Last month, Reality had a small party to say 'farewell' to Eloïse, a volunteer from France, who has travelled around India and Asia extensively and spent several months with us here in Dharavi. After indulging in a delicious chocolate cake, some of which we managed to get on her face (an Indian tradition, not an accident!), we had a chat about her volunteering experience with us in Mumbai.
|It's not a true occasion unless you have cake!|
When did you first travel to India?
"When I was 15, I went on a special trip to Kolkata with my class for ten days. It was an 'initiation to humanitarian action'. I really liked it, so I went back to India in 2012 for a year-long exchange program in Pune, for my bachelor’s degree. I was a little disappointed by university and the education system, but I wanted to spend more time in India. So I decided to come back and work with a social organization this time."
What was your impression when you visited Dharavi?
"I had heard a lot about Dharavi before and my friends had told me about the tour, so I knew what to expect. But I was still very impressed by the industrial and commercial areas. That’s something you cannot imagine, even when someone tells you about it."
What were your missions at Reality Gives?
"I was supporting the Executive Director and also helping Joe with the marketing and fundraising. I was mostly doing office and admin work but I also had the chance to get more involved in the activities at the Community Centers, which was really great."
What was the most difficult thing you had to face in Mumbai?
"The most difficult thing was probably the heat, and finding an apartment in Bandra. Flat hunting is really not an easy task in Mumbai. But in the end, I shared a really nice apartment with a great roommate."
What is your best memory from your volunteer experience?
"There are so many! I loved working at the community centers, where you can see it all happening. The best memories are probably all those events during which the beneficiaries of the Reality Gives programs gave speeches, thanking all the members of the organization. The graduation ceremony for the YEP students, for example, or the award ceremony for the end of the sports season. Blessy, one of the football girls, told us that she really liked football but that she liked bonding with her teammates even more. It was all very touching."
Any tips for upcoming volunteers?
"I have a tip that can apply to anyone who comes to India: just keep an open-mind, relax, and be positive. India can get very tiring with the heat, the noise, the traffic… Especially Dharavi because it is very dense. But you shouldn’t worry too much, because India is going to exceed your expectations anyway."