Tuesday, 19 April 2016

See you EduCARE….a tribute.

In the winter of 2011, I embarked on what I thought would be a three month internship in EduCARE India. Having just finished my Masters degree in International Development, I was looking for a challenging and innovative opportunity to learn and apply my university skills in the field. What I didn’t know then, on that fateful day when I accepted with excitement and trepidation the internship offer, is that India and this NGO would capture my heart and mind in all ways imaginable. And what was meant to be a 3 month internship in microfinance and women’s empowerment, turned into a 5 year life changing epic journey that changed both mine and my families life forever.

Working with marginalized communities

It only took a few short weeks after my arrival at EduCARE for me to know deeply that this was a place I wanted to stay, to learn, to work, to explore.  I was given incredible freedom to develop and implement projects, share ideas and even contribute to the development of the organisation from within.  I knew almost immediately that 3 months was just not long enough for me to really have any sort of impact, as it takes almost that long just to settle in.  So after a few weeks of my internship, I made the decision to extend my stay….first for 6 months, and then for one year, and eventually it became an open ended indefinite stay.  My family also joined me, with my children initially spending half the year in India and half in Australia.  They quickly adapted to Indian culture and cuisine, but it wasn’t without its challenges for them, or for me.  Yet despite the ups and downs, I always knew within my heart that this was exactly where I belonged. 

Five years on and I was blessed to experience a plethora of job roles and locations.  From grassroots development worker, to Operations Coordinator, Assistant Director and Training and Development. From the plains of Punjab to the spectacular Himalaya’s and the wild deserts of Rajasthan.  I initiated various social enterprises and developed an online training platform.  I was given total support and freedom to try and sometimes fail, even though I had no previous international development experience.  I worked with and coordinated hundreds of interns from all around the world, and was honored to work with such a dedicated, passionate and inspiring group of young people.  My children grew up, matured, and learnt a totally new and beautiful way of living and being in the world.  India was home for all of us.

It wasn’t always easy living in paradoxical contradictory India, and I experienced all the emotions that came with such an intense ride.  Beauty, excitement, adventure, elation, passion, peace, love and harmony along with frustration, sadness, devastation, confusion and chaos.  India offers it all on one big curry bowl of life.  It IS Incredible India.  But I learnt very quickly that openness, surrender and bucket loads of patience is really the only way to survive in this incredible land.  And I totally loved it…even when I hated it.  India just got under my skin and into my heart in every way possible. 

After my initial year there I stopped making plans for ‘how long’ I would stay.  I just continued to stay, one crazy moment at a time.  It became my home, my families’ home and a beautiful part of me. 

And then spontaneously one monsoon evening mid last year, I spontaneously knew, that it was time to leave India….at least for a while.  It was a deep and instant knowing, not born from logic or reason, but came from something higher and deeper, not unlike the knowing I felt all those years ago when I knew I just had to stay.  But I also knew that to leave India and EduCARE would not be a goodbye, as that would not be possible.  Even though EduCARE and India would always remain in my heart and soul and I would remain connected, I just knew it was time for me to go on a new journey of discovery.  To connect with other aspects of myself and my passions, to learn knew things, to create new communities.  I gave myself 6 months to transition before I finally left in January 2016.  It was for the most part gentle and natural, but the final step into Mumbai airport was deeply heartbreaking for sure.  I was leaving behind my home, my love, my life and without any real destination or plan.  But still I knew…I knew…I knew I that this was the next step for me.

More than two months on, EduCARE is still with me, in my heart and life.  I have been in Germany supporting a former EduCARE colleague and deep friend during the birth of her beautiful twins.  I am now in incredible New York City and in the first two days met two former interns with more to come.  So just like I always knew, EduCARE is and always will be within me wherever I go.

EduCARE reunion in NY

Rachael Donovan
Assistant Director
EduCARE India

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