The Face of Newark Abroad

Posts tagged ‘Students’

Our Last Day in India

After a night of celebration with dinner, drinks, gift-giving to our mentors, and swimming in the restaurant pool, we all slept soundly that night.

Saturday arrived, our last day in India. Bright and early we made our way to the dining hall in the Tibetan Pavillion. Our hostess Kalsung (and company) prepared our breakfast of bread and jams, fresh fruit, oatmeal, and tea & coffee. Around the breakfast tables the consensus was most people were either going shopping in Pondicherry for last minute gifts and souvenirs or to the beach for some last minute sun, sand and surf. (A few people had to go into their NGO’s to drop things off and say proper goodbyes.)

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Everyone was happy with their last day spent around the beach, Kulu Payam, Pondicherry, and Auroville. The evening wore on and people ventured out for some food before we had to load up the “bus” at 9:30pm. Some went to a restaurant called Paris, some went to Tanto’s and others went to the ever faithful, Visitor’s Center. Many of us spent our last rupee on those meals. We were sure to leave a nice tip for those poor waiters at the Visitor’s Center 😉

 

The pavilions had rush and adrenaline in the air. A few of us decided to create a donation bag for the Social Awareness for Liberation Trust (SALT) Children’s Home. This home is essentially an orphanage and was severely affected by the cyclone. People came by and put toiletries in the bags, a few clothing items and flip flops, first aid products, and headlamps and flashlights. It wasn’t much or very fancy, but we were positive that it would be of greater use to them than it would be to us in Paris, especially since the home was still without electricity. 

 

True to form at the Tibetan Pavilion, we also lost power (again) when everyone needed it, while packing! Thankfully we still had some candles. People continued to pack and pray that their suitcases would not be overweight.  As we brought our suitcases down to the front of the building, everyone was saying goodbyes to Sacha, Luke and Kalsung. There were also a couple of us that were left behind (of their own volition). Kalsung said she will never forget the night of the cyclone and the night after where we shared a soup for dinner because we had virtually no food and only a stone-aged method of cooking.

 

We all huddled up into a big circle with our arms around one another’s shoulders and began to sway. Some started getting a little emotional. I thought to myself, “Finally!” I had been waiting the whole trip for us to bond like this and sing Kumbaya! I began singing it. We didn’t make it through the whole song but it was sort of like a gigantic, 25 person group hug and we ended on that note.

As the bus drove away we waved goodbye. Some of us waved goodbye forever, some for many years, and some will return next year. Each person took away something different from this adventure. But we can all agree that it was a “Once in a lifetime experience.” Image

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NGOs Galore

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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.

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