Tag Archives: volunteering with Saath

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.


Harpreet is currently studying MBA in Tech – Civil from NMIMS. He was an intern with Saath for 1 month and worked with Saath’s Nirman Programme and RDC Department.

Given below is his experience with Saath in his own words

“The decision of me joining SAATH for doing internship has become one of the most worthy and important decisions in my life that truly paid off well. By joining SAAIMG_0674TH I got the chance to learn things, I wasn’t aware only of. At SAATH, I went for field visits and by them, I realized that the belief that our nation as a whole is growing every day is completed incorrect, only a sections of the society are developing, not all. Some people still struggle for their daily necessities every day just so that they can survive. Even toilets, clothes, food and shelter are not available for all.

On the first day of internship, I just thought of SAATH of just being like other NGO’s who just take so many initiatives and hardly fulfill very few of them. But gradually as my internship carried on, I realized that SAATH was very different from other NGO’s. Each member is SAATH is very active and very dedicated to his work. When time passed by I truly understood that why do people respect SAATH very much, and I am very proud to be a part of it.


Harpreet on the right with the RDC team

The working atmosphere at SAATH is very friendly as well as professional. No staff member is to be seen wasting time, but all of them are always there to help with our doubts without any hesitation. Though I was there for only some but still I was treated very well. A special thanks to the RDC Department for taking me as an intern in their prestigious organization.”

Sharing an Experience

A student from Le Lycee International, France teaching a child labourer how to make puppets

Nadege is one of the students from Le Lycee International School, France who carried out activities with child labourers, who are a part of the Child Friendly Spaces programme. The programme aims at reconnect child labourers with education. It also works with parents and employers to help facilitate change within this systemic problem.

‘The project we chose to do for the child labor activity was the construction of puppets. We gathered kids who were around 5 to 10 years old, and asked each to build a puppet with the cloth that we provided. At first, many of them did not dare take material, and they would just stay still, watching us with eyes that seemed both frightened and intrigued. This struck me as extremely different from the experience that we had with the MGIS children. We did the same project with MGIS kids who were exactly the same age as these child laborers, but the MGIS children dived into the activity right away, at first constantly asking for help, and then gaining confidence as they understood what they had to do and how.

These slum kids, however, never asked for any help; they wouldn’t look around searching for a color that they liked, but took the closest cloth to them on the floor. I was moved by some of the children’s creativity and attention to details. Something that I found difficult was mostly my inability to communicate with them by using words.

It changes everything – in a way, it’s harder, but in the same time, it forces us to focus on understanding how they think. I was surprised to see how different their dispositions were – some were happy and enthusiastic, whereas others, such as this one girl who came both days, refused to smile, and I just felt torn because apart if I were to spend months with her, there was nothing – or at least not enough – that I could do in a single afternoon to bring a smile upon her face. This entire experience is really anchored inside me now, and it only makes me want to come back and do more. I think that out of all the projects, it is the one that I enjoyed the most, because it felt true and useful, a real emotional exchange between these children and us. Even if what we tried to bring was not much, it may still change some things for these kids, and hopefully some of them will rise and escape into a brighter future.’

A demain !