Tell us a little about Leave UR Mark and your role at the company.
Prachi: Leave UR Mark was started to focus on the development happening in India right now. We help facilitate an experiential education for students and travelers from all over the world who want to engage with Indian society and culture in a meaningful way. We work with several different professional internship placements in Bangalore and Mumbai as well as NGOs and Non-Profits throughout Southern India. Our interns choose our projects because they are well-researched, offer customized learning opportunities, and are committed to community development.
My role at Leave UR Mark is to spread awareness about our projects through University Relations as well as assist with Pre-Departure support. I love helping each and every intern fulfill their dream of going abroad and it's very rewarding to see them make progress in a country that is so foreign to them.
How did you get involved in the volunteer industry?
Prachi: I worked and traveled a lot in India, China, and Japan and saw the growing influence of Asian markets on the rest of the world. When I interned in India I met dozens of social enterprises, for-profit businesses, NGOs, etc. doing some fantastic work.
I also met a lot of travelers who wanted to get set up at these projects but found it hard to navigate Indian administration, finding safe/fun accommodation, and a good support system while there. With a few of my housemates that were already working in the volunteer abroad field, I helped set up a more streamlined and supportive system. Most importantly, I got involved because I love India and never stop talking about it. I wanted to share my own experience with others.
What makes Leave UR Mark unique?
Prachi: Our projects really set us apart from all other organizations. We offer some really innovative placements such as Event Management where interns can help set up conferences and launches for international companies. We're also involved with smaller start ups like a very interesting Vegan and Animal Rights Organization, an LGBT placement, a travel magazine, and more. We shy away from the traditional orphanage work and instead work on stuff that no one else is doing. We also have a beautiful accommodation in Bangalore that you'd just have to see to believe!
In your experience, what characteristics make a good international volunteer?
Prachi: Someone that doesn't have too many plans or expectations about what their experience is going to be like. The volunteers that have the best time are able to roll with the punches, adapt quickly, turn off their iPads, and just observe. Volunteers that really help us out are ones that are good at politely communicating with us about their ups and downs, likes and dislikes. It helps us improve constantly.
How do you ensure that your programs are sustainable and mutually beneficial for you, the community, and the volunteers?
Prachi: We work on quality versus quantity always. We prefer having less volunteers but ones that fit our in-country coordinators, our projects, and our staff. We also prefer to work with organizations that have asked us for help rather than forcing interns or volunteers upon them. We have recently changed our duration to 4 weeks for all participants so that we don't use up local staff resources at the project and avoid accepting people that are only coming for a quick "feel good" experience.
Lastly, since our field directors are part of our company and not a third party provider, we are able to better monitor each project, each participant, and each experience for it's full value and potential.