India: Villages for the future

Hundreds of thousands of tiny rural villages are an important but little-known feature of India today. Village Reconstruction Organisation (VRO) was founded in 1969 by Michael Windey SJ to rebuild 200 villages destroyed by a cyclone on the Eastern coast. Formerly a professor of sociology at Ranchi, Fr Windy launched VRO as an ecumenical and interreligious organization for rural development, inspired by the Gandhian vision for integrated village renewal. ?People of all religions in India should unite to serve the poor, as the country?s poverty is so immense,? he declares and, from the start, VRO has involved students and young people. Avoiding forced urbanization and western models of development as well as nostalgia for the past, VRO promotes an educational, cultural and environmental renewal of the little communities based on material progress and seeking a way to human perfection according to the Gospel. Working in 50 communities each year, a strong team of two or more volunteers (among them many young foreigners) organize villagers to co-operate in their own development. Useful skills like carpet making, weaving, welding and tailoring are taught in schools so that young people can earn a living, as well as improved techniques for building and roofing, the use of solar power (for lighting and cooking) and wind for pumping water. [HL11205]