Why did you choose this program?
On a round-trip through Rajasthan in 2017, I was deeply moved by the interesting Indian culture and the hearty hospitality while meeting residents in poor villages. My purpose grew up to give support to them.
With Sambhali Trust I found an NGO focused on the development and empowerment of marginalized women and girls in Rajasthan. Since 2007, they worked throughout Jodhpur and the surrounding Thar desert with women and children experiencing discrimination and violence on a daily basis due to economic, gender, and caste status. These women face extreme poverty and social exclusion - deprived of education, health care, and legal resources.
At Sambhali, there are several projects successfully running. Because of this, I can participate in two interesting projects at the same time.
A new volunteering program to support children at the government schools with teaching English and maths was just settled up in Setrawa (a tiny village in the Thar desert - 100 km West of Jodphur/ Rajasthan). This makes a special challenge for me: getting this project on-the-run, which, for example, includes finding both new founders and new volunteers.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
The support of World Unite was great! In advance, the consultant gave me personalized advice to find the best matching volunteer program. They offer a comprehensive online portal full of the information you need before and while volunteering. All my questions were answered easily and fast.
A few weeks before leaving my home country, we shared a Skype Conference for intercultural preparation and to connect with other volunteers. Although there was early contact with the founder of Sambhali Trust to become acquainted. More services are offered and you can find them on the website.
The best advice is: use all the online information from World Unite and don’t be embarrassed to use the offered personal contact for all your questions.
The only items I had to take care of by myself were the flight tickets and overseas health insurance.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Prepare you as open-minded as possible. The impressions are very multifarious and deep. The best way to explore Indian Culture is to leave all expectations at home and try to be just in this place at this time.
As a volunteer abroad, you make a very courageous step, so be kind to you at all times. It's important to watch about your energy and to do something lovely to yourself every day. For example, we are sharing "My best thing of today" at dinner in our team every evening; it's full of positive power.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
In the morning, we are teaching English and Maths to children from 5 to 15 years old in government schools from Monday until Friday for three hours. In the afternoons, we have different administrative work to get this new project on-the-run. For example, visit new government schools, adjust the Sambhali’s curriculum for the improvement of students on government schools, introduce new volunteers or supervise them in the first weeks.
There are two videos of my school (with the students Lalu and Swaroop) at Sambhalis website, which show my daily experience with these hearty children.
We are staying at Dev Bagh, the guest house of Sambhali in Setrawa, a hearty and peaceful place in the desert, where we can do several activities from 5:00 pm like walks to the sand dunes, camel and jeep rides or yoga on the rooftop. We enjoy fantastic Indian food three times a day and love the ceremony of Masala Chai. In late evenings, we sit around a campfire with the neighbors and listen to the stories of real-life India.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
The biggest challenge for me was, how I could perform well in teaching children with no working experience on this before. The solution was the team around me, that helped me so much and so friendly.
Other Volunteers shared their experience with me and helped me through the first uncertainty. Now I know, that this feeling is normal at the beginning.
Because of the many years of experience within Sambhali, the team is used to integrating new volunteers and giving us a homily feeling from arrival on. Although there exists a google drive tutorial with plenty of documents for our support.
Open-minded residents – especially the teachers at government schools – are very interested, give helpful assistance and create a healthy working atmosphere.
Any last pieces of advice?
The main point of your Volunteering time is the people around you. Sharing your Volunteer experience with others is the deepest way to learn more intercultural competences. For me, it was important to meet other Volunteers of different countries and of different ages (from 19 until 67 years). When you like to interact with humans, your best choice will be a project for the improvement of children or underprivileged residents in your favourite country.