Marta Vanduzer Snow is 35 years young American lady. Marta grew up in Boston and was living in New York City for around 10 years before she moved to India in 2012. Her life and works are truly inspirational for every woman in the world. In two villages of Uttar Pradesh, Raebareli and Amethi, Marta has built 82 low-cost evapotranspiration toilets in homes and 1 in a school, one 10 feet wide and 400 feet long permeable road. She has also executed many other projects in the fields of education, health care and infrastructure like food, water, power and transport. Marta has done all these without any help from any NGO or government aid with her personal money. Interestingly, all these at one third of the cost of the similar governmental projects in these villages.
About Marta’s Aim
“I spent my 20s thinking and working for social change from a desk, as a researcher, and at a policy level. These past few years, working with my hands, seeing what has been made at the end of the day is its own, is an incredibly special reward. The contribution made from a day’s work is clear. I first came to India in 2004 for a book project; it was an honor and tremendous privilege to learn from some of India’s leading minds. Years later, knowing I wanted to develop this idea, I thought India would be the perfect place“, says Marta. She was a full-time Ph.D. student where life was more centered around classrooms and her books.
Regarding how Better Village Better World project got triggered in her mind and her experience in India Marta Vanduzer Snow says:
“It started when I read Amartya Sen’s “Development as Freedom” when I was in my early 20s. Ever since I’ve been thinking about the kind of policies his thesis demands. So far, this work, this experience has been “good-hard.” There have been so many tests of patience. I could make a list of examples, but they all are on the whining, complaining verge, nothing important.”
She adds, “It took some time to win people over. I slept for two months in the village, I did morning readings, I personally cleaned the local primary school. After some time, the times and ways in which the community has supported this work is one of my favorite part of this project. They have volunteered their time, given land, and so many more things.”
Why Better India Better World
Anyone can be curious to know why Marta has come all the way from America to build toilets and roads in the Indian villages..
“I could do very little back home compared to what I am doing and can do, here in India due to the dollar value. India gives me the opportunity to touch people’s lives in a much greater scale. So I just packed my bags and moved. I feel it’s irrelevant where, but as long as I can do my bit of contribution to make this world a better place to live in, I think my job is done“, Marta says with dreams in her eyes.
As far as why all these with your personal money from the pocket? This is what she has to say:
She has spent a lot of money on these developmental work so far. But she doesn’t want to reveal how much she has spent till now “I don’t want to reveal that part of the story. Let that number be with me. I feel my purpose will be lost if I answer that question to anyone. What’s important to me is whether my work is impacting the lives of the people around here or not“, she says with enthusiasm. The impact of the work she is doing will last forever.
Better Village, Better World
Marta’s sincere work has directly impacted the lives of 82 families in 2 villages of Uttar Pradesh.
Talking about the scope of Better Village, Better World she says, “We build evapotranspiration toilets, permeable roads and solar power homes and many other projects. We are working on so many projects in the areas of education, health, infrastructure – organic farming, water, food transport. Community libraries, community-run arts and sports programs. Many things.”
The cost of one such evapotranspiration toilets is around Rs.9,900, whereas the cost of a government bio-toilet built under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan which is somewhere around Rs.20,000.
Under this project, Marta Vanduzer Snow has also installed 27 solar power panels, including two street lights and one mobile charger. She also got French drains built with rainwater harvesting techniques and has been working on Mycofiltration systems for potable water.
The response she received from the people around has been incredibly supportive. Of course not everyone, all the time. What they’ve been able to make on the ground, and even documenting that work, has been because of a series of collaborations with people here in India and abroad.
“When we needed volunteers to run the community libraries, 40 young women came forward to the local girls inter-college. I’m not sure how to articulate how that felt. It is only with all this support that we’ve been able to produce anything“, says an overwhelmed Marta.
She further adds, “We brought the community together and communicated to them the benefits of every project we are doing in the village. Today this small village understands the importance of hygiene and healthcare. Children in the village are educating their elders to use toilets and keep the neighborhood clean. The response from this village gives us hope that we can reach out to one more village, and my personal involvement will make a difference.”
Regarding her team Marta says “I work with Pawan Singh; he is the project director managing all the projects on the ground, full-time. I found him through the organization I volunteer with in Rae Bareli. We have also collaborated with different individuals and companies in the past – an app developer gifted us an interactive map to monitor this work and a telehealth company gave their service ‘Mera Doctor‘, a medical facility that offers 24×7 doctor-on-call service for free for a year to two villages as a pilot. In terms of building, we hired people from the same village and have stayed with the best workers from that group.”
Her Experience As far as her experience in India is concerned Marta says “Where I work is so beautiful, the people, nature, almost everything; the negative news about Uttar Pradesh that gets national and international attention sometimes saddens me. One of the men we work with had a baby girl and to celebrate, his home filled the night sky, all night, with music and joy. I wish I heard more stories like the gentle, kind, smart, hard-working men I’ve met and the strong, courageous, resilient women”
Marta Vanduzer Snow says regarding her future plans in India “I would love to keep working in Jagatpur, Rai Bareli, UP. We’ve now identified three more neighboring villages where we hope to work this year. To scale up the work, we are currently crowdfunding one village and exploring financing options for the other two.”
Marta’s crowdfunding project has to raise the estimated fund of $8,745. She will utilize this fund for her planned developmental works in the village. Anyone of you or your friends can help many families of an Indian village to lead a better life. Even a small contribution can make a big impact. You may contribute whatever little amount you may like to contribute to her crowdfunding campaign and help Marta raise the required amount to extend her work to more villages in the area.