Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Funny how 5 months feels like 2 weeks...

Alright friends, here is the latest story and update on my attempted adventure! So I left off on my last post regarding all the promises and services that were not carried out by the partner organization CULP. Before I get into the nitty gritty events, here is a little overview of CULP and what they are doing in the Banaswara regions of Rajasthan.

CULP has two primary functions in the region of Banaswara, Rajasthan, which include:
                (A) Ensuring access to elementary education to students who have been kept out of school,      primarily in tribal regions, so that they may return to mainstream schooling.
  •     CULP runs 16 learning centers in rural and remote areas that teach about 20-40                                             students per classroom
                (B) Organizing, educating and empowering communities to value children’s rights to education and strengthen community groups by holding capacity building workshops to ensure the     community takes a pro-active role.
  •    CULP has already held 18 3-day long training camps, designed to involve local leaders, community members and parents of students in the education of their children
  •   Every camp is aimed at comprising of 50% men and 50% women in an effort to                                              change the current gender inequity
  • Over 1,000 people have participated in these camps to date
 I adored the 4 days spent visiting all the school sites and leadership camps, meeting volunteers, teachers, and of course the students. CULP is doing really great work, however I simply couldn't contribute anything in any realistic way. Throughout the entire visit, Dr. Kulhari was the ONLY person I could communicate with. I spent the other 90% of the time completely silent, smiling and nodding. Since the language barrier was so great, it was obvious I couldn't teach English...which is why I was there. It also became clear that Dr. Kulhari did not have any suitable projects for my proposed grant, and although we had been in contact for almost a year- he never mentioned these HUGE concerns.
With THAT being said, on our 10 hour drive back, my host unfortunately drank too much and then proceeded to make some inappropriate comments that led to my ultimate decision of leaving. I was happy to get out of that situation and spent two days with some family friends who lived in Delhi. After looking at some other organizations and options, I was hesitant to choose one that lacked information and had no volunteer stories. The second option was an organization in Delhi- I wasnt thrilled about being in a giant city of 14 million people and this organization would have cost me a significantly greater amount of money. Logically it seemed like I should just go somewhere since I was there, but after the 2 weeks of emotional strain I simply wanted to come home.

I am definitely left wondering what the trip will end up meaning to me, if there is some hidden lesson in there somewhere, or if I just wasted a grant. Regardless, I am happy with my decision to come home and only time will tell how the experience will affect my life.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Gamble with Grassroots

Omprakash is a great site. I think it makes the MOST sense in the world to cut out the middle man in international volunteering. Making it easy for volunteers and organizations to connect without someone else setting it up for you. However, the assurance is there with a middle man, and not with a small NGO.

Upon arriving in India and traveling to Jaipur to meet with the director of CULP- Dr. Kulhari I was told about some changes to our arrangement. I was to be living in a tribal village with no bathrooms, running water, electricity and no English speakers withOUT an interpreter. My main function would be to understand the communities and document the work of CULP and its staff. I was also asked to pay for my stay. I had sent Dr. Kulhari along with Omprakash, a grant outline with all the things I wanted to do while here. That included assisting in an English class, holding a youth group of sorts, working on their website and perhaps looking into starting a page for sponsoring a student/teacher. I was told if I had a tribal assignment, I would be sent with an interpreter and also that I would not need to pay anything for loding, just pay my travel and food expenses. So much was changed on me, and the application I submitted and the things I wanted to do would be simply impossible.

Currently I am in between checking out other organizations I may be able to volunteer with in India instead of CULP and if that doesn't work out, I will be leaving India...much...much...earlier than intended.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

3 More days till INDIA!

  It is absolutely crazy to think I found Omprakash one year ago and started connecting with CULP and creating my grant application for volunteering abroad. What started out as a side project which I never imagined would come to fruition, is ending up to be the biggest event of my young life. After being accepted and all of the investigating, planning, vaccines, packing etc...I am finally ready to go. It seems so surreal that on Thursday I'll be landing in New Delhi, India.
  I will never be able to express my gratitude for the immense support from my friends and family. I spent tonight at my sister Amy's surrounded by loved ones, given goodbye gifts, well-wishes, prayers, blessings and of course, eating, drinking, laughing followed by more laughing. I feel truly blessed to have this opportunity to travel and for the network of people around me who have been so supportive.

  The best is yet to come, once I arrive at my destination and begin photographing, taking video and experiencing all that India has to offer.

Thanks, as always, for the support

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Hey Folks,

Just walked in from a snowy drive back to Minneapolis after my presentation to the Hope Interfaith Center's Leadership Group. I was a tad nervous as I hadn't really planned much, but it went well! I showed the Omprakash powerpoint and spoke about CULP and on my experiences in Ghana, Africa and how I am planning for my upcoming trip to India.

 I also spent a period of time speaking specifically about asset based community development. During my term with Public Allies we had a heavy focus on "ABCD" and as Omprakash seeks to end "voluntourism" ABCD seeks to end "drive-by service."  Meaning in order to be leaders abroad, or leaders in any community that is not our own, we must not look from the outside in. It is important to build relationships in the communities we plan to work in. Instead of listing the deficits in an area and making assumptions about what they need or want, we should be listing every possible asset. What's working for said community, and how can I help to buil their capacity.

This is not to say that any amount of help or assistance isn't worth while or helping, it's only to say that the impact will not be nearly as great as we intend if we do not work from within the community, building upon their assets and assisting the community to heal itself.

Wonderful conversation with the women of the HIC Leadership Group and many thanks for having me!


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Preparations and Upcoming Events!

Well folks, vaccines are well underway only one more preventative rabies shot and i'm all set! Recently I've been focused on finding places to table or present for Omprakash and C.U.L.P and this Saturday I will be at the Mankato Interfaith Coalitions Symposium to table! I'm excited to attend the event, hear the speakers and have a chance to speak with people from all backgrounds on the opportunities to contribute to these grassroots organizations through Omprakash. If you live in the area I would love to see you there- The event will be held at the Hope Interfaith Center on 114 Pohl Rd, Mankato MN.
As a recent graduate from the first class of Twin Cities Public Allies, I also plan on giving a quick talk upon returning to the second class of graduates who will be finishing their terms in August 2012. Hopefully more opportunities to spread the word before I leave in January will come about and when they do, I'll be sure to let you know!

Shortly here it will be time to start looking into my Visa for traveling in India and travel insurance for the stay. In the meantime i'm making lists, things to pack, things to buy, currently looking for a mosquito net, nice pair of sandals-Teva's, and a good duffle bag/backpack. It's been a busy time preparing, working and going to school, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, as the semester will be over mid December.

Thanks for the support and Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I'm Engaged!!

To myself, of course.
On my last adventure to Ghana, I had about 30 marriage proposals. After being flattered by the first couple, it just became a nusiance. There is a certain amount of attention you draw as a blonde, American when traveling abroad. My good friend Amit suggested on this trip, I buy a wedding ring. I face another challenge being in a conservative country with a sleeve tattoo, and as I am very concerned with respect, both giving it and being worthy of receiving it, I am going to do whatever I can to avoid unwanted attention. However, I am pretty excited to buy a crappy, cheap wedding ring and pretend to be married. His name is Ronald, a pharmacist with a mustache and love of fine wine.

In other news I officially purchased my flights! I will be leaving Minneapolis on January 10th and departing Delhi on June 7th. My vaccination consult is coming up on October 25th and I am about 99% sure I have to get Rabies shots...emphasis on the plural...3 shots in all. The reason being, that in Jaipur the favored deity is Hanuman, a monkey god, meaning there is a prevelance of temples filled with monkeys who are very "friendly" towards people. I'll be sure to get back to you with the exact number of shots I need after the consult!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What's this blog all about?

First off, welcome to my blog, A broad, abroad!

Recently I was given a grant from the Omprakash Foundation to cover the costs of a volunteer trip to Jaipur, India. I will be leaving the U.S sometime in January and heading to Rajasthan to work with Dr. Kulhari and his organization, The Center for Unfolding Learning Potential, or CULP. I am beyond excited to make this journey and to promote the fantastic opportunities available to volunteers in the US and abroad with Omprakash. Please feel free to visit the site and check out the partner organizations or check out my partner organization directly at 

In exchange for the grant money given to me by Omprakash, I am also responsible for connecting others to the Omprakash network and promoting grassroots volunteerism! Before I leave in January, I will be tabling at different events in both the Metro and Mankato area. If anyone knows of some events coming up- let me know! I will be updating frequently on the preparations for the trip and hope to be able to share the experience with a wide audience.

Thanks for the support!
Updates to come soon :)
~ Sara