Archives - ‘India’

Learning to Question

November 30, 2015 | Madeleine, India, Canada World Youth, Seva Mandir, Intern – Program support

I’ve struggled with this blog. I’ve thought on-and-off about it for a month now, trying to come up with something great to say. Something motivational and inspiring to suggest how wonderful my experience has been and how I’ve excellently overcome obstacles, because this experience has truly been incredible. India is a beautiful country full of history and culture, beauty and contradictions. However, while I feel personally enriched after 12 weeks, I find I have near-nothing to share on an academic/Seva Mandir-related level. Well, nothing inspiring at least.

Having struggled in understanding my experience, I was reminded to ask myself “what am I learning?” Doing this exercise, I’ve come to accept that I have learned more than just patience. I’ve learned to ask myself questions, to try to understand the root of problems, and to stop prioritising my own experience. I have learned that I would love to continue working in development, but also that “just any” NGO will not be right for me. Just as any office doesn’t suit everyone, passion isn’t necessarily enough to be happy in the NGO sector.

As part of my learning experience, I have asked myself many questions. Some are directly related to the structure of Seva Mandir, and some are of a larger scale. While asking myself these questions, I realised that the organization could really benefit from asking itself some too:

– When did “development through democratic participation” become a job and not a passion?

– How can we be open to accepting volunteers from all backgrounds, but make sure that both parties take a lot away from the partnership?

– Where is the initiative?

Most importantly, and I think this following question is good for so much more than just the Seva Mandir,

– How do you balance managing ambition with actual capacities?

While it may be admirable to desire progress or change, I’ve noticed both in India and back home a large imbalance between intentions and results. Whether it’s a comprehensive plan for the status of women in Rajasthan, prohibiting alcohol consumption, or implementing reforms, there are so many cases of people taking on tasks or striving for results that are not as easily attainable as they profess. This is something we were taught a lot about in pre-departure training – managing expectations – and I have come to value the importance of it. To this end, I don’t feel there is enough reflection on ensuring fruitful expectations and results, both in daily life and in Seva Mandir.

Questions have become a large part of my experience, as I have tried to understand it and myself. Some questions lead to five more, and some answers aren’t happy, but I found that following my question periods I would feel a lot more confident in what I felt I ought to be doing with my time.

To those considering an internship position, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of research and questions. Contact previous volunteers, contact the NGO, and contact current volunteers. Question project availability, the reputation of your reporting officer, the reputation of the NGO is villages as compared to the city it is located it… Remember that what is presented to you in pamphlets and through websites is publicity. Don’t rely on partner organizations to have done their research, because you are responsible for your experience at the end of the day.

Excuse me while I gush about India

November 30, 2015 | Madeleine, India, Canada World Youth, Seva Mandir, Intern – Program support

Diwali. Biggest festival of the year for North Indians, this festival (also known as the Festival of Lights) symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to celebrate with friends and Seva Mandir staff, and it was such a rich and wonderful cultural experience I found necessary to share.

First of all, the city underwent transformation for about a week before today. Shops were reorganised and repainted as everyone cleaned every last inch of their homes in preparation of this celebration. As I visited my usual shopkeepers to chat, I could sense the excitement in the air.

The atmosphere of the city really changed a few days ago, as it became time to shop. Here’s where culture and capitalism seem to have really merged to create a Christmas-like spending frenzy: day one, you buy new silver and utensils; day two is all about purchasing fabrics. While it used to be about buying new to give the old to the poor, this tradition has rather fallen out of style.

Today was the big day, the final day, Diwali. A staff member of Seva Mandir, Santosh, invited my friends and I to dinner. It was absolutely incredible. We arrived at her home to see it surrounded by candles and artwork on the pavement. Stepping in to her freshly painted home, everyone was glowing with energy, dancing away to some Bollywood music and simply having a blast. After a little hello to the stray cat that made itself at home at Santosh’s, it was time for the nightly puja (worship). There was something so magical and beautiful as Santosh and her daughters made their offerings, you could feel it in the energy of the room. As the ritual was explained to us I was impressed by how complex and beautiful a religion Hinduism is. Finally, food! So many delicious foods, as I’ve come to expect from any Indian cooking. Following chai, we headed out for the roof of Seva Mandir.

Such a panoramic view was unlike any other… fireworks going off in every direction, one after another and sometimes all at once. Far in the distance and just across the street, people were setting off their fireworks and having their own celebrations. Unlike Ottawa, where you have your big firework show and some small house-fireworks, Indian street-sellers make a huge assortment of crackers readily available to the general public. As a self-declared firework enthusiast, this was the best possible situation to be in. As I’m sitting here writing this they are still going off (yes, I gave in and went inside, my lungs are dying from the smoke), and will likely continue going off for hours still.

I read an article on the BBC this morning by an Indian woman who feels Diwali has been “ruined” by commercialization. This reminded me of how much Christmas seems to have changed from its roots to placing importance on big expensive gifts. Following tonight, I sat down thinking about my own Christmases and recalled how important it was for my family to be together and enjoy each others’ company. What if people only have this single story view of Diwali? Sure, some people focus on extravagance, but I had a wonderful evening carrying out a tradition that is deeply important to Santosh and her family. Diwali is pure to those who make it so.

“At the end of the day, every experience is what you make of it.” This could not be said enough when preparing for an international internship, and it is something I think everyone should try to remind his or her self on a regular basis. I have had many downs throughout my experience, dealing with unachievable expectations, upset stomachs, and language/cultural barriers, to name a few. That said I have also had so many positive experiences that completely overshadow the downs. Friendships, weekend getaways, chai breaks, cultural enrichment, and let’s certainly not forget the food and fireworks! Sure, this experience wasn’t what I expected it to be. There’s my lesson in managing expectations; I’ll do better next time!

Of all occasions, I feel that Diwali is well suited for remembering this lesson –after all, this festival revolves around bringing light into one’s life.

One more day

November 26, 2015 | Sabrina, Inde, Jeunesse Canada Monde , SPID, Program Assistant

“I do not fall in love easily”. That’s probably the biggest lie I have ever told. I tell it to myself and I tell it to other people. I tell them that I will not fall in love with them. I lie.

My past 3 months in India have been incredible. I fell in love deeply and sincerely every single day. I fell in love with the people that I have met. I fell in love with the places I have been. I fell in love with the culture. I fell in love with the landscape. I fell in love with myself. And there is nothing harder and more heartbreaking than having to say goodbye when you are still in love, but it is time for me to go.

I wish I could have one more day here. Yes, it is silly, but I would give anything to have that extra day. I wish I could spend one more day with my amazing Indian family. My friend Amrita became my sister, her brother Tarun my brother, her mother my Indian mother, her father my Indian father. I wish I could have one more day to wake up in the “princess bed” hearing our Indian father saying good morning. One more day to be proud of the hard work accomplished by my “didi” while she cleans the house before getting ready to go to work. One more day to cook chapattis and have the best dhal in the world. One more day to laugh with them and learn Hindi. One more day to go to the market with Amrita, or the Salon, or the mall, or wherever, but one more day to spend with her.

I wish I could have one more day here to lay down somewhere with some amazing new friends. It is crazy how you can connect quickly to some people. I have made friends from around the world while being in India and although I don’t know when will be the next chance I’ll get to spend time with them, I know I’ll keep cherish them in my heart and wishing them the best in life. I wish I could have one more day to go around in Delhi, a chaotic place that I now call home. I wish I could have one more day to spend in the orange landscape of Rajasthan. I wish that I could have one more day to observe the fine line between life and death from the Ganges in Varanasi. I wish I could have one more day to feel the immensity of the Golden Temple in Amritsar. I wish I could have one more day in Kerala to trek under the rain and to sing Frozen songs over and over again. But it is time to let it go now.

More than anything, I wish I could have one more day to look in the eyes of the people that I love. I know there is some eyes I will never meet again and that thought breaks my heart.

This internship was an incredible opportunity. Not for the work accomplished, but for the eyes met and the hearts touched. I will never forget how alive has India made me feel.

I just wish I could have one more day to fall in love. I have been falling in love over and over again every day I have been here and it has been the best feeling on earth.

Internship at SSMI: An Empowering Experience

November 16, 2015 | Catherine Morasse, Stagiaire

From the moment I applied for an internship at the Swami Sivananda Memorial Institute (SSMI) to my departure in early September, I was bombed with travel advice from anyone, or almost, who learned about my plan. My aunt, my coworkers, my hairdresser: everybody gave me their own rules to protect me from the dangers of, well, everything. You shall not eat street food, dairy products, or uncooked fruits and vegetables. You shall not talk to strangers, smile at men, wear sleeves shorter than your elbows; you shall not come back home later than 7 p.m., go out alone, ride another metro car than the one reserved for ladies, or talk about your ex-boyfriend. You shall not run, dance, laugh, eat or drink anything, sneeze, blink, breathe…

What you should know about me, though, is that I am the perfect target for such behaviour. I am 21. I am a pale-skinned. I am notorious for making travel plans that fall apart at the last minute – that is to say, I haven’t travelled much. And on top of all, by a stroke of luck, I happen to be born female. In other words, I am a magnet for travel warnings, especially when they are related to gender inequalities in my country of destination.

With that background of somehow questionable advice, I spent the first days of my internship with SSMI at an international exhibition between women entrepreneurs of the SAARC countries. This series of conferences was an occasion to discuss the many challenges women face in business. It is also where I got to experience one of a long series of surprises: I understood that there was no surprise.

Wait, let’s recap.

In 2013, Canadian women outnumbered their male counterparts as creators of small to medium enterprises. In India, only 10 % of businesses of that type are owned by women. Of course, I am not denying that there is a wide gap between Canada’s and India’s percentages; but despite that difference, I found that the challenges faced by businesswomen are very similar. Whether it is in Canada or in India, women do have a harder time than men when it comes to getting access to finance. Motherhood, as rewarding as it can be, is also an obstacle worldwide to finding the time to build an enterprise. And culturally speaking, Indian women are not encouraged to be at the head of businesses and to travel alone for work-related purposes.

My first reaction to that third challenge was to think that Canadian women don’t face that kind of obstacle, coming from a culture that has been marked by decades of feminist fights. That is what I thought… until I reminded myself of all the times I have been discouraged from going to India based on the fact that I belong to le sexe faible, “the weaker sex”.

If a young woman from a supposedly equal country is being brought down for wanting to spend three months at an “unusual” destination, how much pressure does an Indian woman get for wanting to dedicate years of her life to something seen as atypical? If it takes me all the guts I have to stand my ground despite my entourage’s expectations, what does it take for women entrepreneurs to go against the flow of an entire society where gender inequalities are “very rampant”?

SSMI is a non-profit organization aiming for the empowerment of women. By teaching them hard skills, we give them tools to make their choices, regardless of other people’s expectations of them (which are, for most of our beneficiaries, to stay home and raise children). I might not be part of the group targeted by SSMI, but working there still had an impact on me: of all the advice that was given to me, I followed none. I made the perfectly conscious choice to shut my ears to it. And not only did ignoring other people’s expectations and opening to everything India had to offer made my experience so much richer; it was also incredibly empowering.

Un millier d’opportunité pour apprendre

November 2, 2015 | Sabrina, Inde, Jeunesse Canada Monde , SPID, Program Assistant

Aujourd’hui marque le début de la fin : dans un mois, jour pour jour, je prendrai l’avion et terminerai ainsi mon aventure en Inde. Comme je terminerai également mon baccalauréat d’ici un an, je sens que je suis arrivée à un point dans ma vie où je me concentre beaucoup sur ma carrière et sur mon apprentissage. Je réfléchis sur les connaissances et sur les compétences qu’il me reste à acquérir pour réaliser mes rêves et mes buts professionnels.

Dans les derniers jours, j’ai donc beaucoup réfléchis sur ce stage, sur les bons moments et surtout, sur les moments les plus difficiles et sur leur impact dans mon développement. En tant qu’assistante de programme chez SPID, j’ai eu la chance d’avoir une liste diversifiée de tâches : élaborer des brochures pour nos différents projets, mettre à jour le site Internet, s’occuper des réseaux sociaux de l’organisme, faire un peu de recherche, enseigner dans les cours d’anglais langue seconde et de préparation au marché du travail, etc. Cependant, je me rends compte que les apprentissages importants liés à ce stage vont au-delà de ce cadre de travail. Ce n’est pas des compétences pratiques que je développe ici, mais plutôt un exercice d’observation, de réflexion et d’apprentissage sur les dynamiques qui m’entourent.

Je suis étudiante en conflits et droits humains parce que c’est manifestement ce qui me passionne. Mais comment peut-on réellement être une activiste pour les droits des hommes si jamais on est sortit de notre confort de privilégiés? Je sais qu’il y a beaucoup de problèmes sociaux, économiques et politiques liés aux droits humains au Canada, mais reste que si je veux être une activiste à l’internationale, je dois comprendre ces enjeux davantage que ce que je lis sur Internet et dans les journaux. Être en Inde me permet donc d’observer et de vivre des inégalités profondément ancrées dans la culture. Des inégalités dans lesquelles s’est installé davantage d’inégalités. Des inégalités si traditionnelles qu’on a à peine commencé à aborder le fait que ce sont des situations d’injustice. Je sais que ce n’est pas le genre d’environnement dont tout le monde rêve, mais pour ma part, je sais que lorsque je suis inconfortable, ça signifie que j’apprends. Et j’ai appris beaucoup.

J’ai appris que les droits humains ne sont ni innés, ni acquis : tu peux être né avec certains droits et le fait de changer de milieu ou d’environnement te les enlève, tout comme tu peux être né sans droit et en acquérir par des changements de situation. En venant en Inde, j’ai « perdu » certains droits, au titre de femme, et au titre d’employée. J’ai vécu des situations que jamais je n’aurais vécu au Canada, mais la bonne nouvelle, c’est que j’apprends à répondre à ce genre de situation, ce que je n’aurai probablement jamais appris dans mon pays. J’ai également « gagné » certains privilèges, en terme de normes de beauté et en terme de nationalité. En tant qu’occidentale blanche, j’ai le privilège de pouvoir voyager dans pratiquement n’importe quel pays et d’être une minorité visible privilégiée – ce que, malheureusement, les gens de couleur peuvent rarement expérimenter.

J’ai appris que de se battre pour ses propres droits est relativement plus difficile que de se battre pour les droits de quelqu’un d’autre. J’ai appris que les abus de pouvoir peuvent passer inaperçus facilement et qu’on les retrouve à tous les niveaux de la société.

J’ai appris à observer avant de juger, à poser des questions avant de juger, à obtenir des réponses avant de juger, à comprendre avant de juger, bref, j’ai appris à ne pas juger, parce qu’il y a toujours plus à l’histoire que notre propre compréhension.

J’ai surtout appris que je n’aurai jamais fini d’apprendre. Mon stage en Inde fait partit de la continuité dans mon apprentissage. Ce pays est grandiose et m’offre un nombre infini d’apprentissage. J’ai appris dans mon organisme d’accueil, dans mes interactions avec les autres, inconnus ou bons amis, j’ai appris à tous les jours et j’ai appris sans même réaliser que j’apprenais. Le stage n’est pas fini, mais je peux déjà définitivement dire que cette expérience est riche dans mon développement et que les dynamiques de l’Inde renferment énormément de beauté malgré les visions pessimistes de ce pays qui sont trop souvent propagées. Je suis fière de dire qu’une petite partie de moi est maintenant indienne, et cette partie est fière de ce pays, parce qu’il est beau, parce qu’il se bat pour ses droits, parce qu’il tente d’émerger dans le XXIe siècle, parce qu’il y a des changements, et parce que ces changements sont rapides. 

Incredible India

October 13, 2015 | Madeleine, India, Canada World Youth, Seva Mandir, Intern – Program support

My first month in India is coming to a close and still every day I am reminded of how amazing this country is and how lucky I am to live here. Udaipur is a city unlike any other. From a rooftop you can see masses of white palaces and temples, beautiful lakes and endless mountains covered in deep green forests. Down in the streets it is another world, a bustling world full of life and excitement. Vendors line the streets, selling everything from apples and cucumbers to scarves, saris, and spices.

With so much to see and do, every day is full of new experiences. Whether it’s an auto driver telling you the 3 things you need to drive in India (good breaks, good horn, and good luck!), a street vendor explaining the different types of dyes, or a woman teaching you Hindi while simultaneously teaching you how to make chapatti, people from all walks of life are eager to share their knowledge.

A stark contrast to the hustle-and-bustle of the markets and the streets, the work culture here seems so out of place. Once you get to understand the system though, it all makes sense and just works. The starting hours are late, the lunch break is long, and the chai breaks are frequent. At first glance it seems as if nothing is getting done, but I’m reminded of my coming from a Western work-culture. Deadlines, punctuality and time-management are not always a priority here, simply because it is not a part of Indian culture. I’ve found that work is more project-oriented here, and that deadlines are extendable. It’s not that people don’t work it’s just that they work differently.

While these changes have been a challenge to me, I’m so happy for the experience. I’ve learned how to navigate my expectations, to improve my patience, and to stay positive. I had hoped to get working on a project right away, and struggled to stay positive when I felt as if I wasn’t being an asset to the NGO. Once I stopped focussing on how I was feeling, however, I was able to get a better understanding of the obstacles preventing me from moving forward. Seva Mandir is a busy organization, and I have come at a time when they are carrying out many training sessions. As a result, it has been difficult to gather the necessary people all at once. As my third week finished up, I was finally able to get a clear and defined project, and I cannot wait to move forward. While there are setbacks to the informal work-structure, a major benefit is that I now have some control over my productivity. I can revert to my Western habits of driving myself crazy doing research, but I can blend that with a wonderful Indian cultural habit: lots and lots of chai breaks.

Before I left on this adventure I spent many hours researching Indian culture and the city I was going to be living in. As a result, I was constantly seeing ads on my computer by the Government of India’s marketing campaign, which consists of various photos all with the phrase Incredible India. I can’t even begin to count how many times I have since repeated that phrase to myself. The colours, the scents, the noise, the animals… It’s hard to believe my first month is already done, and I’m not even done getting to know Udaipur. I can’t wait to see what the next two months have in store.

Faire un stage à l’international

September 21, 2015 | Sabrina, Inde, Jeunesse Canada Monde , SPID, Program Assistant

Je dois tout d’abord vous préciser que ce n’est pas la première fois que je fais un stage à l’international, ni que je voyage dans un pays en voie de développement. En fait, ce que j’accompli présentement en Inde est ma troisième expérience de stage à l’étranger, et l’Inde est le dixième pays sous-développé dans lequel je passe une période de temps considérable.

Dans les formations pré-départ données par l’Université, on nous a parlé de choc culturel et de gestion du stress. Ça fait maintenant deux semaines que je suis dans le pays regroupant le tier des plus pauvres de la planète, et étrangement, je me sens encore plus confortable qu’à la maison, au Canada. Certains diront que c’est la “lune de miel”, la première étape avant que le choc culturel embarque, qui persiste. Ils ont peut-être raison. Mais je crois que je suis arrivée à un niveau dans ma vie où j’arrive parfaitement à balancer mes attentes, à gérer mon stress, à être si habituée d’expérimenter des endroits totalement différents du mien que je ne suis plus en choc en dehors de ma zone de comfort. Et honnêtement, je suis fière de moi d’être arrivée à ce point, car je me sens plus apte à aller au-delà des premières impressions et à pousser ma réflexion plus loin.

Quand je suis arrivée en Inde, iVolunteer, qui s’occupait de notre orientation, nous ont donné d’excellentes formations qui complétaient parfaitement la formation entamée par l’Université. Quoique je me sentais prête à travailler et à débuter mon aventure avec SPID, je gérais mes attentes en les réduisant le plus possible, parce qu’au travers ces formations, on m’avait clairement mentionné de ne pas m’attendre à changer le monde, parce que je n’allais même pas l’influencer. Et c’est probablement très vrai. Je ne suis pas ici pour changer le monde, mais bien pour changer la vision que je porte sur celui-ci ainsi que pour améliorer mes connaissances et ma compréhension des différentes réalités. Cependant, après une semaine chez SPID, une petite organisation incroyable qui travaille vraiment fort pour le développement des plus démunis, je me sens confiante que mon passage ici va avoir un impact, et même si je ne changerai pas le monde, je crois fermement que je peux y participer, ainsi que tous mes collègues qui sont en stage comme moi présentement aux quatre coins du monde, et c’est un sentiment extrêmement gratifiant. C’est vrai qu’on ne va pas changer les gens, ni les mentalités, ni le fonctionnement d’une société. Mais on peut tous avoir un impact positif dans les organisations auxquelles on déduit les trois prochains mois de nos vies, en les aidant de différentes façons, en participant à combler leurs besoins, et je crois que c’est ça changer le monde. C’est participer à chaque petite étape du changement, aussi minuscule cette étape puisse paraître.

J’écris cet article parce que je pense que je suis aujourd’hui en mesure de dresser un portrait général d’un stage à l’international, et j’aimerais encourager tout le monde à envisager une telle expérience, spécialement lorsque c’est encadré par des gens incroyables à l’Université, dans les ONG partenaires et dans les communautés d’accueil, comme c’est le cas avec les stages offerts par la Faculté des sciences sociales. Un stage à l’international fait peur, car c’est de se lancer dans l’inconnu et de ne pas savoir si les prochains mois de notre vie vont être les meilleurs ou les pires (personnellement, ça l’a toujours été les meilleurs de ma vie). C’est de devoir apprendre une nouvelle langue, une nouvelle méthodologie de travail, un nouveau fonctionnement de société, une nouvelle façon de s’habiller, etc. C’est d’apprendre, d’une part, à laisser tomber notre regard critique sur le monde pour simplement s’imprégner sans aucun jugement de différentes coutumes. Et d’apprendre, d’autre part, à changer ce regard critique afin de l’utiliser dans un objectif de compréhension d’une situation, et non pas à des fins de jugement et de critique. C’est tout simplement de tout réapprendre.

Je termine en mettant l’emphase sur le fait qu’on a tous quelque chose à apprendre des autres cultures. Un stage à l’international, c’est à la fois de se changer soi-même, et d’imprégner d’une certaine façon les gens rencontrés. Ce n’est pas de changer le monde, mais c’est d’y participer. Je ne changerai pas l’Inde, certainement pas, je n’arriverai même pas à comprendre toutes les complexités de ce magnifique pays, mais ensemble, avec mon organisme partenaire, je sens qu’on peut tout de même avoir un impact positif sur certaines communautés, et ça me comble parfaitement. Je sais qu’après ce stage, je serai davantage en mesure de poursuivre mes études en Études des conflits et droits humains, en portant un regard différent sur l’implication de ces droits.

Living Life Indian Style

August 5, 2015 | Gaelle, DVM, JCM, India, Seva Mandir, Research and Prog. Assistant

Who would’ve thought I’d be living in India for 3 months? Let alone doing an internship with a local NGO! I’ll be honest and say that it has never even crossed my mind, not even once. Living here in Udaipur has been nothing but a roller coaster ride that has allowed me to experience the highs and lows that India has to offer. As a foreigner, we’re told to keep an eye on our surroundings and staying open-minded towards he Indian culture (which varies from place to place). However, during my internship, I’ve slowly reached the conclusion that allowing yourself to get lost in the culture and lifestyle that’s being lived in all parts of India. You give yourself the opportunity to become an active participant in India. It can be said that if a person is eager to learn and appreciate the history and culture that India is so wealthy of, can truly understand and love this country. By applying for this internship, I knew I was going to experience some type of cultural shock and homesick; which is something I had experienced at the earlier stages of my internship. However, the more I interacted with the locals and had gotten a better understanding of my work at Seva Mandir, I can easily say that those were the tools that allowed me to get out of my “funk”. Being able to interact with various people and obtaining the ability to gather different perspectives on what makes Udaipur an amazing place to live, has allowed me to fall in love with my host country and a better grasp on culture and history of his city.

If you were to ask me at the beginning of my internship how much time I had to explore Udaipur and everything it had to offer, I would have replied with “all the time in the world”. But after hearing what everyone (especially the locals) had to say about the best places to visit in Udaipur and gather a better sense of its history, I can now come to the conclusion that it 3 months isn’t enough! Especially as I am entering my last month here, I can say that I will have to try and make a better effort with maximizing my opportunities to visiting all of the major parts of Udaipur. Here at Seva Mandir, where there is a large population of foreign volunteers as well as local volunteers, I have been fortunate enough to participate on little organized trips around the city and having different people explain the cultures that surround Udaipur.

Being in India and working in an NGO that required for me to venture off in different parts of Udaipur’s district has solidified my love for traveling, as well as my enthusiasm in discovering different parts of the world!

Career Paths in DVM

August 5, 2015 | Gaelle, DVM, JCM, India, Seva Mandir, Research and Prog. Assistant

Taking the opportunity to do an international internship, especially whilst in the midst of your undergrad, provides you with a refreshing perspective on what career one should embark on after their studies. Working at Seva Mandir and pursuing a degree in International Development and Globalization has allowed for me to match the courses and material I learned in class with the fieldwork experience I’ve gained in the last 3 months here in India.

Traveling through public transportation and talking to the locals has been a cultural exchange, as well as an exchange of knowledge and experiences. As mentioned in my previous blog post, I’ve learnt that we’re not the one’s at hand that should be uplifting those that reside in villages to modernization and development, but rather we should be figuring out of ways to create a balance form of partnership. I’ve been fortunate enough to take the time to really attempt to making an effort to creating authentic relationships with the locals and gathering a better sense as to what it means to live an area that’s trying to cultivate their own paths to development.

This opportunity has given me the chance to test out everything I’ve learnt during the pre-departure orientations (as in testing my flexibility, being open minded to new cultures and practices, and understanding how I work as an intern in an NGO) in the “real world” and providing me with the motivation to continue my schooling and actually pursuing a career as a researcher.

As previously mentioned in my first blog post, having the opportunity to sit down and ask people what they believe “development” consists of has been a really great experience; at an academic and personal standpoint. Understanding this multidimensional and complex concept through the eyes of those that are considered as the “recipients” of development has really changed my views as to what it means for a country to be considered as being developed. It makes one question everything they have learnt in class, but at the same time appreciate everything they’ve learnt during our seminars and discussions because it merges the theories and ideologies with real life experiences. I have been able to talk to so many different people that have been taking different paths to the same ultimate goal; to be able to self govern and grow as a community. Taking to young men and women; who are able to provide contemporary ideas to what it means to develop, as well as what it approach they and Seva Mandir should take. But it’s also interesting to hear the ideas of those that come from an older generation, it’s surprising to see the contrast in ideas that they share in comparison to those from the younger generation; but it’s even more surprising to share ideas that are deemed as being more advanced than those that come from the “new” generation”.

The opportunity to put everything we’ve learnt in class into practice as been something that I will truly cherish; because not only will I be able to say that I have actual experience in the field, I have also been able to somewhat identify what I would like to pursue as a career.

International Internship

August 5, 2015 | Gaelle, DVM, JCM, India, Seva Mandir, Research and Prog. Assistant

Being in India has been an eye opening experience. Udaipur has given me the opportunity to explore the career path that I would potentially embark; as well as solidify my love of traveling.

Working at Seva Mandir, an organization that has created a name for themselves through their involvement of sustainable development in the villages near by has opened doors that I didn’t even know were at my reach. It’s aim to increase the involvement with these villages that are located in the management and maintenance of the services and facilities that’s provided by Seva Mandir can be considered as being inspirational and admirable. Not simply because Seva Mandir has dedicated their time and effort to empower those that are deemed as being marginalized; but to actually see how these villages have been able to really organize themselves and maintain these facilities with very little conflict or intervention from Seva Mandir.

After expressing my interest in international development and globalization, specifically focusing on the role of women in the process of development. I was assigned to the Village Institution Program (VIP). At first, I was very confused as to how it would cater to my interests and what I had hoped to pursue here in India. However, once I finally understood what my project consisted of, I realized how grateful I am for the work that I am doing. This project provided me with the opportunity to venture off to villages near and far from the main office; and have conversations with the locals surrounding their ideas and perspectives on sustainable development at a village (or rather local) level. It’s very interesting to see how many people are willing to take charger of their own development and basically putting their own twist to self-empowerment and self-governance. It has also been refreshing to see Seva Mandir to allow these villages the opportunity to think about their future and not impose their own views on these villages. The independence and willingness to participate has created this enthusiasm within their intern and volunteer to learn and get working in their parts.

My working experience here at Seva Mandir has really started up my engines in terms of thinking about the line of work I’d like to do in the field of international development. I am starting to notice my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to being a researcher. Although we often learn about the skills and knowledge that’s acquired by a searcher while in university; however, once you’re in the field it’s a complete game changer. You are given the opportunity to test out everything you’ve learnt in class while volunteering, but you’re also able to learn more from the people that have been working in this line of work for many years.

So far, this experience has given me the opportunity to really expand my views on what it means to partake on an international internship; as well as what I would like to pursue in my future.