I read about Ulrike and Janwaar castle when I was researching something for womens web.Once I read about her project in Janwaar it made me curious.Social upliftment is something I am passionate about.I believe you can all live better when you can help one more person, as much you help yourself.
Am I making sense?God created men and women.He gave us basic survival skills.What we did with it made all the difference.
That’s why I write about women bloggers and entrepreneurs.They are doing something to shatter glass ceilings.Ceilings which we know exist.But are invisible to the naked eye.True upliftment can only come with education and inclusive growth , for everyone.
Janwaar skatepark ,
Ulrike is the woman behind Janwaar castle.India’s first skatepark is an Internet activist, networker, author, publisher, business consultant, researcher, social worker and much more. Reinhard studied economics at the University of Mannheim in Germany.Has extensive experience in marketing and human resources. She is a member of The WELL (The Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link).It is “the world’s most influential online community”.
Meet Ulrike Reinhard on my blog today
Tell me a little about yourself?
I am a native German and I’ve spent the late eighties and early nineties in the northern Bay Area (Sausalito to be precise) where I became an early member of The Well online community. Five years ago I became a frequent visitor to India and today I spent most of my time here. In Madla, a small village in rural Madhya Pradesh, I live close to the Panna National Tiger Park and Ken River, one of the cleanest rivers in the world. In India, I learnt how to ride a motorbike after having spent 20+ years on a motor scooter. Today I am in love with my bullet.
What was the inspiration behind Janwaar Castle?
Janwaar Castle is a social experiment. It actually connects all the dots which I’ve been working on my entire life. I am convinced that lasting change can only be achieved when you start working with the children. This is why I’ve set-up Janwaar Castle.
Why India and Janwaar Madhya Pradesh?
This was pure coincidence. It could have happened in any remote village. IN any country.There was no plan made for it … Maybe hard to believe, but this is the way it happened.
Tell me about the journey from dream to reality
As I was saying earlier – it was an experiment which luckily so far went quite well. I am a firm believer in open processes, this means that I don’t define outcomes … there was no fixed target to achieve. It was crucial that I was (and I am still) an authentic foreigner who didn’t come with a solution. I was trying to understand the dynamics in the village and the several factors that came into play – many as obstacles to be overcome.
Empathy and transparency, the matter of fact that I walked my talk – helped me to overcome these without losing reputation and respect inside the village community. In fact, it helped me to gain more and more trust. Yes, it was once in awhile a bumpy ride (and still is), but the rate at which Janwaar Castle has accelerated is truly surprising. These kids, their energy and enthusiasm help you to easily move on.
The major reasons what you call a ‘dream’ became ‘reality’ is what we call in the Internet world the power of pull. A project like this never had to be “advertised”. It found resonance and people just continued to talk about it and spread the word/idea. People took note of us because they connect with our work on an emotional level – and this is the most powerful force ever.
So as long as we walk our talk, be authentic and transparent – the story of Janwaar Castle will simply continue.
Your five biggest challenges in doing this in India
I love being in India – otherwise, I wouldn’t be here. It is as simple as this. India for me is a lot like the Internet – there is a huge complexity, it’s highly dynamic and there is always a way forward. In India, you call it jugad 🙂
And as anywhere else there are some things, which are really annoying and I believe hindering the country to develop in a much wider scale.
– The deeply rooted caste system which is vivid and alive in India’s society.
– Male dominance and the pure ignorance which many men show.
– Crucial thinking is not invented in India.
– The acceptance of the status quo by the majority of the people.
– There seems to be a mismatch between what Indian people think, say and do.
Did you ever doubt yourself?
The way I live and work is based on reflection. I am a network person – so I do get constant feedback from various parts of life and a diverse range of people. It is like a constant check of thoughts and interactions. This helps me a lot to find my way and clear doubts.
How did you manage the language barrier the culture challenges? Who and what helped you?
I have travelled to 100+ countries and experienced various cultures. Every place has different cultural values – this is the beauty of the world, isn’t it? While travelling you see, experience and you learn, and while learning you start understanding. This greater picture at least helps me to put myself on this much bigger and ever-changing map.
Till date, I haven’t learnt Hindi and I don’t plan on either. I talk to the children in English and they reply back in Hindi. We may not understand each other’s words but we understand each other’s body language and expressions. I have a relation with every kid in Janwaar where language does not pose as a barrier.
How did the project start and how was it funded?
The way this project started can be best described as taking one step at a time – and having no idea how the next would look like. In summer 2014 I was sitting with Vini, a local “Raja” at his treehouse which had become a kind of basis for me. He asked me if I would like to work in his “home area” and I simply replied: “Why not!” In another conversation a few weeks later I asked me if we should/could build a skatepark.
He didn’t know what a skatepark was so I showed him a video of Skateistan – and he said: “Yes!”. So the decision was made – in less than five minutes – and the only “demand” I made was that he had to secure the land. Vini brought in a local business man from Panna who provided access to land.
Then the turn was on me – I had to raise the funds and make it happen. Initially, I cooperated with skate-aid, a German NGO, deeply embedded in the international skateboarding scene. They provided their charity eBay channel for an auction and skateboards and safety gears. On this eBay channel, I auctioned 19 Artboards – skateboards transformed into an art piece from artists from around the world. The proceeds from this auction (USD 17,000) helped me to build the park!
What’s your dream with this project?
The day I no longer need to disrupt and shake the villagers, the day the villagers themselves take action and explore their own possibilities – my dream will be a reality. An understanding of social equality and the readiness to embrace the unknown are a must for this. It requires a change in the mindset of the people. I am talking about behavioural change which does need time and continuous reflection. This is why co-creation and collaboration are essential parts of everything we do.
What makes you happiest?
A happy, honest smile 🙂
How do you relax?
Every once in awhile I get my bullet started and head to a new place. Travel has always been a vital part of my survival. It gives me clarity of thought and peace. For me travelling to a quiet and beautiful place in the right company and a bottle of wine is an ideal setting.
When you came to India, did your family support you?
You know, there is something very fundamental in our family – every one of us has the freedom to do whatever he/she wants to do. Independently. Freely. This is what we cherish. And this simply includes support and respect for everyone. Very simple actually.
How can people help?
We currently have a fundraising campaign online where people can donate money on a monthly basis to help us to keep this project running – https://www.patreon.com/janwaarcastle
How will they know this is authentic and you are really helping? (Too many scams in India!)
I assume by “they” you mean the villagers.
If they don’t feel it, we don’t help. That’s for sure.
I encourage you to come to Janwaar and experience what the kids and their families have to say. Only then you will truly understand the magnitude of change.You can hear some of their voices in the videos and reportages media outlets have published: NDTV, Discovery channel, 101India, Hindustan Times, Times of India … just to name a few.
16) How can this be made into a system to include more villages and maybe urban slums in India
The moment you will “make it into a system”, it will die. As simple as this.
A project like Janwaar Castle grows very organically and it grows in very unexpected ways and areas. It is NOT based upon pre-defined outcomes and goals to be achieved. One has to be open for that – and one has to understand that. Usually, traditional company or organisational structures are not set-ups for this. We require a purely decentralised network structure.
At Janwaar we merely see our roles as observers. We don’t tell the children what’s right or wrong – we let them figure out their mistakes and learn. This plays a very important role in our project. Building a skatepark can be easily accomplished.
Finally, why skateboarding in India?
I have to admit – and this might come as a surprise – that I cannot skateboard. I always loved watching it though. It’s a kind of “sexy” to look at. What I’ve seen is that skateboarding is teaching you to fall and rise, take the risk and most importantly, maintain balance. The entire body is challenged. Boys and girls can do it equally well. It also has a healthy competition built in so to speak, at least when we talk about skateboarding in a park. Even though it is an individual sport you have to have social skills because you act in a restricted area with others.
And then it has the “innovative” factor. In a country where cricket and hockey dominate, skateboarding is not a very well-known sport. It’s new and this makes people curious and eager to try and learn.
Did you feel inspired reading this ?Comment below to tell me what you feel you can do to help these children?
Look what Ulrike and Janwaar castle tweeted to me
Thank you Amrita! https://t.co/JEMjzwSCbB
— ulrike_reinhard (@ulrike_reinhard) March 25, 2017
Thank you dear @misra_amrita for publishing this interview!
— Janwaar Castle (@Janwaar_Castle) March 25, 2017