3 weeks in – and an interesting 3 weeks it has been! We spent 2 weeks training at a youth hostel in Godalpur-on-Sea (a weird mishmashed Indian/English name if ever I’ve seen one!), though to be perfectly honest I think most of us came away from said training more confused than when we arrived. Not off to the best start!
Living in our little place in Chatrapur are 4 English volunteers, and 2 national volunteers. When we arrived and during the training it became clear that the roles we came out here to do aren’t as clear cut as we thought – the junior volunteers are struggling to understand the reason they are here, and myself and the other senior volunteer are feeling much the same. We have now been told that 80% of our role is to be spent researching information on the internet – and I can’t see the reason for flying us across the world to sit doing what we could do in England, or doing that which an Indian person could just as easily do (if not more easily, as they obviously understand the culture, language and whatnot here). Also, there is no internet connection here, and no plan to have one installed. Go figure that one out…
The junior volunteers are to go into schools to try and teach about the Indian administrative system – civic participation – to children who speak no English. As such, they have the National Volunteers to go to the schools with them to translate. But of course the Indians know more than the International Volunteers do about the political system here, and citizen rights – so they are doing the majority of the teaching. We’ve brought up our concerns with staff, who have suggested that the junior volunteers teach whatever they’d like to teach – music, IT (despite the lack of instruments or IT equipment) – though none of the junior volunteers have teaching experience, or any idea of what might be needed or missing in the curriculum.
This is a huge pet peeve of mine, so-called “aid” where people go abroad and impose their ideas of what the community needs without actually consulting the community. As it happened, this “teaching whatever they like” didn’t happen in the end, but the fact that it was suggested worries me somewhat as to how seriously staff are taking things. Speaking of the staff, I’ve got a whole lot of stories there…though I won’t get started on that or this post will end up novel-length!
Although we’re off to a disorganised and altogether worrying start, I’m still grateful for the opportunity to have come out here and hope that we can work on creating a viable project. We’re still working through things and trying to create our own roles – it’s a challenging time for all of us, but we’re pulling together as a team to try and work things out.