Author Archives: educareindia

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Creating a successful internship

Category:Internship Experiences

Living and working in Gajner has its perks and its challenges, especially when you are used to a big city like Toronto where you have unlimited space and privacy, and work and home life are completely separate.

When working with EduCARE, it’s important to think of yourself as a role model and a leader in the community, because you are. The moment you are accepted as an intern with EduCARE you are representing the organization, its values and helping develop a sustainable future for a complex and incredible grassroots organization. Now when I say complex, I mean it because the way EduCARE runs is actually quite simple. It’s the simplicity that makes it so complex but the simplicity is what makes it work.

Coming from a western country, you are always jumping through hoops to make projects possible. I come from an event management background and having worked with many NGO’s both in Canada and Ghana, I’ve found that I am always pushing people to do things, draining my energy to get things done and feel no sense of accomplishment when I’ve succeeded because what I had to do to make events, activities and projects possible, was completely forced.

And that’s what I love about EduCARE’s philosophy. We don’t want to push or force people to do anything they don’t want to do. By simply building trusting relationships, which I believe our cluster has done fantastically just by having chai with locals, engaging the community in activities and even just a namaste here and there in the streets of the bazaar, we have been able to start and grow our cluster projects.

The Bikaner cluster was founded in October 2014 and already we have our girls club which runs twice a week, our boys sports club that runs on Sundays, our after-school program which runs in two villages under the cluster (Gajner and Chandasar) on separate days of the week, our young women’s association which runs twice a week and our waste management project. Every single one of our projects came about organically based of the relationships interns built within the community. And trust me, the faces of each intern that has walked the streets of Gajner and Chandasar over the past eight months has made lasting impressions on each local and put a smile on every child’s face. By having patience and managing our time accordingly, we have been able grow the Bikaner cluster faster than we ever imagined in 6 months time.

I mentioned perks and challenges but I don’t want to scare you because they definitely balance each other out. India as a whole is one big community and if you’ve never been to India before, you will feel and understand this as soon as you step off the plane. Everyone you meet is as friendly as could be and will always be there to help you. You have the right to be cautious but there is more good than bad in this country and you will notice this within the first few hours of your arrival. People are curious, they want to know everything about you and they will learn to trust and like you almost instantly unless you give them a reason not too.

The challenges: India is like another world. Think of the plane you get on to arrive here as a space shuttle, taking you to a whole other universe. The culture, the food, the hospitality and the people are like nothing you have ever experienced before. Don’t be scared. Educate yourself on the customs of the country and be prepared to let go of simple things that you will learn to really value at the end of your internship. Like the freedom to wear what you want, but the clothing is so beautiful here this really shouldn’t bother you too much. Think of your home as your office and what is and is not office behavior. Personal challenges that you will be thankful for at the end of your internship include learning to live with a group of international interns, teamwork, personal motivation and goal setting. Then there’s the absence of good Canadian bacon and whole wheat bread, but you will work through it and come out stronger!

What you’re going to learn while living here is who are you, how strong you can be, how far you can push yourself to immerse in such an ancient and beautiful culture and most of all, patience. The best advice I can give you is 10 minutes Indian time is about an hour your time so let go. If it’s meant to be it will happen, and when you are passionate and enjoy working in community development trust me, it will happen. The love you put into your work will help you succeed. You can do it and your team is here to help you. When things don’t go your way, try something new and keep pushing yourself. Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure makes you strong and helps you grow personally and professionally.

Well, good luck new intern! Don’t be afraid to try new things and fail multiple times. And lastly, get ready for an adventure of a lifetime both in the community and on your weekends off exploring this incredible India.


Jazzmine Raine Lawton

Bikaner Cluster Coordinator

ASP Program Coordinator

YWA, SWASH and ASP Project Manager

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A different perspective on India

Category:Internship Experiences

Traveling to a new country is always a different experience, but when coming to a developing country to live in a rural village and work in community development is an entirely new experience. I have previously lived in India for around 2 years, so I thought I new a lot about the culture and values and what to expect when once again I was set to live here.  Unlike my previous experiences, this time I was coming to India to do an internship with EduCARE India for 5 months working in sustainable living and waste management.   I knew it was going to be a different experience from my past experiences in India but I didn’t know just how different.

Of course I had some ideas of what I was going to do and how the life was going to be working in India, but that was all thrown out of the window when I arrived and got into work. I realised that I didn’t know anything about what it is like working here and this experience has opened my mind to what India really is like on a deeper level.

What I previously believed from what I had read, saw, experienced, perceived and heard through people’s stereotypes, etc – I found that all of those ideas were totally different to my new life in India. One such thing that I noticed was the concept of money vs relationships in the way that business owners interact with me. For example, when business owners think that I am a tourist their focus is to make money off me because they think I won’t be around for very long. Business owners that see that I am living here focus on developing a relationship with me, and so charge me a fair price so that I keep coming back.

Another aspect I have noticed is the level of honesty that I get from the locals. For example, when traveling, locals tend to be less honest with me because they know that we might never see each other again and I probably don’t understand the interaction of locals and their behaviours. However, when they know that I am staying for a long time and working with community members, they tend to be more honest with me over time because they know I am here every day and I understand the local behaviours. But not only that, I find that the more trust I have with some community members the more honest they are with me.

These are some of the main observations I found when I came to India to work for EduCARE. Because I have travelled and lived in India for a few years before, I thought I knew most things about the culture, life styles, beliefs, etc. I have now realised that India is such a big country and the people are different everywhere you go, and that you can just cross to another state and it will be like a totally different experience again.  So you can’t really every make any assumptions or think you know everything, because the next moment something totally contradictory can happen.

20150329-Educare004My time with EduCARE has changed me, in the way that I think about problem solving, how I interact with Indian business people, how I think about travelling, and how I see the lives of all different types of people. It has also made me consider how I will live my life combining work and travel. Therefore my biggest advise for new interns is that even if you have travelled to India before, come with an open mind and very few pre-conceived ideas.  Because when working here life is very different and every environment is so diverse and unique.

Ethan (Australia)

Sustainable housing and Waste Management Project Manager

Rait centre

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Adjusting to India

Category:Internship Experiences

India is an amazing place with diverse environments and dialects and a peculiar and strong culture. A lot of the aspects of the Indian life may barely show to the tourists passing by, but living and working several months in a rural location will definitely pull you inside the reality of the Indian world.

Sometimes you may have to cope with behaviors that can appear senseless to the eye of a foreigner. Even more, your actions will be observed and judged on the basis of the beliefs of the local people you work with, so it is important that you constantly observe and shape your attitude in order not to create uncomfortable situations.

One of the biggest challenges I faced during my internship was to host a local family in our house for about two weeks. As is in other cultures, hosting duties are particularly important in India. In fact guests are sacred and treated with a respect and reverence that could appear exaggerated to the eye of a westerner. For instance, water and food have to be given to the guests and just when they are finished with their meal the hosting family can start to eat. This and other habits are common practice and it has been a surprise for us to realize that being on the other side, our guests were expecting us to act in such a way.

I believe that if you want to come and work in this environment you have to keep your mind open and be ready to be challenged. India has quite a conservative culture and for instance, some attitudes that are considered acceptable in the west side of the world are banned here. Public smoking, drinking or dressing inappropriately are taken quite seriously and there is not much someone can do apart from trying to give the best image of him/herself and therefore of the organization.

Being ready to change your point of view and not pushing your thoughts on other people lives, this I believe is the key of adaptation. If you are ready to do so you will have a great experience, your life will change and you will be empowered to work in the most effective way and achieve the best for your project.

Matteo (Italy)

Fun Club Project Manager

Punjab cluser

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Implementing a Waste Management System in Gajner

Category:Internship Experiences

I came to the Bikaner cluster to improve the way they manage waste in the village of Gajner. When I arrived I saw garbage everywhere; trash in the street, in the river and people throwing waste at their feet without consciousness.

At first I had plenty of ideas but I soon learned that in this community, time is necessary. People work with you when they know and trust you. Especially as foreigners, we really have to integrate ourselves with the community in order to be welcomed. And this work, community engagement, is the most time consuming and the most important.

I run my project with a fellow intern named Jazzmine who arrived in Gajner before me and introduced me to the village. She did the initial research about the actual situation in Gajner and together we started the waste management project.

When spending time in the community, it is important to be accepted, it is also necessary to observe and understand their culture and their way of life. To implement a project without understanding the needs of the people is not sustainable. I understood that I couldn’t use systems already in place in my western country here; I had to use their knowledge, their ideas and their tools.

I realized that people care a lot about health but they don’t see the link between trash everywhere and health problems. A lot of work regarding awareness and education needs to be done here.

As a first step, we thought the best way thing to do was to get community members involved in the project, which included starting to work with Manoj, a shopkeeper and friend, who sells juice, samosas and soda. We placed bins to separate waste and ads in his shop. Manoj was happy to comply and excited to work with us on the project.

The next step was to have someone to get rid of the waste. In the village, there are trash-pickers who buy waste from families and sell it in Bikaner for recycling purposes. We met one of the local trash pickers, Mulchand, and started a great working relationship with him. We also involved his kids in our After-School Program and spent time with his family to get to know them, as well as surveying them with our MPAT survey project. Now, starting a new work relationship is not easy: we go through a lot of frustration and disappointment. It is rare that meetings happen at the right hour and everything takes a lot of time. Fortunately Mulchand helps get rid of all the waste and the wet waste and soft plastic that aren’t worth much, he disposes for us in the city dump. The relationship between Mulchand and Manoj is also extremely positive and Mulchand now comes every two weeks to pick up all the trash in the shop.

My work now is to keep following how Manoj and Mulchand work together, to improve the communities knowledge about health, and finally to extend the project to other shops. The road leading to a clean Gajner is still quite long but it is a great feeling to see a project running sustainably.

Lea (France)

SWASH Project Manager

Gajner centre

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To chai or not to chai, there is no question

Category:Internship Experiences

This is a love story. A love story that started on a cold February day in Naddi.

First minutes of my internship. I just arrived in the place. My first time in India, and everything is new and exciting. The weather is grey and cloudy, but who cares I am in my new home for the next seven months. There is something familiar in the white peaks in can see between the clouds. Even the air reminds me of my beloved Swiss mountains.

The bumpy road and the trash along the street are not familiar, though. Good, I am here for solid waste management. And there is definitely some work to do.

I try to decide if Naddi is colder than the twenty centimetres of Swiss snow that I just left or not. It is not, but still quite chilly, even more for India. What I didn’t took into account is that there is no such thing as house isolation, nor central heating. Paper fin windows, and freezing air blowing right under your nose in your bedroom. Add buckets of water falling on your head every single day for a month, and you have the perfect combination to be eternally cold.

Except if you have something to warm your body and spirit. Except if you can say to you are working while taking this something.

So, here I am.

At Naddi’s main square. The name is quite strange: it is the only square of the village. And, it is shaped like a bodybuilder banana buffed by hormones. Not main, but single. Not square, but banana.

Then, one of my fellow intern ask me in his broken English this very simple question that will change the rest of my stay here:

– Want chai?”

Eventually, someone would have asked it, of course. I might have taken just a few minutes more. Maybe a couple of days. Still, I had set foot in my new home for a couple of minutes, and there it is, the life-changing question. Drinking chai in Naddi’s main square. It is now a daily habit. To the point that when I don’t come one day without previous notice, a shopkeeper will call me, asking what’s going on.

I heard of this beverage before my coming, of course. It is quite trendy in some fancy coffee shops at the moment. Some kind of tea with a lot of milk, some unknown, exotic spices. And sugar. Lot of it. And this is where western chai is failing: the sugar to liquid ratio is way too low. By at least a couple of spoons per cups.

The best is when the top part of your chai cools off and a skin forms itself on top of this small piece of paradise. Then, you can drink it in one good sip can. Or just eat it. As you wish. I am a sipper, but I won’t judge you. Under the first – and quite dominant , let’s be honest – sugary taste, you will find a pinch of spices. That what’s make a good chai. No spices and you have been fooled. This is no chai. It is tea. And tea is boring.

Chai comes served in small cups. So small, that by the time they are finished, you just want another one. That’s where the evilness of it is. Those tiny little things can never fill my insatiable appetite for chai. So, I have to keep drinking over and over.

I just didn’t realised when I had my first cup at Omi’s Cafe on this cold morning that it would become part of my daily life in India. That I would drink so many of them, that I could not even count if I wanted to. You don’t ask yourself how many cup of water you drank in your life. Well, don’t ask me how many chai I had. You will embarrass me and yourself. Me, because you will pinpoint my addiction. And you because, obviously, you are not addicted yet if you ask this silly question.

No chai before noon is usually the sign of a bad day. Four is the average, and eight is definitely the tipping point. Where my stomach can’t handle all the sugar and milk anymore. And this line is often crossed.

That’s one of the many reason why I will Indian trains. You don’t have to get up to have your chai. Some random man will wake you up by yelling at six in the morning the sacred words: “Chai! Chaii! Chaii!” in this very particular singing voice that street sellers have all over the world.

The revelation came just a few days later, during my first day of work on the field. Olivia, my lactose-intolerant colleague, and I went to the shopkeepers of Naddi to have our first trash talk.

First shop, first chai. We continued to the second one. Same deal, another chai. While we get out, I could see Olivia look at the main square with despair: there is still four shops to visit. And then we have to go to the rest of the main street. She knew that her stomach will not be able to handle all this milk, and she was too polite to refuse. And even when she tried, the locals didn’t care at all.

Good thing that I love it. It is actually part of my job. I spend most of my days bounding with shopkeepers, trying to build a relationship, and gain their trust. And they happen to drink a lot of chai. And refusing would be impolite, right? Drinking chai is not an option in this line of work.

A chai on the side in the main square, and I had the most important conversations for my project. Not because of the beverage on itself, of course. But because it meant spending at least ten good minutes of casual talking with someone. And, when you spend enough time, asking the right questions, people will cut the crap at some point, and tell you the real deal.

Recently, I have been asked what qualities should have the person who will replace me in a few months. Loving chai is the first of them. And maybe the only one. The rest will follow.

Elliott (Switzerland)
SWASH Project Coordinator
Naddi, Himachal Pradesh

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Four Tips for Living in India

Category:Internship Experiences

Living and working in Gajner, a small Rajasthani village, has been amazing so far for me. It is a complex, incredible and intense experience. The surroundings can be a little startling at first, so being prepared can help you overcome the cultural shocks and quicken your adjustment. Here’s a list of ideas to begin your preparation.

Build relationships : Here, in Gajner, each person lives with their heart on their sleeve. They are very kind and warm and will quickly invite you inside their home to have chai, eat food and look at their family photos. Take time to do that because it shows them you care and it builds trust!

We have been working really hard to establish great relationship with the locals and one way to do it is to spend as much time as possible with them outside your formal project goals and objectives. Even if they are not directly linked to your project, everyone knows everyone here, so once you have been invited somewhere and showed kindness, the good word will go fast. I personally found it amazing to do so because you always learn something interesting about them, about the community and the culture.

When people acknowledge you in the streets, do the same ! Even if someone is passing by without saying Namaste, I find its always good to say those 3 syllables because even a small gesture like that will put a smile on both of your faces. Again, people are very kind here, so you will always get a response. People will not ignore you like they might in your home country.

Try to find common interests: family is always a good way to break the ice as family here in Gajner is highly valued. Be expected to have people asking you « Are you married ?» during the first exchange, of « Namaste »! While it seems a strange question, marriage is extremely important here so don’t be offended. People are very curious about why you’re here, what you do with your life, which country you’re come from, if you have any brothers and sisters, etc.

Learn to let go : In India, the concept of time has a whole different meaning. Things take more time to start here. You can have your schedule and plans ready to go but something out of your control will often occur, disrupting all your plans and sending you back to square one.

When something does not happen your way, which will happen, you will definitely get frustrated. Do not worry, this is normal and every intern goes through this. You will feel that you are not accomplishing anything, you will question your capacity and ability to do things, and even your purpose here. But, take a step back, persevere, re-plan and understand that there’s always a solution.

This is also where the process of building relationships is absolutely critical. The more you spend time with a family, the more you will understand what their priorities are. If something was planned and did not happen, it is NOT because they do not want it. It might be because something more important might have come up or for another reason such as a misunderstanding, etc. But, never take it as an offence ! People highly respect that you are here and regard you as a role model. They will always want to please you, so do not make them feel guilty if something did not happen your way.

Be mindful of the local’s perception of you: Gajner is a very traditional village and before us, people had never seen many westerners except for the locals who work at Gajner Palace (touristic attraction/hotel) and those who watch Hollywood movies. Being highly out-going and talkative is a good thing in our own country but here you should use some restraint. Living in Gajner takes some discretion. Your body language is very important and should be respectful at all times. As for your clothes, same rules apply throughout India. For women cover your shoulders and no skirts and no shorts above the knees for both genders.

Learn Hindi : I found it always useful wherever I go to learn a bit of the language of my host country. But, here in Gajner it will serve you well as not a lot of people speak English. It will help you to interact with people but most importantly it will show them that you care and that you are making great efforts to adapt. They are always happy when you attempt to speak in Hindi. This also reinforces trust.

There is a lot of advice I could give you, but I found these points the most important and you will learn more during your stay in Gajner. After all, being an intern with EduCARE is all about experiential learning. So come, experience and learn !

 Mathilde (France)

Women’s empowerment Project Manager

Gajner centre






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Every word counts

Category:Internship Experiences

Working in unprivileged contexts has always been a challenge to me for many different reasons:

The sense of guilt for have been luckier than these people (that is also the guilty of being born in the “wealthy West”);

The doubts and thoughts about which are the real needs of the people and which is the real utility of my work and my presence there;

With every concern about dealing with a different culture, there is also the fear of being disrespectful;

The awareness of the fact that I am going to leave but they won’t;

And a feeling of complete powerlessness in the face of some vulnerable situations.

So the questions are: is it possible to find an alternative way to remove this powerlessness? And how?

And furthermore, if there is no way to achieve that alternative strategy, how is it possible to accept that situation?

Recently, one of the girls we are working with told us that she is victim of domestic violence.

Her parents want to marry her very soon but she knows she is too young to marry (she’s underage) and she’s aware that she is more educated than her parents and that she can build a different future for herself.

Her strength of saying no to the parents makes her the victim of violence from her own mother and father.

We know that we can do very little for this smart young girl, so we are trying to figure out an alternative way to deal with this problem.

But can we?

In the depth of my heart I know I’m completely powerless in front of this situation.

And even if I tell myself that I’ve done the best I could do for that person, in the end it’s more like an excuse because I want to feel better, I want to believe that I did something for her. And maybe I really did. But I’m still powerless because in the end she has to make the decision and I can’t control her parents.

This said, I still believe that anytime two persons connect with each other, something happens. I can say maybe just one word and in that word she can find herself in a new world, in a new way of thinking.

When I feel powerless, I like to think that no action has gone wasted anyway because even if I plan, organise and prepare for the worst, I can never know which word of what I say that can perhaps enable people to discover new things.

Every word counts.

Every action counts.

Ester (Italy)



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Rajasthan projects


Our Rajasthan cluster projects are in the Bikaner arid desert region focusing on community empowerment, education and environment conservation leading to sustainable development.


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Arriving in India

Category:Internship Experiences

Before even arriving in India, I had many problems with getting my Indian visa. At this stage, I thought “Is it that India does not want me or what? ” But finally, after all I journeyed to Paris, excited to begin a beautiful day of long transport – meaning three aircraft, a taxi and a little walking.

I think I am someone who has already traveled a little bit, and saw many things. Yet when I arrived in Naddi, I knew that I had never seen anything similar. Initially, the heat is surprising, but only for a small time. What is most striking is the amazing view from the village.

Induction begins  the moment  I meet the family who welcomes me to stay for a week. This is the family of Pooja with Shika, Mom and “Uncle” (Dad). They are lovely people who did not hesitate to give me their room to sleep in, as they crammed themselves into the other room. At dinner, the menu is very simple (and good!): dal-rice, lentils and rice, which is often accompanied by a light curry sauce. Even full, you will take another plate! Overall, the food in India is excellent. Though taste is subjective, it’s quite hard to deny just how delicious the food is. I must say, however, as tasty as the food may be, it is somewhat difficult to eat potato curry for breakfast. But it is still very good!

Besides the food, induction week served as an opportunity for the new interns to learn more about the operation of EduCARE. Induction also provided insight on cultural differences, comparing India to our respective countries as well as others. Workshops are facilitated by other EduCARE interns, making discussions much more open and spontaneous, which also distinguishes this organisation from the traditional work environment.

To mention the most significant experience during this week of integration, Fun Club was an amazing moment. Looking back, I find myself still excited as I write these lines. We began by retrieving the kids from the village and then bringing them together. We played cricket, football, and improvised with other games. Initially, the kids were quite shy; however, soon enough, they began asking for my name. Next came the invitation for me to play with them. Fun Club ended in a grass battle, which I lost. After which, we took each child home.


In a few words, this is what emerged from my first week of induction and integration in EduCARE.  I encourage you to come and live it yourself!

Johann (France)

Alternative energies Project Manager

Rajasthan cluser

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The crazy experience of India

Category:Internship Experiences

For every beautiful thing I can say about India and my experience here I can also say an ugly thing. It has been such a whirl wind experience, from having people in Delhi over-charge me simply because I was a foreigner, to having a complete stranger with very little English hand over his phone to me to make a phone call. In every situation there are ups and downs. I don’t know what it is about India or if it’s simply me but this has been a romance that I know will never end.

Yet despite the challenges in dealing with India itself, or dealing with work related issues I look forward to each day as a new adventure. It’s true what they say, change your thinking and your environment will also change. A change in perspective really is all it takes. I learn this every day at work and in India.

Coming to India I thought I was ready for anything because I’ve lived in Haiti so I figured nothing could really shock me. Boy was I wrong. I learned that my first night at the family homestay. I was greeted by this local girl name Sunita, very nice young lady, she didn’t seem that much different than I was and the house was small yet charming and cozy. So I asked to use the bathroom she points to 2 rooms and mumbles something. So the first door I opened, my mouth dropped. I thought to myself oh she was pointing to the other door; I need to pay better attention. So when I opened the second door it was clear to me that it was a shower. I was not ready for that surprise at all.

Dude it’s a HOLE IN THE FLOOR with a foot stool.

Squat toilet!                                                                                             

That was the first time I wondered what I was doing here and I didn’t realize it was an indicator of what was to come. Everything is to the extreme. Anything from cow poop mixed with mud filled stairs to beautiful mountain views that you cannot get anywhere else. Here in India you may not have water in your apartment to brush your teeth or flush the toilet but you wake up to such a beautiful sunrise that you forget what’s actually happening. And if you wait patiently enough water comes back. Patience is a must here. At work I can go from being totally lost and questioning whether my work matters or what exactly am I supposed to be doing, to feeling energised and rewarded by my work. Through it all the magic that seems to be alive everywhere here keeps you going. You learn that if you are truly present in each moment things will work out. Patience is key.

For everything that is beautiful within my experience the opposite is also true.

But I love it; I guess that is the point to it all…

Beauty is everywhere if even in the filth, you just have to look for it.


Whitney (Haiti/USA)

Eco Volunteer Travel Coordinator

Naddi centre

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Avoiding culture shock

Category:Internship Experiences

Before coming to India, everyone told us about culture shock, everyone was worried how we would manage differences in behaviors, food, weather, work environment…

We did not read 1000 books about India before coming, we did not speak with 100 Indian people or past EduCARE interns and yet we did not really experience any hard culture shock. How is that possible?

We believe that the most important thing to avoid culture shock is to prepare your mind. You must know that everything will be different from home, you must keep in mind that you cannot have the same expectations as in your home country. Being prepared first and foremost means being open minded. If you know before coming that you will experience something special and unique, that some things will please you as much as some will not, the culture shock will be less difficult.

The most important thing seems to be able to say: “yes I am going to India, yes it will be hard but I will manage by being open-minded, resourceful, and ready to learn and change my habits.”

You do not need to know everything about the Indian culture – and there is no way you would be able to know everything – but you need to know your limits, what you are or not ready to accept.

Culture shock is not always a bad thing, by facing challenges and specific situations you will learn more about yourself that you could possibly imagine! Culture shock is real, but it is up to you to get something positive out of it.

Claire and Manon (France)

Punjab cluster

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Pooping in India

Category:Internship Experiences

Before coming for a 6-month internship in India, you have a lot of preconceptions, fears and questions, and one of the biggest ones includes: what are the toilets like in India? What you usually hear in Western countries is that Indians use squat toilets and don’t have toilet paper. But sometimes you hear worst, like I did: that they practice open defecation.Then I arrived in India. Indeed I had to deal with the squat toilet, but in lots of restaurants, hostels and even in some family homes, I could find western toilets. But it is true: apart from hotels, there is usually no toilet paper available. So during my first week, one of my first concerns was to find toilet paper and never run out of it. I had to look for it every day or two.It was stressful. Usually you can only find single rolls that sell for about 40 rupees each. Then I finally got to my cluster in the rural village of Gajner, located in Rajasthan. With my housemates we bought toilet paper regularly in Bikaner, a city about the 45 minutes away from the village. In India you don’t throw toilet paper down the toilet since the pipes are quite small so we had to burn it and we had to burn it often. Meaning, every day or two we were dealing with bags and bags filled of soiled toilet paper that we had to dispose of in a metal bin outside of the house and set fire to, making the entire area smell horrible. I actually had to deal with one huge bag from our last quarterly meeting where all 30-plus interns were in our house. This bag had stayed weeks on the roof and was soaking wet from rainfall, among other things. It was a very horrible experience…

Toilets in India will always have access to water, either a tap located next to both a squat or Western toilet, or a little sprayer that looks like a shower head (this may sound hilarious but it is very true). I finally got to a point where I was comfortable using the sprayer and avoiding toilet paper when I urinated. Although sometimes your pants and underwear get wet from the sprayer or from using water to clean yourself, it really wasn’t and still isn’t an issue. Plus, it is over 40 degrees in Rajasthan most days. Even your sweat will dry instantly.

One day myself and my fellow interns in Gajner found ourselves arguing over toilet paper,“don’t use too much paper”, “be careful: it is expensive”, “nobody but me thinks to burn it”. To be short: toilet paper was becoming a source of tension. Eventually, we ran out of paper and we were not able to go to the city to buy more. No exit, we stared at each other… there was no choice, we all had to poo and our only option was water. The first few times were quite challenging but then we all got used to it. Finally, no more toilet paper to burn! AND the feeling of being super fresh and clean after each poop is awesome! I now wonder how I will do in France without my little spray shower. I can’t imagine going back to wasting all that toilet paper.


So have no fear, we’ve all been in your shoes and look at us now: pooping with no paper…welcome to India!

Lea (France)

SWASH Project Manager

Gajner centre, Rajasthan

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Solar energy collector project bearing first fruit


solar-conllectorTime flies, six months have passed very quickly and now I find myself at the end of my stay in India.

It’s been an experience full of amazing people and challenges hidden where least expected.

It’s been six months of working on alternative energy project – a solar water heater. During this time I have experienced many ups and downs and I even doubted if I would be able to see the result of my work.

Three days ago I was so excited having my first HOT shower in Maitti (Himachal Pradesh, India). Yes!!! Water was heated by using my solar collector.

As I see it, this is just the first step of a very ambitious program which aims to raise the awareness of sustainable use of energy (energy efficiency, energy conservation, renewable energy, alternative energy, solar energy) within the community as well as introduce this new technology for the benefits of the community members, the step which will hopefully lead to big achievements in the future.

Today I’m not writing much. I have uploaded a video where you can see the result of my work. The video is available here.

– Albert Garcia, Aug 2014

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Caryn’s Gap Year experience


Caryn's gap yearI interned for a grassroots NGO, EduCARE India, in rural Punjab, India for three months. EduCARE India’s vision is to promote pathways to intellectual freedom, social justice, community welfare, economic liberty, and sustainable development for individuals, families and social groups working to achieve their rationalized life dreams. Read more –

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Educating Girls about Girls’ Education


When the Taliban shot Malala Yousafzai for going to school last year, the world was finally forced to pay attention to the girls’ education crisis. Globally, 66 million girls don’t attend primary school. And the reasons they stay home invariably relate to gender and socio-economic disparities, like high tuition fees, lack of safe transportation, and housework responsibilities. Documentaries like Girl Rising and Half the Sky have further brought global gender inequality into people’s living rooms. But what do girls, especially those who live in areas affected by these issues, think of the crisis?

I wanted to find out. And Naddi–a village that has undergone perceptible social change in the past 20 years–serves as a compelling place to ask. Research I’m conducting on female education patterns in Naddi already indicate an increase in girls’ graduation rates. Girls in Naddi today are simply more privileged than their mothers were. Whether this progress has to do with successful government schemes, poverty reduction, or a change in attitudes isn’t yet clear. I thought teaching about the girls’ education crisis at Girls’ Club, our after-school program, would act as a lesson in both gender awareness and gratitude.


And it was. To start, each girl received a prop that symbolized why a girl does or does not attend primary school, although they weren’t told this pivotal detail until later. These included a picture of a bus (transport), cooking utensils (housework), play money (tuition fees), a scarf (a school uniform), toilet paper (access to a restroom), and sewing supplies (child labor). One girl, Priya, was told that her prop was “being born a girl.”


Next, the girls were divided into two groups based on their objects. Those with props that symbolized access to education were rewarded with cookies, books, and a laptop. Those with props that symbolized a hindrance to education were given nothing. The tensity was palpable. The privileged group giggled amongst themselves, eating and in awe of the computer. The disadvantaged group gaped at them—some girls even looked glossy-eyed.

naddigcSchoolGirlsGC naddigcGirlsListeningGC - Copie

When watching the disadvantaged girls mope became too much to bear, I explained the activity’s purpose. I relayed some facts and statistics (for both India and abroad), Malala and her schoolmates’ story, and the benefits of female education. With the help of Fatima, an intern who translated in Hindi, the girls listened intently and shared their thoughts about the crisis. The older girls said that India’s free education system should improve the situation. They even discussed the rising costs associated with their own school uniforms. The younger girls expressed surprise that not everyone goes to primary school and that it’s truly unfair. Eleven-year-old Sunanna, never one to shy away from candor, even suggested that once all the girls in the world are educated, “we will be strong and can go to Pakistan to confront the men who hurt Malala.” It’s a lofty proposal, perhaps, but one that implies an impact, and even a little hope.

naddigcNishaPosterGC - Copie

Tricia Taormina, United States of America

ECRC and Girls Club Project Manager

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Biomass for Power


Recently, the interns involved in the Biogas Workshop held in Himachal Pradesh were treated to an extra day of field visits related to renewable energy in Punjab. The biomass plant visit was among the many highlights of this extended workshop.

Located near Nakoda, the Green Planet Energy Ltd Biomass Plant produces 7,000 kilowatts of energy per hour (KWh). Assuming the average house utilizes 3 KWh, this one plant produces enough energy to power 2,333 homes every hour. All of this energy is produced through the burning of biomass (organic) waste that would otherwise be burned in farm fields.


Full view of the biomass plant with the boiler on the left

Benefits of the Biomass Plant:

  • Alternative to burning biomass in fields, causing air pollution
  • Saves habitat and ground cover
  • Produces renewable energy – 2 KG biomass = 1 KW energy
  • Gives extra income to farmers – 1 rupee = KG of hay or biomass

Biogas Plant Process:

  1. Farmers sell biomass waste to the plant
  2. Biomass is dried and compacted
  3. Compacted biomass is loaded onto the belt, leading to the furnace (see Photo 2)
  4. Biomass is used as fuel in boiler, reaching temperatures of 700 degrees Celsius
  5. Boiler heats 30 tons of water each hour (of which 2 tons evaporates, 28 tons reused)
  6. The boiling water creates steam
  7. Steam runs the turbine at 7500 revolutions per minute (RPM)
  8. Turbine produces electricity/power by running the generator


Compacted biomass is loaded onto a belt leading to the boiler

Waste Products/Emissions from Biomass Plant Processes:

Of course, burning the biomass fuel creates waste fumes. The fumes contain particles of carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas for humans to breathe, and carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas widely considered to be contributing to global warming.


The workshop team in front of the electric static precipitator (from left to right: Clement, Adrien, Owen, Gulshan, Biomass Plant Engineers, Ariel, Katrina, Mandy, and Sevil)

The Electric Static Precipitator (ESP) presents a solution to this environmental waste dilemma. The ESP processes the gases from the boiler with charged electrodes.

These electrodes attract the harmful particles in the fumes, releasing clean oxygen and solidifying the carbon particles into ash.

The ash is then used in building materials, such as bricks and roads. 99.4% of the harmful gases are collected through this ESP process.

After a full day of field visits, it was not only a highlight, but also a privilege to be shown the inner workings of this biomass plant.

By Katrina Sill, USA

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Making Healthy Choices !


rhc-healthy choicesLast week in Naddi, we took over Fun Club (the after school program) in Sheney to teach the kids about what it means to be healthy and making healthy choices. The kids were all enthusiastic as we brainstormed what it meant to be healthy, but they were even more excited when we brainstormed unhealthy things, yelling out their favorite foods – ice cream, lollipops, chocolate! Eventually, we had the kids thinking beyond food and we began to talk about how happiness, work, and friends have to do with being healthy. Next we talked about “choices” and what it means to choose something. With folded paper and color pencils, we drew healthy choices on one side and unhealthy choices on the other – careful to avoid things that we did not have control over, such as the air we breathe or diseases we’re born with.

Once the kids were thoroughly antsy, sick of sitting on the ground of the Fun Club room, we herded them outside to play a game about healthy choices. The kids lined up on one side of Sheney, divided into two teams, and we put the brainstorming poster on the other side with a line down the middle, dividing it into a healthy and unhealthy side. I stood in the middle with a stack of homemade cards – healthy or unhealthy choices on each (with an image, an English label, and a Hindi label). The kids had to hop on one foot to me, get a card, hop on the other foot to the poster, and stick the card in the correct column before hopping back to their team and tagging the next person. The relay race began with cheers and yells from both sides. (The kids can always be counted on to get a little competitive!) And as they hopped across the community, women came out of their homes to watch, smiling and laughing as the kids haphazardly jumped from one end to the other. At the end of the race – amid cheering, laughing, and overall confusion about which team actually won – we gathered around the poster to go over the cards. All the kids yelled whether each choice was healthy or unhealthy – vegetables, ice cream, sleep, water, visiting the doctor, visiting the dentist, fighting, going to school, cigarettes, soda, alcohol, many more – and we moved any out-of-place cards into the right column.

As the sun began to set and Fun Club came to a close, I pulled all the kids together outside and we pledged to make at least three healthy choices every day. “What should our healthy choices be today?” I asked. In the middle of the community, we did ten jumping jacks together, shouting the number of each one, choosing exercise for our first choice. Then I handed out lichis, and we stood together, peeling away the rough skin and sucking on the juicy fruit, choosing fruit as a healthy snack for our second choice. “What will be your third?” I asked, and everyone shared what they would do – push-ups, sleep, be nice to their friends, eat dal…

This simple activity may seem unimpressive to an outsider, but it was the first health activity with the kids and we all considered it a great success. Now they are beginning to think about health, what it means to be healthy, and how all the choices they make day-to-day affect their well being. Children are the future of course, and as this generation grows up, we want to ensure that the community will continue to thrive and develop even healthier lifestyles.

Betsy Hinchey
United States of America
Rural HealthCARE Project Manager

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Migrants’ Children Education Program


Education leads to empowerment; it is more so true for the children in the rural Migrants communities. On the outskirts of Janauri village lies a small migrant camp that has all to often been overlooked by the Indian society. The cast system does not only limit access to basic provisions but also stifles children’s opportunities to dream to strive for a better way of life. Many children here are unable to comprehend that they can improve their lives, as they do not know any different. Through education the prejudice from society can be challenged, and the children can attempt to break free from the societal pre-determinations of how they should live their lives. We are striviing to develop a sustainable engagement of these children in sustainable, just and peaceful society.

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Rural sanitation and waste management


waste managementThe arrival of waste disposal bins to the hill village would not make anyone else as happy as it has made this Australian 21-year-old volunteer-intern. Arrived on July, Morgan Mcintosh did not previously had any ideas on which project to establish in the village. And although she herself confesses not being “a very environmental person at all”, waste management problems in the area caught her attention immediately.

The local hills are green seen from afar during the monsoon season, but in a closer examination, other colors can be found: those of plastic bottles, plastic wrappers and other trash. “I thought it was a big shame that there were no facilities in the place, particularly in such a beautiful setting, so I thought I’d do something”.

People in the area would normally throw their trash away, or accumulate it in bins only to burn it all later, posing serious health and environmental issues. And after her first days of deliberation, she found out that the problem was also a concern for the village community.

The kids used magazine paper to make beautiful and environmental-friendly necklaces
“I was really happy that the community brought up the issue themselves before I even got the chance through Young Woman’s Association and the Girls Club. On my first couple of days, when I was giving it a thought, they showed their interest too” So she started doing some research and move into getting solutions for the problem by preparing a SWASH village project (Sanitation of Water, Air and Soil for Healthy village).

waste2Waste can be managed
Education was the first step: she organized several activities for the kids and grown-ups to know how to separate the different items. Reuse activities also took place in her project, like the necklaces made in Girls Club out of magazine sheets.

Morgan after her lecture on recycling at the school. But the main goal was to get several bins so that all these ideas got into practice. After decorating them, the Fun club was also devoted to trash picking and then sorting of it, an activity at which the kids showed all they had learned in the past weeks.

There are now recycling bins in the Sheynnee community, as well as the Government School in the village, where Morgan also gave a well-attended lecture about waste management to the kids. A basic lesson about resources and their potential unavailability in the future was also part of her project. As she puts it, “there’s lots of areas that need to be covered: recycling is important, but also sustainability, resources… more environmental issues will be covered when more interns arrive”.


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Quote for the Month

“I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent; Curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism, have brought me to my ideas.” - - - Albert Einstein