Pushkar: Preserving the Raika Way of Life and their Camels


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Asia » India » Rajasthan » Pushkar
November 21st 2018
Published: December 5th 2018
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Our visits to India have introduced us to some very interesting and like-minded people and their dear to my heart NGO. The organization, Camel Charisma, is part of an effort to preserve the camel population of India by assisting the people who know these camels best, the Raika. Run by Ilse and Hanwant, the camel conservation group puts their energy into creating revenue outlets for the Raika by using authentic camel products.



These products include camel hair rugs, camel hair scarves, paper made from camel poo and camel milk soap. All of the sales and proceeds go back into the Raika community so these communities are not forced to sell their herds and look for occupations elsewhere.



This year they also began a Raika Journey program where people can come to the Camel Charisma campus and actually immerse themselves into the Raika way of life for several days. Organized by our new friend Dee Ann, it is sure to be a popular event for people looking for authentic adventures. It sounds amazing and that just may have to be on my next India itinerary.



The newest and maybe most difficult endeavor being the camel milk distribution center they have created so the Raika can bring their milk to their campus and find buyers. The camels exist and the Raika are willing to milk them, but they are still working on getting a solid consumer base for the milk in India.



While we were in India, we got together with other camel loving fools and brainstormed ways to improve this system, tried to think creatively about how to develop funding streams and evaluated how things were working currently.



Geez, now that I put this in print it sounds like we really worked while we were on vacation! I guess it’s not considered work when it has to do with camels.



Ilse and Hanwant were our connection to make our walk with the Raika happen. Indian Moments did all the heavy lifting and coordinated it all with the Camel Charisma crew. But I know that it would not have happened if there had not been years of work and trust building to create a foundation of trust between the Raika and the gora (white people).



When dad and I decided we wanted to walk, it was just an idea. There was not a plan in place or a pre- designed trip. We said, “hey, we want to to that!” Indian Moments said, “your wish is our command.” And Camel Charisma, said “we know just the right camel community to do this.”



One night after dad and I had walked all day in the heat, I heard from my husband back home. He asked “Do the Raika like you being there or are they just tolerating you?” Yes ladies, I know what you are thinking and he DOES have a way with words. All joking aside, I knew what he meant. Dad and I were tagging along while they were working and trying to provide for their families.Most people would probably just be tolerating us. We feel like we got lucky in how this adventure unfolded.



We feel like we got to lucky, but that luck is probably just the result of a lot of years of hard work by Ilse, Hanwant and the Raika.



One of the most endearing parts of this trip was getting to introduce some of my camel friends to these great people who love camels just as much as we do. We had the luxury of just hanging out with our camel loving friends, attending a Raika meeting, drinking camel milk chair and have a fantastic dinner together. Again, it might not sound like a great vacation itinerary, but it is just what this crazy camel lady needed.


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