NPO ECOPLUS
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2. The Missing Link and Northeast India

The organization that I work with is called the Missing Link. We are a collaboration of people that volunteer our time. We have lawyers, policy makers, corporate sector people, teachers, and most importantly local stakeholders from different communities. We believe we are ordinary people doing ordinary things in a little different way.

To give you an idea of who we are in terms of legal status, we are a registered NPO. If you look at the geographical coverage you will see a number of provinces. Assam Have you heard of Assam? Assam is known for its tea. It has very good tea. It's located in the northeast region. We also work into Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

I come from a state called Nagaland. Most of the pictures you will see are my people, the Nagas. These are ladies from my tribe just to give you a panoramic view of the place I come from.

  • Geography
  • Why the Missing Link?
  • What we do
  • Our Partners
  • Geography

    If you look at the map of India, you can see Northeast India, surrounded by Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, and Myanmar. If you look at its boundaries, you can see that 97% of its border is international. Only 3% is connected with India. We are connected with a small piece of land that is only 27 kilometers wide.

    We people in this region look very different than other Indians. When people see me, they say, "Are you Indian?" They expect a guy with a beard. Most of the states are Christian. For example, in my state, we are 97% Christian. We don't have Hindus or Muslims. The other 3 % is ancient believers who continue their own faith. Culturally, demographically, in terms of religion, it is very different from the rest of the country.

    Nagaland is on the extreme eastern most border of India next to Myanmar. To our North is Ornachal, which is very close to the Chinese border. To our west are Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh. So if you have to go from New Delhi to Nagaland, you are literally flying over Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and then coming to Nagaland.

    Why the Missing Link?
    Why did an organization like the Missing Link come about in relation to what NPO's should be trying to do and how NPO's can contribute to what is happening? This has a genesis with what I was doing earlier. I used to work as a lawyer for the WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature). We have an Indian chapter. We have a center for environmental law where I was working as one of the law officers. I also worked with the UNDP and the UNV for about four years in India. After that I worked with the government of India. These experiences made me realize, along with a number of friends, that you have on one level the international donor agencies trying their best to do things. On the other hand you have national institutions, organizations and governments trying to play between the international treaties. They also try to play with national policies and deal with environmental issues on a national level. And then you have a lot of NPOs and NGOs who are, rather than working together, competing with each other for funds, competing with one another for recognition, competing with one another for everything. Often a lot of difficulties are happening in NPOs. It's not very productive. So that is when we thought, "We need to intervene" as a missing link between all these institutions, people, and all the organizations. That's where the missing link comes in.

    And as a missing link where do we intervene?

    What we do

    We have a number of areas of intervention.
    The four thrust areas are: 1)Environmental education and communication development, 2)Training and capacity development, 3)Research and documentation and 4)Networking. Today we are looking at environmental education. If you have any queries about other areas, I would be happy to discuss them.

    Basically we do a number of trainings. Our target groups are school and college teachers, government officials, project teams and leaders of NGO and donor funded projects. Sometimes you have very large projects, which span across 3 or 4 prefectures. These projects' budgets are much larger than a single prefecture project budget and are not necessarily government projects. They invest a lot of money, yet often realize their understanding of the local situation is not as deep as it should be. This is where we try to provide support and guidance.

    We us the words, "knowledgeable individuals." Often when a lot of these projects come and they try to employ project staff to a NPO or project, we need to have your bio data, resume, or work experience. People forget that there are so many knowledgeable people in the villages who do not have a certificate or who may not have so called "work experience," but who are THE resource people, in terms of their knowledge of local understanding and analysis of the whole situation. They are the people who can be the foundation for any purposeful project. We try to bring in that link.

    We try to raise awareness and understanding of issues. Not to say that the locals have no idea or awareness, but where we try to intervene and raise issues. For example a local farmer will look at a local issue within his own local perspective but we need to also give them a larger picture of what is happening in the neighborhood across one's boundary and what is happening at the international and national levels, and linking this. The whole issue of acting local and going global, we just try to bring that umbrella to them. We try to help locals realize their own potentialities.

    When you speak with farmers and villagers, they don't realize their own potentialities. They don't realize how much they know because they take things for granted. It's like me coming out of the house everyday and then walking to the bus stop and not realizing how many trees there are in between. We try to help in communication saying, "Let's sit back to help you appreciate yourselves much more."

    Our Partners

    I want to give you an idea of who our partners are. Our friends and partners are the future. Our future is also children. We work a lot with children. We work with normal children as well as children with disabilities. Communication with people that can't see or hear is another very interesting, different ball game all together. We take it for granted that when we say, "What a beautiful bird," and we talk about it, but for these children, they have never seen a bird. They have no idea of what it means. So again, this is the whole perspective of communicating with different types of target groups.

    We work with normal children. But again, they are children who live in the villages. They have never seen a train or aircraft. They live in the mountains. We work with park rangers and NGOs. They are people who do influence decisions, both at government level and pure level. We work with women's groups that have their own NPOs. We call them self-help groups. Self-help groups are basically groups of people that get together and initiate their own programs to sustain themselves. We also work with schoolteachers and other project teams, and do a number of publications and resources documentation.

    The thing is, we work with different target groups having different cultures, different religions. For example, we have traditional beliefs that are neither Christians, neither Hindus nor Muslims. We still have people who worship the elements in terms of making sacrifices etc.

    So we try to work with a wide range of target audiences: farmers, decision makers, children, teachers.
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