotary International Foundation awarded two Global Grants totaling ~$200,000 to address the dual challenges of sanitation and women’s empowerment in the Sundarbans region of East India. A total of 940 new toilets will be completed by 2017, that will transform the lives of at least 10,000 rural dwellers and improve sustainability.

In March 2016, six (6) RCAAN members traveled (at personal expense) to Kolkata. We were graciously hosted by RCCM members and families, Rotary District 3291 Foundation leaders, and members of other area Rotary clubs. The tour included site visits, fellowship and Rotary events.
This video is a record of some of the life-changing experiences we had, while building bridges of international understanding and collaboration....thanks to the Rotary International Foundation.
Remembering the warm welcome our Rotary group received from the Ramakrishna Ashram Nimpith and the locals of Sundarbans in March of 2016.
Sanitation Site Tour Video 2- On December 30, 2016, I visited two areas outside Kolkata with nearly 160 toilets constructed and awarded to rural women under the Rotary Foundation Global Grant 1527157. 
The access to a couple of remote settlements required long motorbike rides on 3-foot wide pavements, and even a walk on a bamboo footbridge due to muddy trails- what an extraordinary experience! 
I admire the determination of Rotarians to solicit these folks for an open-defecation-free Bengal! 
Delighted to meet two dedicated Rotarians from Calcutta East Central Club (Rotn Gobindo JC Roy - a famous movie producer) and the Sun City Club (Rotn Abhijit Banerjee - a steel company executive) and dozens of Rotary Community Corps youth members who connect and serve with the locals. 
They toured me across 200 km of the Ganges River Delta in about 12 hours and pointed out some unique ideas in toilet design that were used to incentivize the families to adopt clean hygiene habits. 
Notice the famous Disney (or new White House) characters, Donald and Mickey?
These Q&A of timeless advice and philosophy that the two progenitors of Ramakrishna Mission had over 100 years ago.
Their attitude of respect and service is a common value shared with Rotarians, and is apparent in the warm partnership our Rotary Foundation Project Dignity Sanitation Global Grant has with interfaith NGO Ramakrishna Ashram, Nimpith in the Sundarbans (India) for the 320 rural toilet project in progress through 2017. 
Via a few videos, I share glimpses into the warm personality of Swami Sadanandji who selflessly serves the NGO in Nimpith, W.Bengal as observed in our December 29, 2016 site visits made with Calcutta Midtown Rotarians.
A rare conversation between 
*Ramkrishna Paramahansa*
& *Swami Vivekananda*
*1. Swami Vivekanand*:- I can’t find free time. Life has become hectic.
*Ramkrishna Paramahansa*:- Activity gets you busy. But productivity gets you free.
*2. Swami Vivekanand:-* Why has life become complicated now?
*Ramkrishna Paramahansa:-* Stop analyzing life... It makes it complicated. Just live it.
*3. Swami Vivekanand*:- Why are we then constantly unhappy?
*Ramkrishna Paramahansa:*- Worrying has become your habit. That’s why you are not happy.
*4. Swami Vivekanand:-* Why do good people always suffer?
*Ramkrishna Paramahansa*:- Diamond cannot be polished without friction. Gold cannot be purified without fire. Good people go through trials, but don’t suffer. With that experience their life becomes better, not bitter.
*5. Swami Vivekanand:*- You mean to say such experience is useful?
*Ramkrishna Paramahansa*:- Yes. In every term, Experience is a hard teacher. She gives the test first and the lessons later.
*6. Swami Vivekanand:-* Because of so many problems, we don’t know where we are heading…
*Ramkrishna Paramahansa:-* If you look outside you will not know where you are heading. Look inside. Eyes provide sight. Heart provides the way.
*7. Swami Vivekanand:-* Does failure hurt more than moving in the right direction?
*Ramkrishna Paramahansa:*- Success is a measure as decided by others. Satisfaction is a measure as decided by you.
*8. Swami Vivekanand:*- In tough times, how do you stay motivated?
*Ramkrishna Paramahansa:*- Always look at how far you have come rather than how far you have to go. Always count your blessing, not whatyou are missing.
*9. Swami Vivekanand:-* What surprises you about people?
*Ramkrishna Paramahansa:*- When they suffer they ask, "why me?" When they prosper, they never ask "Why me?"
*10. Swami Vivekanand:-* How can I get the best out of life?
*Ramkrishna Paramahansa*:- Face your past without regret. Handle your present with confidence. Prepare for the future without fear.
*11. Swami Vivekanand:*- One last question. Sometimes I feel my prayers are not answered.
*Ramkrishna Paramahansa:*- There are no unanswered prayers. Keep the faith and drop the fear. Life is a mystery to solve, not a problem to resolve. Trust me. Life is wonderful if you know how to live.
*Stay Happy Always!*
A glimpse into the warm personality of Swami Sadanandji who selflessly serves the NGO in Nimpith, W.Bengal as observed in our December 29, 2016 site visits made with Calcutta Midtown Rotarians.
A glimpse into the warm personality of Swami Sadanandji who selflessly serves the NGO in Nimpith, W.Bengal as observed in our December 29, 2016 site visits made with Calcutta Midtown Rotarians.
Page written by Manish Mehta
Project Dignity: Rotary District 6380 Newsletter Article, May 2018
I was honored and humbled to serve as “Toilet Warrior” on March 31 and April 1 for Rotary Club of Ann Arbor North (RCAAN) and D6380, for a final site tour, inspecting and assessing the impact of two Rotary Foundation sponsored sanitation-focused Global Grants which are led by RCAAN as international sponsor since early 2016. The two host groups were D3291 Foundation (representing 39 Calcutta area Rotary clubs), and the Rotary Club of Calcutta-Midtown (RCCM).
The goals of both sanitation projects are to end open defecation and break the cycle of generational poverty by empowering rural women with safe, private sanitation facilities so that they can educate their children better, learn sustainable vocations to augment their income, and thereby regained their dignity.
Calcutta (population ~15 million) is the home of Poet Rabindranath Tagore, India’s Nobel Prize winner in Literature, and is also known as City of Joy where Mother Teresa (beatified in 2016 as St. Teresa of Calcutta) served the poor and rescued the sick and orphans off the streets. (Two past D6380 delegations to Calcutta were led by PDG Terry Youlton for Polio Eradication efforts in the late 1990s, and it is also the site of a 3H Grant co-funded by D6380 for a diabetes research hospital).
RCAAN and RCCM began Project Dignity in 2011-12 as a Simplified District Grant project for $18,000, and the successful implementation of 120 in-home toilets and lessons learned were used by RCAAN to organize these two new Rotary Foundation Global Grant projects, which have since engaged the financial support of Rotary Clubs of Ann Arbor North, Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor West, Chelsea, Ferndale, Milan, Novi, Saline and Ypsilanti Rotary Clubs.
I am pleased to report that both Global Grant projects have far exceeded their original targets of rural in-home toilets awarded to below-poverty-line villagers subsisting in the Sundarbans - a lush mangrove forest with high biodiversity located in the Ganges River Delta outside Kolkata. This achievement was possible due to frugal money management by our dedicated Rotary partners and project chairs in India, who used bulk procurement of raw materials and supplies, solicited free labor and services from local toilet awardees or providers, and leveraged with Exide India Battery Corporation which augmented Global Grant funds - all of these allowed RCCM, our Project Dignity partner Club, to add 80 more toilets over the original goal of 320 toilets. Each toilet costs approximately $210/unit and comprises of 2 composting septic tanks to store solid waste while microbial action prepares it in 3-4 months to be used as fertilizer for the farms.
(1) Global Grant 1527157 ($96k) with District 3291 Foundation and ~30 Calcutta area Clubs has completed 526 toilets (original goal was 500). I was graciously hosted for the review by D3291 Foundation Chair Rotn Jayanta Chatterji on March 31, 2018. See photo. 
(2) Global Grant 1526428 ($84k + investment by Exide Battery) on Project Dignity undertaken with the Rotary Club of Calcutta-Midtown (RCCM), and 7 co-sponsor Michigan Rotary Clubs has now completed 400 toilets (as of April 1) with the NGO Sri Ramakrishna Ashram Nimpith (SRAN)...The project will conclude with 420 toilets by end of May 2018. Photos show toilets are named for each sponsor Club from D6380. 
On April 1 early morning, I accompanied the ever energetic Rotn Rakesh Sahni, my Project Co-Chair of RCCM and 6 of his club members - Radhika Sahni, Ruby and Matoo Sikri, Samir Prasad, Joydeep Sanyal, and Sumi Agrawal Past-President of Inner Wheel Club of Calcutta-Midtown and our chief instigator for Project Dignity in 2009 - we toured for over five hours in ~105F steamy temperatures across a 2 km area in the lush biodiversity of the Sundarbans. We toured an area occupied by both Muslim and Hindu communities co-existing harmoniously, led by the Ramkrishna Ashram’s monks and two sanitation contractors, both, on foot and by vehicle over narrow, often precarious sandy embankments to inaugurate 20 new rural toilets. These toilets will empower rural woman-run households with health, hygiene and safety to enable them to take up sustainable vocations and thus, raise their living standards.
In conclusion, I am grateful to Rotn Ashish Sarkar of RC Ann Arbor for undertaking a site visit with RCCM members to the Sundarbans on February 5, 2018, when the previous batch of 20 toilets was inaugurated. Five RCAAN members also toured with me to inaugurate the first batch of 40 toilets completed in March 2016: John Copeland, Matt Copeland, Bryan Schindel, Laura VanSteenis and Tamra Ward. The following photos don’t do sufficient justice to portraying the harsh realities of rural life in the Sundarbans, which is highly vulnerable to climate change, or to the hardships and challenges of bringing sanitation supplies and training/followup to these secluded communities. The dedication of our local Rotary and NGO partners is commendable!
RCAAN’s third sanitation focused  Global Grant 1635112 ($36,000) was awarded in March 2018, and will begin in May 2018 in Bungamati, Nepal with partners RC Chandragiri (Nepal), RC Singapore and Nepal Consul General’s Office in Singapore - the goal is to improve school sanitation and community hygiene with new toilets for 4 girls schools which are being rebuilt after a devastating earthquake in 2015. A site tour is planned in October 2018. Stay tuned! 
Click 1,170 Toilets Completed in Sundarbans (E. India) for photo's of April 2018 visit.
Written by Manish Mehta