We feel we live in a world that is getting more and more materialistic. Sometimes, we catch ourselves as well, wanting the newest iPhone even though the old one still works, that beautiful dress, a new watch and so on. Being able to afford this till a certain level, makes us wonder ‘what is next’, another fancy outfit or an expensive car? Is that our purpose in life? To work and afford a good life where we basically want more and more?
We have gained and practiced our expertise in the commercial world. After working years for agencies, I started my own company 7 years ago as an online consultant. I love to interact with people: how can you connect people online (marketing & usability) fulfilling the companies and consumer’s needs. Dennis is an account manager for a large enterprise in the mobility sector – focusing on the best possible solution for his customers’ need while keeping the company’s profit in mind. We both love the personal/connecting aspect in our jobs. Beside the commercial projects, I also worked on a few projects with social contribution. This gave an extra dimension and made me decide to take action in fulfilling my dream I had nourished for several years: Stepping out of the commercial world for a period and serve a bigger purpose.
We had the luck of being able to study and develop and build an expertise, earn money and live a good life. Now we wanted to work for the greater good for a period of time by sharing our knowledge with those who do not have this right at hand.
Where to start?! There are so many foundations, big and small all over the world. We started selecting based on our interest in type of charity and countries. Researching and talking about this we came in contact with several agencies and foundations. We found a lot of mediation agencies asked a lot of money. Also most projects that the agencies offered seemed more production work, but we liked to share knowledge and do something that can continue after we leave. Luckily, an old colleague of Shirley, Harrie Vollaard, became enthusiastic after hearing our plans and brought us in direct contact with two beautiful foundations where our expertise and ambitions seem to match. He visited these foundations himself a few years ago.
After a few (skype) calls we were able to join both projects. In a few weeks we had to organize everything back home and were ready to start.
Parikrma Humanity Foundation
After our project in Nepal we started at Parikrma. The mission of Parikrma is to unleash the potential of under-served children by providing them with equal opportunities and make them valuable contributing members of our society. In Sanskrit the word Parikrma means a circle. At Parikrma they call this ‘The circle of life’. They support every child from 5 years to 25 years until they can actively contribute to society, through education, community development and mentoring. They do this with the motto ‘Love, Explore, Excel’.
At Parikrma, we helped both at the office and in the schools. Upfront, we created a volunteer plan together with Parikrma, which we updated during our introduction. Dennis focused on Fund Raising and developing marketing content and I with the online marketing strategy.
At the school we coached in the junior college and the younger grades. We gave Business Studies to junior college, for which we developed a program. Besides the Business Studies we gave remedial Math, English and Physical Exercise to grade 2-5. Totally different from our main expertise, but we liked to experience working with older and younger kids. We found out that the remedials are already effective when giving attention. The kids are very insecure. Taking time to help with the theory by giving exercises and just make them feel safe to make mistakes showed direct results. Really rewarding and definitely priceless if you come into school and the remedial kids run every day to you asking if we will take a class.
The advantage we found in the work we did for Parikrama is having direct connection with the kids, students and the community. You realize every second of the day for whom you are here, seeing direct results and getting so much love in return.
Also, meeting and working with Shukla Bose, the founder of Parikrma has been a privilege. Hearing and seeing her talk about the vision, mission and the kids with so much passion, really makes you want to help too and be part of the Parikrma family. And it is truly a family: open and warm, appreciating your help and happy to help you in any way and meet your ambitions within the organization.
It was absolutely beautiful to experience how Parikrma not only focuses on education itself, but everything around it. From a 21st Century education perspective preparing kids for the real world, not just focusing on theory but problem solving, learn to collaborate eg by organizing events with private and government schools. They have social workers visiting family, a girl hostel for girls that are at risk, classes for parents like computer classes, financing, helping parents with alcohol addiction, and so much more.
Living in Bangalore, India as a volunteer felt more difficult than our previous volunteer project in Patan, Nepal. Being a volunteer without any income we had a low maximum daily budget. In Nepal there was not much luxury right at hand. And if you do not have access to it, you don’t miss it that much. Living in Bangalore was more difficult. There is a huge contrast between rich and poor. From high end shopping centers to wooden houses/tents in the dust. To a non-comparable extent we experienced living poor in the sense that it is really difficult if you are confronted with luxury (like fancy restaurants, clothing stores, gadgets) and not being able to afford it. Then again this is the materialistic part where we wanted to get away from, but having it in your surroundings makes you want to have it too. But it is absolutely amazing to experience and truly admirable that the people that have the least seem to share the most. This is what we especially found out visiting the community. People live in tiny houses with often 1 small room and open small kitchen, where 6 people live and sleep. These were the people offering us food, sweets, tea, even though they hardly had anything themselves.
Although India initially would not have been our first choice of countries to visit, we are now very happy that we did volunteer here. Yes it is dusty and dirty, but it has some beautiful sites and the people are very friendly and open. If not for this project we might have never visited India and still be biased.
Volunteering in a developing country is a rewarding, priceless experience we recommend everyone, who is not afraid of going back to basic for a while. Besides seeing the country in your spare time, this is the best way to experience another culture. It really puts you back on the ground, making you conscious of things that are normal for us but so far away for people here. Although you know there are people out there that live in poverty, experiencing the poverty from closely really makes you appreciate what we have. It makes you want to share with the people who do not have this. Doesn’t everyone deserve a bed, electricity, drinking water, a safe home, equal rights, but most of all: being loved?!
Dennis & Shirley