Trouble in “Paradise”: struggles with ICS India

Reading my previous post now, I chuckle to myself at the hope I still had about the project picking up – well, as much “chuckle” as I can muster, whilst also being close to bashing my head against a brick wall with frustration.

Students in India
The 3 Bs of education: bored, bemused, baffled

When speaking to friends and family back home, they try and helpfully suggest speaking to other staff members, or contacting the London office again – but we’ve contacted everyone we possibly can and aren’t getting anywhere with it. We’re in almost daily contact with various staff members about the situation, and while there is a bit of talk, there is no action. We’re even chastised for contacting the London office by the Indian staff – we’re informed again about the “chain of contact” we should follow – we should put all our worries to our designated Assistant Programme Coordinator (APC) who we should see daily – but in the time we’ve been living in Chatrapur, we’ve seen our APC very little – weekly would be pushing it, and certainly nowhere near daily. At one point early in the process I put a group worry about the male Programme Coordinator to the female APC, hoping that the sensitive situation would be dealt with tactfully. The problem was passed straight on the the male member of staff, who came and aggressively put an end to any further discussion. Following that little “incident”, you can probably see why this “chain of communication” thing wasn’t really going to work.

Aggressive behaviour, drunken behaviour (though we’re not supposed to drink, the male members of staff have been actively encouraging it, getting drunk themselves, buying alcohol – including for underage volunteers – and calling those who do not wish to drink “boring”), as well as inappropriate and aggressive conduct with volunteers, a lack of training, a lack of preparation of the project (in fact, no useful project actually existing), no prospect of things changing, the list could go on – what the hell are we doing here?

At one point, during the training, things got so bad that the Country Director for India flew in from New Delhi to assess what was going on and take statements. Things started off well – she proclaimed complete neutrality, and assured us that she wouldn’t show the communications we’d had with the London office to the members of staff in question. We then found out that she had shown the papers to the staff, and at the end of our sessions with her, stated “As I mentioned, it is my job to remain completely neutral. However, I’d just like to say that I am completely behind my team, and have complete faith in them. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.” Very neutral. I think we knew then that the whole thing was doomed!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *