Travel, Volunteer, Youth

In the Footsteps of Change: My Volunteering experience in India

“Train your mind to see the good in everything” -Paul Walker 

Starting with the late veteran actor Paul Walker’s quote gives me more strength and motivation to pursue whatever I’m engaged in. It is like a lamp post that clears the way. As he had mentioned in the quote, I really wanted to gradually learn to see the good in everything rather than complaining about the things that  are not happening merely as we wish. In the journey of developing my mindset, I have encountered a big barricade that stops me from doing things. It is me being afraid to walk out of my comfort zone. At some point, I felt like I was not doing well enough and I was not pushing my limits. That is where the idea of volunteering popped up in my mind. Volunteering is a completely new venture for me and also I got the gut feeling that it will be a  novel challenge for me to test my inner strengths and weaknesses as well. Therefore, I applied for a six-week volunteer project via AIESEC in University of Peradeniya. I got the opportunity to volunteer with project Skill Up at the We Can We Will Foundation in Mumbai, India.

My first day at We Can We Will foundation  

Reflecting on my first day at foundation, it was an unforgettable memory for me. I was accompanied by my  good friend Sudhanshu from AIESEC in Mumbai at D.N. Nagar metro  station.

First day in India

After travelling in the metro my friend and I came to the foundation premises by a rickshaw. At first when I was  entering the foundation premises my first sight was some kids. They were doing various kinds of  activities. Some of them were reading books, some were playing small games and some were just going  here and there with happy faces. There, I came into realization on that very first day at We Can We Will foundation. That was the realization that  this was the place where I started seeing the very first sprouts of the seeds of my desire to work at a  foundation which were planted in my mind a long time ago.

Teaching underprivileged children

Teaching children at We Can We Will foundation

Teaching was not something I could ever do and it was not in my blood. That’s what I used to think  about teaching. But in reality I came into realization of the beauty of teaching. On the very first day of my  teaching I realized one important fact. It is as a teacher you get to see child psychology very well. It  can expand the way you look at the world. 

The very first student I had to do an English lesson was a kid called Siddharth. He was a very special  student due to two main reasons. First, he was like an Ice Breaker for me and secondly, he was the very  first student who obediently and actively engaged with me throughout the lesson. Even though his lessons  were not a big challenge for me as he was small and still learning basics in English I realized that was where  the real challenge begins. The challenge was how far I can get into the mindset of this student. I knew  without doing so I would not be a good teacher for him. 

Food Distribution

Food distribution at We Can We Will foundation

Food distribution was actually one of my favourite activities during the stay as it was all about giving  something without expecting anything in turn. It is human nature to give something meanwhile  expecting something in turn. But while engaging in food distribution at We Can We Will I felt more  happiness in giving as I could do it wholeheartedly without expecting anything in turn.

When I was at the food distribution on the first day I was almost soaked in water and my shoes were so  drenched as well. I was kind of discouraged about whether I can continue this great activity if the pouring would  continue every day. But slowly I started to see the good in that activity as it opens avenues to  give food for free for the people in need, meanwhile practicing teamwork. Then I started to gradually feel  the happiness I can have. 

Challenges I faced

This was the first time I have been to India. As a Sri Lankan, India was not much different to my eyes as  there were similar characteristics. However, as a first time traveler I had to undergo several aspects of  cultural shock in the first few days. Anyways as a person who was willing to take challenges I wanted to  grind through all the barricades coming in front of me.

Language barrier:

When I started working in the organization I did not feel much trouble with reference to language. The staff communicated to me in English and also most of the students were able to communicate in English. But sometimes there are situations where I felt if I knew the native language Hindi I could have made my explanations more precise and easily comprehensible for the students because at times I felt like for some students teaching in English is not much convenient for them.

Dealing with different age groups:

One of the very first doubts I got at first when I joined the organization was to which age group of students  I’m supposed to teach and what kind of level I should focus on when teaching them English. Even though I could have referred to other subjects, read them,  learnt them and in turn taught them I expressed my desire to teach English and also French if any student  asked me to. Because I knew by selecting only to teach them English and French would lead me to exert  my level best to give my maximum output to the children.

By that way I could overcome the number of  lines I have to draw based on the various age groups as learning a language is not much age specific and  it can start at any age and improve more at any age. By that nature of languages I could bring all the age  groups into one platform. Yes of course, I made some arrangements and decided on what to teach for each  student based on their level of comprehension and also their convenience.  

As most people do, on the very first days I was new to the environment and then I was a little hopeless. But thanks to Mr. Rishikesh, other staff and children; they welcomed me in a warm  manner and introduced me very well to this new lifestyle. And gradually it started to feel like home rather  than just another working place.

Every new beginning leads to new things. And also every new start has an end. In the same way, my days  as a volunteer at We Can We Will Foundation are going to end today but the things I learnt and the  network I built will go with me for a long time.  It is more of an  optimistic way to face any tough circumstances and grind harder than before. So, these three weeks  at the We Can We Will Foundation also helped me to practically apply it to an extent and prove to myself  the power of seeing things positively.


Ayush De Zoysa

Exchange Participant

AIESEC in University of Peradeniya


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