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Construction Projects, Water Storage, Sanitation - Cochin

Internship and Volunteering Possible
The Ernakulam Social Service Society is active in various fields of social work and development in Kerala. This includes community development, social housing and construction of water reservoirs for drinking water supply. Manual work in the field of construction, as well as internships and volunteer work in the fields of technology, engineering, agricultural engineering and environmental engineering are possible here.

Project Details

Kerala is one of India's states with the most stable social situation. Incomes in the cities of Kerala are well above the Indian average, education levels are higher, and the life expectancy for women is 72 years and 67 years for men.
The main reason for this is that nearly half of Kerala's population which is at an employable age lives abroad, due to higher salaries in the Gulf countries, England and the US. They regularly send money back to Kerala and thus boost the local economy. These people often return when they are at retirement age, building comfortable homes for their old age in Kerala.
For this reason Kerala - similar to the developed countries - has the problem of an aging society: Kerala's age average is 52 years. As the younger generation lives abroad, there are many elderly people that nobody cares for.
Kerala has very little industry and due to the lack of workforce also no major food production. To import food from other Indian states increases food prices. It is particularly the rural population that has to suffer from this. There are massive differences of the state of development between the cities and the countryside. The rural population often has low education levels and a very small household income.
Many people migrate from other Indian states to the cities of Kerala. Most of them however, are people without or with only low professional qualification, settling in the poor areas around the cities. Cities such as Cochin, are not prepared for this inflow of people and the infrastructure such as the waste disposal system, drink water supply and transportation is stretched to its limits. Environmental problems such as uncontrolled dumping of rubbish and water pollution are the result. As the groundwater levels of Kerala are very high, sewage leaking into the groundwater results in diseases and a lack of drinking water.
The Ernakulam Social Service Society
The Ernakulam Social Service Society (ESSS) has existed since 1962 under the archdiocese of Verapoly. Its headquarters are in Cochin-Ernakulam.
The church-run organization is active in socio-economic initiatives and development work for the benefit of poor and disadvantaged groups of the population. 2.5 million people live in the 1500 square kilometers area of operation of ESSS in 7 municipalities and the city of Cochin. ESSS has 35 staff at its headquarters in Ernakulam and 200 field staff.
ESSS is involved in a variety of areas, of which we only introduce the following in this project, which are directly related to the fields of construction, engineering, environmental engineering, and the like. 
SPED-III ("Sustainability through Participation, Empowerment and Decentralization") is a program which has been implemented in 20 villages. "Village Action" Teams were founded to analyze problems of the village community and find solutions, for instance related to food security, economic development, education, health, hygiene, gender mainstreaming and environment.
The aim of the program is to create critical awareness of such problems and to find participatory solutions within the communities.
The financial means to implement the action programs should also be primarily raised from within the community; however there are also some government grants.
An example of a SPED-III project was to address the problem of high prices for fruits and vegetables. Kerala imports most of its food from other Indian states, which results in high prices. The reason is that there are not enough agricultural workers in Kerala, as farming jobs are not popular due to low salaries. Poor families were trained in the cultivation of fruits and vegetables for their own consumption to make them less dependent on having to buy basic food items.
Another program included the construction of more than 100 compost bins within one year.
Environmental Protection Program
As there is a lack of drinking water in Kerala, ESSS runs self-help groups which have been trained in water management. They have skills in the construction of rain water tanks and further water resource management techniques including rain water wells, pits, spillways etc. and the rejuvenation of local water bodies. Water bodies which have been polluted through rubbish disposal and sewage are rejuvenated through the use of phytoremediation and back washing.
Community-based Disaster Prevention
A 3-5 m high Tsunami wave which was caused by a seaquake near Sumatra on the 26th of December 2004, flooded a 1-2 km wide area along 250 km of the Kerala coast. 168 people died, 12,000 houses were completely destroyed or heavily damaged, thousands of fishing boats were lost, and the number of dead domestic animals was not registered. 85,000 people had to be evacuated into emergency shelters, followed by an outbreak of epidemics, as sewage flooded the drinking water.
In cooperation with Caritas, ESSS built 117 houses and 448 sanitary installations, and started a prevention program to better prepare the coastal population for future natural disasters. Besides Tsunamis, India and Kerala are prone to inundations through heavy rainfall, draught, cyclones, earthquakes and landslides.
2000 people were trained through the ESSS community teams. In case of a disaster, they now specialize in certain tasks, in every community.
The early warning team consists of people aged 18-30 years who were trained in the use of communication technologies and interpretation of weather phenomena. These teams are also used for emergency rescue.
The search and rescue team consists of members aged 18-35 years who are physically strong. They were trained in first aid, rescue operations, preparation and use of rescue kits and data collection.
The health and first aid team consists of men and women in equal parts. Individuals who already had skills in medicine, nursing and health were preferred and further trained in emergency and disaster medicine.
The damage assessment team consists of men and women of higher education who were trained in methods of damage assessment, data collection, patrolling, human rights and legal issues.
The Relief & Rehabilitation team has more female than male members and is in charge of the provision of food, water and medicines at emergency shelters during the time after the disaster.
Construction of Habitation and Sanitary Installations
The construction program of houses and sanitary installations which was started because of the tsunami disaster, was expanded and made accessible to anyone in need. The funds are generated through the ESSS Self-Help Groups; one house is completed every month as part of BAHP ("Build a House Plan"). These are low-cost buildings, where local knowledge of building techniques and materials is used.
Volunteering and internships is possible at all of these programs.
Info Box
Location: Cochin, Kerala (India)
Availability: All year, Start date flexible
Minimum Duration: 1 Month
Maximum Duration: 12 Months
Language Requirements: English
Further Languages Of Advantage: Malayalam
Shared Accommodation
Supervision Possible: Yes
Qualification Of Supervisor: Technical personnel from related fields
Minimum Qualification Of Intern:
Relevant studies or experience
Further Contribution To Project: None
Volunteering Possible: Yes
Required Qualification For Volunteer: Relevant experience
Further Contribution To Project: None
Professional Conduct, Do you have the "right" attitude?

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