Visiting local rural youth centres
02.09.2013 - 23.09.2013
Let’s get serious for a moment, and maybe even a tad sentimental, just for a moment. The rise of that new stage of young adult life, the Gap Year, has been surrounded by a lot of discussion about the values and problema of short term volunteering. Now, I’ve been a short term volunteer before, at a Costa Rican orphanage with a commercial company, and I’d agree that having a continuous cycle of volunteers (the majority of whom can’t be bothered to learn even simple phrases of the local language) working with vulnerable kids is probably a bad idea. At first, they get attached to the newcomers and then have to deal with the emotional consequences of them leaving just as they’re starting to form bonds. I would imagine that over the years, this means the kids develop difficulties in forming relationships, anticipating being abandoned just weeks later. Obviously, this additional emotional trauma is not what they need.
The DAAN Foundation (daanfoundation.org) is, on the other hand, very different. The youth centres that Samvit runs through his organisation are not aiming to provide the very basic needs for kids, but rather a fun and welcoming place for them to build on and expand their education, social skills and capacities. It’s an organisation that is still somewhat under construction, but from looking through photos of previous volunteers and hearing their stories, this is the ideal point for us non-locals to get involved. We all have something different to bring to the proverbial table; website maintenance, photography for marketing, promotional videos and so. I myself have been responsible for putting together maths workbooks for the local teachers and volunteers to use in the future, hopefully for many years to come. This means that rather than leaving a hole when I move on, I will have created something productive and useful for these children, something that can only be to their benefit.
Samvit has ambitious plans to get the current two centres up and running more or less independently, hopefully with the support of local students as well as international volunteers, before opening a complete school. With his dedication and drive, and the support of more volunteers, I’m pretty certain he’ll be successful. Sure, individually we’ll only have been directly involved in a tiny portion of these children’s lives, but the impact that each one of us has made during that time will be a positive one not only for the children that we have had personal contact with, but many others in the future.
Check out my full blog at http://greatglobeitself.blogspot.com and the Cultural Exchange Programme at http://www.chandraniwas.com/cultural-exchange-programs.html