My name is Jeevan Lal Verma. I was born in the village of Sunargaon, situated in the Kanda district in the foothills of the Himalayas (North India). My family, inhabitants of this region for generations, were jewellery makers. Our village, Sunargaon, derives from the name of my family’s jewellery shop- Sunar. After finishing my studies, I wanted to improve the conditions in my village. It is in my nature to help people, and although I never had much money, I felt a true calling to serve the local community.
Because I enjoy meeting new people and desire to connect to the wider world, in the summer of 1988, I hosted a group of international volunteers. With assistance from people in the area, we worked on construction projects based on the community’s needs. This two-week experiment was very successful; the visitors learned about our culture and way of life, and we acquired skills and learned from them as well. It was a very positive exchange.
From this experience, I created a non-profit organisation called ROSE (Rural Opportunity for Social Elevation). Our goal is to improve our residents’ education and health-beginning with those living in extreme poverty-while preserving our cultural integrity and ecological balance. My deep-rooted understanding of this region’s social, cultural, and environmental problems assisted us in creating a responsible rural tourism model. We organise development projects, practical building projects and craft activities with volunteers from several countries worldwide while allowing all participants to experience respectful and authentic cultural interactions. As a result, we have installed latrines, built a temple, constructed earthquake-proof homes and a community shop. Today our life is organised around organic farming, raising goats, poultry-rearing, and a micro-dairy.
I am convinced that social, cultural, and ecological dimensions are interdependent and integral to our daily life. Taking into consideration these three elements, constructing a fully sustainable approach seems essential. All our activities are carried out in this spirit.