A Travellerspoint blog

The DAAN Foundation

Visiting local rural youth centres

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

Posted by PhilippaW 21:56 Archived in India Tagged travel india volunteering activities responsible cultural classes udiapur Comments (0)

Namaste!

First thoughts on Udaipur and Cultural Exchange Programme

Namaste! We made it to Udaipur (with a gripping 5 hours in Mumbai domestic terminal) and – cliché alert here – are loving every minute of it! So far, we’ve got pretty stuck in with Samvit and the DAAN Foundation (www.daanfoundation.org – definitely check it out). We’ve been preparing resources for the DAAN Foundation youth centres in two rural villages (maths... not exactly my forte, but ho hum) as well as leading games and activities with them. They’re... energetic! They’re great, a lot of enthusiasm but seem to be a fan of slapping each other.
And then there’s Samvit himself. What a hero - he’s super ambitious and very dedicated to what he’s doing, but that doesn’t mean he takes everything too seriously. He’s got a story for every situation (particularly during the twelve daily chai stops – he loves chai. He needs chai. He IS chai.) and we all know, or at least hope, that we’ll be in his stories in years to come. And his Jeep... no seatbelts, no indicators, doesn’t really lock... it’s a fab vehicle, and surprisingly agile when it comes to dodging street-dwelling cows and the magically appearing motor scooters. By the way, did you know that here it’s the driver on the main road who’s responsible for looking out for drivers zipping out of side roads? That’s crazy, right?! But somehow it works – I’ve only seen one accident, but then I guess when nobody’s going faster than 40km/h, there’s not much damage going to be done.

AND THE FOOD! Now you know I’ma big fan of food. ALL food (except sweetcorn. And mushrooms. And actually a few other things, but shush.). But seriously, dear people of the Internet, the food is UNBELIEVABLE. Sure, the toasted chili pepper and lettuce sandwich for breakfast this morning was a bit of a surprise (now that gets you up and going for the day, trust me), but everything that has come near my mouth has been incredible. But how long I can last before I get craving for a juicy, oozing steak dipped in baked Camembert, I don’t know...

Posted by PhilippaW 21:56 Archived in India Tagged culture travel india volunteering activities responsible udaipur classes Comments (0)

Brain Mumbles

Well, my bag’s more or less packed now apart from the odd toothbrush and so on, but I’ll be honest, I’m not exactly feeling prepared. I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve travelled all over the world, but this is the first time that I don’t really have any idea about the culture I’m about to dive into. Here are a few of the big questions that are going round in my head before I set off:
As a liberal feministy type lady-person, how do I react if I find myself (or see someone else) in a situation that I’m not ok with? I don’t mean the big stuff; I’m talking about not being included in a handshake or something like that. Now, UK-dwelling me wouldn’t take that crap from anyone and would insist on an explanation and apology, but how far should ‘cultural differences’ temper that reaction? Do I let it go, because ‘that’s the way it is’ or do I cause a minor cultural incident? After all, I’m not going in order to try and create a feminist revolution because a) that’s not my place, and b) ladies like the Lucknow Red Brigade (http://red-brigades.blogspot.co.uk/) and many other organisations (I won’t give you a lecture on the history of Indian feminism here, tempting as it is) are doing a top-notch job - Go Team! But still... everyday sexism is not ok... Hm.
Then there’s personal space. I love working with people, I wouldn’t be going to do this if I didn’t, I also need my me time. Just to be on my own, read, write, whatever it is, just doing it away from other human beings. How do I explain that without being rude? Or do I just try and swallow my ‘piss off, world’ days and try not to explode? And with that goes independence. At 22, having lived away from home for 4 years, I’d consider myself a pretty competent human being at the whole ‘life’ thing. I don’t need my room tidying, or my socks washing and I love being at the helm in the kitchen. But I’m going to be a guest in somebody’s home for quite some time... so, I think I should probably ask to help out when there’s cooking or washing being done or whatever and hope that that gets taken the right way.

Well, I guess all this stuff will become clear in the coming weeks and months, I’ll let you know what I find out.

Posted by PhilippaW 22:11 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged children culture india volunteering activities udaipur exchange classes wwoofing Comments (0)

The Suitcase Squeeze

Now that my passport is finally back with me, it’s time to start thinking about packing. And it is going to take some thinking, as I’ve got 6 months worth of weather to pack for and (girlie wurlies of a nervous disposition look away now) only 15kg of luggage allowance. So I can forget hairdryers, straighteners and all that nonsense, and stick with the basics. I’ve been looking at various packing checklists and this is what I shall shortly be attempting to cram into a small suitcase and some handluggage (I’ll warn you, it’s a long and not particularly interesting list):
A few cotton skirts and baggy trousers
Loose cotton t-shirts
What I like to call my portable mosquito nets, loose, long lightweight tops to chuck over anything else
Cotton undies (skimpy thongs and frilly frenchies can stay well at home!)
Cotton socks (are you getting the theme here? Keep it breathable)
Lightweight but warm jumpers – layers, people!
Sandals
A pair of more robust trainers
A small bag that can be kept close to the body with vital things in

Bug spray (Jungle Formula Max – it may melt plastic, but my mozzie bites swell up like Malteasers)
Bite relief stuff
Suntan lotion
Soap
Painkillers
LOTS of Immodium
STERILE First Aid Kit (These are pricey, but they come with needles and syringes so should I end up in hospital I can be sure that the materials used in my treatment are sterile)
A small but unbelievably bright torch
Malaria tablets (Most areas in India are fine, except the bit I’m going to at the end. Typical.)
Water cleansing tablets and a filtering bottle to be super sure
Hand sanitiser

LADIES – This one’s important: Contraceptive pills. This isn’t because I anticipate bonking my way across the country, but it’s a tip I’ve been given by quite a few other girls – in areas where sanitary products are difficult to come by, it’s easier and more hygienic to just put a stop to the whole lady eggs process for the duration of your trip.

Then there’s what my brother refers to as ‘The Blue Folder of Doom’, a vital weapon my Dad will pull out at the slightest sign of bother and produce a magic piece of paper to fix the problem. My magic papers include:

Contact details of everyone imaginable
Insurance documents
Airport hotel booking confirmation
Plane tickets
Copy of Visa documents
Copy of passport

Not the most thrilling of blog posts, I know, but it just might be useful to you one day. The next one should hopefully be from Udaipur!

Posted by PhilippaW 22:10 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged children culture india volunteering activities udaipur exchange classes wwoofing Comments (0)

Vaccines

For some reason, not dying from a horrific exotic disease is really expensive. Really, really expensive. The value of my blood has definitely gone up majorly in the last couple of years with all the bonus antibodies it’s got pumped into it (and yet I still can’t shake this annoying cold...). If you’re going on a trip anywhere outside Europe, they definitely need to be in your budget pretty early on, because it could be a nasty surprise. Once you’ve got them, the majority last for 10 years or so, but keep track of them! And make sure you think about them in advance, most need a course that could take a couple of months.
Let me run my private collection by you:

Typhoid (1 x £40)
Hepatitis A (1 x £52)
Hepatitis B (3 x £43)
Hepatitis C (got at school)
TB (got at school)
Rabies (3 x £55 and it doesn’t even guarantee you won’t get rabies)
Japanese Encephalitis (2 x £89 – this one is recommended but not necessary, but given the choice of cake or debilitating brain damage/ death, I pick cake)
Malaria tablets (varies depending on where you’re going and how much hallucination you’d like)

Wow. I had never actually seen all that money in one place before. I’d better have top notch blood.

Posted by PhilippaW 22:09 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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