Thursday, 26 November 2015

Lessons learned from EduCARE

Even after 1 1/2 years of EduCARE, I have laughed, cried, been thoroughly stressed, and also overjoyed many times in what feels like a blink of an eye throughout my internship. Now that it is time for me to move on, reflecting on what I have learned has showed me that I am leaving EduCARE as a completely different person than the girl I was when I first arrived.

I wanted to first join EduCARE because I wanted community development experience and I wanted to ‘help’ people. I have learned that we all come to do service work for our own reasons but we are not here to merely work for the poor. Yes, most of the communities are marginalized, and many of the people do not have huge financial incomes, but in no way are we doing poverty relief. Everyone I have met in the communities, especially the women, are strong, powerful, capable people, with ideas and opinions on how things should work. This doesn’t mean we can’t come with our own ideas and knowledge of how to improve their lifestyles, but my approach is no longer to help poor people, but instead empower people that maybe haven’t had the same opportunities as everyone else.

Playing with the kids from the migrant camp in Paro

During my induction when I first arrived with EduCARE I had a workshop on sustainability. I took my sustainable living index and ranked horribly. If everyone lived like me, we would need 3 planets! Never have I ever had the opportunity to not only become aware about environmental issues, but actually make real improvements in my life to make a difference. Organic gardening, water conservation, reusing grey water, and managing waste were all foreign concepts to me before but have become an integral part to who I am now. I want to take what I have learned in doing my small part to help the world and inspire others in my own country.

I now have so many more couches to crash on during my travels and I have made lifelong friends. Living and working with so many people from all over the world has broadened my horizon of how the world operates and I can now go home with a whole new repertoire of international culinary dishes I have learned from my roommates. In many ways EduCARE is like a family away from home. You would be amazed at the level of comfort and kinship that can arise from living with people in such close proximity in a foreign land. These people have become my family and helped me truly embrace that home is where the heart is.

Paro Center members
India is a challenge, no doubt about it. Nothing is done on time, and we must face a language barrier in everything we do. On top of that, EduCARE doesn’t make it any easier. It was definitely a challenge at first to work in an organization where everything could change from one day to the next. As an Operations Coordinator it can be a major challenge when trying to organize meetings for the organization. Now that I have adjusted, I have learned to roll with the punches; meaning change is a good thing. When we are stuck in our ways we fail to see the potential in a different outcome. Yes sometimes the chaos can cause temporary confusion, but in the end it all works out for the better. It always does.
Me with Sundar in Hariana, Punjab
Of course there have been many moments where I have been frustrated, homesick, or even unhappy. But whenever there has been a challenge I have always had wonderful and supportive people around me to help me push through. Sometimes all it took was for me to go for a walk in my community and see the sheer beauty of what lies around me. I mean, I’m in India after all, a country very far and different from my own. It is bound to be difficult at times, but I would just have to remind myself I came here for a reason and the strength and courage that brought me here is the same motivation that will pull me through.

Me with Geeta and Sonia, girls from the migrant camp in Paro

All in all I have fallen in love with EduCARE, the philosophy, and the people involved. EduCARE has given me so many opportunities that I will carry with me for a lifetime. When I signed on to become a fellow one year ago, I wasn’t fully sure how it would be, and one year later I feel that it was one of the best decisions I ever made. There are no guarantees in life; we all have to be objectively selfish. Your experience and your life are what you make it. Learn, be happy and be free. Always be an intern, gaining knowledge and awareness about the world. Make you mark and make it count. And make sure when you have to go, go without having any regrets.

Me and Shannon with Simu and Nancy during Girls' Club
Thank you Mr. B, Rachael, COM team, the community and all the interns. You have made my experience amazing and you will be greatly missed.

Margaret Arzon - USA
Operations Coordinator,  Maiti (Himachal Pradesh)

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