This fund allowed me to spend three months working for an Indian NGO called Seva Mandir located in Udaipur. During my stay, I primarily focused on an assigned project located in a peri-urban town. Seva Mandir’s work varies hugely; from natural resources, village institutions and womens’ health. However, I was associated with the Youth Resource Centre that provide wider learning, tuition and vocational courses for youth between 14 and 25 years of age. I was extremely excited to be back in India, familiar as my family live in Himachal Pradesh, to explore more of the country and expand my knowledge of Hindi. If anything, I was nervous that I would be unqualified for the job and my lack of spoken Hindi would hold the projects back.
The first two months were spent creating a report on current conditions of YRC programs and investigating why there had been poor attendance over recent years. We collected our data through informal and formal questionnaires, discussions, community meetings and structured activities. This was kindly helped by other volunteers that were able to translate what I did not understand. Meeting members of the local community gave insightful conversations filled with personal stories and political complexity. Expected, as they reflect the villages unique structure; within there are 3 religions (Hinduism, Jain and Muslim) as well as 22 different castes.
Our research lead us to explore issues involved political conflicts, economic disparity and gender issues within the village. I quickly learned that many departments interconnect and had an impact on the ability of our programmes to work. One problem that stood out was the importance of NGO credibility and trust dictating the success of programmes, even if the content surpassed the needs of the community. The research we recorded further informed a formal proposal that outlined future guidelines for the YRC, including; renovations, needed activities specific for each community, conduct and elected members.
Reflecting on this experience, I learnt a lot about the social sector’s work environment and the different opportunities for specialisation and focus. Through conversations from supportive colleagues and other interns, I identified my own interest in alternative farming techniques and environmental conservation. On weekend trips I explored my friends’ projects and was exposed to multiple departments of the NGO. Many of these issues gave a direct insights into the failed implementation of the Forest Rights Act sparking recent protest in Delhi streets.
Finally, I was able to realise my own limitations and the skills areas I need to expand in the future. I can bring my broaden understanding of Hindi and directed passion into my further studies at Edinburgh.
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