Monthly Archives: May 2012

Annual Staff Training

Annual Staff Training

FSL India organised a three-day Annual Staff Training at CRI Brothers’ Institute, Bangalore. A total of 40 FSL India staff from Bangalore, Kundapur, Chennai and Mysore zones participated in this annual event. Held between 21st and 23rd May 2012, the annual staff training is an opportunity to collectively deliberate on issues pertaining to field services and intercultural learning which are the two development dimensions of FSL India. While inaugurating the event, Mr. Rohan D’Souza, the Director of FSL India emphasised that although training is one of the primary objectives of the annual event, sharing and learning from one another and creating group cohesiveness among FSL India staff is supremely important. Therefore, with lots of fun and frolic input sessions were facilitated.

 

Intercultural learning being one of the important dimensions of the development interventions of FSL India, the first day was spent to learn and collectively deliberate on issues pertaining to concept of culture, cultural indicators and cultural dimensions. Basic theoretical input, group work and presentations are the methodologies used for the training on cultural input.

 

On the second day collective deliberation on standard operating procedures vis-à-vis the LTV program was the major subject. Separate sessions were organised for Work Camp, Model Village and Home Base Project team to chalk out action plan for the next year which were being moderated by the director and joint director respectively. Mr. C. Doreswamy the Joint Director explained the vision statement and organogram of FSL India. Special input on how to write a case study is also one the sessions conducted. With an effort to exhort the staff to rededicate themselves to the cause, Mr. Rakesh S. Soans, the President of FSL India emphasized that the organisation gives opportunity to every youth of the world to experience change in oneself and in others. The program was concluded with a funfair activity at Wonder La on the third day where all the staff participated.

To view the video footage click on the following web-link.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MZeIgrUG7o

 

World Health Day in Chennai

World Health Day in Chennai

 

To commemorate the World Health Day, the Chennai Facility team of FSL India conduct health awareness program in child care centre at Pennalur on 11th April 2012. It was found that the children at Pennalur were not aware of personal hygiene.  And therefore, children, parents and  SGH members were invited to participate in the program. About thirty children, ten SHG members and two staff from child care centre attended the awareness program. FSL India staff after educating on personal hygiene to the assembled crowd and demonstrated on how to trim nails and comb hair. FSL India team also distributed foot-wears to the children. In order to ensure that the children take the responsibility to live healthy and hygienic life, school teachers and parents were also educated on health and hygiene to guide the children.

Orientation for volunteers (Arrivals in May)

Orientation for volunteers (Arrivals in May)

In early May 2012, four new volunteers from three countries arrived for long-term voluntary service. As inter-cultural learning is the important aspect LTV program, FSL India organised a week-long orientation for the new volunteers in Kundapur and Bangalore from 7nd to 12th May 2012. The orientation program was facilitated by the LTV program team of FSL India. Volunteers were picked-up from the meeting point and taken to the venue. As the orientation program started, volunteers were welcomed by FSL India team with garlands of rose, and vermilion tilak marks on the forehead and Aarathi.

 

Sessions conducted during the orientation areKannada language, introduction about FSL India, project introduction and reporting, Indian life style, environmental talk, project introduction, concept of volunteerism, roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders of LTV program, setting up aims and objectives  conflict management and Hindu philosophy of Life. In the evening, volunteers had session on henna. Volunteers also visited Temples, and spent time in shopping in the local market. In Kundapur during the orientation volunteers visited FSL India’s Home based tent school project at Maravanthe. Volunteers also interacted with the host families. One of the volunteers already placed in a project shared his experience in India and his work in the project. Volunteers watched Bollywood movie as part of inter-cultural learning. Following are the details of new arrivals:

 

  • Benedetta Cappellini from Italy
  • Reetta Laakso from Finland
  • Brice Cariou from France
  • Marie Lesage from France

Volunteers’ Get-together

Volunteers’ Get-together

LTV Get-together for the month of April 2012 was organised at Kundapur and Bangalore on 12th and 13th April 2012. In Bangalore it was a special get together known as “Happy Hearts”. The volunteers took the orphan children from Sparsha Trust for an outing to Cubbon Park in order to create a special day for them. Varieties of games for children were conducted. In Kundapur it was organised at Beejadi Beach Resort.

 

During the session on projects, volunteers could share on the project activities, the progress made, challenges encountered and the results achieved. During one-to one talk with coordinators discussed with volunteers on the challenges they encounter in the projects. Volunteers also had lots of fun games during the get together and enjoyed every bit of moment. Altogether 8 volunteers and 9 staff from FSL India participated in the program. Following are the details of volunteers who participated in the get-together:

 

  • Pia from Germany
  • Julia from Germany
  • Katie from USA
  • Anais from France
  • Romano Carlo from Italy
  • Fabian B from Germany
  • Veronica from Germany

Arrival of Long Term Volunteers in April 2012

Arrival of Long Term Volunteers in April 2012

In April 2012, FSL India received 6 new volunteers from 5 countries for long-term volunteering program. FSL India organised a week-long orientation for the new volunteers in Bangalore and Kundapur. While four volunteers underwent orientation in Bangalore two were given orientation at Kundapur between 2nd and 6th April 2012. Volunteers were welcomed by FSL India team with Garlands of Jasmine, Vermilion Tilak marks on the forehead and Aarathi.

 

Sessions were conducted by FSL India team to give input on various topics. Introduction about FSL India and its work, Indian life style, roles and responsibilities of the volunteers, expectations and fears among the volunteers, setting up aims and objectives and conflict management were the major topics dealt with. Volunteers had the opportunity to learn Kannada Language and during evening hour sessions were organised to introduce volunteers on Indian culture. Volunteers also interacted with the local community as part of inter-cultural learning and experience sharing.

 

Volunteers were asked to write a self-addressed letter so as to see at the end of their stay and make comparative analysis between how the situation was in the beginning and how it will be when they complete their assignment. Host Family Tea Party, Project introduction and project visit were organised during the orientation. Final Talk was also organised to share their thoughts with the staff. All the volunteers actively participated in the program. Following is the list of volunteers who participated in the orientation:

 

  1. Laetitia Trebosc from France
  2. Larisa Ramona Ciufu from Belgium
  3. Itsumi Murata from Japan
  4. Caro van Grunsven from The Netherlands
  5. Antoine De sere from France
  6. Sophie Mulac from Germany

Mr. Mustafa Represented FSL India in the NGO Network

Mr. Mustafa Represented FSL India in the NGO Network

Global Vision is an NGO working in development sector in Salem District of Tamil Nadu. Global Vision organized three-day workshop on fund raising for national and international organisations. The objective of the program is to equip NGO leaders to successfully run the organisations by ensuring financial sustainability. How to write effective project proposal and importance of social media in the development sectors are some of the topics dealt with during the workshop. Delegates from 80 NGOs attended the workshop and shared about the development activities.

Mr. Mustafa a long term volunteer of FSL India from Germany also participated in this workshop on 27th April 2012 and represented FSL India in the NGO network. As it was a platform for NGOs to share their experience, he shared with other participants about FSL India and explained about the programs. All the participants came to know about FSL India and many NGOs expressed their interest to partner with in facilitating field services and inter-cultural learning.

SUMMER CAMP FOR TENT SCHOOL CHILDREN

SUMMER CAMP FOR TENT SCHOOL CHILDREN

The international volunteers and Home Base Project staff of FSL India organised Summer Camp for the children of three tent schools at Navayuga, Marvante and Kumbhashi. The camp was organised between 17th to 28th April 2012 where 35 children from three tent school participated and benefitted from various child-centred activities. The camp was organised between 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.

 

Four international volunteers (Ms. Meret, Ms. Julia, Ms. Petronella and Mr. Cristine) and three tent school teachers such as Geetha, Preethi and Shalini along with HBP team of FSL India organised the summer camp and facilitated various activities. During the Camp FSL India team organized varieties of competitions for children such as as drawing and running race. Children also participated in learning painting and doll making. Beach excursion was also organised and children played varieties of outdoor games on the beach. On the last day of summer camp all tent school all the children gathered at Kundapura park and FSL India team distributed prizes to the winners. All the tiny tots of the tent schools, international volunteers and teachers enjoyed every bit of moment.  

fsl-india.org x Dress-Lace Floral Skater Lace Dress

fsl-india.org x Dress-Lace Floral Skater Lace Dress

This fsl-india.org x http://www.dress-lace.com/ floral skater lace dress has a very deep v-neckline and has been created by using a jacquard fabric. It is 100% polyester so it will feel great against your skin. You will see that it has a fitted waist seam and a zip back. This allows it to hug your body and it does not leave much to the imagination. If you have a slender figure that you want to show off then this is the way to go. Machine wash this dress by following the instructions on the label. You will find that this dress flows when you wear it and it is not formfitting at all. However, there are still a number of features that will set this lace dress apart from others on the market.

Sean Gilhooly Speaks on his Inter-cultural Experience

Sean Gilhooly Speaks on his Inter-cultural Experience

FSL India has given to me is the opportunity to gain a unique insight into life in an Indian family which remains the country’s most powerful institution

                                                        

 

When FSL India coordinator asked me to write this piece on my inter-cultural experience in India, my first thoughts were about editorship in the sense of what to include and what to leave out. For the article you are about to read would have been far longer if I had included all of my inter-cultural experience. It seems to be that since my arrival in India some three months ago that I have been saturated by such experience.

Perhaps the most important thing FSL India has given to me is the opportunity to gain a unique insight into life in an Indian family which remains the country’s most powerful institution. This power does not just reside within the nuclear family but stretches outwards and includes grandparents, uncles, aunties and cousins. This unity is expressed through the language they use to address one another. For example cousins are often addressed as cousin brothers or sisters. Likewise symbolic gestures such as touching the feet of elders are used to convey respect. These bonds transcend the towns and villages and cover huge geographical spaces, forming powerful networks that can be called upon in times of both need and celebration. This contrasts vividly with my own British culture where the nuclear families often become isolated from the extended family. This I believe makes the family more fragile and therefore more likely to break. In my time with the Savithri Erappa family, I have enjoyed going to the temple to celebrate a special religious day. I was also lucky enough to be invited to celebrate the Coorgi festival of Puthari which is a yearly harvest festival. Food of course plays a major role in Indian family life and I have enjoyed a wide range of dishes, which include both the traditional and those which are unique to the Coorgi tribe.

 

India plays host to all of the world’s major religions. It seems to me that barely a day passes that does not have some kind of religious significance. Of course religion chiefly supports people’s religious needs, but it also enables greater social cohesion as it binds people together with shared values and beliefs. In my short time in Kushalanagar, I have been able to bear witness to this collective spirit. For example there was a death in the local village, people came from all around to pay their respects to the dead man and to offer support to the family. Likewise in my role as a teacher in Melinda School which is situated in the village of Koppa, I have been able to feel of this collective power. On one occasion the school heard the sad news that one of their ex-pupils had ran away from home. On hearing this news, my fellow teaches and I got into the school bus and went to the village to offer comfort to the family.

 

A more positive example was when I was asked by one of my pupil’s father to attend a village celebration. This celebration was in honour of his daughter-in-law who was eight months pregnant, and was returning to her native village to give birth to her child. In this celebration the whole village and we all enjoyed a huge feast. I felt greatly honoured to be included amongst the guests. Without doubt my favourite cultural experience so far was the cultural day at Melinda school. On this day the children performed no less than 35 different acts, which involved singing, dancing, comedy and drama. This day was heavy with symbolism as one could see the collective consciousness being kept alive as the children performed old folk songs and dances that had been transmitted to them by their teachers and parents. In contrast these acts shared the stage with songs and dances that celebrated a modern vibrant India. This show was witnessed by a crowd of some five hundred people that included parents, V.I.Ps and teachers. These experiences showed me how the school and the wider community come together to support one another.

 

Once again this sharply contrasts to my own culture where community spirit has been replaced by rampant individualism. Someone once compared an Englishman’s home to a castle one may say that today it resembles a comfortable dungeon. Families in Britain often prefer to lock themselves away from the wider community and instead seek social pleasure through the TV or the internet. In Britain from an early age we are told not to talk to strangers. Whereas, in India the old saying about a stranger being a friend you have not met seems to be very much in vogue.

 

In conclusion one of the things that struck me most about India culture is both its strength and perhaps paradoxically its porous nature. What I mean by porous is that it takes only a little effort to penetrate into it. This is greatly aided by the fact that the people want you to enter into their culture, to both enjoy it and to learn from it. I am also aware that I often have used generalisations in the course of this work. I did this mainly to simplify points, which enabled me to give a brief overview of some of the many cultural experiences I have enjoyed over the last three months. Therefore, it seems important to stress that although both the family and the wider community seem weaker in Britain, there are pockets of resistance. These pockets are often found in social economical deprived areas, rural towns and villages and also within Britain’s many ethnic minorities. Likewise it would be wrong to paint India as a utopia while failing to recognise the harmful effects of caste, corruption, religion, poverty and various other agents that often act against social cohesion. In my remaining time in India, I am sure that I will enjoy a constant stream of cultural experience, from which I hope to gain both great pleasure and knowledge. 

 

 

Sean Gilhooly

FSL India Volunteer from England

Work Camps Updates (February 2012)

Work Camps Updates (February 2012)

Social/Culture (Konark – 13th to 26th February 2012)

Camp Activities: Volunteers cleaned and painted class room of the Ashram School and painted the fence, made a garden, taught children English to children, organised some puzzle games, conducted games taught and songs to 220 children.

Intercultural Learning: Volunteers visited the beach, music festival, interacted with Nalakana Youth group, fisherman community, visited Astrology Centres and Boat trip, participated in country presentation had cooking class.

Heritage Conservation (Hampi – 13th to 26th February 2012)

Camp Activities: Volunteers cleaned Gayathri temple premises collected plastic wastes, removed all weeds and unwarranted plants, engaged in teaching English and organised outdoor and indoor games for children.

Intercultural Learning: As part of intercultural learning volunteers visited Sri Virupaksha Temple and performed Pooja, visited Hampi Kannada University, Museum, Art Gallery, Library and interacted with local community, learnt the technics of meditation from meditation masters and participated in country-wise presentation of cultural event.

Yoga / Ayurveda / Culture (Kerala – 6th to 26th February 2012)

Camp Activities: Volunteers attended Yoga lesson every day. They also painted and cleaned garden at Special School and performed activities with kids and visually challenged children and worked on the playground.

Intercultural Learning: Volunteers visited Muthappan Temple, learnt about Indian cooking, participated in country presentation, visited snake park and Kalari Payat (Marshal Arts).

Social/Kids (Pondicherry- 6th to 19th February 2012)

Camp Activities: Volunteers worked for an orphanage, participated in preparing banana garden, did the fencing, cleaned the surroundings, painted desks, benches, compound wall, drew pictures  of vegetables, fruits, letters and nature scenery.

Intercultural Learning: Volunteers visited beach, temple with children, participated in Indian Family Feast, participated in Henna session organised by local volunteer, learnt Rangoli, Indian dance, participated in country presentation, interacted with local families and attended session on cooking.

 

Sea Turtle Conservation (Kundapur – 6th to 19th February 2012)

 

Camp Activities: The international volunteers built Turtle Information Centres in various locations, participated in beach awareness camping and conducted puppet-show in the schools disseminating information on the importance of sea turtle conservation

Intercultural Learning: Volunteer visited local family and had lunch, participated in boat trip, visited light house, local festival, attended session on Henna, learnt to wear Saree, participated in country presentation.

Mysore Bilateral/IWO Camp (26th Jan to 4th Feb 2012)

 

Camp Activities: Volunteers participated in tree plantation activities, educational painting in the school, renovated toilets, painted the walls, pillars and organised sight-seeing program for school children and shopping.

Intercultural Learning: Volunteers participated in inter-cultural evening in the school, preformed country presentation for the children and international cooking day, local sight-seeing and shopping with children and interacted with Indian family.

Bangalore Bilateral/IWO Camp (30th Jan to 12th Feb 2012)

Camp Activities: Volunteers undertook educational painting in Govt. Higher Primary School at Yeshwanthpur, taught English and Korean language to school children, organised games and singing class for children, dance for children and interacted with the local community, donated bags, T-Shirts and notebooks to children.

Intercultural Learning: Volunteers participated in the sight-seeing programme in and around Bangalore such as Lalbagh Botanical Garden, ISKCON Temple and Bannerghatta Biological Park, visited Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya Science and Technological Museum, shopping in Mantri Squire and participated country presentation.

Interview with Lucas Kutcher from Germany

Interview with Lucas Kutcher from Germany

 

Basically I’m still and will always be fascinated by this incredible country with its rich culture, its exorbitant contrasts and its totally impressive people. During my voluntary service India has become a second home for me…..

This is an interview held with Mr. Lucas Kutscher, a twenty-three year old youth from Germany who volunteered in the Eco Club project of FSL India during August 2008 to July 2009. He was one the first Weltwaerts volunteers under the sponsored BMZ program of German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. As he visited FSL India on 3rd April 2012 with a sense of nostalgia and past memories still afresh, he was interviewed by Mr. Ranjit the Chief Coordinator (Documentation and Liaison). During his volunteer service Lucas lived in two host families (Family Karkada and Family Carvallo at Kundapur), he is fervently remembered by FSL India and people for his relentless service.

Mr. Ranjit: On behalf FSL India family, I would like to extend hearty welcome to you. It is good to see you again at FSL India. It shows your interest and tremendous goodwill that you share with us.

 

Mr. Lucas: Thank you so much! I am extremely delighted to visit FSL India and the Eco Club project that I worked with at Kundapur. Glad to see that FSL India has grown larger over such short period of time and I do hope it will continue to grow bigger in terms of programs in the days to come. 

Mr. Ranjit: Well, we have the agenda to pursue decisively. We are optimistic about the progress and the changes that would emanate from our interventions which will benefit the primary stakeholders. What really inspired you to come back to India again?

Mr. Lucas: Basically I’m still and will always be fascinated by this incredible country with its rich culture, its exorbitant contrasts and its totally impressive people. During my voluntary service India has become a second home for me, especially Kundapur and Karnataka. And for me a home is definitely a place where you must come back earlier or later.

Mr. Ranjit: At a very young age, when you were 20 years old, you volunteered in the Eco Club project of FSL India. What was your experience in working with such an assignment?

Mr. Lucas: I’ve always been interested in figuring out possibilities to make live more sustainable in order to preserve life quality for future generations. For me that was always a matter of fairness. And that was the reason why I was really excited to take part in exactly this project. But before we started our work, we were not completely aware of challenges we had to face, especially in the beginning, when you’re just overwhelmed by a completely new culture, with completely different values and rules. And the whole project was just initiated during that time. So we were basically working at a long term concept with aims and objectives for the project. But after a few months we held our first environmental sessions as well.

Mr. Ranjit: Having visited the project at Kundapur after three years, did you notice any changes in the project?

Mr. Lucas: Yes, of course. The project has really developed. The two projects Environmental Education and Eco Club is now combined. The objectives are very clear now and work became much more fluent which was not the same three years back. The present volunteers are holding more than 120 teaching session for 24 schools. That’s a success we never even dreamed of when we were writing the concepts and defining the aims.

Mr. Ranjit: Thank you very much for your appreciative observations which I deem an encouragement for us. Still there are challenges which certainly we would like to address with the support of our international volunteers and the local community. The intervention is yet to take a proper shape of people based development paradigm for replication and expansion. Having said this may I also ask you to recollect your peak experience or the best experience during your association with FSL India?  

Mr. Lucas: The best experience!! Oh yes…working with the children indeed!! The eco summer camp for one week, we worked with school children and conducted lots of games. We had a whole week spending really close to the children, which was really satisfying to all of us. And I learnt that children can learn quicker and more effective when they have lots of fun as well. But as well I liked to cope with management tasks such as developing a long term concept or defining aims for the project.

Mr. Ranjit: What about your Intercultural exposure? In intercultural learning experience what really impressed you?

Mr. Lucas: One of the most impressive experiences for me is the strong scene of family and community established in Indian culture. A good example for that is the arranged marriage, which focuses not only on the welfare of a couple but on the welfare of a whole family. In comparison people in western countries are quite focused on individual fulfilment. People at my age e.g. are leaving their homes really early to gain for the best education in cities all over the world. Your education and job always has the first priority. Some people even stay alone for their whole lives. Another good example is probably the attitude towards work. In Germany its usual to work fast and efficient for around eight hours a day and then have free time to spend with your friends and family. In India I noticed that work, friends and family are closely connected. People are working almost the whole day, but in the meanwhile their friends come around to have tea with them or to hang out for some hours. That’s a really usual thing. Both are a huge contrasts which I found really impressive but inspiring at the same time.

Mr. Ranjit: I am sure the experience you gained in the project and intercultural learning you had must have left an indelible mark in your heart and mind. Bye the way, what did you share with your parents, relatives, friends and well-wishers back in Germany?

Mr. Lucas: Back in Germany I often was faced with the simple question How was India? But finding a short answer to that question is definitely not simple at all. “India is an amazing and incredible country!” was basically the message I shared. But more often it ended up in a long conversation, in which I couldn’t stop talking until someone stopped me. I was often about getting rid of the image that our own German culture with our values is the centre of the world, which everyone else has to adjust to. This mistake especially happens in wealthy countries quite often. They think they’re doing better and are developed further because they’re economically successful in a way. But they aren’t, they are developed differently. Intercultural learning should strengthen the awareness of being different. A culture cannot be whether be right or wrong.

Mr. Ranjit: My thinking also goes in the similar line. The global development agenda which is commonly known as Millennium Development Goal calls for global partnership for development. But intercultural learning is also one such unifying factor that will constantly leverage for evolution of a global village and global family concept. In your opinion how we Indians and Germans can contribute to such global efforts?   

Mr. Lucas: I experienced that volunteering is a great opportunity to strengthen intercultural understanding of a whole society, basically because most of the participants are getting in intensive touch with another culture at a really young age. These admirable efforts are going to end up in a new global generation, which is defined by enormous openness and adoptability towards other cultures. This immanent mind change is going to be incredibly valuable step in order to reach development goals as well. Germans as well as Indians should follow this track.

Mr. Ranjit: It is a great message worth sharing with Indians and Germans. I am sure our young generation will be greatly influenced and impressed by this message. You have great appreciation and regard for India and Indian culture. When you completed your volunteering assignment, what do you think that you have taken to Germany from India and how did that really helped you back in Germany?   Liaison

Mr. Lucas:  My understanding about the culture and intercultural learning that enabled me to reflect my own culture from a more outstanding point of view. I could understand that German culture is one of the cultures in the world and this understanding makes one look at the world with openness and respect the people of other countries which is sometimes lacking in Germany due to continuous immigration. I also noticed that culture is often more about being used to certain things. Often we seem to be really convinced about certain values or actions, but by taking a closer look at it you can recognize that some strong convictions are just results of habits or traditions, which just haven’t been reflected for generations. That can be observed in every culture.

Mr. Ranjit: That’s really interesting. I can understand the level of your love and passion for Indian culture. Thank you for candid appreciation. How the volunteering experience in India helped you in Germany?

 

Mr. Lucas:  When I returned to Germany I felt strong and healthy. I was more resistant against stress and became more flexible and what’s most important in my opinion, I tried more and more to take things positively. And noticed about my own culture that we Germans that things always have to be “super-secure” for us. In comparison to other cultures we Germans can hardly handle uncertainty and risks, what sometimes can be a little demotivating or even prevent creative thinking. Being aware of this so called “German Angst” helped me a lot back home. That’s by the way a great strength of the Indians. But I still wonder if I more learned to adjust to cultures and circumstances or if I should try to influence Germany by applying Indian values. Did I learn to just accept differences or to gain for changes? Probably both, but I noticed that I quickly forgot a lot of things India taught me. That motivated me to come back as fast as possible, to refresh my intercultural skills and somehow to recharge my India battery.

Mr. Ranjit: I do not have any disagreement on that. But having learnt to accept our identity and differences, there is something that unites us to work together. The core value of humanness and the spirit of humanism are supremely important. Do you have any message for the German volunteers who are currently associated with FSL India?   

 

Mr. Lucas:  You know Germans like question at times because they want to improve in everything which is good at a certain point but can be sometimes frustrating as well. I would like tell my fellow volunteers who are working in India right now that they should take things positively and always with sense of humour. A lot of problems which you face in this country are just result of intercultural differences, which let you grow with challenge faced all will enable you to understand the culture more and more. Germans will never be Indians and Indians will never be Germans. Always move forward with positive mind-set to do good to people around you and to people who are entrusted you.

 

Lucas Kutcher                                                              Ranjit Kumar Singh

Fabian speaks about his volunteering in India

Fabian speaks about his volunteering in India

And last but not least the India experience is likely to boost one’s self confidence……………

 

As a volunteer at PLANT India in Chennai, I learnt many things on the professional, intercultural and personal level. The work I was doing was not very closely related to the field of expertise I learned at university – Media and Communication Science. Working at PLANT is more about social work and maintaining relationships with many officials, partners and most important with the people PLANT works with – people in the coastal area of Tamil Nadu. The organization’s good relationship with the rural people here and their ability to mobilize them for different projects is PLANT’s most important asset. This is mainly possible because of the very humble and down-to-earth staff. But due to lack of my Tamil language skills and some intercultural issues (e.g. officials get skeptical when white people they don’t know) I could accompany the 3 core staff of PLANT rather rarely to their meetings. But there were also many preparation works where I got involved in. These activities can be enumerated as: searching for interesting tenders in newspapers and online, over helping to formulate project proposals for these tenders and other projects, writing reports about different activities, creating a brochure about PLANT, doing online research, helping with hard and software issues, setting up an online system for reporting the daily staff activities, proposal status, addresses and other small activities in office maintenance.

 

And of course, I also met people in the villages that we are working with, did a small interview for an eco-tourism brochure with the help of a translator, did boat trips with them, helped them to measure different variables of the sea water for pollution control and enjoyed their hospitality several times. The documentation work of traditional culture and practices which was part of the FSL India description of “eco-tourism” projects, which PLANT was defined as one of them, was not very active in these six months of my stay. So I did some small pieces of research on this topic on my own and wrote about that on my weblog.

 

The level of busyness changed from day to day but it never got boring. This is precisely because I could travel in times of less activities or use the good equipped IT of the office to get busy with various personal organizational things over the internet. Second the office is in the same house where my guest family and me used to live which gave opportunities for many interesting discussions about the Indian and German culture and to do some free time activities with their two children. Work and free time, office and family merged to one integrated whole while it always was clear that everything I do is voluntary, and it was always alright to have a break or to be off for one or two days. What kept me being motivated to do my work was not only the good cause – even though it’s hard to say which impact it made – but also the positive bonding with the guest family.  

 

Of course, my intercultural experience with India will be very valuable as soon as I want to work for an international firm because of its economic importance due to one of the highest growth rates worldwide. But even more important is for me to see how a country successfully deals with such a high degree of diversity in cultures, languages and religions. And last but not least the India experience is likely to boost one’s self confidence since you will get used to the fact that nearly every Indian will watch you as a white stranger with lots of interests.

 

Fabian Bethg

FSL India Volunteer from Germany

Exploring Eco Tourism in Kundapur

Exploring Eco Tourism in Kundapur

Promotion of Eco Tourism under the Home Based Project (HBP) is one of the important interventions of FSL India. With an effort to spread information and create awareness on the importance of being eco- friendly, FSL India volunteers organised bicycle trip in and around Kundapur. Volunteers selected the routes that had along the way old   temples, agricultural land and natural sceneries. On the way while riding the HBP staff explained about the places of cultural heritage like temples. It was learnt that one can see practically about the process of harvesting, planting and spreading awareness about the importance of nature to the tourists who pay visit to this area. Having searched and researched on Eco Tourism initiatives of FSL India, the volunteers could trace some documentary evidence about route description for bicycle tour that the erstwhile FSL India volunteers had tried out in the past.

 

A team of five volunteers set on a bicycle trip to explore new avenues for eco-tourism. As stated by Morten, FSL India volunteers, it was a little adventure to do on general Indian bikes a tour of several kilo meters. On the way they could see different points of interest. One such instance was where one can see how people collect sand from the river beds, mosques, church, some coconut and pepper plantations and mangrove trees. Some parts of the route are also little dangerous because of the wild traffic on the highway. However, the new route identified could be considered by HBP team for Eco Tourism initiative of FSL India.

 

 

Morten

FSL India Volunteer