Former Volunteers Reflect on the Impact Volunteering With DGS Has Had on Them
This year sees Deep Griha Celebrate 30 years of receiving volunteers from overseas. To celebrate, in August, we posted a number of quotes from our voluminous visitors books, filled in by previous volunteers. This article prompted a number of former Deep Griha volunteers to reflect on their time volunteering here and how it impacted their later life...
Imane Laasri and Vicente De La Cruz
My boyfriend and I valued our experience whilst at DGS, working with people from different cultures and backgrounds and also continue to value it back home. It was an enriching experience. Nowadays companies value this kind of experience a lot because it proves our sense of commitment, devotion and determination.
Happy anniversary to Deep Griha Society and best regards to all the wonderful staff.
Ricardo Buxo, Spain
In 2009, after working 10 years non-stop in a tourist business of mine here in Indonesia, I decided to take a few months off and do some travelling. My first stop was Mumbai and then Pune, where I spent over a month doing yoga at the Iyengar Institute. During this month I volunteered at Deep Griha Society, taking care of little children from 6 months to 2 years in the crèche every day from Monday to Saturday from 9 until 2 pm. At the end of my stay I began sponsoring a young fellow, Waibau, who I still sponsor.
After that I travelled to Rajastan and Rishikesh in India, and later to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, visiting numerous places and tourist attractions. Of all the experiences I had, the volunteering in Pune with you guys was one of the most rewarding and the one that I have the fondest memories of.
I worked voluntarily with Deep Griha Society for around 7 months in 2008 and 2009. I had several opportunities to contribute in HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns in Pune and also represented my college, Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce, in some similar programs. As a foreigner, working with DGS, where I had come a long distance from Afghanistan for my higher education, offered me fantastic exposure in discovering new things along with my academic findings in India.
Today I am working with an NGO called Voice of Women Organization in Afghanistan. My Deep Griha experiences continue to assist me in performing better in my job.
Many years ago I visited Sangam with 30 guides to do 10 days community work and then visit the South of India. It was my first visit and I didn't know any of the party I was travelling with. On the second day we visited Deep Griha. We had 15 stations in the room upstairs for the children to come to. 300 in the morning and 300 in the afternoon. On my table we were letting the children make boomerangs as they had no toys. Others were singing and playing games. One little boy could not see well and he came to stand near my table. I realised he could not see and saw he had a blind left eye. "Let me take you to the office and get some help for you." So off we went to knock on Dr Onawale's office door. That was the first of many visits to the Centre. God works in a mysterious way his wonders to perform. Why else would the little 7 year old come and stand near me, I was the only Optometrist in the building. My husband and I had worked with the VAO( Vision Aid Overseas) in Uganda three months before I visited India and Neela asked me to bring a team of Optometrists to conduct examinations and give out spectacles to the nearest prescription. We referred diseased eyes to an Opthalolgist. We used to see between 2,000 and 3,000 people in around 2 weeks. The teams still come today. In 2000 I put in a clinic so people could have help any day.
Has it altered me? Of course, what a wonderful opportunity to help these people. I have been fundraising for years and still do. I now live in New Zealand but I hope to walk up those 40 steps to the eye clinic in July, God willing. We all have memories but it is the fun and joy I see in the eyes of every child I see in some of the poorest places of our world that I treasure. God bless you all and thank you for all your help in that special place, Deep Griha, for it is special people who have the honour of working there.
I, along with 2 other of my friends completed a 4 week internship training with DGS in the year 2007 as a part of my academic requirement at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. The team was very helpful in providing us with all the information to help us study and understand the work culture there. It helped me grow as an individual and grow my aspirations to contribute in a concrete manner to the social/development sector.
It was great to hear about Deep Grihas 30th Anniversary of receiving volunteers because I've been thinking a lot about my time at DGS and in Pune lately! I was a volunteer with DISHA from June 2008 until March 2009. My time there was wonderful professionally, after being stuck inside an office at a big urban American university for several years. Just to get out and see the real world that I spent so much time in my previous work studying from afar (I was an HIV/AIDS behavioural researcher). It gave me such an appreciation for the work that goes on at DGS and in DISHA specifically because I was able to see (and hopefully contribute to in some small way) all the wonderful work they do with comparatively limited resources compared to what we tend to have at our disposal in the U.S. research community. And they did all this great work with so much passion and empathy and love! It really inspired me to work harder and to take less for granted in my professional life.
Deep Griha remains infused the work I do now with a much more enlightened sense of how connected the world is. I think more globally now and my work is really informed by an understanding of how global inequalities are created and transferred - and also who benefits from them and who doesn't. Being able to be a part of the work that DGS is doing helped to make the world more real for me. This helped to make the work I'm doing in my life now all the more meaningful.
I would say that where I got the most out of my time at DGS was in the personal side of my life. I felt like I grew and matured and changed in tremendously positive ways because of the experiences I had there. Living in India is not easy. It's strange and frustrating and sometimes downright infuriating, but it's also magical and wonderful and exhilarating all at the same time. I learned how strong and independent I really was. I learned to appreciate the small things in life - a cup of chai after a long day, a kind word or gesture from Auntie, the fun of trying to pile four people into the back of a rickshaw. I learned how important it is for my soul to really live life, instead of just going through the paces. I really came to value friendships with the people who became like family to me there in ways that I'm not sure I would have if we hadn't been learning and growing and challenging each other through our time at DGS. The friends and colleagues I became close to during my 10 months as a volunteer have changed my life and my perspective tremendously. I felt like for probably the first time in my life, I met people who were as committed to certain issues as I was and who lived with a similar philosophy. Now, even two years since I left Pune, those same people continue to inspire me with all the awesome things they are doing! And they continue to be some of my closest friends.
I'm now a 2nd year PhD student studying Medical Sociology at the University of California in San Francisco, and a researcher at the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, also in San Francisco. My experience at DGS has helped me to approach the research work I am doing now from a much broader perspective and to stay grounded in the real world. I can't help but see the world through fresh eyes after my time in India and I try to hold onto this and bring these memories and experiences into the academic work I do now. I don't think I would be as committed to the work I do now, much of it still in the HIV/AIDS field, if not for that time in my life.
Undoubtedly the most wonderful thing that I've taken away from my time as a DGS volunteer is that during my time in Pune and through a former DGS employee, Rujuta Teredesai, and two other DGS volunteers, Paul Heron and Nina Buchmann, I met my husband-to-be there! Tim and I met in August of 2008 through these mutual friends at an impromptu DGS volunteer gathering at Ivy Wine Bar in Bund Garden (unfortunately, I think it's now since closed). He was working at Extentia Information Technology with Paul and Nina. Three years later, we are planning to be married in the UK in September of this year! Because DGS and the people I met there were so integral in us meeting, they will always have a very special place in my heart and Pune will always feel like a second home to us. We are looking forward to travelling back to Pune next year after our wedding and we hope to bring our future children with us one day to see the people and places that are so important to us. I'm hoping one day our kids might volunteer with DGS and perhaps they will be there to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the volunteer program!