Program Overview
Participants will visit India for 10 weeks between October-December to participate in core program elements:
  • Basudha- a 2-week work service program in West Bengal at a center of grassroots sustainability and seed saving.
  • Gandhi and Globalization- a course taught by Satish Kumar, peace pilgrim and Ghandian scholar at the Society for Integrated Development of Himalayas.
In addition to the above, participants will opportunity to visit partner organizations and attend events including:
  • Vipassana course- a 10-day silent meditation course in which students will learn Buddha's path to enlightenment. Vipassana centers are located throughout India and students will decide where to attend a course.

2005-2008 At a Glance

In 2008, Erin McNichol and Ashley Walch visited India following in the footsteps of participants from previous years. This was the 4th program year meaning there were lots of excellent people and places to visit! Starting in Mumbai, they visited a local artist friend who uses natural dyes, builds furniture with paper, and is an expert in Ayurvedic medicine. They proceeded to West Bengal to conduct a work service exchange at Basudha. From there, they attended a 10-day silent meditation class at the Bodh-Gaya, the site where the Buddha reached enlightenment 25 centuries ago. They finished off their trip by visiting the cities of Varanasi and Delhi.

In 2007, Liz Fitzgerald and Kasey Butler engaged in the first IKE sustainable agriculture service learning project at Basudha in West Bengal, where they conducted research on indigenous rice varietals and participated in a Harvest Festival with local Villagers. They also participated in a Youth Jam workshop and a Gandhi & Globalization course, as have participants for the previous two years. These events took place at several locations in the foothills of the Himalayas. Kasey then extended her trip and visited the Paunar Brahma Vidya Mandir Ashram.

In 2006, Karly Burch and Rainbow Vogt along with project partner Aditi Ahlawat, expanded program contacts to establish a network of more than 30 organizations involved in the sustainability movement in India. They visited organic farmers throughout India and attended a variety of events such as the India social Forum and the Forum for the Powerless. Issues of particular interest for them were anti-coke/pepsi campaigns, education, and health.

In 2005, Tim Galarneau and Peter Christensen visited India and participated in a water ‘yatra’ (journey) where they met villagers along the site of a dam project. They engaged with students and faculty at universities in Delhi and Varanasi to share the CSSC model of student involvement. They also delivered aid to earthquake victims in Kashmir where they stayed with a saffron farmer.

Travel Experiences of IKE Participants

"Traveling to
India as a Knowledge Exchanger was a life-changing experience for me. My longtime interest in Indian culture, philosophy, and indigenous medicine was met by much enthusiasm throughout the trip and I was fortunate to meet many like-minded individuals who graciously welcomed me into their homes and on their journeys. Thank you to my travel partner, Karly Burch, for making it such a fun and memorable journey. My gratitude for the friends, experiences, and knowledge I gained there continues to inspire my daily work and bring me in contact with amazing people and places." -Rainbow Vogt
Visit Rainbow's travel blog

Visit Karly's travel blog
Project Partners Updates

Mukesh Ray, a researcher specializing in indigenous land rights is publishing a newspaper to provide a non corporate-controlled news source. It can be found here though it is published in Hindi, to provide the paper in the language spoken by most people in North India (as opposed to many papers which are published in English and less accessible to the population at large).

Bhakti Nefertiti is currently undergoing the second year of fall planting for reforestation in
Himachal Pradesh, India. She is working with government to obtain lands and the community to plant trees at a cost of 600Rs or ~$6 each and is currently soliciting tree parents. More about her work can be found here.

Ram Singh at Shikshanter in Udaipur, Rajasthan has been communicating his methods in dietary sustainability by eliminating tea, sugar, and rice because of their negative humanitarian and ecological impacts. As three staples found on most tables in
India, this is a radically different relationship with food. Find out more in our newsletter (contact us to receive it).
Interested in going?

We would love to hear from you! Please contact us for an application. Learn more about what to expect while traveling in India here.
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The 2007 Travel Blog

the 75 cent haircut and Tibetan Thanksgiving/birthday dinners...

liz and i just arrived back in delhi after being on the road for 3 weeks, which was initially going to be only a week. but that's kind of how things have been going, plans are constantly changing as we hear about great organizations and places we want to check out. as cliche as the saying is, the time really has flown by and liz leaves in 2 weeks!! so we've decided to spend the last 2 weeks in delhi building networks with organizations here and hopefully work with student groups doing environmental or social change work. although its going to be rough after having spent time in on farms and amongst the himalayas to be in such a smog filled noisy city...we'll just have to get out once in a while to get a breath of fresh air!

recap on the past few weeks:

the gathering at the deer park institute surpassed any expectations i had. we talked a lot about how to balance our activist lives and make sure to take care of ourselves in order to be able to help others. this included discussions about being authentic/honest with ourselves and others and carrying that honesty into any work we may do. it was also about building strong bonds with others at the gathering in order to create a trusting, open space to discuss difficult and controversial issues.

many of the people attending the gathering are working on different projects related to some sort of alternative way of learning outside of an institutional framework. some are creating learning centers for people to spend time being creative and expressing themselves in ways our jobs and schools sometimes prevent us from doing. others were working with street children to do theater as a form of creative expression. and some were working on creating farm space dependent on people's voluntary work to keep it running.

all of this was interspersed with lots of singing, wandering through buddhist temples, doing a bit of gardening and composting in the garden, and testing out the local tibetan and indian cuisine. liz and i both had some interesting experiences at the local beauty saloon where liz was brave enough to get her hair cut. and that wasnt a typo, they call them beauty SALOONS! i had a wonderful birthday feeding sweets to my friends (an Indian tradition) and eating vegan birthday cake a friend made. We also had an unusual but delicious Tibetan Thanksgiving/birthday feast with a few friends from the gathering.

Then we were off to our next course about 7 hours away from Delhi outside of Dehra Dun. We were going to Bija Vidyapeeth, the organic farm of Navdanya, Vandana Shiva's organization. We took a week long course on Gandhi and Globalization with Satish Kumar, a former Jain monk and long time non-violence and environmental activist. We mainly discussed ways to apply Gandhi's four principles of Sarvodaya, Swaraj, Swadeshi and Satyagraha in order to attempt to live nonviolent lives and bring this idea of non-violence into society. One key component to these 4 principles was living as simple and sustainable as possible, with a lot of emphasis on COMPOSTING!! Participants in the course were from all over: Japan, UK, U.S., Canada, Australia, Brazil and all were great resources for different places and organizations to check out in India and their home countries. Satishji was a wonderful teacher and joined us for activities and meals and was willing to talk to anyone individually about any questions they had!

Upon leaving Bija we headed to Chandigarh in Punjab to visit friends we met at the gathering in Bir who are doing recycled craft work and work with street children. We stayed with a friend and her family who run an organization, CEVA (Centre for Education and Voluntary Action). They make crafts out of recycled materials and work with street children doing theater, and other creative activities. We also visited an organization (Chotti Si Asha that helps street children by teaching them how to make crafts to sell, many out of recycled materials, teaching them to read and write hindi. Unfortunately Liz got sick and spent most of the time in Chandigarh in bed but was well taken care of by our friend and her family.

wow a wee uh...that was a long one. so i skipped out on a few things here and there...but hopefully you got the main idea. happy holidays!

peace and love.

some related websites: organization run by a few people we met at the gathering

Navdanya and Bija Vidyapeeth: Vandana Shiva's organization and the farm where we attended the Gandhi and Globalization course
I totally spaced it out, but if any of you feel so inclined to send mail, you can send it to our friend's address with his name and he'll pass it on to us!

Dinesh Gahlot
13a, lake side, hauz khas village
new delhi, 11016
I never thought I would be in such a beatuful and peaceful place, but then again I keep telling myself about many of the places we've visited so far in India. We arrived in Bir, in Himachal Pradesh on Saturday. We are attending a youth jam called Sharing Our Gifts and Priveleges for Social Change at the Deer Park Institute, in the foothills of the Himalayas. We are staying at a former buddhist monastery that is now a retreat and learning center. The local villages are intermixed with monasteries and many Tibetans also inhabit the towns. Prayer flags fly over every building. It is so majestic to walk outside every morning to see the sun warming the face of the himalayas.

there are about 30 people attending the youth jam from all over india, and one woman from france...and it isnt exactly a youth jam as the ages span from 19 to 50 or 60. everyone has been so welcoming and open in sharing with us...i wish we could take them with us through the rest of our travels. so far we have been reflecting and discussing a lot about what privelege and generosity actually is, what it means to different people and how it affects people.

all of the attendees are doing such great work around the country either with children, the environment, the arts, education....and the list goes on. so we are getting some great ideas about how to spend the rest of our time in india.

so we'll be spending thanksgiving and my birthday here in such a beautiful place surrounded by amazing people. enjoy the thanksgiving holiday!

peace and love,
Greetings from Delhi once again! I first of all would like to say that Kasey and I were unaffected by the tropical cyclone that was supposed to hit West Bengal. We left the farm 220 km from Kolcutta, West Bengal. India was not affected but so far 224 people have been reported dead and hundreds of thousands had to evacuate their homes. But here we are in our friends animation studio in Delhi but we will only be here for 5 more hours until we get on a train to Bir to attend a student workshop about social change and our privledges. Our plans are changing a lot right now and I dont think we will be attending the Bija Vidyapeeth course by Navdanya, its sort of complicated. We are currently making other plans. We just spent 2 weeks in the Bakura distric in West Bengal on a farm nestled among many small villages with houses made from adobe situated among palm trees and endless rice fields. It was so beautiful, peaceful and smog free! What a relief. Here is an article that I wrote very quickly for the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, Dr. Debal Deb's organization. Check it out and also look at the pics of Basudha and learn a bit more about where we stayed. Please look up the growing injustice that is occuring in Nandigram, West Bengal. We have been reading the local paper daily regarding this issue and it is very dishartening to see how facism still thrives in this country. We have to bounce because we must figure out our plans and get packed for our 5 day adventure to Bir for the Deer Park Institute class.

Shanti! (Peace)

websites: the article might not be up yet but you and certainly browse the site. this is the website of the youth conference we are heading to tonight!
This is an entry that I wasnt able to finish on the 7th of November because the power went out before I could save it but I found the draft! Yay!

"Awake, awake great ones! The world is burning with misery. Can you sleep?"

This is the quotation that stared down at me as I laboriously attempted to use one of the work out machines at a local gym in Barrachpore near Kolcuta this morning. I think it is a great call to action.

For the past few days I have been in Barrackpore at the home of Dr. Debal Deb who we have been working with at Basudha. I had to accompany him here because I needed to get on the internet very early in the morning to sign up for classes (Im taking Cultural Anthro, Intl Relations 1, Womens Studies 70, IAD 10, Bootcamp!, and doing an internship in the Eco Garden- holler back if you are taking any of these or have any tasty tid bids of advice youd like to share : ).

We arrived at Basudha, the rice farm we will be working at for 2 weeks located near Durgapur in West Bengal, a few days back and have yet to thrust our hands into the soil. When we arrived, Debal was preparing for the 5th (maybe 6th?) Annual Basudha Festival which was an amazing event to participate in. I am currently composing an article to post on Dr. Debs website about the festivities. Here is a link to the site: The food in Bengal is very different than the food in Northern India. They love sweets, always eat with their hands even if there is no chipatti bread to ease this process, always have a huge heap of rice along with 2 or 3 veggie dishes, and tend to eat dinner really late at night (something that I am not used to at all!). We eat our meals on plates that are made from Mahua leaves which are pinned together with tiny twigs - they also make bowls from these leaves. The house that we are staying in on the farm is made from adobe, bamboo and has a thatched roof. We have been sleeping on the balcony which is a lovely place to crash except for the fact that the sun and sound of people talking alwats wakes you up. Since we arrived, we have been stalked by packs of curious children who just watch us quietly as if we were artifacts in a museum. I think its cute and kind of ammusing but it can feel very suffocating too. I have been trying to use the Bengali phrase book to talk to the kids and they think its absolutely hilarious. Kasey and I sung Sublime to them cos they really wanted to hear us sing. We also got them to sing a traditional song for us so, we're even : ). So far, there has not been any work that I have done at the farm because of the festival and my traveling to Kolcutta. Kasey, however, stayed behind at the farm and is harvesting rice and recording data for some of Debal's experiments.

We have met so many interesting people at Basudha and had numerous enlightening conversations about development, ecologial economics, racism in India, the injustices of Monsanto including many terrible things that I cannot dissclose at the moment.
Greetings from Durgapur, West Bengal!

After a long, crazy train ride, a bus, and jeep ride we finally arrived at the Basudha farm yesterday morning. It has been wonderful thus far to have a break from the insanity that was Varanasi, the holiest city in India, arguably, where the Ganga river runs through and is the religious and cultural life line of the region. There we were able to observe Arti, a ceremony that is conducted at Dasaswamedh Ghat (on of many ghats on the river which are palace like pieces of architecture build by Maharajas and noblemen centuries ago), many cremation ceremonies at another ghat where the dead are wrapped in beautiful, glittering cloths and adorned with flowers before they are submerged into the river and burned for at least 3 hours. It was a very intense experience witnessing these events, it is amazing to me how spiritual Varanasi is (or Baranas as the locals call it). It seems like going to temple and singing religious songs is such a big part of their life and yet I don't get the sense that t people there are trying to force Hinduism on anybody. Though you do come across many bicycle rickshaw drivers and boatmen who try to get you to purchase their services at every turn. It is sometimes hard to deal with the constant staring and harassment but I think I'm getting use to it, it is just a apart of their culture. Now that we are in a smaller town off the beaten path, we do still get the stares, but it is much less offensive and hard and more curious. We have had packs of women and children following us around where ever we go and unlike in the big cities, they do not beg us for money or food.

When we arrived at Basudha after our arduous journey, we were greeted by Dr. Debal Deb and Rahul, an Indian gentleman who has been doing work in sustainability for many years and is currently traveling all over India. We had a delicious breakfast of fresh puffed rice cereal, tiny sweet bananas and jagary, which is a candy made from boiling sugar cane. It was all very tasty. The cook, Hanu, is very nice and cooks wonderful food that is all local and organic, everything is from the farm except for the potatoes. It had been really fun learning to eat rice and dal with our hands, there is a technique that one must develop in order to avoid making a huge mess! But it is great to have that extended connection with your food through the sense of touch and also, you never burn your tongue because if the food is hot to the touch, then you wont dare put it in your mouth! The farm is fantastic so far. There are 545 varieties of rice growing here on a little over 2 acres of land; within these small plots, there are a few experiments being conducted to determine the effects of soil type, water, and natural inputs on different rice varieties. In addition, there is a field of rice growing right up against Basudhas land that contains conventional rice - the stalks are not as heavy with rice as the ones on our organic farm! Its pretty cool to see these differences with your own eyes and not just read some statistics in a science journal about yields. While we are here we will get a chance to harvest, thresh and winnow rice and make scientific observations for Dr. Deb's research. There is so much to say about the farm... the farm house where we are staying was constructed by hand with no wood, plastic or metal what so ever and is made from condensed mud bricks, mud paste straw and bamboo. It is very comfortable, simple and beautiful. There are also a few hand built composting toilets! Rad! These outhouses are very simple. There is a metal funnel where you can pee and it just runs right into the plants and then right next to is there is a dirt hole where you can poop, and then cover with dry dirt. It is very important to keep the pit dry or it will start to stink and wont decompose as quickly. There are at least 4 types of composting going on at the farm, it is amazing to see all the different methods in action and I am planning on drilling Dr. Deb about these methods so I can bring back info to Davis and Project Compost! Id better run because I have to upload pics, probably to facebook, I guess, and then look up classes for next quarter! Ah!

There will be an update on the 6th, I think that should be the next time I have access to the net.

Until then, take care and give love!
yay for our 6th day here in delhi! it really seems like we've been here so much longer, but i guess its been exactly a week since we left the good ol' us of a.

liz and i are still trying to figure out this whole blog thing, or i guess just me being not so tech-saavy.

but things i've been wanting to share with all of you are mostly about globalization. a pretty overused word these days. so what does it really mean? i'm not gonig to answer that one for you, but after taking a few classes on globalization and our global economy its been amazing to see the things i learned about first hand. we've seen call centers, met a guy who owns a label making factory and have become friends with a guy who owns an anmiation studio.

the guy who owns the label making factory employs 40 people and they make all sorts of labels for clothing from around the world that mostly goes to the US.

our friend dinesh, who owns the animation studio is part of the whole outsourcing trend we're experiencing in the U.S. his studio does animation and web design for the indian market and is also part of a globalization bureau where they bid for projects from the usa, uk, etc. for example, they are working on a project for a presidential campaign in the us for the 2008 elections!!

this may just be really nerdy on my part, but its fascinating actually seeing the studio that plays a part in the globalization cycle.

so liz and i finally booked our train tickets to west bengal after spending a few hours and failing to book them online. although things in india never seem to be set in stone or done in advance, everyone seems to purchase their train tickets way in advance!

we moved all our stuff to the flat we'll be sharing with karly and a friend from italy, sibilla. and we went to make a copy of the key (which looks like the old fashioned ones you see in movies) and we sat and watched teh key making guy saw and hammer a key. he was sweating profusely after making the keys which then practically burnt my hands from all the friction. not your typical locksmith!

apologies for the time on the internet is almost up.

peace and love - kasey

It is 10 am here in Delhi and I am not tired which is weird because I went to bed at 7 am and got up at nine. The past few days have been amazing, we have met so many awesome people ( I am writing to you from this guys Dinesh's computer right now because we are staying at his house for a bit). Yesterday we hung out a bit in the morning with Dinesh and his friend Sunil until we decided on going to a bollywood movie at Suket (a part of Delhi). The center we went to was weird cos they had a mcdonalds, subway, pizza hut etc. But, we went to this cool little bookstore where we bought a book that Karly recomended called Holy Cow plus and Indian bird guide (we have seen so many amazing birds here! I am totally digging it). We went to get some drinks before the movie and Kasey, Dinesh and I talk about the acceptance and intolerance of different expressions of sexuality in India. It is interesting to me that here, it is very common for men to hold hands and be very touchy with each other but it is not ok for women to do this. "Homosexual activity" is actually illegal here which is really scary. Anyways, the movie we saw was 3 hours long and since I fell asleep and it was in Hindi, it was hard for me to follow the plot but it was pretty entertaining. We stayed out until 4 am with these 3 french girls at the Smoke House Grill where we did a little dancing to trance music. Oh, I almost forgot. Dinesh and I also went to a concert before we met up with everyone else again which was really fun because everyone has these colorful wooden sticks that you hit together to the beat. I want to bring some back and make some awesome beats.

We've done so much already since we were here! The food is intense sometimes, and my mouth feels like a fireball but I am quickly getting used to it. Since there is just too much to say and so little time I will give you some bulleted highlights of the trip so far:

-riding in auto rickshwas which are 3 wheel open air little cars that will take you all over Delhi for cheap

- hanging out at the park/monument/tomb next to our flat at Haus Khas village: it is so beautiful and intricate and there are bright green parakeets all over the place.

- talking to people!

- making bracelets for India kids

- sleeping at the park and watching kids play Criket

- a talk by author Robert Fuller about rankism and dignity for all, the house we saw this talk at was also awesome.

- not being tied down to anything, walking outside the door and feeling like I am witnessing a National Geographic photoshoot. Everything and everyone here is so beautiful.

Peace and Love!
Namaste USA!

Kasey and I are in an internet cafe in Delhi right now composing this message especially for you. We areived in Delhi yesterday at 2am local time and are still jet lagged (I am the most tired but I think Kasey is too). Our adventure began before we arrived in India with a 16 hour layover in Taipei, Taiwan. We got some 8 dollar soup which was good, but kind of boring and figured out how to refill our water (essential!). Then we went downstairs to hang around at the terminal. I could not imagine staying in that airport all day so we asked a flight attendant if we could leave the airport for the day w/o a visa and she said yes! We left and got on a bus into the city, the ride was beautiful. It is so green, there are lots of little shacks, small community farms, and tall appartment buildings. We got onto the metro, which is really nice and clean, and went to the Lungshan Temple and people watched for a long time. It was so peaceful and calm there. There were lots of old women with their prayer beads sitting, watching. The chants and drums were fantastic, it was a very spiritual atmosphere. We then attempted to visit the tallest building in Taiwan but we couldnt make it to the tpo w/0 paying approx 10 dollars. We went to the bus and decided that food was in order, so we found a little stand accross the street. We tried to communicate that we were vegetarian but all three women didnt speak English. What we ended up with was a veg noodle soup that had some kind of spongey meat looking stuff that they assured us was not actually meat. It was a hilarious encounter, and also a very humbling experience. After waiting forever in the freezing cold airport we got on our plane to Delhi. There was a really cute little boy (or Kasey says its a girl, which I can believe) infront of us who is going to be a total charmer when he grows up. He was crying a lot so the flight attendant picked her up and had her wave to the passengers in the plane. The girl then started slapping her in the face, but in a playful way. It was funny stuff. We landed at 2 am and headed toward baggage claim! And then...

Oh my. We are leaving for India tonight! We will take a 13 hour flight to Teipei, Taiwan and then hang around at the airport for an eternity before we take the 5 hour flight (approx) to Delhi! I am excited and sort of freaking out too. We had one of our last conference calls last night to talk about logistics and such, which is when I realized that I have been waiting to go on this trip for 6 months since the day that Rainbow came to my Career Discovery class and spoke about her experience in India. Crazy, right? I still have to go to San Fran to get my passport and visa but after that, I am just going to have to keep myself busy :).

Love and Peace,
Check out the planned destinations for the 2007 India Knowledge Exchange trip.

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