Volunteered: May 2011 - October 2011
Programme: DISHA/ Volunteer Coordinator
I first lived in Pune for 5 months in 2005/6, I lived at Sangam World Centre (an international Girlguiding training centre) and volunteered at Anandgram, a school at a leprosy rehabilitation centre. During this stay in Pune I also visited Deep Griha and learnt about their work. Five years later when I was looking to return to India and gain experience with an NGO, I remembered Deep Griha and applied to volunteer with them. I also had some friends back in the UK who had previously volunteered with Deep Griha and recommended the organisation to me.
When I applied to volunteer at Deep Griha I was interested in DISHA (Deep Griha’s Integrated Service for HIV and AIDS) and the Women’s Empowerment programme, however I was open to working where ever I could be of most use. I realised that it was difficult to be involved with the Women’s Empowerment programme because of the language barriers. Even though I speak some Hindi, I only speak very few words of Marathi, and the sessions are mostly run in Marathi. However, this did not mean that there weren’t a whole plethora of other opportunities for me to be involved with! In my first few weeks I spent the mornings in the crèches helping out the babies, which always kept you on your toes. The babies in the crèches don’t wear nappies so you always had to have one eye on the floor! In the afternoons I was helping out with anything that needed to be done. Soon I was helping Kassie out with her Wake Up Pune coordinator responsibilities, and I like to think we made a pretty good team! We ran boot camps (HIV awareness sessions) together for corporate companies, new Wake Up Pune volunteers and at a couple of drug rehabilitation programmes. We also organised a big HIV awareness event at one of the shopping/entertainment complexes in the city and worked, along with many other volunteers to make the Melava + 2011 a very successful event (a matrimonial event for those living with HIV)! I also spent some time teaching the DISHA ladies English, attending other Wake Up Pune awareness events, and lots more! In August, it was sadly time for Kassie to head back to the States to begin her PhD and so I took over as volunteer coordinator. This role has a lot of responsibilities, but looking back I can say that I really appreciated being given the opportunity to take on this role, and I learnt a lot from it. From meeting and greeting prospective, and newly arrived volunteers, to trying to be a fountain of knowledge about Deep Griha for all the volunteers and helping with their orientation into Indian life and Deep Griha, it was a fun role! During my 5 months with Deep Griha it was fantastic to see new volunteers arrive, settle in and get really involved in everything that goes on and immerse themselves into Indian life.
Some of my highlights during my time at Deep Griha include; choreographing and performing a dance to a Bollywood track – Zoobi Doobi for the 36th Birthday Celebrations, being involved with the planning and implementation of the DISHA and Wake Up Pune Melava + event, and an HIV awareness event at a big shopping and entertainment complex, meeting Jay Sean (a British Asian pop star!) at Sahara, an NGO associated with Deep Griha, who he was visiting whilst on tour in India, and also being visited in our office every day by one of the DISHA ladies 4 year old daughter, Rama, every day at 5pm when she left her crèche!
It is difficult to write about everything I have done during my time at Deep Griha, but I can honestly say that my five months with Deep Griha were amazing; I have been involved with so many programmes, activities and worked with some fantastic people who have so much passion for what they are doing. From the first day I felt very welcomed by everyone at Deep Griha, not only the staff there but also the other volunteers and those from the communities where Deep Griha works. The work that Deep Griha does is so heart warming and a great many people benefit from all of the different programmes. This was my fourth visit to Pune, and I’m sure it will not be my last. I shall be visiting again soon, and I will always remember my time at Deep Griha, thank you!