Monday, 14 September 2015

"No matter where I went, I always loved being back to Himachal"

My internship in India was comparatively short but incredibly eventful time. Though I stayed in India for 2 months only it feels like spent here much longer time. Every week was full of events, both work related activities and personal joy. As a MicroEmpowerED Project Manager in Rait Center within two months my partner and I managed to kick off a new microfinance activity, i.e. stitching self-learning platform, take mushroom farming – the other microfinance activity that has been already in place – to the new stage and we are holding the new training for mushroom farmers in couple of hours from the moment when I started writing this post. I’ve been involved in SWASH project activities, Girls Club and Fun Club, and even visited migrant camp in Rajhol where we teach those who are deprived from formal school education basic literacy (it is surprising how wide is the age range of our students in Rajhol). I’ve prepared monitoring plan and evaluation design for microfinance activities in Rait that can serve as an example and template for other projects in EduCARE. Initially monitoring and evaluation (M&E) was my focus as I plan to center my career in international development on these activities, but to my own surprise I got so engaged with project activities that it even makes me reconsider my career focus.

Mila during her trip to Manali
Another factor that has made my work experience in EduCARE very diverse is that I was part time Operations Assistance – that was an opportunity for me to polish my admin and NGO management knowledge and skills. Though I prioritized microfinance in-field activities over any other job I was doing in EduCARE, I’m very glad I managed to contribute to other areas of the organization’s work.

I was extremely lucky to work with fantastic team of interns. We worked together, we helped each other, we lived together, we shared meals, we traveled together, we got into all sort of adventures together – the people I met made my experience in India rich and so enjoyable.

The way one gets engaged with the community is fascinating. I transformed from being basically lost in our small village to not being able to make a 10 min walk to the market without stopping to talk to one of the villagers. The process of integration with the community was quite natural for me. My job duties involved interacting with the community members we already work with as well as to reach out to wider audience. Slowly step-by-step my interaction circle in Rait extended significantly. Working with kids and girls also contributed to smoother community integration.

Mila with three members of the community

Apart from work in just two months I’ve visited six different states, and saw the most treasured spots in India (Goa, Amritsar, Jaipur, Agra, Delhi, Manali, and other amazing places). Every place I’ve visited for work or leisure purposes is fascinating and unique. And every time I had the feeling that I don’t have enough time to get better understanding of new places I visit and people I meet. Still, no matter where I went I always loved being back to Himachal Pradesh, to the village of Rait.

Amazing view of the mountains from Rait

Mila Pestun - Belarus
Microfinance project manager, Rait (Himachal Pradesh)

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