Published On: Wed, Apr 10th, 2019

Volunteer work changing lives in india and abroad

Arun Shiva Ganesh, a musician and social entrepreneur who has performed at more than 11 countries and toured across the world performing as a percussionist. He has also conducted several workshops, headed social empowerment projects and managed international artists from all over the globe.

Arun believes that one of the major turning points in his life were when he took part in an exchange programme between Sweden and India at the age of 18.

It was under the exchange programme, Inter Cultural Dialogue & Exchange (ICDE) India, that youngsters like Arun are provided with an opportunity to spend one year abroad participating in a program designed specifically for the youth. This is a means to promote Peace, Intercultural understanding and cross cultural learning.

Arun, made a lot of friends, during the program, who encouraged him to succeed in the field of music. Right after the project with the help of his Swedish friends he got an opportunity to do Bachelor’s in World Music at The University of Gothenburg (Sweden).

He said, “When I came back to India I had got chances to play for some of the biggest names in the industry including Arijit Singh, Kunal Ganjawala, Kumar Sanu, and Krishna Kumar”.

Besides this, Arun has performed across the country as part of his own band Swahaa, a potpourri of Latin, Samba, Reggae and Indian folk music.

In 2015, he was selected as one of the music diplomat for ‘One Beat’, an initiative of the US Department of state’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, produced by Bang on a Can’s Found Sound Nation.
He also found his own social enterprise ‘Treeonz’ a youth organisation aiming to use art as a medium for social change and empowerment. “The exchange programme was the base for my musical career,” he said.

How the exchange programme works

This is an individual experience where international volunteer work takes place through national committees, co-workers, host families, and community development projects.

The volunteers get to choose the work, they are mostly Community Development Projects, working with Children, Elderly, Disabled, Music Schools, Women’s Projects, Environmental Protection and Education, Health Care, Youth Centre and Cultural Centres.

Anyone who participated in a volunteer service learns their capabilities, it makes them realise what their real interests are and they also find a way to survive in their field. Families who want to host a volunteer for a year. Volunteers get the option to choose their host families before the programme starts.

The organization receives and sends more than 100 students every year.

Elizabeth Mani, a freelance journalist in Bangalore, participated in the exchange program during 2010. Her life changed after the six month volunteer programme, starting from developing the habit of reading books to becoming a journalist.

“When I first started the project I hardly could say a sentence in English. I was scared people would make fun of my language. I was able to overcome the fear with the help of my Swedish partner, she made me read a lot of books eventually my language improved,” she said.

Bonding with the host family

The programs are designed in a way that lets the volunteers spend quality time with their host families and work placement.
Elizabeth also had a good relationship with her host family. Especially with her host mother, Charlotte Wedman, who believed in her potential and invested on her studies.

“In the last few years my host mother and I have travelled to many places, she is like a family member to me and I’m the same to her. She supported my studies after the exchange project. She also found a journalism college for me. And I became a journalist. Nothing would have been possible, if I wasn’t part of the programme. It is definitely a unique programme that lets you discover who you really are.”

Intercultural experience

One of the most significant parts of the volunteer program is to make sure every volunteer gets an intercultural experience. To few volunteers, it becomes more than an experience. The host country becomes their new home and the strangers they have met in the project become their extra family.

Dorattya Villanyi a volunteer from Austria said, “I have definitely made the best choice of applying for a Volunteer programme. India! From the beginning, I felt myself at home in this amazing place.”

She added that the time I spent here is one of the best times in her life changing her forever.

“It was such a breathtaking experience to myself to this beautifully diverse culture by being all integrated and useful part of the local community, attending traditional and religious celebrations, enjoying the amusing tastes, smells…,” she said.

She said that she learnt a lot by travelling, learning and improving, and also reflected on the European cultural point of view. “I cannot believe that my stay is finally over, but one thing for sure I will come back as soon as possible!..,” she said.

Lorena Schwab, another volunteer from Germany spent a year in Bangalore worked and stayed in school for underprivileged children.

She said, “Not only the children and the other people in my surroundings, also we as volunteers learnt so much during our voluntary service.”

“I got to know a completely different way of life and not only read about it in books or on the internet, but experienced it intensely in daily life during one year. I ate what the people here eat, I participated in the activities they do and I lived how they lived,” she said.

“Walk for 10 miles in their shoes or rather run in their shoes, because in our school, we have a running – program, where the children train for a 10km run,” she said.

She added that even though she was not really a marathon runner before she joined as a volunteer, she enjoyed training with them and participating in that program. “They have so much fun and are so motivated. In my view, this is the way we can build links between different people and countries”.

Photo Courtesy: Elizabeth/ images are subject to copyright

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Volunteer work changing lives in india and abroad