One month of preparations: getting excited about my next life, packing, putting things in and out of my suitcase, visiting friends and family to say bye, explaining what I will be doing without really knowing… And “PAF!” here I am in India, for a two weeks training, before the start of my mission in Myanmar. Times goes slow and really fast at the same time!
Saturday morning, 10 days have passed. I’m sitting on the doorstep of the volunteer house in Barauda, India. It’s a small village, the neighborhood’s cows are nonchalantly walking past the house, there is a soft morning breeze, the birds are peeping, and the bright orange sun is slowly rising on the horizon. The sounds of the hectic road in the distance are there to remind me of the first few days spent in the city centre. A mix of loud noises, horns, alarms, cars, trucks, rickshaws, and many, many motorbikes! The ladies are starting their daily routines, walking by on the dirt road, running their little errands, dressed in the most colorful Saris. What a sight! It seems to me like a quite impractical attire, but it must be a question of habit, as they are apparently quite at ease! The air is quite dry and there is a constant smog floating around because of the local minerals and sand extraction for the cement factories. From the rooftop, I have a wider overview of the surroundings. The main road and the city’s buildings in the distance, a few houses around. Welcome to India, it’s going to be another beautiful and hot day!
In the past two weeks, I have met the some amazingly generous and incredible people. As I arrived a few days before the start of the training, I took advantage to visit the area and meet people. I went on a motorbike trip to visit an open-air museum with Aviral, a friend met on Couchsurfing. I visited the colorful, noisy, and incredibly smelly market! The fragrances mix and don’t necessarily match! I smell the spices, the fried food, the chai, mixed with the rotting food directly thrown on the ground, the cows’ dung and all sorts of unidentified trash… The place is lively, a mix of large streets, very busy and noisy and tiny alleyways, where the atmosphere is much more relaxed and less chaotic! Many vendors and passers by greet me and ask where I’m from, how they can help, what I’m doing in this remote city in the middle of India where not many tourists come, and of course if I want to take a selfie with them… it is super nice and I feel so special, but in the meantime, I really stand out and there is no way I can go unnoticed!!! The next day I meet Milee and Raj, two friends that offered via Couchsurfing to show me their city and to give me a good first impression of India. Milee took me around another market to buy some Indian style clothing, it felt good to have a local with me to help me choose!! Then Raj joined us, and we went on a city tour. We had such a nice time that they invited me to spend the next day at their house! They cooked a delicious meal, we dressed up in beautiful Saris and took many pictures… Indian style photo-shoot and hospitality! Just a wonderful experience. Definitely outside of my comfort zone and yet so exciting and enriching!
This first introduction to India helped me overcome my apprehensions and reconcile with a country that I had denied up till now! I am not yet very comfortable with the extreme differences between rich and poor, the unorganized general feeling, the dust, the trash… but I have a beautiful image of generosity, colours, friends and hospitality that help me deal with the strong feelings!
After these few days settling in in Raipur, I finally met the other Volunteers with whom I will be working for the coming year(s)! On Sunday I moved from the city centre of Raipur to the Countryside, where the volunteer house and the Green Village are located. And from then started a full-on training, to prepare me and the other new volunteers for our missions. I am the only one going to Myanmar as it will be a new project (there are 3 other people in Yangon already, so I won’t be alone!) and I will be doing the settling and prospection for the opening of a local Green Village. The other new volunteers will be going to Nepal or staying in India. The trainers come from the projects around Asia (Vietnam, India, Nepal…). Meeting them all and spending this time together was such a good way to start my mission with a positive and energetic mindset! Getting to know each other, understanding the ins and outs of the project, learning how to work together, understanding the way the NGO works was very intense and extremely empowering! I am ready to start!!
Part of the training took part in the Green Village itself (the GV). There we had the opportunity to meet and exchange with all the local and international volunteers as well as with the Youths that are taking part in the program. And this is such a lesson of humility. As we step out of the car and enter the GV, we are welcomed by a flow of “Hello, coach!”, “Good morning, coach!” and firm, professional handshakes from smiling and enthusiastic youths! They just entered in the last phase of their training program and they are starting to look for a job! The project lasts 3 months. Between the moment they joined the GV residential program and now, they created a micro-company, they worked for the micro-companies within the GV and got a positive, successful work experience, they learned how to make a Resume, how to look for a job and how to handle a job interview, they improved their English and Computer skills, and last but not least, they learned how to behave in a professional way. They are all very well dressed in their professional attire (shirt and pants – unfortunately the colorful Saris are not considered professional!), and extremely proud to show us, new volunteers, around, their resume and to brag about the potential work interviews they will have in the coming days. What an energizing and encouraging encounter! Seeing the impact of the project on these youths, that would otherwise not have access to a decent job, is such a heart-warming experience! The image that comes to my mind is that LP4Y helps excluded youths climb on the first step of the professional ladder that they could not even dream of touching had they not taken the opportunity and the decision to change their lives and join the program. It makes me so happy and proud to know that I will contribute to help and make a difference!