Why did you decide to volunteer with GLA in India?
Hemant: I chose GLA because it was specifically aimed at high/secondary school students in the same age brackets, and wanted to learn more about another country. GLA was very attractive also because they have a good ethos in community service and development abroad. The organisation also had a safety/security as part of their main priorities, which was very relieving as travelling abroad, particularly alone, for the first time can be a very daunting experience as well as exciting so it was great to see that safety was at the top of their checklist.
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Hemant: In the first week, we hiked 12 enduring km uphill to a small Himalayan village and camped there. We had to set up our own tents within our own groups, delegate tasks, and communication was key. There were many different community service activities available such as: building a house, planting rice paddles, teaching in a daycare centre and many more. I decided to opt for the house, and did that all week with a few others because I wanted to build a bond with the family, and they were very hospitable and always offered food and drink for which I was very grateful.
In the second week, we stayed in Dharamsala, and helped an NGO, The Mountain Cleaners. They are an environment-based group, in which they help to 'clean' India, picking up litter and trash, and educating the people of the values of looking after their country. If the water in the mountains are dirty, then the rest of India's water will be dirty.
Our tasks were varied. One was working on the computers and printing off leaflets and posters, the other was hiking up the mountains and picking up litter. We also helped teach children at a daycare centre on the importance of looking after the environment.
What was the highlight of your trip?
Hemant: The best part was definitely the camping. I think it was because it was something I haven't done before, and also it was the fact we had little possessions. All we had was our clothes, books and us! It was a great way to begin the trip because friendships were made very quickly, and we learnt a great deal about each other in that first week. Not to mention the fact that it was monsoon season so, as you can imagine, it was a very fun, wet week!
How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?
Hemant: When I came back from the trip I was much more clearer about my future. he adventure in India taught me many values such as: team work, honour, happiness, enthusiasm, integrity and optimism. I know that whatever career path I choose, I will have these important ethics and morals. I think the most important thing I learnt was that whatever you do in your life, you must always be happy. Happiness is the key to life.