Gramalaya Training Centre, farewell. | Milaap

Gramalaya Training Centre, farewell.

I have five days left before my Fellowship comes to an end. It is hard to believe it has been six months already since I've been living in rural Tiruchirappalli. When I was starting off, I was skeptical of where I'd live, how I'd communicate, what I'd eat, etc, but at no point of time did I have to concern myself with these questions after my arrival here. GMF, Milaap's partner here, had made arrangements for me to stay at the Gramalaya Training Centre at Kollakudipatti, a little village some 60 kilometers from the city of Tiruchirappalli, temporarily, since they were unsure I'd like the place. I've described the place in my first post, so you can imagine why they felt I might want to live in the city. But, the prospect of living anywhere else having once met the people and seen the place is out of question, which, I am certain even Kurt Herzog, the Fellow from Milaap who also stayed here before me, would agree on. We've exchanged a few emails and he never fails to mention how much he misses the huge trees, the cool breeze and the silence of the place. I think, what saddens me the most now that my role here is coming to an end, is not having a room to myself in this beautiful institution anymore.


Gramalaya was founded in the year 1987 with the purpose of addressing issues with rural development, particularly in the area of sanitation and hygiene. The ultimate goal of Gramalaya is to work for the amelioration of socially downtrodden people under the integrated rural development approach. Since 1987, they have been operating in Thottiyam and Thathaiengarpet and Thuraiyur Block in rural and urban slums of Tiruchirappalli. Health and hygiene education, promotion of Self-help Groups among rural, urban and tribal women, construction of low-cost toilets and safe water supply through micro-credit are the major activities of Gramalaya. The model that is followed essentially is, AWASH - An Association for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene is formed in each community which would work for slum/ village improvement. The association is operated with the help of Animators, who are Peer Educators identified by Gramalaya. Currently, there are more than 512 Animators trained in water and sanitation and working as volunteers their respective areas. The members of AWASH comprise of representatives from Youth groups, women Self-Help Groups, SHE - Teams, with the elected representative Councilor/Panchayat President as the chief advisor for the AWASH. The roles and responsibilities for AWASH is fixed and monitored by the WAVE Federation. WAVE Federation is in-charge of motivating the local communities to form AWASH in every locality, wherever appropriate. Many NGOs are approaching Gramalaya for getting training on water and sanitation, community development etc. including Government department officials and local community based organizations. Some of their partners are, UNICEF, Silent Water etc. They also has a unique role to play in the Prime Minister's Swachh  Bharat Campaign. The founder and director, Mr. S. Damodaran wrote a letter to Mr.Modi offering his ideas and assistance in stopping open defecation. Recently, they've also started a movement called the Big Clean Up India.IMG_2213The training institution, also known as NIWAS (National Institute of Water and Sanitation), came up some twenty-five years ago to provide a permanent space to carry out the functions of Gramalaya. This is where projects are conceptualized and plans of execution are prepared. They hold meetings, visits, training etc here. The most interesting feature of the institution, in addition to some 200 tall, beautiful trees, is the Toilet Technology Park. Since the primary objective is to motivate people to build toilets in their homes with the help of the right technology, this park is a brilliant way to explaining by showing. Various models of toilets and septic tanks are on display here; innovations like child friendly toilets, community managed pay and use toilets systems, school health intervention, introduction of water saving toilet pans for rural and baby pans. They also have a Water Technology Park. Gramalaya truly stands out on its efforts as it not only focuses on educating the people on hygiene and sanitation, but also tells them the most cost-effective ways of doing so. There is a very well-maintained boarding facility, that is constantly renovated and expanded in an effort to meet world-class standards. There is a cook and a caretaker who reside at the institution and are always available and willing to assist the boarders,there is no shortage in water or electricity supply throughout the year, the rooms are cozy and comfortable, and the food is absolutely amazing. NIWAS is recognized as A Key Resource Centre (KRC) of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation by the Government of India.[caption id="attachment_6794" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Toilet Technology Park Toilet Technology Park[/caption]I know I'm going to miss this place miserably, but it's time to pack my bags and say goodbye. Gramalaya Training Centre, farewell.