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