FSD Grassroots Internships in India

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FSD works with several NGOs toward change at the local level to help eliminate gender bias, environmental degradation, poverty, and many other issues. Our programs promote collaboration to enhance the capacity of individuals and organizations to address these pressing issues.

  • India is a great place for an international development internship due to its grassroots and government efforts which make strides to rectify poverty-related issues.
  • Udaipur is located in the northwestern part of Rajasthan, and is known for its mystical architecture, green forests, spiritual depth, and cultural diversity.
  • Work side-by-side with our partner organizations working in one or more of our many sectors: health, youth and education, gender equity, microfinance, human rights, community development and/or environmental issues.
  • Decentralize control of natural resources to protect the rights of marginalized, rural communities, while educating and empowering individuals to assert their goals.
  • Provide entrepreneurial skills training to conduct feasibility studies, perform cost/benefit analyses, write business plans, acquire financing, and initiate start-ups.

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  • Growth 9.4
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.6
  • Housing 8.9
  • Safety 9.9
Showing 1 - 7 of 7
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Yes, I recommend this program

A Grounding Introduction to International Development Work

During the Summer of 2011, I participated in the Global Engagement Studies Institute (GESI), a Group Engage partnership model between the Foundation for Sustainable Development and Northwestern University. GESI is a unique credit-bearing program that combines intensive asset-based community development coursework with 8-10 weeks of team-based asset-based fieldwork with one of FSD’s community partners in Bolivia, India, Nicaragua and Uganda. As a FSD/GESI intern, I spent the summer at one of Udaipur’s oldest and largest NGOs, Seva Mandir. While Seva Mandir’s commitment to “democratic and participatory development” manifests in myriad program areas including education, women’s empowerment, youth development and social enterprise, I worked in Seva Mandir’s health department. Specifically, my GESI team of three worked alongside Seva Mandir’s Community Care Center (CCC), a HIV/AIDS clinic providing clinical and counseling support to local patients.

During my 10 weeks, I had the privilege of first, interviewing clinic patients to better understand their individual and collective barriers to access, regimented care, and stable health, and second, collaborating with Seva Mandir staff to develop and pilot test a small-scale two-part programmatic response consisting of a patient-driven pillbox/chart system and new education materials for clinicians. While parts of our project inevitably failed, my time with Seva Mandir taught me that equally important to the goals of development are the methods by which they are realized – that the process matters. Through the GESI program, the Foundation for Sustainable Development and Northwestern University opened my eyes to the value, intention and necessity of asset-based community development and ignited a life-long commitment to thoughtful international development work.

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Yes, I recommend this program

A Great Jump Start

When I first decided to leave my day job and give volunteering/interning abroad a whirl, I was overwhelmed with the opportunities out there. The first thing I noticed was that a lot of the opportunities offered revolved around teaching English or constructing a building. My background wasn't rooted in teaching and I was looking for a transition into sustainable development, not aid. I was when I found FSD's site and realized that what they were offering was exactly what I was looking for. They offered three different areas that I was really looking for in a program -- cultural integration, (real) project development, and support. After checking with an old college professor about the organization, I decided to apply. The cost of the program was the only thing that was the only thing that had me concerned -- I was essentially paying a lot of money to work for free. Yet, I later realized FSD practices what they preach. The fees for the program allow the organization to function without depending on donations.

From the very start FSD was really involved in the process. It included an interview with the local site team, which was both an introduction and an opportunity to further express the type of work I was hoping to do. After the interview, the site team helped me with the visa application and promptly sent me my host organization and host family information. The support didn't stop there. Once I was in Udaipur, I received a week-long orientation on how to both practically and culturally navigate my time in Udaipur. After the orientation the site team checked in with me at least once a week, but were always available if I needed assistance. The support covered helping me find soap to giving constructive criticism -- that really helped! -- during my project. The site team also facilitated both cultural and development related activities. The activities included Q&As with prominent figures in the community, cultural activities, and exposure to different fields of development. We even went on a midterm retreat to Northern Rajasthan.

The key to the cultural integration, which was also the best part of the internship, was the host family. Living with the host family gave me a different perspective. My host mom was the sweetest woman and she suffered through my painstaking nights of trying to learn how to cook and learn hindi like a champ. She also included me in family activities, introducing me to her extended family, bringing me to weddings and patiently responded to all the questions I had about Udaipur/Indian culture.

The third part was the project development with a host organization. This was really important to me from the beginning. I was looking for a program of substances, which is why I opted for FSD over teaching English/volunteering. I was taught about FSD's approach to sustainable development, which was really important when I settled into the organization. The staff members, who after a few weeks became friends, had a really strong understanding of FSD's ABCD approach to development. We worked with the communities and clients to create a project. In addition, I was able to support on-going projects within the organization. The collaboration was a great experience, one that I felt I was able to obtain a better understanding of the reality of development and to contribute my own skill set to the organization.

The length of my internship was for six months. During my time I felt like I was able to accomplish what I set out to do. I learned about the practical applications to international development, I successfully integrated into a new culture, and had some good ole' fashioned fun.

What would you improve about this program?
An alumni network would be great.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Great for Professional Development

I interned with FSD in in the city of Jodhpur. I was an intern during the summer of 2013. I was introduced to the program by a professor at my University. A key benefit of the program was the professional experience that it provided. As a college student I felt I needed a practical component to complement the monotony of pure academics. The program was able to provide "real world experience". This practical experience has been invaluable when applying for jobs. Beyond giving me professional experience I was able to develop important relationships with other program participants as well as staff. The staff always had our backs and made us feel safe for the duration of our internship.

As a major in International Relations the program was a perfect fit. Towards the end of my college career the program helped me define a career path. This was important due to the fact that Liberal Arts majors have a period of anxiety about what they will do after graduation. The internship gave me insight into my desire for a career in International Affairs and specifically development. The issues I was exposed to during my internship spurred me to investigate them in greater depth when back at school.

Every intern lives with a host family and works at a specific NGO. My host family was extremely welcoming and determined to feed me as much as possible. I am still in contact with them today. You will come across conditions that you may not be accustomed to like squat toilets or occasional blackouts. I was aware of these conditions before I left, so it did not bother me. Jodhpur is great city to experience a part of india. It is small enough that I did not feel overwhelmed but big enough to provide actives and places to chill out (restaurants and bars).

What would you improve about this program?
Many interns come to the internship with a romantic ideal of changing the community in an overly comprehensive way. This is hard to do if you are in country for only a few months. The most successful people were those that understood this and contributed to their organizations after their programs. I hope a better structure is developed to help facilitate oppurtunities for interns to work with their organizations after they have left.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Lifelong Friends not Coworkers

My time in Udaipur India is something I will never forget. Not because it was abroad or "exotic." Though India is amazing in itself, it was because of what we did and who we met. FSD as apparent in it's name is about development for the community you become a part of. It is not about coming as a rich foreigner and leaving with pictures of children and talking about a library you built for people that didn't even want it.

FSD's mission is much deeper about that. It is about actually work with the community you're with and for THEM to be the innovators and change makers in whatever project you assist with. To create something sustainable and lasting that actually benefits and is used by the community.

The other half of being an intern for FSD is the amazing cultural experience you'll be having. Between your host family, your organization, and whatever community you'll be working with, you are going to meet a lot of amazing people. India is somewhere I'll never forget not necessarily because of the work I did but the people I met. I now have dozens of friends and de-facto family in India now that I hope to (and plan on) return to and visit many times over the years. From my coworkers in the village I was in, to my host family in Udaipur, the people I met were amazing.

So if you're think about interning abroad, you will not get a more genuine and meaningful experience than FSD.

What would you improve about this program?
Honestly, I liked the program a lot. If anything I would say that a little more emphasis on the cultural exploration/interaction aspects of it would've been nice. It's an internship and you will be working, but I think a lot of us were afraid of not producing an all encompassing sustainable community enacted project. It's important. But it's not the ONLY thing you're doing.
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Yes, I recommend this program

You'll be glad you did it!

My experience with FSD in India not only allowed me to develop professionally, but also to undergo personal growth in unimaginable ways. If you're open to new cultural experiences, passionate about grassroots development and unconventional learning, then this opportunity is for you!

India is an amazing country with vibrant and complex cultures. Udaipur is a charming desert city enveloped in the ancient Aravali Mountains and known for its iconic network of lakes. Udaipur is a safe city with a wealth of opportunities for involvement in local development initiatives, recreational activities and community engagement.

Of course no program is perfect, and participating in a program in an entirely different cultural context presents new challenges and frustrations. While organization and structure can always be improved, the internship program is a unique educational opportunity and cross-cultural experience. An intern's work in country is often referred to as a project, but it's important to keep in mind that interns are in no way obligated to devise comprehensive development projects. In fact, some of the most successful intern initiatives involve contributing to the host organization's ongoing efforts or existing programs, which the program can emphasize more.

If you're still interested, don't hesitate to apply!

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Yes, I recommend this program

A great experience in Udaipur

I was really impressed by the entire experience of this program. I lived and worked in Udaipur for 10 weeks this summer. The staff in San Francisco and Udaipur worked seamlessly to coordinate a great experience. I fit really well with my host family and was really impressed by the lengths at which the Udaipur team will go to make interns feel safe and comfortable. The outside immersion trips were well-planned and there was plenty of freedom and support to travel with friends to other places, as well. This was a unique immersion experience that I wish everyone could have-- if you're thinking of applying to the program, do it!

What would you improve about this program?
I enjoyed working with my host organization, but I didn't feel like my project matched up exactly with my interests or what I'd expected. My organization had me conduct a study, which involved a lot of unexpected desk work. I'd been hoping to feel a bit more involved in the communities my organization worked with. It was a little discouraging at times.

I know that FSD Udaipur is actively working on this issue, so I would suggest that any potential interns really think about what they skills they want from this experience -- whether it be research experience, working with people, etc. -- and push to find a project that suits them and their needs.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Life Changing Experience

FSD is a fantastic organization. I interned with FSD for 11 weeks in Jodhpur. The program staff was absolutely amazing and I feel like I learned a tremendous amount about international development, specifically asset based community development. I also felt like my hard work would have a significant and lasting impact on the community. Beyond this I had a great time. My host family was amazing and by the time I left i felt like I was really a part of the community. A great experience all around. Would highly recommend!