Apr 12, 2012 • By

Join My Village now in India

I recently had the privilege of helping launch Join My Village in a new country – India!

Join My Village is a joint partnership between General Mills, Merck and the humanitarian organization CARE. To date, we’ve been working in Malawi, Africa, to foster greater access to education and economic opportunities for women and girls there.

In India, Join My Village will continue its mission of strengthening economic and educational opportunities for women and girls, and will focus on improving maternal health.

I wanted to share a bit about my trip to India and the exciting details around the Join My Village India launch event.

Day 1 – Culture of volunteerism spans geographies

I started my trip in General Mills’ Mumbai office. It was fabulous to walk into the reception area and be greeted by our mission of Nourishing Lives in large letters with a beautiful photo of an Indian woman next to our company mission on the wall. It was amazing to see how our mission is seamlessly translated around the globe.

I was greeted warmly by General Mills employees and had the opportunity to speak with the Community Action India team, led by Arun Bansal, which helps organize volunteer efforts among employees.

The team took me through the work they are doing, and in particular, told me about a partnership with a nonprofit, BAIF Development Research Foundation, tutoring students at schools outside Nashik (where we have a plant) – helping those students understand the importance of education.

The enthusiasm, dedication and hard work of our employees in India were an inspiration to me!

Day 2 – Witnessing General Mills’ mission in action in Nashik

The next day I traveled to the villages outside Nashik to two schools where General Mills volunteers have worked with youth to improve their education.

The excitement and enthusiasm of the students, teachers and community was fantastic. When I think of Nourishing Lives, I will always picture the smiles of the children in the two schools we visited—how thrilled they were to be in school, to have the opportunity to learn and quench their hunger for knowledge.

One of the schools had a garden from which fresh produce was used for student meals. It was clear General Mills employees had made a difference in the lives of these children and teachers.

Day 3 – Join My Village India is launched

Traveling to Delhi for the Join My Village expansion announcement provided me the opportunity to see another large city in India. The excitement of the Join My Village expansion event in Delhi was palpable. Two General Mills employees, Ajit Yadav and Leena Babrekar, won a trip to the launch and the opportunity to meet many of the fabulous CARE staff who will be managing the Join My Village work in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Orissa and Chattisgarh. Our partnership with Merck is a driving force for the India expansion.

The Girls Education program builds on innovative pilot projects that CARE has run, making important improvements in the access to and quality of education for girls, especially those who are poor. The program partners with the government of India to address these issues in the formal school system and through a number of alternative approaches to schooling.

The launch took place at the Taj Hotel in Delhi and included a press conference with CARE’s country director, the managing director of Merck India, Bollywood star Juhi Chawla and myself.

Chawla was fabulous in bringing the press to the event and assisting Merck, CARE and General Mills in having a platform to discuss Join My Village and its work to improve the lives of underprivileged women and girls. Each partner spoke about the importance of the collaboration as well as the long history of philanthropic engagement it brought to these issues.

After the press conference, we celebrated with government, nongovernment organizations and community leaders, and spent the afternoon with a panel of Indian experts discussing the opportunities for women and girls’ lives’ to be improved.

The day was exhilarating and exhausting, but truly served our goal of expanding CARE’s important work and the JMV partnership into India.

Day 4 – Taking in India’s history

My trip concluded with a visit to the Taj Mahal! It was so worth the trek, although if someone had told me it would take six hours to get to the amazing palace, I’m not sure I would have tried!

But it was an incredible journey at the end of a very exciting launch. And, thanks to the hard work of so many dedicated General Mills employees, the trip was a huge success.

Editor’s note: By visiting JoinMyVillage.com, you can make a personal donation or help General Mills and Merck donate money to CARE by simply clicking and learning about the lives of women and girls in Malawi and India. You can also help by “liking” Join My Village on Facebook.