In October we welcomed a fresh and eager batch of 20 mid- to long-term volunteers (MLTV). Usually lasting anywhere from 1 month to 1 year, these engagements involve volunteers working with our local partners in social development projects across two Southern Indian states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu as well as in the Union Territory of Pondicherry.
As an MLTV volunteer, you will arrive in India at one of our offices either at:
- Kundapur, Udupi District, State of Karnataka or
- Bangalore City, Bangalore Urban, State of Karnataka
The first week, what we like to call ‘orientation week’, focuses on acclimatizing volunteers to the Indian reality: it marks the beginning of your intercultural learning and is aimed to provide you with the context you will need for your volunteering. But it is not just the Indian reality that you will be introduced to: orientation week provides an opportunity to interact with people from across the globe. In October, for instance, the 20 volunteers belonged to 9 different nationalities, ranging from Mexico to Finland. Some of the projects in which the volunteers were placed include sustainable agriculture, women’s empowerment, environmental education, slum development, water and sanitation, among others.
What happens in orientation week?
Some of the October orientation sessions have been outlined below to give you an idea of what takes place during the week.
The Indian welcome
This involves garlands of flowers, a lamp and kumkum (made usually from turmeric and slaked lime). Kumkum is what is classically applied on the forehead and represents the ‘third eye’ or the sixth of 7 chakras. It is considered the most holy part of the body, as it is believed to be the channel through which a human being opens to spiritual divinity.
As for how you are welcomed with this collection of earth, fire and nature…you will have to visit us!
At least 22 different languages are spoken in India, with each state having its own official language, as well as dialects and other regional languages spoken in particular parts of its districts. In the state of Karnataka, Kannada is the official language, while in the state of Tamil Nadu, Tamil is the official language. Both of them belong to the Dravidian family of languages, dating back thousands of years. This session will give you a crash course into the local language of your project location.
Understanding roles and responsibilities
There are four main stakeholders of the MLTV experience: you, your host family, your project and FSL India. This session highlights what the roles and responsibilities of each of these stakeholders are, as well as your relation to them. It is a very important session which provides clarity on what will be expected of you in the months to come.
Fears and expectations
India is made up of more than 1.2 billion people, with 29 states (run by their own governments) and 7 union territories (under the government of the central Government of India). It can be daunting to say the least. This session helps you deal with any challenges, fears or expectations you may have during your stay in the country.
There are many more activities and fun experiences for you in your first week here. So from all of us at FSL: WELCOME TO INDIA!