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Volunteering at ASA

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									                                           Emma Fromant 2009 (5 months)                                               Madhya Pradesh offers plenty of interesting things to see and do,
                                                                                                                      just with the added bonus of no western tourists, which makes it all
                                           Whilst in my final year of university I received an email offering an
Volunteering                               opportunity to volunteer with ASA. The first thing that caught my eye
                                           was the wide range of roles that they could offer to their volunteers.
                                                                                                                      the more special.


at ASA                                     After looking into what ASA actually does I soon found out that unlike
                                           popular „gap-year‟ organisations, they are not out to make money
                                           from volunteer placements, but is genuinely a development organisa-
In the words of                            tion that valued it‟s volunteers research and work. After a professional
                                           interview process I was selected for the 5 month placement.
past volunteers...
                                           Originally I applied for the marketing and PR role as at the time I was
                                           looking for a future career in this field. However between the time of
                                           applying and reaching Bhopal I had had a change of heart and since I
                                           had specialised in watershed processes throughout my BSc Geogra-
                                           phy degree I thought it would be a great opportunity to apply my
                                           knowledge. I was pleased to find out during the orientation at the start
                                           of the placement that ASA are flexible with project areas and more
                                           than happy to adhere with the skills and knowledge I already have.         All in all my time at ASA has been very rewarding and has helped
                                                                                                                      me to determine which career direction to head in when I return to
                                           After much reading about the development schemes that ASA imple-
                                           ments and type of projects previous volunteers have carried out, I         the UK, whilst giving me a very valuable experience that will stay
                                           decided I would conduct an impact assessment on how check dams             with me forever. A placement at ASA is ideal for those looking for a
                                           have improved farming practices and quality of life in the poor rural      future career in international development, the environmental sector
                                           area of Jhabua. After creating a formal proposal and a plan of how to      or sustainable development. This volunteer experience will be
                                           collect data in the field I was ready to conduct two weeks worth of        invaluable for your CV and self development.
                                           household questionnaires and focus group meetings in order to gain
                                           enough information to create a sufficient assessment that will be
                                           published as an ASA document. The team members of ASA have
                                           given me much guidance and allowed me to take responsibility of my         Ben Redmond 2009 (5 months)
                                           own project. This is a fantastic opportunity as having only just gradu-
                                           ated it is near impossible to get this kind of experience in the UK        After completing my degree in Environmental Science, I decided that I
                                           without already having some work experience!                               wanted to move towards a career in the Development Sector. The 5
                                                                                                                      month ASA placement seemed to be an ideal opportunity to gain
                                           As well as this main research project I took part in smaller PR and
 ASA have been receiving volunteers        marketing jobs and other administration jobs. There is a lot to be done
                                                                                                                      experience and contribute in a meaningful way to the charity. Its
                                                                                                                      approach of resource management and institution building seemed
 from the UK since 1999. This has pro-     within the NGO and all the staff members are already very busy with        well suited to my qualifications. It also stood out from the wide range
                                           their own jobs, so it can sometimes mean quiet times for the volun-
 vided us the experience of organising     teers. This might feel unproductive at the time, but be patient and
                                                                                                                      of volunteer schemes available as a small organization, directly tack-
                                                                                                                      ling local issues through a participatory, sustainable approach.
 and facilitating placements and meet-     everything will get done in the end!
 ing the needs of volunteers. The de-      Living in Bhopal and working for ASA can sometimes be challenging,
                                                                                                                      The time I have spent here in Bhopal has been highly rewarding.
                                                                                                                      From day to day life in an Indian office to exploring the city and travel-
 scriptions of previous volunteers times   but to get through the harder times makes it all the more rewarding.       ing further a field. The most challenging and the most satisfying period
 at ASA are presented here...              There is a great volunteer coordinator that gives you as much support      so far has been spent in the field. The demands of conducting re-
                                           as he can and all the staff members are extremely friendly, this is        search in a foreign environment, language and culture are far out
                                                                                                                      weighed by the hospitality of staff and other local people. The oppor-
                                           comforting when times get tough. It is also a unique opportunity to live
                                                                                                                      tunity to visit rural communities and meet farmers was also valuable. It
                                           in an area of India that is completely off the tourist map.                is fascinating to see this way of life in action and to spend time with
villagers. When I have not been in the field I have been occupied           earch in rural India was something I did not want to pass up on. The        Bekki Griffiths 2009 (2 months)
report writing, analyzing data, preparing presentations and project         prospect that the projects may be published afterwards is also
summaries.                                                                  something worth considering.                                                Throughout my second year at university, I had been searching for
                                                                                                                                                        various placements as part of my sandwich degree in Geography
                                                    Bhopal is a rela-       I am particularly interested in the institutions and politics of develop-   and natural hazards. After looking at a variety of different place-
                                                    tively small city; it   ment – that ASA‟s approach is anchored in participation and em-             ments advertised, this seemed to be the ideal opportunity to gain
                                                    is also off the         powerment of the beneficiaries of their projects, including them as         valuable work experience as well as the chance to travel „off the
                                                    tourist circuit. It     much as possible in the development process, further motivated me           beaten track‟, which is something that I have always wanted to do.
                                                    has picturesque         to choose the organisation.                                                 As an undergraduate I have had very little previous experience in
                                                    lakes, a chaotic                                                                                    working for an NGO or even abroad. Therefore, I welcomed the
                                                    city centre, as         My expectations have not been disappointed. Since arriving at ASA,          chance to become involved with ASA‟s work, get outside of the
                                                    well as the bus-        I have been working on one main research project exploring the              classroom and experience what I had learnt about development for
                                                    tling New Market        feasibility of establishing a farmer‟s cooperative, as well as several      myself.
                                                    and Bittan Market.      smaller tasks. The highlight to-date has definitely been doing field-
                                                    The accommoda-          work; meeting the beneficiaries of ASA‟s projects and seeing the            When I arrived in Bhopal I was pleasantly surprised at the standards
                                                    tion is situated in     ground level reality of the development issues I was interested in.         of accommodation and the office. My project for ASA was mainly
a quiet suburb. It has been a great place to live for 5 months and an                                                                                   focused on the agri-business area of ASA‟s work where I produced
ideal introduction to India.                                                On a personal level, travelling to a country so different from the UK       brochures for 2 new projects; farmer producer companies and the
                                                                            and spending 5 months there is something that I definitely wanted to        responsible soy initiative. I then went onto to produce a summary
I plan to travel when the project is complete. However I am very            do. One of the most challenging things about the placement is               manual for the farmer producer company programme. The highlight
pleased to have had the opportunity to live and work in Bhopal for          getting to grips with India, which continues to challenge me, interest      of my placement was the field visits to two districts of MP that ASA
this period. It has provided insight into Indian culture as well as         me, confuse and fascinate me, often all at the same time!                   work in. We were shown around numerous schemes and got to
practical experience of working within a development NGO.                                                                                               meet several farmers and villagers within the communities. Being
                                                                            ASA cater well to volunteers‟ social as well as professional needs.         my first visit to a predominantly tribal community, my cultural under-
                                                                            As a volunteer placement abroad, it is somewhat inevitable that the         standing of different castes was significantly enriched. I was also
                                                                            two will intertwine.                                                        struck by the friendliness and the strong sense of welcome amongst
                                                                                                                                                        the communities.
Philip Hadley 2009 (5 months)
                                                                            I am grateful for the opportunity to work for ASA and the experience
                                                                            it has given me. I would definitely recommend ASA to anyone inter-          Overall, the experience was extremely challenging particularly being
After studying International Development and working in the not-for-
                                                                            ested in gaining experience in the development sector, in working           totally immersed in a completely alien culture, which at times was
profit sector in UK for a couple of years, I decided that I would like to
                                                                            abroad for a professional organisation, or simply with a wish to            very frustrating. However, being thrown into a range of unusual
gain some more practical, hands-on experience of the issues, I had
                                                                            challenge their skills, knowledge or ideas in a totally different con-      situations meant that I quickly had to learn to deal with situations
been studying and campaigning about, respectively. My background
                                                                            text.
is in Politics / Social Studies and my work experience to date has                                                                                      and develop my personal skills. I have gained a wide range of
involved working on international campaigning/advocacy projects. I                                                                                                                                   experiences from the
was interested in finding a placement which would enable me to                                                                                                                                       placement, and had
work on some interesting projects; exploring the development is-
                                                                                                                                                                                                     the opportunity to deal
sues, which I was interested in and hopefully making a good contri-
bution to the work of an organisation with a good track record of                                                                                                                                    with „real life‟ issues. I
innovative, sustainable development.                                                                                                                                                                 am extremely grateful
                                                                                                                                                                                                     to ASA for giving me
ASA seemed to fit into what I was looking for. As an organisation                                                                                                                                    the unique opportunity
involved in rural development projects, exploring ways of building                                                                                                                                   to see key issues in
sustainable livelihoods for India‟s many rural poor through several                                                                                                                                  rural development on
key innovative and interesting interventions, I decided to apply. ASA
                                                                                                                                                                                                     the ground for myself.
offers placements with a significant amount of research and writing
is also something fairly unique for volunteer placements. The oppor-
tunity to complete one or two projects based purely on my own res-
Frances Alder - 2008 (2 months)                                                                                                  the best deci-       Tom Salisbury - 2007/08 (5months)
                                                                                                                                 sions I have
I first heard about ASA through my university. ASA offered a wide                                                                made. Making                                                        I joined ASA for 5
variety of research programmes, but the one which particularly                                                                   the world a                                                         months just after I
interested me was a project which utilized GIS, an IT programme                                                                  fairer and more                                                     had completed a
that I have gained experience in using as part of my university                                                                                                                                      degree in human
                                                                                                                                 sustainable
course.                                                                                                                                                                                              geography. In the
                                                                                                                                 place forms the                                                     past I had had
As a geography student, I have always been interested in working                                                                 centre of my                                                        many opportunities
within NGOs and the not-for-profit sector. As the programme area of                                                              thoughts and                                                        to travel and con-
ASA was so closely linked to my degree, I was keen to take up the                                                                aims.                                                               duct research in
opportunity. I joined ASA in the summer after my second year at                                                                                                                                      different countries,
Leeds University. I viewed my time in the 2-month internship as             I wanted to get involved with development work in a developing                                                           particularly Argen-
something which gave me an excellent opportunity to help with               country, and see for myself some of the challenges faced, and the                                                        tina. As it was
ASA‟s development, as well as providing me with invaluable work             most effective and sustainable solutions. I was very keen to do a                                                        becoming clear
experience.                                                                 voluntary placement with ASA in particular. Its grass-roots approach                                                     that I wanted a
                                                                            to rural development, with an emphasis on natural resource man-                                                          career in Interna-
My work with ASA involved not only GIS mapping, but also writing            agement, was very much in kind with my view of a successful and                                                          tional Develop-
promotional material. With English as one of the official languages         sustainable approach.                                                                                                    ment, I knew it was
in India, I was happy to be of use in this area as I could quickly work                                                                                                                              important to con-
through the more academic documents and summarise them as                   The introductory weeks with ASA took place first in the head office                                                      tinue adding to my
brochures for ASA. Whilst creating brochures, I was able to call on         in Bhopal, followed by visits to field offices and to rural communities                                                  experiences. When
skills I hadn‟t used since school, utilizing my A level in graphic          in MP with whom ASA works. The field visits were an opportunity to        I saw the placement at ASA being advertised, it ticked all the
design.                                                                     witness and appreciate the huge effect ASA has on people‟s liveli-        boxes; it was a chance to do some research in a rural develop-
                                                                            hoods, and the appreciation, trust and respect the communities            ment context and it was in a country I had never been to before.
I found the work in GIS challenging because although I have knowl-          have for ASA. It was amazing to spend time with people in the
edge from my degree on GIS software, Bhoomi (the GIS software               villages; to come to know their spontaneous and unbounded friendli-       When I first arrived at ASA, I was struck by how professional and
ASA has produced) was new to me and took some getting used to.              ness and generosity, and to be in the beautiful and peaceful settings     large the organisation seemed to be. The head office in Bhopal
At ASA, I was given the opportunity to visit one of the district offices,   in which they live.                                                       was a lot nicer than many offices I had seen back in the UK!
and see rural India and meet a number of local farmers, in order to                                                                                   When we first arrived we were instructed to read their latest an-
collect raw data related to the farmers‟ land and their accessibility to    I began a project investigating the cost of soybean production in         nual report to familiarise ourselves with ASA and their work. After
resources. I then mapped this data back in the office, using Bhoomi.        MP: whether the cost is increasing; by how much; and why. The             a week or so settling-in we were given many different tasks
I was encouraged to write a report giving feedback on ASA‟s per-            topic of research was very interesting, if slightly overwhelming in       throughout our placement. These ranged from conducting re-
formance, which I enjoyed working on, putting together and present-         scope, and was made more so by an appreciation of the vital impor-        search in remote tribal areas of Madhya Pradesh, writing project
ing to the other ASA members.                                               tance furthering the understanding of soybean production was to           proposals and designing brochures and websites in the head
                                                                            ASA‟s work. The support and encouragement from staff at ASA was           office.
                                                                            impressive, and of course fundamental to my project. I felt privileged
                                                                            to be assigned a project with such import, and it is a credit to ASA      For me, the real highlights of the placement came when I was out
Lucy Wilmot - 2008/09 (5 months)                                                                                                                      in the field, interacting with both ASA‟s field staff and members of
                                                                            and its volunteer program that it trusts and values volunteers
                                                                            enough to assign such projects.                                           the local community. It was a real privilege to be given these
I spent five months with ASA, from September 2008 to February                                                                                         opportunities to really see what India is like, as well as producing
2009. Prior to beginning my placement with ASA, I had been work-            Spending time working and living in India has been greatly valuable       some useful research that ASA could use in the future.
ing with an Environmental Consultancy in the UK in the area of EU           to me, and it has been gratifying and very enjoyable. Bhopal, though
chemical legislation. This was my first job after completing an MSc,        a beautiful city, is not on the must-see list of India. This has made     This placement provided me with many great experiences, both
and, though it was a challenging and diverse role with much scope           me aware of the India one may be confined to seeing as a tourists/        personally but also professionally – for that, I am very grateful. I
                                                                            traveller, and has heightened my appreciation of the opportunity to       would heartily recommend a placement with ASA for those wish-
for development within the company, I decided to leave it after just
                                                                            live and work amongst a community here, thus gaining a fuller             ing to gain experience working in a large NGO and international
ten months to come to ASA. I remain convinced that this was one of                                                                                    development.
                                                                            impression of the people and culture of India.
                                                                          I feel that my experience with ASA was the catalyst to my career
Sarah Gettings - 2007/08 (5months)                                        as an environmental consultant. I have never really looked back
                                                                          since then. It was not only the technical knowledge I gained and
I decided to apply for a voluntary position at ASA to gain some           experience to put on my CV, but also the new self-confidence
insight into the development sector that I hoped I would be able to       boost and the ability to work in difficult circumstances, with cultur-    All volunteers will be invited to attend the annual staff
apply in my future career in research. Having graduated with a            ally different colleagues and in culturally different settings. After 9   retreat
Masters in Sociological Research, I was working as a research             months back in a UK based environmental consultancy I returned
assistant, although the projects I was involved with centred upon         again to live and work in India, working on fascinating assign-
the UK only. Having previously volunteered in the not-for-profit          ments in the West Bank, Malawi and other places.
sector I wanted to return to a working environment where targets
and achievements focused upon effecting change and making
improvements to other peoples‟ lives. I began to investigate the
possibility of combining work in this sector with travel, and found
that the opportunity offered at ASA was distinct from other over-         Alexandros Yiannopoulos - 1999
seas voluntary placements in their professional approach to
overseas volunteers.                                                      In 1999, I volunteered for about 6 months with ASA in Dahod,
                                                                          Gujarat. This was quite an opportunity, where I could apply my
Since arriving at ASA 5 months ago my expectations have not               knowledge gained in my MSc in Sustainable Agriculture and Rural
been disappointed. ASA‟s progressive and forward looking ethos            Development, and write my thesis on my experiences. The work I
is sophisticated, making it easy for new members to find a place in       was involved in was interesting and a challenge. The first 3 months
the ASA team. When not working on social research projects, I             I worked with 2 fellow students from the Indian Institute of Forest
have been tasked with a number of different tasks to support              Management to analyse the livelihood of the Bhil tribe in 12 villages
ASA‟s growth.                                                             in MP and Gujarat. We learned a lot about the people of the region,
                                                                          but as importantly, we learned to work together. Even though we
                                                                          got on very well and both were doing post-graduate degrees, we             ASA staff retreat 2009
                                                                          came from different backgrounds and experiences. These factors
Janet Geddes - 2002                                                       came into play in developing the assessment and analysing the
                                                                          results – there were some interesting discussions! An indicator of
Prior to coming to ASA I had been working in an Environmental             how well we were able to work together is the fact that we do still
Consultancy firm in London, in its International Development team.        keep in touch today.
My reasoning was that getting some solid “field experience” in a
“developing country” would kick-start my consultancy career.              ASA introduced me to the principals of development work, and got
                                                                          me to apply my theoretical knowledge, such as using the PRA
I went out to India with another volunteer who was also to work for       techniques I was taught at University and doing a demanding
ASA - somebody I didn‟t know before, but who is now a firm, life-         literature review. It not only helped develop my technical skills, but
long friend… the friendship the result of many shared experiences -       also taught me a bit about living overseas and working in a different
good and bad - during our time in India.                                  culture. Those 6 months in ASA did make sure I could quickly adapt
                                                                          and have the confidence to work on much more demanding pro-               If you have any questions about volunteering at ASA, please
                                           It wasn‟t easy going from      jects a year later. My character and personality developed during         contact the ASA Volunteer Action Programme Coordinator,
                                           London to small town           that period, with a part of India remaining with me and I am sure         Jayanthi at jayanthi@asabhopal.org. Please mark a copy to
                                           Gujarat… pace of life is       never to leave.                                                           volunteerasa@asabhopal.org as well.
                                           much slower, alcohol is
                                           prohibited, most people        Post ASA I did not go into the Development Sector but ended up in         Or contact:
                                           are vegetarians, society is    the Humanitarian Sector by a very fortunate accident. After ASA I
                                           pretty conservative, and       spent 6 years with Action gainst Hunger working as an Agronomist,         Action for Social Advancement
                                           we were the only foreign-      a Food Security Officer, then finally as a Food Security Coordinator,     E/5-A. Girish Kunj, Above State Bank of Indore (Sharpura Branch)
                                           ers in town by the looks of    visiting DR Congo, Myanmar, Guinea, and Zambia. At the moment I           Bhopal 462016, Madhya Pradesh
it! Heat, dust, staring men, shouting children could take their toll at   am a Livelihood Delegate with the British Red Cross in Sri Lanka.
times.                                                                    .                                                                         Tel: +91-755-405 7925, 242-7369

								
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