On Thursday September the 9th, Australian Volunteers International and two university students, Hayden Green and Isabelle Schultz, spoke at the Australia India Institute’s (AII) Tiffin Talk series about volunteering in India. Here are five things we learnt from the seminar:
Straight up: India is like nowhere else on earth and no one comes back saying, “meh, it was okay”. It’s big, loud and in-your-face. One moment it’s full of beauty and the next it can drive you to rage. Volunteering and living in India will allow you to experience this vast and varied country like no backpacker can. You won’t be sitting in a bungalow in Goa knocking back Kingfishers, but it will bring you closer to the people and communities that make India such a unique and wonderful place. That’s a real adventure.
Students and teachers agree that volunteering will make you a better student! It is one thing to write an essay about cross-cultural communication or the challenges of healthcare, but another thing entirely to live it and breathe it. Upon returning, Hayden and Isabelle came back driven to build on the things they learnt and had a better understanding of what it means to put theory into practice.
If you haven’t been to India before, the initial shock can be quite confronting. “The haphazard nature of planning and the fluid nature of time” was one particular challenge Isabelle faced, and one that can be typical of the Indian experience. Whether it is the food, being away from your family or the different ways of doing business, India can pose a challenge to even the most seasoned travellers.
Australian Volunteers International builds partnerships with local organisations like Pravah that have the necessary expertise and experience within local communities.
Volunteering for quality NGOs can mean you have a real and positive impact on people’s lives now, not just in two years after you graduate. And before you run off yelling “Muuuum! The AII told me I don’t have to finish my degree,” consider a 5-week program as a snapshot of what it’s like to create change. But definitely finish your degree, imagine how much you can achieve once your head is full of smart things!