Eleanor Peel Trust
The £200 donated by Eleanor Peel Trust helped ensure my place with Restless Development, a charity within ICS. The £800 I was requested to raise before I enrolled on the programme went into the charity to help ensure future volunteers places, 10% of the actual cost of sending a volunteer over sees. The £800 also helps ensure volunteers placements abroad as for every international volunteer there is a national volunteer taken on placement also.
By sending Volunteers overseas, in this case me, we are able to link cultures, encouraging acceptance and understanding. I was trained in the Indian city of Chennai for 2 weeks where both national and international volunteers met for the first time. We had group sessions with over 70 of us in a room where we learnt about the Indian culture, their language and social stigmas which needed addressed with a new perspective. Social stigmas included: Girls periods, women’s empowerment, waste management and the cast system.
Once training was finished we moved to our host homes where we stayed for the rest of our placement. Living within an Indian household allowed me to become deeply submersed in the culture. Our Amma (our host mum) is a beautician and Tailor and had learnt her tailoring skills through Restless Development on a course set up in the area. Our Appa (our host dad) is a Tuk-tuk driver and our host sister Sushma training to be a doctor. Naveen their son volunteered with Restless Development a few years back, first as a volunteer then as a team leader. He learnt to speak English while volunteering with Restless Development and was able to teach his family increasing their job prospects. Naveen now works in an international gym as well as helping out with Restless Development where he can.
We worked at our Youth Resource Centre Monday to Friday a team of 14 of us both national and international. The work was split into 2 categories, Health and Livelihoods. I was on the livelihoods team working on topics such as Employability, Team-building, Leadership, Confidence, Empowerment and English. We worked from scratch making all of our resources and planning our sessions. Having a language barrier made this all the more challenging. We had to work with attention and patience to make sure everyone was heard and felt included. We had 5 sessions between us each week, 4 in the schools and 1 where the trainee Doctors on our team visited a local hospital to raise awareness on periods, tobacco, as well as hygiene management. We would visit Dombosco Community Centre on an evening also to deliver sessions on English and Employability.
Our Youth Resource Centre was opened to the community Monday to Friday so anyone could come in while we were working to use the computers and socialize. We were located within a primary school so every break the school children would visit us, some we got to know very well over the months we were there.
We organized community events such as our Youth Resource Centre opening, a World Environment Day event and our sports day at Dombosco Community centre.
The experience challenged me and pushed me out of my comfort zone. Living and working with people I had only just met gave me confidence in travelling and connecting to the world. We trusted each other with our feelings when we were missing home and loved ones and we supported each other without question. Confronting fears of public speaking, taking responsibility to ensure work was being done on time and communicating with national volunteers were all challenges I felt I’d overcame by the end of my placement.
I’ve gained an understanding and awareness of India that I would never have been able to gain any other way. I’ve helped take part in transforming people’s views on social stigmas and I’ve discovered that I can make a difference .To be given an opportunity to become so deeply submersed in a culture and help in some way is something I’ll always be grateful for.
I have attended my action at home training weekend in August where we were encouraged to keep on being active citizens.