Tag Archives: Intern Experience

My Connection with Saath – Shashank Rakesh

Shashank Rakesh interned with Saath for 7 months and given below is his experience with Saath in his own words. IMG-20160212-WA0027

‘If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.’

This anonymous quote perfectly describes my journey at Saath from the beginning till the end. It started on May 2nd, 2015 with an orientation program led by Irbaaz and Kunal from the RDC i.e. the Research and Documentation Cell.

The orientation program started with a brief interaction with all the program co-ordinators. The nuances of each of the projects was nicely explained. After the interactions, visits to different program centres were made to have a better clarity. The two-day orientation program concluded with me getting into Saath Mahila Saving and Credit Co-operative Society, the rural micro-credit wing of Saath which is headed by Mr.Shyam Prakash Singh. It focuses on financial inclusion and empowerment of women in rural areas by providing them an opportunity to save a minimal amount every month. It also extends credit to these women members in joint liability as per their need.

It was one of the most exciting decision from the perspective of my position on the learning curve. I learnt a great deal out of it. The field visits to Viramgam, Dholka and Mandal helped me in understanding the problems at the grassroots. It also gave an insight into the operations of the organization which it undertakes in these areas. I met different people during these visits. Listening to their life stories, their problems, their aspirations for themselves and their family’s future would often give me an unexplainable feeling.

IMG-20160212-WA0021Shashank documenting case stories for Saath Mahila Cooperative

I made a great set of friends who became more like a family to me. I loved every moment of the office. When you get a lovely morning coffee from Shobhnaben as soon as you reach the office, you forget all the problems of your life. The motherly nature of Madhuben would often make me forget that I was a bit far from home. The interactions with Parulben used to be very interesting as she would tell me many things from her previous work and life experiences. She’s always ready to learn something which she didn’t know. The ever smiling Jayaben would fill me with positivity as she believed that things will happen no matter what but it becomes easy if you take everything with a smile. I learnt a great deal of professionalism by seeing Bellaben. She is a disciplinarian in and out.

I developed a special bonding with some people of Saath family. Shyambhai, Irbaazbhai, Kunalbhai, Vama and Shabya became very close. They shared every happiness with me. They were the people who I turned to for everything which I wanted to know. The growth from being a student to a small step towards being a professional was guided by these people. They acted as mentors. I got the insights of the rural India with my endless discussions with Shyambhai. He would tell me of the various problems of the financial sector in the villages and the possible solutions for it. He would talk about banking regulations, the changing business environment, the emerging challenges to the organization and the ways to make it growing.

Kunalbhai and Irbaazbhaifrom the Research and Documentation Cell can be simply be termed as ‘Tom and Jerry’ of Saath. They will tease each other, make fun of each other but can’t live without each other. Kunalbhai loves to talk. Give him a topic and he can talk endlessly. He has a very good command over Gujarati, Hindi and English. There are times when he would bring a unique term in Gujarati during a discussion to make his point which would make everyone to think. This art makes him one of the most loved guys in the organization. Irbaazbhai is a cracker in a nutshell. He looks calm and composed almost all the time but reality is the other way round. He loves to read and because of this passion, I could connect to him more often. He has an exceptional talent of writing. He can be seen running in the office all the time because of the work. But then, it is because of the dedication he shows in the work which is reflected everywhere and that garners respect.

Vama is the in-charge of the fund raising department of Saath. She is the woman with a plan all the time. She can be called as the Google of the organization as she knows everything and everyone in the field. Her innovative ideas of raising funds have been appreciated by everyone.

Shabya is one of the closest Bihari friends ever. She remains straight forward all the time. I have seen her ina chilled out mood most of the times. She is a passionate photographer at the same time.

I would like to thank each member of the Saath family to have me there. I would have missed a few names but they will always remain in my heart. There are a lot of things which I have learned over time but then it’s the relation with the people which keeps you going every day. It was a really great experience working with the entire team. I was really blessed to have each one of them.

Saath has always worked for the inclusive development of people. It stretched its arms and included me in their journey towards the making of a better world. May the organization achieve newer heights and spread its love to newer horizons.

I would like to sum it up in a quote, ‘life is a journey, with problems to solve, lessons to learn, but most of all, experiences to enjoy.’

Incredible India. Really!

Roman Ungern-Sternberg is from Germany, and Engineering and Business student who came to Saath in September – 2014. He volunteered with Saath for 4 months and given below is his experience with Saath in his own words

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India –That made me think about Gandhi, Spices and friendly people when I applied for Saath.

Before I left to India one friend who lived there told me: “India is polarizing. Either it spits you out or it will soak you in.”

It was my first time in an NGO and my first time in India. And I would do it again.

At the beginning Irbaaz and Kunal showed me all the programs. Thank you again for all the field visits and the possibility to discuss with the people in the field.

Problems seem easy to solve but when you dig deeper it turns out infinitely complicated. Of course the slum dwellers would like to live in brick walled houses, but giving up the livelihood, the neighborhood and all the social contacts for that? No, thanks.

And even if such a resettlement is financially possible the life in a multi-story house is completely different to that in a slum. How should you know how all the things work if you never have seen it.

This is the same like me and the Rickshaws. You first have to learn the trick for not being cheated.

 

Trust you need

Saath’s strength is definitely community building and help for self-help. All the field workers live for several years in the same society and gained the trust of the people, they know each other. This is a long process but the only way to get the trust and willingness of the people.

But actually this is not surprising, or do you trust a random guy coming to your house and telling you how to live a better life?

“A lack of trust and information make a lot of programs fail” explain my mentors Kunal and Irbaaz from RDC, “and to build this you need time”.

Nirman Curriculum

After that overview I started working for the Nirman program. The curriculum was developed with Bosch India Foundation and is up to date. However a certification of a national agency would increase the reputation of the course – and thus the income of the workers. This meant a lot of paperwork for me, but we are on a good way.

New Website and picture database

Additionally we worked on a new website for Saath. Updating the old webpage was complicated and often done by an external agency. This caused friction and time loss.

The whole RDC team worked on the new page, we got feedback from the other departments, wrote new content, contacted sponsors and selected pictures. The site is almost done, I hope it will be soon online.

We needed a lot of new pictures for the site. So we updated the picture database and created a workflow to file and tag pictures. Now they can be found fast and easily by all team members.

We developed a guide and trained everybody in hands on – which is often more effective than plain paper.

Fascinating NGO

Saath is fascinating. I am happy that I had my internship in an NGO and especially that it was Saath. I do understand a lot of thing much better now, thanks to the contact and discussion with the local people.

And India? At the beginning it was really different. Chaotic and loud but also colorful and incredibly friendly and positive.

Things go upwards and even if a situation seems hopeless: You always get a smile back. Definitely Germans are able to learn a thing or two from India.

If you relax, India will soak you in cordially.

A memorable experience with SAATH :)

 Stuti Wadhwa is currently pursuing her Media studies from Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communications. She did her summer internship with Saath’s Research, Documentation and Communication Cell and given below is her experience with Saath in her own words.

My internship with SAATH has been incredibly wonderful. I never expected it to 10380304_10201371538085286_8979842940923944221_n be so exciting. I made new friends, had wonderful mentors to guide me throughout and also got a lot of exposure to learn.The general working atmosphere here at SAATH is so good and family like that I could very easily get absorbed here. My internship was only 6 weeks long,but was sufficient to develop a wonderful bond with all the people here at SAATH. My internship started with a basic orientation about the programs being run by SAATH post which, I was taken to visit the centres so that I could understand each program better. I also interacted with the community people and that was like adding icing to the cake, as I got a chance to hear about their experience from them itself. I was initially given the job of documentation of annual report and designing of the brochure of SAATH. It was a big responsibility and I took it as a challenge to accomplish.Around two weeks later; I was told to volunteer for a yearlong campaign being run by SAATH called Meghdhanush.

I was excited and gave in my inputs for the launch of the campaign. I was eventually given the responsibility of organizing the event under the guidance of Ms.VamaRajpal and Mr.NirajJani. This was surely a big challenge. We first had to look for a venue and so, approached various hotels for the same. Courtyard Marriott agreed to sponsor us for the launch of the campaign and this was amazing news for all of us. I had also gone to another hotel and fortunately, received a positive response from there too. They told us that they wish to collaborate with us on a long term basis. This was a big achievement for SAATH as well as me, as I never expected that I could get sponsors for the event. It immensely helped boost my self- confidence. We then called the kids, and the entire SAATH team put in their heart and soul to teach them, so they could perform well on the d-day. Also, I along with a co-intern was given the duty of compering the event. I was glad as I have always loved compering and SAATH gave me an opportunity to do that.

DSC_0111Stuti hosting the Meghdhanush event

It felt great when the kids whom I was teaching dance, got a perfume for me. I was very touched as they all came from vulnerable households but still, they contributed and got this very precious gift for me. This made me feel so special and loved.

On the day of the event, all the kids gave breath-taking performances. We were all spellbound. The campaign ended on a positive note and was a big success for all of us as the guests appreciated our hard work. After the event, I again started working on the annual report and social media promotion and now, the day has come when I have to leave.

These six weeks have been very memorable and enjoyable for me. I have made great friends in just 6 weeks and also, have had such great mentors. I would specially like to thank Kunal Sir, Irbaaz, Vama Ma’am, Jenny Ma’am, Niraj Sir and Keren Ma’am for being there to guide me throughout. I am also grateful to my fellow interns for giving me a wonderful surprise on my birthday and for making it so special. I never expected my internship to be so good.

I personally feel that SAATH is contributing wonderfully to the society; particularly to the underprivileged and downtrodden, and I felt vastly privileged to have got an opportunity to make my humble contribution to the society.

Even though my internship has formally come to an end, I would forever be there to assist SAATH wherever I can.

Entrancing Experience at Saath, Nihal Bhatt

Nihal Bhatt is an engineering student currently studying at Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University. He did his internship with Saath last month. Given below is his experience of working with Saath.

My working with Saath was compelling and exhilarating beyond doubt. The short tenure of 24 days from 15th May till 7th June at Saath inculcated new DSC00832_20140613182038212spirit and approach of thinking in me. Our college, Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University provided a platform to improve our social and interpersonal skills through an internship and Saath changed it into reality. The experience to explore the slum dwelling areas and the underprivileged people was quite engaging and worth a consideration.

On the first day of internship, all the interns were given a synopsis of all the programs at Saath. The field visits to slum dwelling areas motivated me to do something for a social cause. The initiatives by Saath act as a flame to ignite spirit to aid the needful.

I was allocated the department of Research, Documentation and Communication Cell (RDC) and Saath Livelihood Services (SLS). Both of the departments helped in improving my designing talent, innovative thinking and analyzing skills. I was given a task to design the Annual Report and the Saath Brochures. It was rather a slow and uphill task to think out of the box keeping in mind the constraints. I got assistance from the RDC team and fellow interns during the job, which made it simpler. It took lots of effort to prepare the designs, but at the end the results were pleasurable.

20140517_111308Nihal with the CFS Juhapura centre children

The most valuable experience I got at Saath was to visit the CFS (Child Friendly Spaces) center and Nirman Center. CFS is a program spearheaded by Saath to help the small poor kids. They are provided with quality education at the CFS centers. Nirman is a program to skill the unemployed poor men. They are skilled as electrician, plumber and masons. It was good to see a 10th grade passed man to repair a table fan and a 7th grade failed man to fix the hot water geyser.

I was contented with my work as I was indirectly dropping my sweat for the needful. It was worthwhile experience to work with the team of Saath. I even made new friends from various colleges who came in as interns. The short tenure of work helped me in improving my intellectual skills.                                                                                                                                                                                      I am thankful to Saath to make me aware of the outer world that faces difficulties each day. The days I spent at Saath will be etched in my mind forever. The experience was truly valuable and I appreciate all the endeavors spearheaded by Saath. I would like to express gratitude to all the officials of Saath for their hospitability. It was a precious experience to work with the whole team.

3 months with Saath: Sam Bowers

Intro: Sam is from UK and is currently studying Masters in International Development from Utrecht University, Netherlands. He spent three months with Saath doing his research on the ‘Male Youth Experiences in the slum’ and given below is his experience in his own words.

My internship with Saath has been a truly unforgettable experience. I worked P1120555with the organisation from February-May 2014, conducting research for my Master’s thesis. My research focused on the experiences of male youth in slum communities in Ahmedabad, and how this can be used to inform and shape effective youth and gender policy and programmes. Saath’s youth programme – Youth Force – provided me with an ideal platform through which to talk to young men in the city, to hear their stories, and understand their views and perceptions.

Living in Ahmedabad was a little daunting at first, but I soon settled into this friendly, welcoming, and undoubtedly vivacious city. From the stunning ancient architecture and melting pot of cultures in the old city, to the high-rises, malls and cosmopolitan feel of the new city, it’s a place where contemporary India’s identity can really be felt. This was my first time in India, and I don’t think I could have chosen a better place to start. Ahmedabad, despite being a rambling metropolis of almost 7 million people, retains the mentality and charms of a small city.

I started my time here with an orientation in Saath’s various programmes, all of which demonstrate a high level of initiative, transparency, and accountability. I have been thoroughly impressed with the wide range of successful programmes the organisation operates. Following this, I was introduced to Abhishek, one of Youth Force’s local facilitators, who acted as my research assistant and translator. I am extremely grateful for all of his hard work, dedication and patience with me throughout the research process, I could not have done it without him!

My research involved in-depth interviews with young male members of Youth Force. It was a lengthy process, including some awkward moments when discussing women and gender, but overall it allowed me to gain a fascinating and invaluable insight into the lives and experiences of those I spoke to. Due to the demographic studied I was also given a real point for personal reflection. Presenting my research to various members of staff and youth leaders from across the state was most enjoyable and insightful; it’s been a while since one of my presentations has had such a captive and interested audience!

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Celebrating Holi with Youth Force

Alongside the research for my thesis, my time with Saath has also given me so much more. I’ve gained valuable professional and personal experience, made some great friends, and had the opportunity to visit some wonderful places and eat some fantastic food. Gujarati ice-cream was a particular highlight!

I’d like to thank everyone at Saath for making me feel so welcome and happy during my time in Ahmedabad, and especially Irbaaz for taking care of so many practical issues that I could never have begun to figure out alone! Additionally, I had the good fortune to be a part of Saath’s inspiring 25th anniversary celebrations, on which I would like to congratulate and commend them. While I’m excited for the next stage of my journey (four weeks travelling across India), I will miss my time here, and greatly look forward to my next visit!

Sam has his own blog about his time in India and if you would like to read more, here’s the link to his blog:

http://fourmonthsinthejewel.blogspot.in/