W hen you meet Anjala Lippohocha, you instantly sense her strong-willed nature.
Forthcoming and full of ideas, Anjala is a community-driven person. In the past two months, she has been working with our Jaubhari Green Trails team to educate locals in the region.
But Anjala’s journey has been an unusual one.
Anjala tells us her story
Born into a family of businessmen, Anjala comes from a remote village called Sepi in West Bengal. Financial affluence gave her the best of opportunities that the place could offer.
Anjala and her three siblings completed their education in Sikkim. She did her Bachelor’s degree in education. Soon after that, she pursued her Masters in Arts.
But Anjala had bigger dreams. She moved out of Sepi to seek opportunities in the city.
She then worked for MNCs like IBM and Versace in major metro cities across India. An idealist, Anjala grew weary of her pompous urban lifestyle. She felt the need to do something more fulfilling, something greater than herself. This led her back to her place of origin, Sepi.
Getting back to her roots to do something bigger than herself, was not an easy step.
Sepi is not particularly a prosperous region. The residents majorly depend on daily wage work and farming. Being a remote area, these professions hardly make for a reliable source of income throughout the year.
Having lived in the city for 8 years, Anjala now saw Sepi with a new set of eyes. She was quick to identify why Sepi was stagnating. The village lacked basic facilities, like hospitals and good schools. To top it all, tourism had brought with itself plastic packaged goods. This meant a great deal of plastic waste with no infrastructure to manage it. The local municipality had no system in place to facilitate proper waste disposal.
Sepi, like a lot of remote villages, was facing the brunt of the profit-oriented tourism sector. One could find waste strewn everywhere. Locals were either ignorant or apathetic to the lack of waste management.
At this point, Anjala was not sure how to address these issues.
To find a starting point, she joined her family in contributing to Sepi’s social welfare. In 2003, Anjala’s mother organized the local women into self-help groups. Anjala, in her urban lifestyle fatigue, found rejuvenation in helping her mother carry her work forward.
Ever since she has not looked back. Today, SHGs (Self Help Groups) play an important role in the Sepi community. They facilitate women to grow, evolve and develop individually. These groups have always given importance to growing together as a community.
These Self-help groups now make locally consumable products, like tea, handicrafts and sanitation items (soap, phenol).
The meeting space was also used to conduct sessions that encourage entrepreneurship through information sharing.
Some of these sessions included teaching the process of growing mushrooms, setting up greenhouses and beekeeping.
Anjala’s family ensured the SHGs grew to become financially self-sufficient and sustainable. They sell the products in their shop. The profit is given to the workers without commission. Since the family’s homestay, Lippohocha Homestay, is at the crossroads of the tourist traffic, they are able to tap into the market.
They make use of this to leverage the local economy. Thus, it works well for the betterment of the community. The Lippohocha Homestay is constantly striving to to expand their efforts.
Being an educated member of society, Anjala believes education is the key to progress. To further embolden her belief, she took up a job as a Geography teacher in Sri Khola Government School.
Green Trails becomes significant in Anjala’s journey
Sepi is 3 hours away from our base camp for the Sandakphu trek.
When Anjala saw the Green Trails mission as something intrinsic to the community building process she quickly jumped into the boat. She was happy to join us in a journey which she had started way back in her home.
She took it upon herself to introduce the ideas of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, to the local community of Sepi.
Anjala’s experience at an SHG made her extremely resourceful. When she learnt that we at Green Trails organise upcycling workshops, she offered to help out.
Through Anjala’s network, we got in touch with a couple of local schools in and around Sepi. Today, we teach basic waste management and upcycling in five schools!
Anjala has been providing the much needed logistical and social support to our Green Trails. She accompanies the team and actively participates in the workshop sessions.
She also acts as a translator and helps us with spreading the message in Nepali. This has greatly facilitated better communication during our workshops.
Through Green Trails, she wishes to demonstrate our work and lead by example. She herself puts in time and effort to make useful products from waste. She sees waste as a raw material, a resource. She is confident locals will be inspired by example. In time, she envisages Sepi moving toward better waste management.
Anjala, a natural hero in the Green Trails project
Anjala and her family with their privileges had no reason to lift their community up. They saw it as their social responsibility to do so.
In their opinion, a community is like a garden; it only looks good only if all the blossoms are healthy. They strongly believe that for a community to thrive effectively, effective waste management is an integral part. This is something that strongly resonates with the Green Trails’ philosophy. For us, Anjala is a natural local hero – a true eco-warrior.
Photo credits: Himanshu Dua, Green Trails Team
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Have a green idea in your mind that could help the environment out? Comment below or write to our Green Trails Head – Lakshmi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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