Sorrow and Light in Rajasthan

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Anna Nantawi and Ketoera Aparaka—women from indigenous villages of the nation of Suriname’s remote rainforest interior—are two months into their solar engineering training at the Barefoot College campus in India. It has been sixty days of discovery, adjustment, becoming acquainted, and learning, enough so that the women now feel at home in the state of Rajasthan. Via an interpreted video chat, Anna and Ketoera note that they are proud to finally comprehend the training:

“We understand it,” says Anna. “We don’t know English, but we understand what is being said.”

Since their arrival, the women have had regular contact with the ACT office in Suriname, with ACT also facilitating communications with their families. So it was that at 1:40 a.m. Suriname time on October 31, 2015, ACT Director Minu Parahoe, with the aid of interpreter Maike Jaachpi and in the company of Ketoera’s family, conveyed to Ketoera the news that her husband had passed away.  Simultaneously, a liaison of the Surinamese Embassy in Delhi departed for Rajasthan to provide support on behalf of the nation’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Many tears were shed on both sides of the ocean, and part of the conversation took place in mournful silence.  

Ketoera faced a tormenting dilemma: whether to return to her village or continue with her training. In the following days, the women were contacted daily from the Paramaribo office, enabling interaction with Ketoera’s family, her village leader, village shamans, and a pastor from a second village who led prayers via Skype.   

Not long thereafter, Ketoera made her decision: “God has decided over the life of my husband. But it is through Him also that I am here,” said Ketoera. “I will finish my training because then I can mean much more for my village.”

During the Diwali festival in Rajasthan, Anna and Ketoera, women from the indigenous village of Tepu in Southern Suriname, take time to enjoy the lights, very apposite to their solar power training.

Ketoera, now at home in Rajasthan, has completed part of her training with Anna.

Dutch version can be read on the ACT-Suriname website.

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