Living and working in India for six months did a lot for me. I learned to appreciate the things that seems so common, like access to electricity and clean water. I met the most amazing and inspiring people, and was overwhelmed by the Indian hospitality and generosity. India also turned me into this crazy stealing-toilet-paper-from-hotels-woman, so I would not have to blow my nose again with a newspaper in a country where tissues are scarce. It often pushed me to my limits, with a hole in the ground as a toilet, or people looking over the walls when you already have limited private space. India drove me nuts sometimes, but mostly gave me memories that will last a lifetime.
I was part of the team that started up the new centre in Rangmahal. Since the villagers had not seen any foreigners in sixty years, I often felt like I was living in a zoo. More often than not at least twenty people would watch me eat, dance, even work. But as they got more used to us, this curiosity turned into a genuine interest in us as persons. Over time, people addressed me as sister or daughter instead of foreigner. Even though the communication was like those of cavemen, I could feel I was building strong relationships with people in the community.
Slowly we started setting up projects. I saw the girls growing more confident and developing their personalities. Also they learned to appreciate each other more, and even new friendships developed amongst them. This was a beautiful thing to experience. We were also able to spread more awareness about topics like menstruation, stereotypes and domestic violence via workshops at the school. Topics that were taboos at first, now became subjects that were openly discussed amongst the students.
Despite these amazing experiences, there are also still some things I question about the organization. The organization is very dynamic, with interns coming and going every few months. For me it is hard to understand how a organization as dynamic as this one can create a sustainable change. I think the organization would be more effective with a solid team of employees, supported by a team of interns that bring new innovative ideas. Furthermore, I believe it would benefit the organization to have more Hindi speakers. The language barrier makes it often hard to give your projects a push, and you have to work around this. However, this is not possible for everything, which leaves you being stuck at a certain level.
Working for EduCARE was a great personal experience. I feel that in this half year, I gained five years of life experience. I got the opportunity to develop deep relationships with Indian families and experience the diversity of India by travelling to different districts. I definitely fell in love with this amazing, complex country and will have to kick off from all the chai.
Lovely India, thank you for everything!
Iris Workum - The NetherlandsWomen's Empowerment Project Manager and Coordinatorin RangMahal