This program is organized by Duke faculty/staff in collaboration with DukeEngage.
June 14 - August 9
Volunteering with non-profit organizations dedicated to working with underserved youth and children with special needs.
Bethany DiPrete, Masters Student, Duke Global Health Institute; Site Coordinator
This project will focus on working with non-profits dedicated to working with underserved children and individuals with special needs. The program will support participants as they learn about management at such organizations in a developing country. The program is intentionally designed to foster understanding of methods and organization of selected NGO’s in Kolkata, India. It seeks students who are interested in supporting these ideals and willing to reach out these groups. With globalization, the coming decades will force our nation to face global challenges and understand cultural diversity at much greater level than we have tried as a nation. Leaders in political, economic, and social organizations will find that they need to confront the dynamic and evolving issues that escalating global change and social disparity are generating. Therefore, the need to evaluate and manage how we can make positive impact on people across the world will demand increasing attention. Participants in this program will work with organizations that play important roles in protecting, advocating for, and maintaining various aspects of the underserved. Students interested in all aspects of management, poverty, social class and disparities, education and global health studies, and other fields will find this a rare and worthwhile experience.
Students will work with the following Kolkata based non-profits:
• Manovikas Kendra Rehabilitation and Research Institute for the Handicapped
Through these organizations, participants volunteer in the following categories of service:
· Intervention programs
· Social Support and Network
Language/Other Prerequisites: None. Students will have the opportunity to learn Bangla or Hindi at the local language institute.
Reflection Sessions: Students will be asked to maintain a reflective blog of the experience. As a group we will meet every Friday evening to reflect and share our experience of the week. The site coordinator will lead these sessions, and students will be expected to post frequently on the program blog.
Neighborhood: The lodging facility and the non-profit organizations are located in south Kolkata within walking distance to public transportation, restaurants, stores, fitness center, shopping complexes, and parks.
Housing and Accommodations: Each student will share a room with another DukeEngage student of the same gender. Each of these air-conditioned rooms includes: two beds, desks, television with cable, closets, and a bathroom, which will also be shared by two DukeEngage students of the same gender. Laundry facilities are conveniently located in the dormitory. The staff at the boarding house will also do the laundry at a minimal charge.
Meals: The boarding house will provide breakfast and dinner for the students. The boarding house can also prepare lunch for the students to take with them to work, or students may buy their own lunch during the working days. The students can also buy snacks and other food items from the local stores all within two blocks. There are refrigerators on each floor of the boarding house for the students to share.
Every other weekend, a local family will host dinner for the students. At these dinners, faculty from the local university, poets, activists, artists, entrepreneurs, and political leaders will also come and talk to the students.
Communication: Students will have internet access in their rooms. Students are encouraged to bring a laptop. Most placements will involve time in front of the computer and students should have some internet access while at their placement. Students will also receive a cell phone during their stay in Kolkata.
Transportation: Given the location of the lodging facility vis-à-vis the service placements, most students will be within 4-7 miles of their work site. Students will normally commute to work in groups of three or four as it the goal to place 3-4 students at most placements. Within the city of Kolkata there is ample public transportation including: buses, trams, taxicabs, and subway. We would encourage the students to share a cab and ride together to their work.
During program field trips, students will be driven in rental vans by program staff. Most program events will take place in the city and the students will travel together in rental vans.
Volunteer Placement Logistics: Below please find examples of the types of contributions students will make during their program experience:
Week 1: Orientation
Navigate the city and understand everyday operations of a NGO in Kolkata.
Week 2: Needs Assessment and training at the NGOs
Assess the needs of the new enrolled children based on their background, work with the supervisor to develop an individualized plan for the academic development and social assimilation in to the system, evaluate other plans of previously enrolled students, help implement work plan for the newly enrolled children under the supervision of the counselors.
Week 3: Establish Work Schedule and Work Plan
Students will participate in the classrooms to teach simple cognitive skills, basic alphabets, English, math, computer skills to the mixed level class. Assignments will range from co-teaching primary school classes to creating own curriculums to encourage creativity through myriad subjects. Students will also spent time after school in the homes, providing support in those environments in the forms of childcare and activity organization.
Week 4: Individual Project
As the student gets familiar with the NGO, he/she will also use the information to identify a specific project that will benefit the NGO residents and staff. The student will work with their NGO mentor in developing this plan. This project can focus on developing new curriculum materials, course syllabus, or even a new program, in which case the student will develop the program and the necessary steps required to implement it.
Week 5: Education
The students will be involved in assisting in training at the vocational institute where the students are taught various skills including baking, textile weaving, silk printing, etc. This includes working with an entire class as well as small groups of children.
Week 6: Presentation of projects
The student will continue working on their individual projects that they chose during week four. During August 5-8, students will present their project to the NGO trustee, supervisor, and site coordinator. Students will return on August 9 or after following availability of return tickets.
Opportunities for Autonomy / Private Space: Students will be at their service placements from 9 am to 5 pm daily. After work students will return to their rooms or meet up with fellow participants for dinner.
On the weekends, students will have a good deal of free time during approximately four weekends during the program. These weekends will not necessarily be entirely “free,” there may be some programmatic commitments during these weekends; however, there will be downtime during these weekends. The other four weekends will be spent as a group participating in group-enrichment activities in Kolkata and the surrounding area. These trips will include visit to the Taj Mahal and the capital city of New Delhi, villages by the river Ganges, Mursidabad: the old capital of the Muslim Nawabs, and Royal Bengal Tiger Reserve (if open to public at that time).
Miscellaneous: Kolkata, previously called Calcutta or in the words of Dominique Lapierre “The City of Joy”, offers an urban experience in the Eastern Cone in a country that has been a witness to dramatic economic, social, and political change over the last two centuries. Muslim Nawabs ruled Kolkata until the British took over in 1757. It was the capital of colonial India until 1911, when it was moved to New Delhi. Located near the border of India and Bangladesh, Kolkata was dramatically affected by the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 as Hindus and Muslims flowed in opposite directions, though many Muslims remain in Kolkata today, constituting about a fourth of the city’s population of fifteen million. In recent years, the democratic transition into socialism in the early 70s, the beginning of globalization through open market policies adopted in the early 90s, and rapid economic growth based on the information technology, have created a complex mixture of social benefits and challenges. According to a recent New York Times article, Kolkata is “India’s first global city. It is littered with the remains of many worlds: the rickshaws that the Chinese brought; an Armenian cemetery; dollops of jazz left by Americans in the war years” (May 3, 2009).
Some of the most pressing social issues in India including Kolkata today include: access to quality education for the poor, access to small loans for people with limited resources who wish to start their own businesses, unemployed youth, women heads of households in poverty, and access to quality health care for the poor. Kolkata makes an ideal site for Duke students who are interested in civic engagement in South Asia, South Asian culture and the impact of the three major religions, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity on everyday life. The goal of a DukeEngage program in Kolkata is to offer our students the opportunity for rich civic engagement experiences in community based organizations that are working on these important social challenges in a city and also offers deep cultural richness and diversity.
The following are examples of potential enrichment activities from which the program leaders will choose for group participants:
1. Trip to New Delhi to visit the capital city of India and Taj Mahal along with two other World Heritage site, including the largest Fort in India- Agra Fort, Qutub MInar, and HUmayun’s tomb.
2. Walking tour of Calcutta that bears history to the British Raj, its Victorian architecture, and the modern juxtaposition between the rich and the poor.
3. A trip to the Victoria Memorial: The memorial built in 1906 to commemorate the rule of Queen Victoria over India, is a magnificent building that now hosts a visual display of the city’s history along with important artifacts and manuscript from the British raj.
4. Overnight trip to Murshidabad, the old capitol of Bengal when Kolkata was under the British rule. The students will experience the Islamic influence on the culture and life along with the tours of the nawabs’ palaces, libraries, and gardens.
5. A day trip along the Hoogly River to explore the remains of the French and the Dutch colonies and the influence the pre-British colonizers left on Kolkata vis-a-vis India.
6. Optional trip to the Royal Bengal Tiger preservation park, the only natural habitat of the big cats, in the Sunderbans mangrove forest outside of Kolkata (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site).