It is a fact that when someone chooses voluntarily to work for an NGO does it for personal motives. Although for some reason, it is easy to forget that in our freedom of action, to work for an NGO in a foreign country requires adapting ourselves to certain rules and ways of acting.
Before enrolling myself within EduCARE India my personal and professional expectations were far away from where they are nowadays. I thought that in an already established relationship between the NGO and the community I was going to be able to create artistic and creative workshops for the community within my project for the NGO.
After my first week in Rait (Himachal Pradesh) in which I observed how other members of the team worked, I realised that there was almost no community engaged so consequently projects running with difficulties. This statement does not only reflect an issue but unrealistic expectations from my side and an incoherent action plan proposal.
Is it the lack of verbal communication the cause of the problem? Is the strategy for engaging community what it is failing? Is it that community does not want to work with people coming from Western countries? Lot of questions came into my mind since I arrived but none of them well enough formulated under EduCARE premises.
After uncountable number of productive meetings, brainstorming and informal conversations with the members of EduCARE for the past two months, I understood that expectations should be according to the context; otherwise they are not expectations but utopic dreams.
|Meeting in Naddi|
How good you know the NGO and how it operates?
In the daily living within the community we discovered that members of community do not really understand what EduCARE volunteers/interns are doing in the villages. It is known we work for an NGO but what does to work for an NGO really mean? EduCARE India works with concepts such as Sustainable Development, Social Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation, Systems and Design Thinking, Grass-roots level community engagement, Community empowerment. Prioritises learning over anything else; and promotes to project and act locally under a global approach (very roughly said).
Without knowing the meaning of these and more concepts the NGO work with, the way it operates and its scope it is difficult to get a complete understanding of what, where, when, why and how we and our projects should be managed for accomplishing positive outcomes as individuals, as part on an organization and as citizen of a global world.
How good you know the community?
Talking from my experience, I came to India as individual wishing to be able to make a difference on the quality of living of the village population, then I found that I did have almost no idea about Indian way of living, Indian culture, its languages, its religions, and so on. How possible is to create a successful socio-cultural project for an almost unknown culture? Now I am allowed to say that it is practically impossible.
To work for a community or even just for an individual a deep knowledge about its/ their needs and wants is required. Before creating a project proposal is needed to make an exercise for ourselves and ask to us what are the individual/ community needs? Do its/their needs match with the global needs? Then, and only then, the scope of the project will be better adapted for the change.
|Women from the community|
How good is a project to make the difference?
The goals and objectives of my initial project proposal are another incoherence to add to the list of false expectations. As Rome was not built in one day we cannot expect to change the vision of a whole community from one day to the next one.
If I have seen we have certain issues in the way we run some of the projects and the way they impact in community is because we pretend to make all changes at once. We are told from EduCARE ‘think big, do small’. My dreams and ambitions did not allow me to see that the sum of many small steps marks a path ahead where there was none existence before.
Taking all these things into account might help to create more realistic expectations and better outcomes of our experience and our projects; otherwise, frustration and demotivation might become part of the Indian experience, and as I always say and repeat to myself ‘there is no need to suffer’.
Emma Gutierrez - Spain
CCC project manager in Rait