Après deux mois

October 28, 2014 | Rose, DVM, AFS, Philippines, Institute for Negros Development

Je suis actuellement dans mon deuxième mois aux Philippines. Je suis très contente d’avoir cette opportunité, je suis très bien adaptée à mon travail, avec ma famille d’accueil et la population. J’apprends la langue locale, je me connais bien la ville, je me déplace sans aucun soucis et je suis très en sécurité aussi. En plus, je suis très attachée avec ma famille d’accueil, je ne souhaite pas les quitter et l’idée de rentrer au Canada me déprime.

C’est vraiment une experience enrichissante à tous les niveaux. On apprend à découvrir une nouvelle culture, on travaille dans un environnement complètement différent du notre, sur le plan humain aussi, car le stage nous change vraiment. Pour moi, ce stage m’est bénéfique parce que je me mets au service de l’autre, je reste à l’écoute, et je m’occupe de leurs besoins. Avoir le sentiment d’aider les gens et de collaborer avec eux c’est très gratifiant.

Mange, prie, aime…au Népal!

October 28, 2014 | Roxanne, ECH, MAC, Nepal, Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal

Voilà maintenant plus d’un mois que j’ai atterri à Katmandou au Népal, et je n’ai pu trouver de meilleurs mots pour décrire mon expérience jusqu’à présent que de reprendre le titre du mémoire d’Elizabeth Gilbert : “Eat, Pray, Love”. Je sais, c’est cliché, mais que voulez-vous, certains clichés valent la peine d’être utilisés! En 30 jours, j’ai mangé une quantité impressionnante de daal-bhaat et de momos, médité au rythme des moines du monastère qui m’a gracieusement hébergé le premier mois, et j’en découvre un peu plus chaque jour ce pays, sa culture, les programmes de mon organisme d’accueil, de même que ma propre personnalité. En effet, un stage à l’international est bien plus qu’une simple introduction à de nouvelles coutumes, mais plutôt une superbe façon d’en apprendre sur soi, ses forces et ses faiblesses. En tant que stagiaire, j’apprends à vivre dans le moment présent et à apprécier chaque instant car je sais qu’il n’y en aura pas deux pareils.

Katmandou regorge de temples sacrés et de lieux de pèlerinage où les citoyen(ne)s peuvent se recueillir. Les différentes religions coexistent en paix ici et c’est un réel plaisir de voir que chacun peut trouver son compte parmi la panoplie d’icônes culturels répartis dans la ville. Partout où je vais, tous mes sens sont interpellés : les couleurs m’éblouissent, les arômes m’envahissent, mes papilles gustatives sont épuisées mais également enchantées des nouvelles saveurs qui les assaillent, et je peux passer au travers une cascade d’émotions en une seule journée. C’est d’ailleurs ce qui fait la beauté d’apprendre à vivre à l’étranger!

Les Népalais et Népalaises que j’ai rencontrés jusqu’ici se sont montrés très accueillant(e)s, m’indiquant le chemin et me souriant malgré mon manque de connaissance flagrant de la langue locale. On m’a prévenu de ne pas accorder ma confiance trop facilement, mais mes collègues de travail et mes nouveaux amis ont su faciliter mon intégration et je leur en suis reconnaissante. Cela me permet d’oser essayer de nouvelles activités, d’entreprendre des projets dont je ne me croyais pas capable et voir du pays. Néanmoins, Katmandou a également ses moins bons côtés; la ville est excessivement polluée et les rues sont de réels dépotoirs. La plupart des gens portent un masque pour éviter de respirer les vapeurs noires de carburant et les éléments en décomposition qui abiment le paysage.

Heureusement, le travail de mon organisme d’accueil arrive à me faire oublier ces petits inconvénients! Je fais un stage auprès de Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal (NCBL) qui a été fondé en 1995, et qui célèbrera par conséquent ses 20 ans d’existence l’été prochain. En fait, l’organisme a été fondé un an avant que n’éclate un violent conflit interne. Ce dernier opposait le gouvernement et la monarchie de l’époque à des insurgés maoïstes qui réclamaient, entre autres choses, une meilleure gouvernance et répartition des richesses dans les régions rurales. Bref, le conflit s’est étendu sur une période de 10 ans, causant un nombre élevé de victimes qui espèrent à présent obtenir réparation. Par conséquent, NCBL s’efforce d’offrir un support continu aux survivant(e)s du conflit et leurs familles, de même que faire pression sur le gouvernement afin que le pays adhère au Traité d’Ottawa et la Convention sur les armes à sous-munitions. Bien que le Népal ait nettoyé avec succès tous les champs affectés par des mines antipersonnels en 2011, la lutte pour éradiquer ce type d’armes continu et se concrétisera (espérons-le!) par la signature de ces traités internationaux. Mes collègues organisent de nombreuses rencontres avec différents acteurs qui peuvent financer des programmes de support aux victimes, ou encore influencer le gouvernement. Pour ma part, j’apprends comment NCBL s’assure d’impliquer les survivants dans les différentes étapes de leur réinsertion socio-économique, comment écrire des demandes de subventions qui répondent au besoin de l’organisme, etc. C’est avec des expériences comme celle-ci que l’expression « apprentissage expérientiel » prend tout son sens!

Enfin, dire que le temps passe à une vitesse ahurissante est la moindre des choses. Il me reste tant de choses à découvrir, tant de projets à accomplir! Je me suis fixé de nombreux objectifs qui semblent parfois à ma portée, tandis que d’autres jours ils me paraissent inatteignables. Je dois donc me rappeler de vivre un jour à la fois et donner le meilleur de moi-même. De cette façon, mon stage sera une réussite à tout point de vue, j’en suis convaincue.

A Season of Festivals

October 28, 2014 | Olivia, DVM, CWY, India

We interns are now into the month of October. This is a really wonderful time to be in India because there are many festivals and holidays that are celebrated during this month. Besides the widely celebrated holidays, such as Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday, Dussehra or Navatri (the festival celebrating the victory of good over evil), and Diwali (the festival of lights), there are many more festivals, like Karva Chauth, which is celebrated by women who fast in order to preserve the health and life of their husbands. The holidays have allowed me and my fellow India interns some time to travel and discover more of the country, while also observing how various holidays and festivals are celebrated across India.

A few of us interns had the opportunity to visit Jaipur for a few days during our time off at the beginning of the month, and to do some sightseeing. Like many parts of India, Jaipur is a beautiful city. The whole region is painted with intricate designs. We managed to see many of the interesting attractions, such as the Galta Ji with the Monkey Temple and Sun Temple, the Amber Fort, the City Palace, the Water Temple, the Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds, the Chokhi Dhani village, and the nearby Elephant village, as well as a few other interesting sites. During this month, we were told the reasons and beliefs behind the holidays and we were able to witness some of the events related to these beliefs, such as the burning of a giant effigy of Ravana at Chokhi Dhani, based on Ramayana. It was exciting to experience these aspects of Indian culture.

Another recent trip during the season of Diwali (the festival of lights) allowed us a chance to go on a short trip to Agra with one of the friends at our guesthouse, where we were able to visit the Taj Mahal, Agra fort, the Sikh temple Guru ka Tal, and a few other famous sites in that region. I have really enjoyed Diwali because it reminds me of Christmas a little bit. There are lights strung up on houses and colourful ribbons all over the city. Family and friends exchange gifts and sweets, sing, party, and set off firecrackers late into the night during the week of the celebration. There are sales everywhere for Diwali gifts, and the markets and metro are packed. I’ve enjoyed watching the traditions of Diwali such as the Lakshmi Puja, a ceremony for the goddess of wealth, and Bhai Dooj, a ceremony involving gift exchanges between brothers and sisters and the application of tikas on brother’s heads. This festival is a time when family returns home to be together and I feel very lucky to have been able to visit with my friend’s family during this time.

Besides having a chance to experience these festivals, my roommate and I have met many new friends here in India, and have been able to explore more and different areas of the city. We are comfortable enough now to venture from the safety of our rooms during the evenings, which allows us to make more of our time away from work. Having a six day work week has taught me to appreciate this free time, though I thoroughly enjoy my work and the atmosphere at SPID.

Even though we are living in a big city and have only lived here for two months we have run into a few acquaintances from work and elsewhere during our excursions, something I had never expected and which helped me to realize that my network has been expanding steadily. I am happy that I have been able to reach this point in my internship and look forward to my final month here before returning home to Canada.

Mi-chemin au Botswana

October 28, 2014 | Stéphanie, DVM, Uniterra, Botswana, Stepping Stones

Dumela,

Je suis présentement dans ma huitième semaine dans le pays du Botswana. Ce pays, plein de défis, mais aussi de progression culturelle, continue à m’étonner. Je me sens maintenant intégrée dans cette communauté, connaissant l’emplacement de plusieurs endroits dans mon village, changeant des mots dans mon vocabulaire et comprenant comment aborder certaines situations. J’utilise maintenant le transport public de façon indépendante, me rendant souvent à la capitale de Gaborone pour rencontrer des amis locaux les fins de semaine. Mon pays natal devient de plus en plus un rêve lointain et cette routine, ma réalité.

J’en ai encore beaucoup à apprendre au sujet de la culture, surtout en ce qui a trait à la famille et aux similarités entre les jeunes adultes. Et que dire des élections qui ont eu lieu vendredi dernier? Étant un pays démocratique, les élections étaient le sujet de discussion pour les deux dernières semaines. Le parti en pouvoir, le Parti démocratique du Botswana (BDP), y est depuis l’indépendance du Botswana en 1966. Plusieurs avaient espoir que cette élection amènerait un changement dans le pays. Après une fin de semaine bruyante, où on pouvait apercevoir de grandes lignées en attente pour voter, et de deux jours d’attente pour les résultats, le vote de la majorité fut de garder le BDP comme gouvernement. Cette annonce a déçu plusieurs citoyens qui espéraient un changement de gouvernement, mais ceux-ci étaient quand même excités que, pour  la première fois, les votes étaient si proches. Étant une citoyenne active dans la politique au Canada, j’ai trouvé cette fin de semaine très intéressante.

Le travail que je continue à faire avec Stepping Stones International me démontre les multiples défis que doit surmonter une ONG, dont la gérance de temps, le manque de personnel et l’accès à des fonds adéquats. Malgré ces défis, je décrirais l’organisation comme un atout pour la communauté et les jeunes qui la fréquentent. Pour ma part, mon poste avec cette ONG me permet de mettre en pratique les connaissances acquises dans mes cours et de découvrir mes préférences de carrière future.

Avec cinq semaines qui me restent dans ce magnifique pays, je sais déjà que cette expérience, ainsi que les gens qui m’entourent,  vont me manquer. Je vais donc profiter de ce temps pour en apprendre le plus possible.

Professional and Personal Adventures

October 27, 2014 | Ashley, DVM, WUSC, Malawi

Mwadzuka Bwanji! Life in Lilongwe, Malawi has been going really well! I have been having some interesting adventures both at work and on my own time. For example, at the end of September, WUSC-Malawi organized an Open Day for Girls Education in Dzaleka Refugee Camp. The purpose of the Open Day was to promote girls education in the camp as many girls in Dzaleka must overcome traditional gender roles such as housework and taking care of ill and aging family members, limited or nonexistent support from parents and teachers, and a higher probability of unwanted pregnancy. Therefore, parents, teachers, non-governmental organizations present in the camp, UNHCR, the District Commissioner of Dowa (the district in which Dzaleka is located), and the students were all invited to attend the Open Day. I worked with a group of secondary school girls in preparation for the Open Day as three girls wrote poems, one girl wrote a speech, and a group of the girls prepared and presented a drama skit during the Open Day. This was a really great way to build the relationship between myself and the secondary school girls whom I work with in the Academic Leadership Program. The Open Day was a resounding success and the secondary school girls were very proud and empowered from the role they played in the Open Day.

The Student Refugee Program (SRP) students are progressing towards the date of their TOEFL and DELF/DALF language exams. These exams are the next step before the students can study in Canada. The students must pass these exams before any university in Canada will accept them. Therefore, every day the SRP students are reviewing their comprehension and capability in English and French during which I support them in developing their knowledge. In addition, I have recently developed and provided a presentation on Canada to the SRP students which included information about Canada’s weather, sports, government system, colonial history, relationship with the Aboriginal peoples, and food. The presentation was very interesting and hopefully helpful to the SRP students. It was certainly well received and cause for many questions about all that is Canadian.

In relation to my personal adventure, I have been having a great time in Malawi! WUSC-Malawi recently organized a week of training in which most of the WUSC interns were given two full days of Chichewa (one of Malawi’s official languages) training and two full days of cultural training. Although Swahili or Kinyarwanda language training would have been more useful for me as they are the most common languages in Dzaleka, improving my Chichewa will likely prove useful throughout my internship as well. The cultural training involved learning about the various tribes present in Malawi, their various initiation practices, and spiritual beliefs. For example, we learned that upon death the Ngomi people must be buried in an upright position. This practice stems from the fact that the Ngomi people are warrior peoples; therefore they have to always be ready for conflict, even after death. The week ended with a great trip to a cultural museum in which we were treated to a group of dancers demonstrating several of the Ngomi and Chewa tribes. Additionally, I have also recently embarked on a safari in Zambia with several of the other WUSC interns. It was an amazing experience to see the herd of elephants, pride of lions, herd of giraffes, numerous leopards, and various other animals. Clearly, I am enjoying my time here in Malawi both professionally and personally!

Hopefully the good times continue for me! Zikomo kwambiri!

Aventures à Cape Town

October 23, 2014 | Rachael, SVS, South Africa, Cape Town Refugee Center

Depuis un mois, je suis à Cape Town. Depuis le moment où je suis arrivée, je suis continuellement surprise par la grande beauté et la riche culture de Cape Town. J’ai déjà fait beaucoup de choses. Je suis montée voir la ville du haut de « Table Mountain »,. J’ai nagé dans l’océan Atlantique et Indien. J’ai visité Robben Island. J’ai vu des baleines, des pingouins et des requins. Je suis descendue en rappel une falaise de plus de 100 mètres. J’ai visité de nombreux musées. J’ai mangé un bria traditionnel (BBQ sud-africain) et j’ai célébré Eid avec une famille locale. Il y a beaucoup de choses à explorer. Je ne pense pas que j’ai même le temps de voir tout ce que je veux dans ces trois mois !

Cape Town est très multiculturelle. Chaque jour, pendant mon trajet en autobus et en train pour me rendre au travail, j’entends au moins huit différentes langues. J’aime beaucoup voir la diversité au sein de Cape Town. Ça fait seulement 20 années que l’apartheid aboli. Alors, les traces de l’apartheid sont toujours très évidentes, les lois sont changés, mais la mentalité de beaucoup des gens est encore xénophobe et raciste. Il y a quatre groupes de race principales : noir, blanc, ‘colored’ (une mixte de blanc et noir) et indien. Au Canada nous nous identifions selon l’appartenance ethnique et sur l’héritage de nos ancêtres, mais ici j’étais surprise de voir que les personnes s’identifient pûrement par la couleur de leur peau et par leur nationalité d’Afrique du Sud. La ville de Cape Town est divisée en beaucoup de banlieues et townships, chacune avec une race majoritaire. Moi je vis dans un quartier appelé Gardens. C’est une section de la ville majoritairement blanche, riche et près du centre-ville. Au commencement, j’étais surprise d’apprendre que seulement 10% de la population de Cape Town est blanche puisque je vois en majorité des personnes à peau blanche dans mon quartier. Mais maintenant j’ai eu la chance de voir beaucoup plus de la ville de Cape Town pour visiter des où habitent une large population de noirs et d’autres ou habitent les personnes ‘colored’. J’étais très étonnée d’apprendre qu’il y a encore des endroits à ce jour où les noirs sont chassés et ne sont pas les bienvenues.

C’est difficile pour moi de voir le racisme dans la vie quotidienne comme une chose normale. Ca me rend mal à l’aise même d’écrire ce blog en faisant référence à des personnes en fonction de la couleur de leur peau. Je suis moitié blanche et moitié indienne, de plus je suis étrangère alors je n’ai pas vécu trop de racisme envers moi directement. Néanmoins, c’est évident que les gens me voient pour la couleur de ma peau, c’est une mentalité très différente que celle au Canada, honnêtement je ne la comprends pas encore.

Jusqu’à maintenant, mon stage est une excellente expérience, il me permet de voir la réalité des refugiés en profondeur et me donne un goût du service social que je ne pouvais pas trouver dans un stage au Canada. Je travaille au CTRC (Cape Town Refugee Center), dans le domaine de provision de service. Dans ce programme on essaie de répondre aux besoins immédiats des familles et des individus, mais aussi de créer des liens de confiance avec eux pour enfin les aider à se développer et s’intégrer dans la société sud-africaine. À travers le service où je travaille, CTRC peut donner des billets pour acheter de la nourriture, contribuer à payer le loyer, donner des paquets d’hygiène pour des mères, des enfants ou des hommes, donner des matelas et aussi payer les frais scolaires des enfants. Il y a aussi des subventions à chaque mois pour aider certains groupes, comme les personnes âgées, les personnes ayant une maladie chronique, des jeunes vulnérables et des jeunes non accompagnés.

Je crois que CTRC donne à leurs stagiaires des rôles importantes. Ces rôles qui me font parfois sentir que je suis déjà travailleuse sociale. Pour les deux premières semaines, j’ai simplement observé les travailleuses sociales et j’ai participé dans plusieurs séances de formation pour prendre connaissance de tous les processus et les méthodes de travail du CTRC. Après ces deux semaines j’ai reçu mes propres clients et j’ai commencé à faire les évaluations toute seule. D’un côté, je sens que je n’ai pas l’expérience requise pour les tâches, mais de l’autre côté c’est exactement le type d’inconfort et de défi que je cherchais à vivre pendant mon stage. Je rencontre les clients quand ils viennent au bureau pour faire une évaluation de leur vulnérabilité et aussi pour évaluer leurs raisons de fuir leur pays d’origine pour s’assurer qu’ils ont une demande de réfugié reconnu par les Nations Unies. De là, je décide si le ou la client(e) rencontre les critères pour recevoir de l’assistance. Oui, il y a beaucoup de pression, mais les travailleuses sociales de CRTC sont toujours là pour m’aider, je ne me sens jamais seule. Chaque jour j’ai la chance à faire la connaissance des individus et d’écouter leurs histoires. Ce sont des histoires horribles de guerre, de meurtre, de viol, de perte et d’incertitude face au futur mais les réfugiés sont très forts et résilients. Même si leur passé et leur situation présente est très difficile, ils ont toujours la force de se lever le matin et chercher des solutions pour eux-mêmes.

En somme, je suis plus que satisfaite de mon expérience jusqu’à maintenant. J’ai fait beaucoup de nouveaux amis parmi les autres stagiaires, avec les filles sud-africaines avec qui je vis au YWCA et avec des familles locales. J’ai hâte d’explorer encore plus la ville de Cape Town et d’apprendre plus sur le travail social en Afrique de Sud de CTRC. C’est sûr que mon stage est une excellente expérience d’apprentissage et que la ville de Cape Town m’offre des aventures sans cesse, je me sens très chanceuse d’être ici.

Happy Diwali!

October 23, 2014 | Ryan, PAP, CWY, India, Swami Sivananda Memorial Institute

Being in India during the month of October has been nothing short of amazing! The whole month has been festival, after festival, after festival. These past few days we have been celebrating Diwali, the festival of lights. All of New Delhi is finely decorated with bright lights hanging along all the major streets and from many of the homes. I spent a couple evenings walking along the mesmerising scenes, soaking in all of the beauty that this festival has to offer. Each day leading up to Diwali it seemed as though more lights were being added to the ever-glowing city. My workplace was also decorated with candles and Rangoli, a ravishing art-form made using coloured powder designs on the floor, meant to bring good luck.

For the eve of Diwali, I was very fortunate to have my director invite me to her home for a celebration. We were all dressed in our finest clothes, in typical festive spirit. We had a nice evening where we lit candles on the balcony, indulges in excellent cuisine, and enjoyed each other’s company. We also gazed at some of the preliminary fireworks that beautifully lit up the night’s sky.

As Diwali is a national holiday here in India, I didn’t have to work today. Instead waking at my usual hour, I enjoyed a nice long sleep and then headed to Paharganj, an area in Central Delhi, to meet up with a group of my new friends. We spent the afternoon walking along the decorated bazaar, drinking amazing chai, and indulging in fabulous sweets. As the sun set and the evening was upon us, we headed to my friend’s house where I was able to be a part of a special puja, or ceremony, to celebrate the religious aspect of Diwali. A priest had come to my friend’s home where we sat on the floor in a candle-lit room to take part in the ritual. The sound of the mantras and the burning incense filled the room, leaving me with nothing but sheer joy to be a part of such a special ceremony. I feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity being surrounded my such amazing people.

Following the puja, we ate a traditional meal with sweets for desert, and then headed to the rooftop for the festivities to begin. Out came a massive collection of fireworks and firecrackers… my eyes just lit up with excitement! I felt like I was a kid again. By this time, the sky was in a constant state of brightness… firework, after firework, after firework. Having the chance to light some myself was truly invigorating! Boom! Crack! Pow! The only thing left in the end was a big puff a smoke forming into the clouds and the everlasting impression that this day has given me. Never have I felt such joy seeing the bright colours soaring in front of my eyes. Diwali has truly been an amazing experience that I will cherish forever and ever.

October 17th, 2014

October 20, 2014 | Kyle, DVM, AFS, Ghana, HRAC

As of today I have been in Ghana for six weeks, although it feels like it has been two. When I first arrived here, it seemed like I would be here forever, and now I am worried it might now have enough time left to do everything I want. Ghana is a really cool country, very different from Canada but at the same time very similar. The first difference I had to get used to was accepting the fact that random people on the street are genuinely interested in talking to you and learning about your country. Everywhere I go, people will say hi to me, and just start talking to me. Back in Canada, if strangers start trying to talk to me on the street I find it a little weird, and I found it a bit weird here in Ghana at first. But you learn that people are just genuinely very social and interested in making friends.

While there are lots of other differences between my home country and my host country, what is more interesting are the similarities. For example, the global diffusion of popular culture is astonishing. For example, one of the first questions I was asked was if I was a fan of Glee. While I actually really hate Glee, nonetheless it was interesting to see how influential Western media is around the world. North American pop music is also very popular here, and often it is played on the radio along with locally produced reggae and Twi hiphop music.

Ghana itself is a beautiful country, especially when you travel outside of Accra. I travelled to Kakum National Park, which had a really cool rainforest canopy walkway that gave you amazing views of one of the biggest tracts of intact rainforest left in Ghana. Also, the beaches. It seems like the entire coastline of Ghana is one long uninterrupted beach. Coming from landlocked Ottawa, it is hard to express how much I love being able to go to the beach on weekends, after work, and even on work days when the power is out. The country is currently experiencing some trouble generating electricity due to low water levels at their main hydroelectric dam. And while this is frustrating at times (try going to sleep in the heat here with no fan) it also means that work closes at 12:00 if the power has not come back on. Me and the other interns have started bringing our bathing suits everyday just in case, so we can spend the afternoon at the beach.

As much as I enjoy Ghana and the people in it, the highlight of the experience has definitely been working at the HRAC. I had exceedlingly low expectations of what I would be doing as an intern. I would have been happy as long as my job was something more than fetching coffee for other more senior staff. However, it has far exceeded anything I had hoped for. First of all, I am actually given useful projects to do, and they are interesting and engaging. Furthermore, I am given a lot of autonomy, and my suggestions for projects are listened to and taken seriously. Papers I write are actually used and distributed. I was super happy when I saw a paper I wrote was distributed at a meeting with various NGOs and government officials. Better yet, I actually saw them reading it. What is great is that you feel as though the work you are doing is actually making a difference, and benefiting the organization. I really enjoy the work that I am doing and I feel as though it has been a great experience so far.

In fact, the only negative thing I have to say about it is that if you are a coffee drinker like myself, it is really hard to find real coffee and when you do it is ridiculously expensive. Nescafe is the only coffee-like substance readily available, and I think most people will agree with me when I say that Nescafe is awful.

Anyways, the fact that Nescafe is the one thing I have found to complain about should speak for itself. I’m having a great time.

Adjusting to India

October 10, 2014 | Travis, DVM, CWY, India, SPID

Having been in India for a month now I am starting to feel very comfortable here. At first it was a whirlwind; everything was new, and unfamiliar. From the moment we stepped off the plane it was hotter than I had imagined, and smelled and looked different than I had imagined. For the first few days, weeks even, the city seemed so big and busy I thought I would never get used to it. Since then another intern, Olivia, and I have moved into a Paying Guesthouse, and have gotten to know some of the other girls who live there. I have been going to the office everyday and am getting to know my co-workers, and what was once scary and new is now becoming routine.

It helped when we first arrived that I felt I had such a strong support system. Between the other interns who travelled to India, the kind people at UOttawa, CWY, and iVolunteer, and my supervisor and co-workers at SPID, I have felt nothing but safe and supported.  Not everyone at work speaks English, but it doesn’t matter because they are all very kind and try to be helpful despite any language barrier. They like to teach me about India, it’s culture, holidays, history, current events, and so on, and they also like to learn about Canada and what my life is like there.

So far at SPID I have been working on editing their NGO profile as well as creating a brochure for the organization outlining all of their projects, their approach, and their objectives. It has been a good way to learn about the organization and the work they do. Currently, I am starting research for a report on human and workers rights in regards to drainage and sanitary workers. This includes looking at the national and international laws and provisions that are in place to protect workers from harmful or dangerous working conditions. It is fascinating to have the opportunity to learn about India and it’s development issues from a first hand perspective. This is a chance to see development projects in practice, work with a local organization, and learn from the experienced people around me about culturally sensitive development.

Some of the best days at work are the days I get to go out into the community. SPID hosts many events, reaching out to the surrounding communities and trying to motivate people to become involved in their own development. Community empowerment and participation are highly valued at this organization.  In the last month I have had the opportunity to go to a health camp (an outreach event hosted to expand the reach of SPID’s health programs) and a street play (put on by girls from SPID’s Gender Resource Centre to promote the SMART vocational training program.)

Outside of work, I am enjoying getting to know the girls I live with at the PG. They are mostly students or young professionals just starting their careers. As I get to know them I am learning about their lives, families, and hopes for the future. A couple of them are trying to teach me some Hindi (but I am not very good) and they have agreed to teach me how to make Indian food!

Adjusting to life in India has been a slow process. It has not always been easy or comfortable, but finally, I feel like things are starting to fall into place. I know that this is a once in a lifetime experience, and an opportunity that not everyone gets. In only one month I have learned so much about India and my host organization- I cannot wait to see what the next two months will bring!

Settling in

October 7, 2014 | Olivia, DVM, CWY, India

Whenever I am travelling to a new place, I am always worried that the region I am in will be so different from home that I won’t be able to handle it, or that it will be so similar that I will be disappointed. India has proved to be neither. Throughout my first few weeks here, I have been pleasantly surprised by what is new and interesting to me here, while still comforted by reminders of home (like the fast food restaurants that allow us a break from the spicy food every once in a while). I have seen this internship as another stage in my development as an international worker, and was determined that this semester would be the one where I went international. I am glad to be doing it through the Faculty of Social Sciences and CWY as they have helped to smooth the departure and integration process. I feel that I have been well prepared for my internship, and I am less likely to be fazed when met with challenges.

When the India interns first arrived in Delhi, we were given a few days at the hotel to adjust and see some of the sights in the city. This allowed us to adjust to the country without being completely overwhelmed by jet lag, culture shock, and other problems. After a few days we split up and each went to their own placement. I stayed in Delhi, along with two other students, and began my placement at the Society for Participatory Integrated Development (SPID).

So far, my impression is that Delhi is a good place for interns that do not have a lot of experience travelling abroad and are looking to take steps towards international work, as I am. There are some challenges in adapting to any country. In the case of Delhi it might be to the heat, the spicy food, the stares, locating what you wish to purchase, purchasing goods at the non-tourist price, and obeying the incomprehensible rules of the road. Fortunately, as you spend more and more time here, you begin to figure it out and gain more independence, and then you can have a truly rewarding experience.

I have really enjoyed getting to know my colleagues at SPID, of which several are able to speak English and will communicate with us (me and my fellow Canadian) in our native language, while still teaching us some Hindi. We have also enjoyed meeting some of the girls living in the other rooms at our accommodations and others that engage with us in our daily lives, such as our daily rickshaw driver and the girl that cleans our room. Communication is not always easy, but with the limited Hindi that we have been learning and with the English that our new acquaintances have under their belts, and with many hand gestures, we can generally get by.

At SPID, we have been working on writing and editing content for promotional materials, the website, and other projects. There are two offices that we have been working out of, the Gender Resource Centre (GRC) and, more regularly, the Vocational Training Centre, SMART. We are able to work independently, checking in with our supervisor to ensure that we are on the right track and to gain more information or direction as needed. We were able to observe a Health Camp here in Delhi last week, which was probably the highlight of my work at SPID, and though we did not feel that we helped in ways we wished we could, it was nice to see how SPID interacts with the community it serves. We may also have a chance to visit the office in Agra, which would be exciting for us. Our supervisor has been very attentive in ensuring that we are comfortable and happy both in our placement at SPID and at our accommodations. It is a comfort to know that there are people looking out for us, and I hope that I will be able to return the favour with the best quality of work possible.

I am very glad that I have this opportunity to work internationally and to experience more of the culture on the weekends and evenings, as well as through conversations with our colleagues. Being one who is fascinated by other country’s cultures, national history, architecture, and other aspects of daily life, I have thoroughly enjoyed the experiences, celebrations, and excursions of which I have had the opportunity to take part. India is a beautiful and fascinating country, and I am thoroughly enjoying my time here.