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