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Life in the Himalayan Foothills

India, December 30, 2005

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Roger Burks/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Darjeeling's soaring natural splendor often hides the depths of poverty. Through the Community Health and Advancement for India (CHAI) project, Mercy Corps and Tazo Tea Company are helping communities in Darjeeling address their challenges, find opportunities and take possibilities to new heights. Photo: Roger Burks/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Roger Burks/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Darjeeling is rightfully known for growing some of the best tea in the world, carefully chosen and picked by thousands of workers like these. However, these workers suffer from deplorable sanitary conditions in the company-owned villages where they live, as well as a lack of opportunity when tea companies eliminate jobs. Photo: Roger Burks/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Roger Burks/Mercy Corps  </span>
    The village of Sirubari was built to house about 100 tea garden workers and their families. Today, there are 168 households crammed into that space, each housing an average of six people. These conditions mean less than optimal health conditions for residents like Filip and his grandson; there are only 35 toilets in the village for more than 1,000 people. Photo: Roger Burks/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Roger Burks/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Although houses in the tea communities are small and modest, tea garden workers are very proud of them and maintain them beautifully. Manuki has lived in Sirubari, within the Badamtam tea garden, since 1950. She's now retired from picking tea and spends her time on the village's CHAI program committee, where she helps determine and guide local improvements. Photo: Roger Burks/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Roger Burks/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Many things in the villages around Darjeeling are done as they have been for generations, such as cooking in traditional kitchens like this one in the mountain town of Chewribotay. The CHAI project respects such traditions and works to integrate ancient ways of life with new methods that ensure and maintain health. Photo: Roger Burks/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Roger Burks/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Chandra Lama and his colleagues are helping families improve their lives in the tea garden community of Kalej Valley. With the assistance of CHAI they have constructed or repaired 63 latrines, worked on a clean water supply system and are now selling beautiful flowers to local merchants as a means to generate additional income for families. Photo: Roger Burks/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Roger Burks/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Schools in the communities around Darjeeling are often overcrowded and housed in ramshackle colonial buildings with little to no sanitation. CHAI worked with the townspeople of Dairy Gaon to renovate its Congress Elementary School: cleaning, repairing and freshly painting the building, as well as installing new drinking water systems and latrines. Photo: Roger Burks/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Roger Burks/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Marina Rai's husband and oldest daughter break rocks at the hydroelectric plant near their village of Chewribotay for a living. She wishes a better life for her three young sons, and is sending them to the local school that CHAI helped to construct and equip. Photo: Roger Burks/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Roger Burks/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Mangal Lepcha is the first person in Chewribotay to graduate from college. Instead of seeking a higher income in a larger town, he returned to his village where he's principal of an elementary school that was constructed with help from the CHAI project. Photo: Roger Burks/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Roger Burks/Mercy Corps  </span>
    For generations, life in the Darjeeling's Himalayan foothills has meant one thing: growing up to pluck tea on a plantation. But today, Mercy Corps and Tazo Tea Company's CHAI project is giving children like these more possibilities for a an education, job opportunities and a healthy life. Photo: Roger Burks/Mercy Corps

Darjeeling's soaring natural splendor often hides the depths of poverty.