The Orchha Homestay gives you a chance to delve deep into India. If you wish to get away from the beaten track of commercial tourism and actually experience life in an ordinary Indian family, it can help you do so. They want tourism to contribute to local development and help improve living standards of the poor and as a means of protecting the environment. Your stay will contribute towards these aims.
Friends of Orchha is a registered non-profit organisation working in Madhya Pradesh on creating livelihoods linked to tourism, preserving the environment of heritage sites like Orchha and promoting cultural exchange between visitors and locals. Interaction with a group of women from a poor neighbourhood of Orchha was the spark that led to the creation of Orchha Homestay, a social enterprise that creates incomes and assets for families below poverty line while providing a rich cultural experience for both visitors and hosts.
The organisation was founded by Asha D’Souza and Louk Vreeswijk, an Indo/Swiss-Dutch couple, who moved from Geneva to Orchha in 2006.
Orchha is within easy reach from Delhi. Visitors often combine it with a visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra and the erotic temples of Khajuraho. Jhansi is the nearest railway station and Gwalior the nearest airport. The distance between Jhansi and Orchha is 18 kilometres.
The Orchha Homestay links responsible tourism with community development. They offer not just board and lodging but an intercultural experience.
You will stay in one of the six homes in a simple tiled room that is well adapted to the local climate, clean and comfortable. The rooms are equipped with lights, a fan and mosquito nets and furnished with wooden beds or charpoys, natural cane chairs and a table.
The host families provide tasty, hygienically prepared meals . Sharing a meal with them is often a heart-warming experience.
They also arrange on request discussions with the inhabitants of Ganj, cycle tours in the region and visits to surrounding villages, farms, temples, or the natural reserves.
Bundelkhand has a rich tradition of craftsmanship which needs to be preserved. Friends of Orchha helps in doing this by providing market access to local artisans and artists. You will have the chance to see the potter and basket weavers at work in Ganj.
Some of the women of Ganj do paintings with clay and vegetable matter on hand-made paper. Each painting is a unique expression of their imagination. Friends of Orchha purchases their products at a fair price, package and market them. The profits from sales are entirely invested in improving their homes and neighbourhood.
Piles of plastic bags and bottles disfigure more and more the Indian countryside. To control litter, a number of efforts have been undertaken with the help of local youth. In Orchha, pilgrims bring their offerings wrapped in plastic to the temple.
During festival days when the stream of pilgrims swells, the youth have placed banners outside the temple with the message ‘Say no to plastic’ and asked those entering to take a paper bag in exchange for their plastic bag.
Friends of Orchha got cloth bags made with the slogan ‘polythene free Orchha’ printed on them. They are sold at Rs. 15 per bag.
Friends of Orchha takes a holistic view of development. It includes reducing poverty, providing access to safe water, sanitation, education and health care. The means to achieve these is bringing people together to assert their rights.
Their approach is a combination of mobilising local resources and talents and taking collective action to get the municipality and local government to provide essential services. Tourism being the motor of the local economy, they make every effort to ensure that the economic and cultural benefits of tourism also reach families that are below poverty line.