Volunteer Experience

I have always wanted to volunteer somewhere in India. I finally got the opportunity on a Sustainable Development Practicum with my school, the American University of Paris. I decided to work with ADECOM Network because I found the speech given by Ms. P. Lalidamballe to be incredibly inspiring. Not knowing what this organization was about I was enthralled with her explanation of the Dalit people and their role in India. I had heard of the untouchables in India, but I never thought that there was still discrimination going on today, even after this was abolished in the 1950s. I also knew about the caste system but have never heard it from someone who has actually lived it. Ms. Lalida discussed the lives of the Dalit people in India and what ADECOM is doing to empower them. ADECOM Network does a surprising amount of work on Dalit empowerment, with separate programs and partner companies focusing on Dalit children, women, and politics. They even have a theater group, Kootu-k-Kural, a joint organization that puts on street performaces and trainings for the Dalit audience focusing on daily issues that they face. I was amazed at their logic when it came to communicating with the Dalit people. ADECOM likes to work at the « grass-root level » which focuses on working directly with the village people and not using a top down approach in communicating their message. For example Kootu-k-Kural entertains people while they are learning about major issues.

It was easy to choose this organization as it is incredibly inspiring. I have done my best to lend a hand in the short time I am here. However, I feel that I have taken away much more than I have left. Everyday I look at new video footage, pictures, listen to Ms. Lalida or Perumal speak, and I learn something new. Every single day I am inspired and all I want to do is remember this experience and remember that people are out there, devoting their lives to an entire community that has been ignored for centuries. I revamped their weblog and updated some of their information, but I know my two weeks at ADECOM are nothing compared to the 18 years of devotion Ms. Lalida has shown.  Of the many experiences I have had at the organization, I especially loved lunch at the ADECOM office.  We gather in the biggest room, everyone sitting in a circle enjoying their meal (which was always incredible).  I truly appreciated the opportunity to listen and learn.  I think those were some of the best conversations I’ve ever had.

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