US-based NRI makes a difference
The villagers created a 200 crore litre water storage provisions by building a 20 km canal and de silting 4.5 lac cubic metres of silt. Besides this, they also collectively built other structures to revive and store water. The villagers created 3 gabion check dams, repaired 6 existing check dams, constructed 10 farm ponds, planted 5000 new trees and built 800 soak pits for water conservation.
Datta Patil, an NRI working in Yahoo! in Sunnyvale California, had an eager desire to make his drought stricken native village of Halgara water-sufficient. To do this, he took a month-long sabbatical to immerse himself in the village community and inspire his natives to work to create a canal and build structures to store water supported by the Art of Living, Oversees Volunteer for a Better India and Yahoo Employee Foundation in the USA.
What is even more laudable is that when when Patil returned to the U.S, he still continued to inspire and coalesce the village community together to make Halgara drought-free. “Patil would be on the phone even if it was 2 am in the U.S, making sure the work was getting done and following up with everyone. The drive of the man to make a change is amazing”, notes Himanshu Kalra, one of the key leaders of the Art of Living River Rejuvenation projects. Even in the USA, Patil inspires the Indian community living aboard to champion his cause through social media and outreach.
Over the past two years, beating all odds, the residents of Halgara Village had started a silent movement. In the words of the CM, they had started a movement to be ‘Free’ (‘Swavlambi’): free from drought, free from the misery it brings. This movement had taken epic proportions in the last one month when the whole village rallied together to take up water conservation in mission mode with the support of the Art of Living’s River Rejuvenation Team.
In the span of two years, Patil visited the village intermittently and inspired the locals to collectively take action against their water-starved situation. “I thought if someone so far away and big from abroad comes to work for our village, we should also do so”, notes a local farmer of Halgara.
“I was surprised by the positive response of the locals. Everyone from the little child to the housewife to the senior most people was involved in creating the gabion structure and in the mission to make their village drought- free”, shares Patil.
There are a number of NRI Indians who want to do something for their native land. However, they often feel that returning permanently to contribute is the only option and this plan often gets procrastinated as they settle in abroad. However, Patil’s story shows us how the NRI Indian, despite being away can make a difference and inspire a spirit of service in the hearts of his countrymen just by his sheer passion and commitment to better the lives of the people around him.