“So You’re Native Indian!”  

 

Sagaree Jain

Sagaree Jain

“Then where are you from?” a trainee asked me.

On my second day volunteering at ETASHA, I observed a class on Spoken English at the Mori Gate centre in North Delhi. Eight or nine trainees, probably about my own age – 19 – sat around the edges of the room in wicker chairs that are called, as I would later learn, “Moodha”. The rain outside made the centre’s floor mucky, and the centre itself was grey to match the overcast sky, but the trainees, as always, were bright, energetic, and delighted.

I introduced myself as Sagaree. I told the trainees that I lived and studied in the United States, and that I was here in Delhi only for a few weeks, and so I wanted to spend time teaching English and writing for ETASHA. When I spoke, my voice creaked from disuse, and my American accent broadened and then cut off my English. I looked, I think, much like a Dilli-wallah. I followed Hindi, but my speech had immediately marked me as an NRI.

“I’m from A-mer-i-ca, I sup-pose,” I answered the trainee’s question, enunciating my answer as I had been instructed by the facilitators. “But my family, my grandparents, my cousins, my aunts, they are all here, so I come to India when I can.”

The boy who asked me the question was Vicki. He was young, with hair puffed upwards and quick, tapping feet. At my short speech, he settled backwards, leaning against the wall, indicating that the issue had been resolved.

“So, you are native Indian!”

Native Indian.

This was my first response. In my time in Delhi, outside and inside ETASHA, I got many more, some impressed, some derisive. One time, a 22- year-old relative asked me if American colleges were anything like the movie American Pie”. Another, man selling leather chappals rolled out that his cousin was a doctor in California, and asked if I knew him.

I fielded these questions with some fascination, but mainly, I was fully involved in trying to understand this city, and how to fit with the rolling, weaving, flood of energy that is Delhi. I altered my speech to make it higher and sweeter. A hand extended to join the joke. A question and a shrug at the end of each sentence.

I learned to pick up the gaps in conversation like the lulls between honks on the overpass (is this the right vocab?). I enunciated my Ts.

I fell into a web of extended family.

I learned to fiercely depend on chai twice a day, cheeni alagh (sugar on the side). I enjoyed that when I ordered onion rings at an American-themed restaurant, they turned out to be “pakoras”, and when I ordered Mexican fajitas, they had paneer in them. Even the dust in Delhi moves stubbornly, demanding its own flavor.

I became a buzzing collection of “Woh kya hai?” (What’s that?). I gained a whole new set of vocabulary – “NGOs” instead of “non-profits,” “standards” instead of “grades,” and “batches” instead of “graduating class.” I learned that I am an NRI, or less politely put, an ABCD. But even so, it was ridiculous that I had not heard of Sachin Tendulkar or Honey Singh.

The trainees’ stories, too, were unfamiliar. They were from neighbourhoods I had never heard of – Seemapuri, Madhanpur Khadar, Tigri and Dakshanpuri. They had stories of farming in Uttar Pradesh and grocery businesses in Haryana, or of growing, schooling, and becoming an adult in their Delhi neighborhood. One is the story of a boy called Bhagwan whose father paints houses, and he wants to be a consultant. Vipnesh, on the other hand, had tried to join the army, but is now at ETASHA, finding another way to help people. Deepak dreams of being a manager just like his father is in the Railways. Durga is 22 years old and married, has a daughter, and is learning English to teach it to her. Each of those stories describes a chipper, cheerful person, happy to share, and happy to be sitting in a marble floored classroom with feet bare.

Last week, I held a conversation class at ETASHA’s Tigri centre with a batch that has been in ETASHA for a few months now. From the first week to the 12th, there is always a huge difference in the confidence and expression of the batch as a whole. The trainees wanted to pick a topic of conversation. They settled on “India.” We drew up categories – Food, History, Festivals, Culture, Sports, and Geography, and brainstormed words to fit under them. We started with Culture, and I scrawled the words they threw out on a whiteboard – just a little too small for the endeavor.

“Ma’am, food!”

“Ma’am, clothes!”

“Different. Ma’am, culture is very different.”

“Music, Ma’am?”

“Ma’am, personality.”

“Greeting!”

“Greet-ing is good!” I said, scrawling, and scrawling, and then turning back to the room full of students. I pieced together some Hindi, so that I could practice too.

“You know, the first day I was here in India, I met my Dadu’s sister, and I said,”–putting out my hand to indicate I had tried to shake hands with my wizened Dadiji– “‘Hello!’”

The whole class laughed on cue, kindly, as a small nod to the poor American girl who didn’t quite understand. We kept writing, and I kept learning – that you make “pakoras” for Holi; that the Old Fort is beautiful; that the Yamuna River has serious pollution problems.

After class, in the lobby of the centre, I heard the staff cooking Maggi and good heartedly mocking one another. I told the trainees, all in cut-cut-cut fractured Hindi that the trainees praised absurdly, that I was there because I wanted to teach.

“Me as well,” said Vikram, who lovingly wore a green zip-up hoodie every day. He said he wanted to teach English some day after the data entry job ETASHA would place him in. “Where will you teach?” he asked. “America, or back to India? India is very good.”

It was the trainees who immediately assumed that I belonged in Delhi’s lovely chaotic song, without my asking for it, maybe without my deserving it. I didn’t have the words in Hindi to tell him that my whole heart was heavy with mismatched language, or that every style of speaking my tongue found felt just a little wrong. I was all filled up with longing and dust and waiting for a place to settle.    

I told Vikram I hadn’t decided yet.

About the author: Sagaree Jain is a second-year student of Literature and Indian History at University of Berkeley, California. She is currently volunteering with ETASHA. 

India’s Shortage of Skilled Workers

 

According to the ILO, the Indian Industry will have a demand for 500 million skilled workers by 2022. However, the current supply of skilled workers is only 3.4 million approximately. The Indian education system, which often overlooks employability skills, faces a massive task of making 496.6 million Indians employable in a new-age economy within eight years.

500 Million Skilled Workers

 

 

Helping Youth Deal With Anger

 

Raj Kumar (Former ETASHA trainee. Vocational Training Program)

Raj Kumar (Former ETASHA trainee)

By R. Nithya

He had a job, true. He also had enough money for his family to survive in the resettlement colony of Dakshinpuri in South Delhi. But Raj Kumar, now 26 years old, wanted more. Not more money, but something more important and rather more difficult to earn. He wanted respect.

I never cared about money or job posts. I just wanted to work in a company where I could feel respected,” Raj Kumar said.

Perhaps the lack of what he deeply desired made him extremely aggressive over the years.

Looking back, he doesn’t understand why every other morning he fought with his mother and his sister – the only family he has. Sometimes the fight was over food, and sometimes over things that are too unimportant to be recalled now. But there would be a fight every other morning after which he would storm out of the house in a rage. The evenings were silent – toxic aftermath of a fight.

Raj Kumar left his previous job as a bus conductor with the Delhi Transport Corporation before his fight with his depot manager could turn ugly. “I was very aggressive before. I would get into fights easily,” Raj Kumar said. “I wanted people to do things my way all the time. I had a very strong ego.”

After a friend’s suggestion, he joined one of ETASHA Society’s several vocational training programs – Computerized Office and Data Entry (CODE) – in February 2014 in hope of creating a better life situation for himself. During the anger management session as part of his course, Raj Kumar became open to understanding that his anger was detrimental to his career, and to his relationship with others and with his own self. He realized it was time for him to deal with his anger.

Anger management training at ETASHA Society began in 2008 with the realization of the urgent need to understand and deal with aggressive behaviours and attitudes of the youth in the communities. Anger in these young people is highly instigated by their social, financial and individual situations, and by the violence they see around them or towards them in the form of harsh parenting or teaching. Many face bullying within and outside their communities which leads to deepening of suppressed anger in them.

ETASHA Society recognized the absence of a proper venting mechanism for the anger these young people experience, and the need to provide them the skills and methods required to cope with resentment and deal with situations that trigger anger in them. While the three-hour long anger management session at ETASHA is conducted once during the training period, frequent one-on-one sessions are arranged with a counselor during the individual feedback sessions to support students in their emotional and psychological growth.

“I remember a story that was told to us during the session. It was about a mother and a son,” Raj Kumar said. “They have a fight and then the son stops speaking with his mother. They don’t speak to each other for a very long time, and one day the mother dies. That story affected me. It hurt me. It was a warning signal that something like that could also happen,” he said.

Raj Kumar has experienced a transformation in the past few months. In his current job as a Building Management Operator at Tata Communications Limited, any time he faces a stressful situation or deals with a person who makes him angry, he distracts himself by ignoring the situation or the person in order to avoid exaggerating the problem. Often he takes up and busies himself with more work to keep his mind from drifting into anger.

However, the biggest change that he has noticed in himself is that now after every fight with his mother and sister, he drops his ego, ends the fight and the silent treatment by speaking with them again. “I don’t think they notice this change, but that’s okay,” he said laughing. “I don’t want to stop speaking with them. I don’t want to be egoistic anymore,” he said.

About the author – R. Nithya is Communications Coordinator at ETASHA Society.

“It’s All About the Trainees”

Katja 2

Katja Polc

By Katja Polc

An early morning. Days are slowly becoming more pleasant and I love the blast of freshness in the air which helps me to get out of the bed.  My day starts with the usual first morning voice of our very own vegetable-seller who shouts on top of his lung in a dynamic tone to attract as many customers as he can and then of course there are the “Yoga-people” clapping in the park behind my house. It′s India!

But the real start of my day begins on my way to work. It seems as if I am the only one on the metro who is still yawning and have pimples on her face.

After the metro ride, I walk towards ETASHA′s centre. Everyday walk from the metro station to the centre makes me realize that this is one of my favourite places in Delhi.  This place touches me every time and sometimes I think that maybe it is aimed to make me understand life here.

When I walk on the bridge of the stream that I cross to reach work, I know that I love this country.

Usually people hate this bridge, because it is the reason for a huge traffic jam every single day, upon which you cannot even walk. It is beautiful not only to see how people take charge to resolve this obstacle on their own, but also to see a huge social and cultural diversity in such a small space.  I see  “time machine” – past, present and future everywhere around me.  Sometimes I pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.

Once I reach the centre, every day is a new day. All my colleagues say “Good morning” and it really is.

The day starts with natural smiles, some chit chats and the necessary morning tea. I feel positive energy but nothing can beat the energy from the trainees. It is all about the trainees.

As a volunteer, I’m taking the conversation classes which give me a sense of freedom and a possibility to understand more deeply about these young heads. There is no good or bad batch; it is just what you give when you enter the class.

In the class it is all about the talk. With different methods like group discussion, role plays on real life situations, verbal presentations and games, we try to make our classes a little bit different and most importantly, create an environment to speak in English. The fact that I do not speak Hindi at all helps me to meet the purpose naturally although sometimes it is not smooth. From time to time I research for a good topic which encourages trainees to speak, but every time I get inspiration directly from them.

I have learned from many facilitators that it is not just about taking a class, it is about taking a good class and that is what makes your work life adventurous every day.  It is so nice to see that after a while trainees have started to enjoy. Sometimes they leave the centre later than they usually do and with a smile on their face, and that is what makes my day simply complete.

Katja with some trainees at ETASHA

Katja with some trainees at ETASHA

There is no greater happiness than when you see that the trainees are learning and improving. Each one is a story. There is no doubt that they are working really hard, and I believe that “Direct Methodology” has made an effective impact that trainees have started speaking English really quickly.

Teaching has been a learning experience for me – an experience that has taught me how important it is to be unconditionally present and to be yourself if you want to take a good class.

It is important to have passion and a wish to learn – that is the real learning process and that is what I fell in these classrooms.

This experience is changing my view on many things. I found happiness in working long hours and in daily routines in Delhi. It is a good feeling that you don’t have to run all the time. And this is what I wish for myself to feel content in my work life, where I do not feel that I am going on work, where I have friends and most importantly, where my work becomes  meaningful and a way of living. I have found a part of that kind of work at ETASHA.

About the author: Katja Polc is EVS volunteer (July 2014 – January 2015 ) at ETASHA Society.

Career Highway: Helping Students Choose Their Careers

 

By Monika Lust

One of the hardest choices young people need to make concerns what they want to study and what kind of a career they would like to opt for. With more and more diverse career options and professional opportunities emerging, there are unfortunately many young people who remain confused and end up in careers they are neither interested in nor have the aptitude for. So how do we help those young people?

We at ETASHA Society believe that proper career guidance can be extremely helpful for young students.

High quality career guidance can help individuals in self-assessment and self-analysis which are necessary in the process of choosing the right career for themselves. It will also help in identifying the various job options available and provide clarity on different job roles.

Career Highway

Career Highway Workshops are based on the 3P Model, which takes the student through the career guidance process in 3 steps:

  • Understanding Personality,
  • Recognising Potential,
  • Discovering the most suitable Professions / vocations / careers

The 10-hour workshop is conducted over a period of two days, i.e. 5 hours on each day. Career Highway uses psychometric tests, behavioural exercises, AIM mapping, action mapping and other methodology to understand the personalities of the students and identifying the best suited career options for them.

Participants Speak

Chitrani

Chitrani

“When I was a child I wanted to become a teacher. At the time when I joined Career Highway I was confused.  The workshop really helped me realize what I want to do in my future. I realized that I want to become an animator.” ~ Chitrani

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Rahul

“After taking the workshop, I realized that my interest is in social work. Now I am studying Bachelors in Social Work.” ~ Rahul

Devendar

Devendar

“Before I took the test I wanted to join Indian army, but I wasn’t sure if I was capable of it. Career Highway helped me clear my doubts. I found out that I have what it takes to become what I always wanted to become. Those tests really cleared my doubts!” ~ Devendar

These participants recommended Career Highway workshops to their friends because they said that teenagers are always confused about what they want to do in life and Career Highway workshops help them to concentrate on one thing and to arrive at a decision.

“Twenty15in2015″

Our campaign  – “Twenty15in2015″ – aims to raise funds to help underprivileged students choose the best careers for themselves through well-structured and highly interactive career workshops – Career Highway – designed and delivered by ETASHA Society’s career experts and guides.

Help us in our goal of helping many more students discover the perfect match of their interests and skills.

Start small. For just Rs. 1000, you can fund one student’s Career Highway workshop.

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About the Author
: Monika Lust is GLEN 2014 intern at ETASHA Society. 

ETASHA Society Joins Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2014

Banner Newsletter_Marathon_26.09_final2

The Airtel Delhi Half Marathon is back! And we’re running again.

Our campaign “Twenty15in2015” aims at raising Rs. 20.15 lakh to provide career guidance to 2,015 young people from underprivileged backgrounds in the year 2015.

The need for proper career guidance is acutely felt by both the youth and their parents. Increasing competition for admission to educational/vocational training institutions as well as for employment creates extreme stress for students and their parents.

At the lower socio-economic strata the consequences of the lack of career guidance are even more acute. The lack of proper and timely career guidance works to dissuade many youth, for whom the need to start earning a living is urgent, from continuing to study beyond middle school. They drop out of school and join the vast and increasing armies of unskilled people, continuing to remain caught in the vicious cycle of poverty. Those who manage to study till 10th and 12th classes have an even bigger problem – after all the effort and years of not contributing to the family income, they are ill-equipped for any employment or self-employment. The lack of awareness and respect for vocational training options is a general issue which compounds the problems.

ETASHA’s career guidance process is a significant step in pursuance of our vision for every young Indian to be employable, have self-worth and lead a dignified and productive life. Our work is based upon the belief that each individual is unique and has the potential to excel and succeed in some sphere.

Help us to achieve our goal. 

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Alone Doesn’t Mean Lonely

Monika

Monika Lust

 

Namaste!

My name is Monika and I come from Estonia.

Is this the first time you’re meeting an Estonian, or the first time you’re even hearing about Estonia? Do not worry. I hear that every day here in India :)

Estonia is a small country in northeast Europe. It’s about the size of the Indian state of Punjab, but there are only 1.3 million people living in the country. So we Estonians are used to having a lot of empty space around us. But being alone does not necessarily mean being lonely.

Estonia

The Beautiful Country of Estonia

I first visited India in February 2013 after I finished my bachelor studies in Psychology. A lot of people I met here were surprised that I traveled alone. But I didn’t fear traveling alone. Instead, I was afraid that I will not always be able to manage having so many people around me. There are at least 11 million people living in Delhi alone! I can’t even imagine so many people.

I can’t say that I always felt comfortable back then when I was travelling alone and interacting with people here. India challenged me. But I think that getting out of our comfort zone is the thing that teaches us the most.

I ended up falling in love with India — its colors, its culture, its food, its nature, and its people. Of course there are things in India that I like and things that I cannot stand. But as you know, people in love tend to remember only the nice things :)

PicMonkey Collage4

The Flavours of India

When I went back home I heard about a global education program – Global Education Network for Young Europeans (GLEN) — that offered an internship possibility in India for 3 months.

GLEN is a training and internship program with a focus on global education. The objective of global education is to inform people on global issues, so they could be more conscious in their choices and actions. It also aims to increase solidarity and promote social activism.The project consists of three parts: preparatory seminars on global education, internship in a foreign country, and global education activities after returning home (eg: running a blog, visiting schools and youth centers, photo exhibitions, seminars on global problems, etc.)

Currently, I am on a 3-month internship along with two other interns – Tjaša and Silviu – at ETASHA Society in New Delhi. Our work assignments are connected to communication and promotion.

I applied for the program because I wanted to return to India and also because I think the work ETASHA does is very important and inspiring not only in the Indian context, but also globally.

I have been studying for most of my life. I spent the last six years studying at a university (I did a bachelors in Cultural Studies as well as in Psychology). I loved my studies and I am grateful that in Estonia we have a chance to get a free university degree, but I still feel that the educational system in Europe doesn’t always prepare people well for their work life.

Many people in Estonia have a university degree because it is prestigious. But at the same time, many university graduates are unemployed or work at jobs that fall below their qualification levels. I think this is an indication that education is not fulfilling its purpose. In other countries specific issues may be different, but the core problem is the same: education does not meet the needs of the labour market. Dr. Mona Mourshed, a global education leader, has an interesting and inspiring talk on this topic.

I think that one of the solutions to the problem could be career guidance, improvement of vocational training, and cooperation between educational programs and employers. Something that ETASHA has been working towards. So I hope that during these 3 months here I will be able to help this cause in my own small way.

~Monika

 

Where the Magic Happens…

 

Growing to love Delhi: Tjasa

Growing to love Delhi: Tjasa

I sat on the plane in Slovenia and landed in this big, hot, colourful, sometimes hectic, but always interesting city, which each day grows closer to my heart – Delhi.
But let me start at the very beginning of my story. I applied for volunteering work in ETASHA through GLEN – Global Education Network of young Europeans, to work on the field of communication for three months, and luckily got the opportunity to join an amazing team in ETASHA.

In this blog I want to share with you my experience of the work environment at ETASHA, because I think that the most important thing is to have a positive one. In the end we spend at least 8 hours working on all our working days, which is a great amount of time in our lives.
So what makes Etasha so unique that I want to write about it? Working here is different from most of other organizations or companies, especially from capitalistically oriented companies in Europe, and I dare to say, also from lots of other Asian companies.

Here it`s all about people. Being a part of ETASHA means being a part of a family. Colleagues here don`t share only mutual enthusiasm for their work, but have also lots of favour and kindness for each other. What I find especially positive for a working environment are team lunches. Every day we sit down together, share the most delicious food and have the nicest lunches that you can have with your colleagues. Yes I know that it sounds a bit cheesy, but believe me, that`s really how it is.
The whole organisational spirit is based on mutual satisfaction and appreciation for one another. Every month there is a team meeting and I had the opportunity to be a part of one, which was held at Meenakshi` s (President of ETASHA) house and let me tell you, that was certainly not an “ordinary” one. There were lots of new information, sharing opinions, success stories which motivated all of us, feedback, constructive criticism, but most importantly you could smell the team spirit, positivity and aspirations for being even better in the future. And there was also laughter, lots of it, and also tears. What an emotional meeting, I loved it!
Four of team members had their birthday in the past month so we celebrated together with a delicious chocolate cake and Bengali dessert – Ras Gulla, after having a lunch which was Meenakshi`s treat. Emotions got even more intense when Meenakshi announced that two members, Ian and Vindhya are leaving ETASHA. You could see on their faces that is really hard for them to leave this “family” and I can say, especially for Ian, because I work with him every day, that he`s one hell of a guy and I will definitely miss him and his sense of humour. And both of them will be for sure missed from the rest of the team.
I shared this story with you because ETASHA is a good example of a successful organization and its leadership. It always begins with leadership. But there is a big difference between a good leader and a bad one. A good one always listens to his employees and makes them feel safe in their work environment, put them before profit and doesn`t forget the importance of team buildings. All this reflects in employee’s sense of belonging which is the most important thing for any sustainable company. And this is missing in today’s world.

Nowadays still too many leaders think there has to be hierarchy and that they should reward employees who are best in stabbing others, for getting their way. Unfortunately I had experienced it in my past and must say that it was just horribly when you could see how people are afraid for their jobs because they think they can`t do better and they don`t feel appreciated because they are treated as exchangeable goods.
Collaboration is where the magic happens. And it stays there!

Tjasa

 

Reflections One Year on

Montage of a Year: Vindhya and ETASHA friends

Montage of a Year: Vindhya and ETASHA friends

It seems like it was only yesterday…

I still remember that blank expression on Meenakshi and Ian’s face when I introduced myself as a biologist during the first round of my interview. They were clueless as to why a biologist would want to work for them…..but I had answers to all their why’s!

I told them a long story of my love for teaching. I had worked as an intern at All India Institute of Medical Sciences before joining ETASHA and I knew that I was taking a big leap by doing something completely different from my profile. It was worth it! It was an hour long interview followed by a visit to both our centres and I got the job!!
1st August 2013, oh I can never forget this date; my first day at ETASHA – first job, new people, new environment and new responsibilities. I still remember Meenakshi asking me on my third day, “Is everything alright? Why are you so quiet?” I didn’t really have any answer to her question but I think I was still adjusting to the environment.
After observing a number of English and interpersonal classes for around twenty days as part of my training I finally got my first English class. It was “Future continuous”; I had already done that class several times in my mind before actually doing it with the trainees. The batch was familiar with me because I used to observe other facilitators taking their classes so making a connection with them became a lot easier.

I entered the class and I was really nervous (I was sweating… literally!) I wasn’t scared of seventeen trainees waiting for me to start the class but I was damn scared of Tridib, then a facilitator with ETASHA. He played a crucial role in my training, moreover he helped me in coming out of my shell. I learnt to dance; cry, scream, jump, laugh and what not in front of twenty some trainees sitting in front of me to learn something new every day.
Once the silent prayer was over I started with my first English class; I demonstrated, elicited and weaved, some of the core ingredients of all our classes. Class went exactly the way I ha d planned. At the end of the class like a small kid I looked at Tridib asking, “Was it good?” It was (at least he said so). Yay!! I did it!! was the feeling and I never looked back….classes, back to back classes-English, computers, interpersonal, world of work, social confidence …I can’t think of my day without facilitating a class.

The best part about classes at ETASHA is that every day is new and different; new learning, new topics and new challenges. You have to deal with the different moods of a trainee…one might just have had a tiff with one’s best friend, or is coming from a funeral, or one’s parents’ fight every day and night, or one could be under pressure of getting a job so that he can support his family as soon as possible. And I had to make sure that I make them forget all their worries and let them learn freely and not with any burden.
Besides classes I completely admire people of ETASHA how they help you to grow with each passing day. I understood the importance of taking and giving feedback in the right manner only after joining ETASHA. Not to forget I also enjoy the variety of food we get on our tables during our lunch breaks!
Soon I’ll have completed a year with ETASHA but it seems like it was only yesterday…
-Vindhya Vatsyayan

Volunteering – find your own way to make a difference

 

Finding Her Own Way: Anna in Old Delhi

Finding Her Own Way: Anna in Old Delhi

Do you remember the much mocked story ‘6-Day Visit To Rural African Village Completely Changes Woman’s Facebook Profile Picture’ that went viral on social media a few months ago?

The story is a satire on international ‘voluntourism’, whereby privileged Westerners go to developing countries on short albeit expensive trips, spend a few days in an orphanage or some other ‘development project’, and go back home smug, their cameras full of pictures of themselves as good Samaritans surrounded by smiling children.
I’ve always wanted to volunteer abroad. I didn’t do it in my twenties and now, with a family, a full-time job and a mortgaged house I certainly can’t afford to spend several months volunteering overseas. I thought perhaps it wasn’t meant to be.

But somehow this spring my desire to get out there and experience ‘development’ up close rather than from an office in London grew even stronger. I started exploring what I could do with a few weeks of free time and 10+ years of professional experience in communications. I found a multitude of NGO projects that for a few hundred (sometimes a few thousand) pounds were willing to take me on for two weeks, with room and board, airport pickup and a full programme of activities.

 

That looked too much like ‘voluntourism’ though and I really didn’t want to be that woman whose Facebook profile gets transformed after six days in an African village. In summary, I had: skills, money to pay for travel and accommodation, a bit of free time and an urge to make a ‘real’ impact. What I didn’t have is a length of time to commit. And most importantly, I didn’t want to pay through the nose in programme fees and effectively be a tourist on a ‘poverty trip’. So – dilemma.

After weeks of futile Internet searching, I decided to draw on my network of contacts in international development to find a project directly, without paying steep fees to questionable middlemen. And I decided that since I couldn’t donate time, I would try to donate my skills.
Fast forward a few months. Here I am – in New Delhi, India, working for ETASHA Society, an NGO providing disadvantaged Indian youth with employability training and work placements. I’m spending four weeks over the summer as a pro bono communications consultant helping ETASHA with strategic aspects of branding, its Annual Report, web design and social media.

I started while still in London and after arriving in Delhi I met the team and other volunteers, and visited ETASHA’s training centres to observe classes and chat to the students.

I found ETASHA through a friend based in Delhi who is actively involved in charitable work around educating young people from underprivileged backgrounds. I emailed her one day and the response came immediately: Come to India!

So what does my day look like? I get up early to the honking of cars and auto rickshaws in the busy streets of Gurgaon, a suburb of Delhi where my friend lives. I pop out for a swim or a morning yoga class, then we have breakfast together – usually fragrant rice with vegetables, fresh mangoes and home-made curd. Then I hail a rickshaw and brave the rush hour traffic to catch the metro – in a women only carriage for extra comfort and safety.

Another short rickshaw ride later I arrive at ETASHA, ready to start the day only after a few minutes needed to wash the dust of Delhi roads off my face. I attend meetings, share lunch with the team, visit training centres, work on ETASHA’s communications materials, feeling part of the inspiring work that the organisation is doing.

My afternoons and weekends are spent visiting the city or travelling to see nearby sites, like Jaipur or Agra. Living with a family and working

Going Local...

Going Local…

for a local NGO is offering me insights into India that no package tour or beach holiday would ever allow. And on top of that I’m helping someone, even if it is only in a small way and for a limited time.

So – volunteer! There are so many ways to make an impact that you will certainly find one that works for you.
You have professional experience under your belt but little time? Consider donating skills like I have done.

You have limited or no experience but a lot of free time, for instance during a gap year? Why not apply for a long-term volunteering project through an organisation like GLEN or EVS that will cover your travel and a small stipend towards living costs?

You have both experience and time, for instance after retiring? Fabulous, you can really make a difference!

No skills and no time? Do not despair – consider volunteering locally, pick up those skills and then go abroad!
Whatever you end up doing, volunteering abroad is a unique opportunity to get to know yourself better, test your limits, learn something new, make friends and have a positive impact on someone’s life.

Anna Kuznicka-Marry, September 2014

 

 

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