India: Self Progress

Women in rural India making bidi cigarettes.

Fourteen hours per day rolling bidi cigarettes for 50 cents.

Bora Vai excited to start sewing and stitching repair training with Aatma Vikas.

For 14 hours a day Bora Vai sits on the hard packed cracked dirt floor in her village, her hands deftly rolling bidi after bidi, an inexpensive Indian cigarette. On good days, she may make as many as a thousand of the tendu leaf rolled smokes, earning around 50 cents and exposing herself to cancer producing tobacco dust.

Aatma Vikas, which translates from Hindi to mean Self Progress, is a new organization in central India that was formed to help workers like Bora by establishing vocational training centers. There, the women are taught skills such as sewing and stitching repair. The men are trained in carpentry, electrical work and tractor driving.¬†Greg Matney, co-founder of Aatma Vikas, says of people like Bora, “We can cut their working day in half and multiply their wage by at least 5 times. We are wanting to provide these people opportunities where they can leave our training centers and find a job in their local area.” In addition to the training centers, Aatma Vikas is helping villagers earn a living by selling solar lights, eyeglasses, and other other products.

Bora, scheduled to start sewing and stitching repair soon, says, “If I complete this course, I will really improve my working situation. Also, I will be able to take care of my family in a better way.”

For more info, contact

Photographs ©Copyright Gary S. Chapman

(Nikon D3s, 24mm f1.4, 1/30 sec, f7.1, ISO 200)

(Nikon D3s, 24mm f1.4, 1/320 sec, f1.4, ISO 200)

(Nikon D4, 70-200mm f2.8 @200mm, 1/640 sec, f2.8, ISO 100)


6 thoughts

  1. Simply Beautiful! I just love your pictures, very much filled with emotions & hope. And of-course super sharp. I have been following you & your pictures, it has been my inspiration. After meeting you & following your pictures I have been trying to compose “Hope for Mankind” in my frames. Thank you once again. Jai Messiah!
    Brother Satish
    Darjeeling, India.

  2. Gary, great and inspiring work. Everybody needs some encouragement and love, you do that well with your photos. James 1:27

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