I traveled to Tamil Nadu, India with my university through a required course called the Sustainable Development Practicum. The aim of this practicum is for students to act as consultants to various organizations, assisting with their communication needs. Between day 2 and day 8 we toured and visited several non-governmental organizations (NGOs). There were about 23 units on our list of possibilities to work with. Each day was packed with multiple units where they presented their goals and missions to students and answered any questions we had about how they function and the groups they serve.
The overarching themes of the NGOs we worked with were health and human rights, environmental sustainability, education, and sustainable fashion. These broad terms included causes such as women’s empowerment, Dalit rights (formerly known as Untouchables), children, sustainable and ethical fashion, sustainable living, radio, solar energy, waste management, and more. This NGO practicum really offers something for everyone’s interest or passion.
With so many “good causes” it was difficult to choose just one. I could have easily chosen about 3 places I was interested in working for. The other factor that could make choosing an organization difficult is matching an organization with student’s skill sets. Some organizations needed assistance with website building, creating pamphlets and flyers, or creating short videos to display on existing sites. Fortunately, there was a wide range of skills within the group and we mentored each other.
After a few days of visiting 5 organizations per day, we had an idea of where we wanted to work. Many of us were quite anxious to begin our jobs and projects right away. I chose to work at the ADECOM Network. This agency advocates for the rights of the Dalit community. I was happy to assist with my small contribution, helping shed light on discrimination against an extremely vulnerable population. Check out their blog here: www.adecomnetwork.wordpress.com
In the end we wound up doing a major project at only one organization, but we’re well informed on almost all that Auroville has to offer in terms of advocacy and non-profit organizations. For communications students/professionals, the work we did came naturally and we were able to produce useful and practical material for the agencies to use and build upon long after we’ve gone. All of the organizations were extremely impressed and grateful for the projects accomplished with such a limited amount of time.
For three years, my school has genrously offered the free services of students. In turn, students gain practical skills that are useful for their professional experience and invaluable to the NGOs. It’s kind of a win-win-win.