This is an excerpt of a blog written by a Pravah ICS volunteer, Kirsty Campbell
I’ve discovered a lot about myself while I’ve been here. I’ve discovered a lot about my likes and dislikes, what I’m not as enthusiastic about and what I’m really passionate about. I’ve discovered that building relationships with people is something that comes quite easily to me and the bonds I do make with people are always quite strong. I’ve discovered that I can quite easily adapt to a different way of life and have found it really easy to fit into the lifestyle here, so much so my host family and Indian counterpart call me ‘Indian girl’. I’ve discovered a lot about how unhappy I am at home and have had the opportunity to think about this and think about how I can change this. I’ve discovered what kind of direction I want my life to go in, and although that isn’t specific at the moment I think this journey has helped to ground me and has given me the push I needed to focus more on what things are important to me.
One of the things that have challenged me the most while I’ve been here is the language. Before coming here I had no idea about the Hindi language and had never even heard of Mewadi, so being in a community where most people speak only Mewadi and a little bit of Hindi has definitely proved as a problem. It’s made building relationships with people slightly more difficult and has been frustrating for me when I can’t interact with someone in the way I want to. As well as just being challenging when trying to communicate with members of the community, it’s also been a strain within the team I’m working in. When half of the team speaks English and the other half speak Hindi as a first language it can be really difficult to get a point across and there have been many times where what we’re saying has been lost in translation or just can’t be translated. Again this has meant that building relationships have been challenging, but after the first few weeks of being here the language barrier stopped being as much of a problem, we now try harder to translate everything so that everyone’s included. I’ve also found as time goes on that I don’t necessarily need language to communicate with another person, so much of what we say is translated into our body language and expressions if I focus on this instead of what people are saying it makes interacting so much easier. I think I can take this experience with me where ever I go and I’ll be a lot more confident speaking to someone who doesn’t share a language with me.
I don’t think I could list all of the things I’ll take away from the Pravah ICS experience. I’ve gained so much knowledge about myself and also about other people. I’ve learnt so much about culture and tradition, how other people treat these and also what cultures and traditions are important to me. I’ve learnt a lot about how other people live, what makes them happy and what they think about the world, and in turn compared these things to my own life. I’ve gained beautiful friendships with from my team and from the community, the I’ve met through this experience is what’s made it so incredible. I’ve learnt to challenge myself and my way of thinking, without learning to do this I would’ve never been able to take away as much as I am.
There are a lot of differences to the way I previously looked at things and to the way I look at them now. Another example of me asking why I was looking at something a certain way is when we held our first Community Action Day (CAD) and everyone asked us to dance at the end. I really didn’t want to dance and it made me feel so uncomfortable so in the end, I sat it out. Looking at it after, I asked myself why it made me feel so uncomfortable, was it just because I hate dancing or was it actually because I really lack the confidence to dance. There, going forward I was able to challenge myself and try to dance more, building up my confidence a little bit at the same time. It was my programme supervisor Logan who pushed me to ask why and who pushed me to look at things differently, therefore Pravah ICS played a massive role in changing my outlook.
I’ve built many relationships within the community, some that are stronger than others. I’ve built a brilliant relationship with my host family and will miss them so much. With there being no men in the home, the women have taught me how to be strong and independent and I really admire how hard they work every day and how constantly loving they are despite their tiredness. In addition to this, I have built good relationships within my team and more specifically within my counterparts. They have taught me a lot about friendship how good company can make so much of a difference to your happiness
My understanding of development has been vastly broadened by Pravah ICS and my experience here. It’s taught me a lot about the different kinds of development there are and how to recognise development no matter how small it may seem. In my first few weeks here, I found it difficult to understand why we were just wandering around the village, not really doing anything. However, now I know that the relationships we made ‘wandering around the village’ were the biggest development steps. The development here isn’t about changing the way a whole village think in three months, even if a handful of individuals question their own way of thinking that’s brilliant development. For example, when we did our first Community Action Day (CAD) based on cleanliness it wasn’t as if suddenly the whole village stopped dropping their rubbish and started making sure the streets as clean. However, a few days after the CAD, I saw an old man cleaning the area just outside of this house, I only saw him do it for a couple of seconds before he scuttled into his house embarrassed, but it felt as if by seeing him cleaning, everything we’d done at the CAD had been a massive success and what he’d shown me was development.
While I’ve been here I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I want to do when I go home. I left my job to come here because I decided that my job didn’t make me happy and it wasn’t actually something I wanted to do. Pravah ICS has made me really think about what I want to do when I get home, whether I want to go back and get another job or go back and study something.
Everything I’ve thought of has been related somewhat to what I’m doing here, I’ve enjoyed my time so much here and I’d love to do something similar when I get back. I’ve also thought a lot about moving away from the village I’ve stayed in my whole life. I’ve been independent for years but feel as if this experience has definitely pushed me to think about living away from where my family are and potentially making a home somewhere else.
(Kirsty Campbell volunteered with Pravah ICS from January – April 2017 and was placed with partner organisation Jatan Sansthan in District Rajsamand.)