Visiting FSL again after two years- By Max van Deursen, The Netherlands. 27th of January.
Wow, what a great feeling getting out of the bus at flower market in Kundapura (especially after a whole day in the bus). From here I walked down Church road, feeling my heartbeat clearer and clearer every step I got closer to the yellow house. A big smile appeared on my face when the neighbour saw me and said “Max…..???”. Yeah it has been two years ago now since I walked this street for the last time. After some chatting with the neighbour she pointed to the yellow house, “Go, go”. Hmm, it looked like nobody was home, it was very quiet and the lights were off. After knocking on the door…. No reaction. But the neighbour said again “go go”, so I took a deep breath and entered the house. “MAXXXXXXX!!!!!!!” Whaa it was a surprise act. A big group hug followed. Incredible to see you again after all this time.
Before it gets too confusing, let me just explain what this is all about. Two years ago, starting in December 2014, I was a FSL volunteer in Kundapura for about half a year, working on the ECO-Club and Environmental Education Projects. Living in the host family in the yellow house in Church road.
I have really good memories of my time at FSL, within the project we gave really cool environmental sessions at schools ranging from, from tent school to international PU college and everything in between (http://fsl-india.org/blog/2015/01/eco-club-initiation/ & http://fsl-india.org/blog/2015/02/school-session-at-green-valley-national-school-pu-college/). In addition we started a masterclass at the HMM school, which was a great success. (http://fsl-india.org/blog/2015/03/masterclass-academic-skills-an-environmental-case-study-an-eco-club-initiative/ & http://fsl-india.org/blog/2015/04/8798/). But, the most memorable, and that which makes you come back, are the people I met. The host family really feels as family and the volunteers and staff I worked with as dear friends.
After my time at FSL was over, I travelled to Nepal (by train), hiked up to Mount Everest Base Camp and worked in a small village as a volunteer. After almost a whole year away from home, it was a culture shock all over again to be back in The Netherlands. The food, the language, the weather, most importantly the pace and way of life, things I had to get adjusted to again. Just when I got a little adjusted to this, a whole new chapter started, because I got elected as the new Dutch Youth Representative to the United Nations on Sustainable Development. Which means that I am the link between youth and policy makers on the topic of sustainable development, and are part of the official country delegation to all related conferences (e.g. Climate Conference in Paris, High Level Political Forum in New York). It also meant that in about three months my world changed from being in a small remote Nepali village (only reachable by walk) to making busy working weeks, going from event to conference to function, while also trying to keep up with studying.
It is interesting to note that in my job as youth representative, my experiences at FSL proved really valuable. For example, at conferences youth representatives from all over the world always try to unite and work together to amplify our message. But, just as adults, young people have different interests too, and different expectations in how to go about talking about it, cultural differences indeed. My experience at FSL, having gone through a serious process of adaptation and step by step learning why things are going differently here than at home, produces a lot of respect and tolerance towards other cultures. Many times this has made me able to fulfil the role of mediator between youths and adults from different backgrounds at these conferences and finds ways forward which are comfortable for both. Another example, is that I experienced what it is like to work on sustainable development at the grass root level. A lot of delegates have no idea what it is like to give environmental education, have no idea of the challenges you face when actually standing in a school. In the many presentations I gave in the last two years I often referred back to things I actually experienced during my work at FSL, which made my stories more credible and memorable.
After spending the first evening with the family, chatting and telling stories till it was time to sleep, I went to the FSL Kundapur campus the next morning. I had to dig deep in my memory to remember “what was the bus conductor shouting again for the bus to the campus?” ah yeah, shetrakatte, mavinakatte something in that trend. So I got a bus and when I got out of the bus… hey it’s Manjula!! Wow she was my project coordinator, just surreal to see each other again, lot of things to tell each other.
I entered the campus, and I got a very warm welcome from Martha. She gave me a tour through the whole campus and I got amazed all the time when seeing the progress that has been made. Beautiful new plants, a tree nursery, a kitchen garden, Jasmin flowers, a goat, chicken you name it. Really nice to see how this place is getting better every day.
There was a lot of work to be done, so I seized the opportunity to join the volunteers team and work for three days on the campus, the work involved watering plants, taking care of the kitchen garden, biomass collection, community visit, plastic collection and so on and so forth. Working together with nice people is one of the best things and this group of staff and volunteers is truly amazing. As Martha put it “this place has something magical”, and it is the people who made it magical.
To wrap up this blog, I want to give a round up applause for all the staff and volunteers at FSL. It really is the work on the ground that makes a difference in the world. This goes for all the projects, sustainability, education, women empowerment, youth leadership and so on and so forth. But, whatever theme it is, one of the most important things that unites them all is that it is an exercise of intercultural learning, perhaps the most important thing we need in the word. So all the best in continuing the good work and I hope to see you all again soon.
Max van Deursen
Dutch Youth Representative to the United Nations on Sustainable Development
Student Global Public Health at the Leiden University College The Hague