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