India Visit – Summer 2019

For the first time in a few years, we were not volunteering at an Indian NGO with our kids and friends in the summer. You can read some of our past summer essays here (2018) and here (2017). The kids decided to do their own stuff, with Maya attending a summer program in California and PJ coming to India with Indiaspora. You can read some of her thoughts on visiting India without her parents here. It is great to read the experiences from her cohort, definitely gives you something to think about. Luckily for us, our friends Bhuva and family took up the baton in our absence and volunteered with one of our favorite organizations: Their essays will be coming up soon.

Mari and I spent a few days visiting a few of our partner NGOs. It is always great to see the work on the ground and learn from the staff there. We first visited the Institute of Health Management (Pachod) where we got an in-depth look at how they do both quantitative and qualitative research and how in turn that influences their community interventions. Dr. Ashok and team were super welcoming to the two interns we had with us: Audrey from Indiana Univesity and Sabina from Nirmala Niketan and Sharanam Center. Before the end of the day, we had our hands full of reading material.

We also spent time with the girls and young women @ Sharanam Center for Girls in Dharavi. I’m always surprised how much they have grown since the last time we saw them (though ironically, we don’t see our children growing since we see them every day!) and I love our interaction and discussions with them. The older goals want to teach Mari Hindi and they were negotiating the trips and internships with us for next summer. Now, that’s planning ahead! We are just so grateful to Sharada and Karen for spending so much time and energy and nurturing these girls into amazing young women. For us, in Mumbai, they are our family (or my sister would say, they are even more important than the rest of the family)

We also went and spent some time with Suparna and Neeti from Aangan Trust. The constant need to think about and implement changes to their programs and introduce new programs to keep the community engaged and active is within the DNA of Aangan. I’m always surprised to see what they are up to next, and more importantly why and how they keep the community involved and also at the same time transition ownership and responsibility to the community. We spent a bit of time with one of their young women and mothers group discussing the topic of cybersecurity and how to be safe on the phone. The “phone behavior” of the youth in this group seems so different than the teens in our home, and I’m still trying to figure out and the reason the what and the why? One prevailing (and long-standing) theory is that teens involved in sports and other activities outside of school are super busy and hence do not have as much time to spend online and hence they optimize it with stuff that they know and love.

It was a short quick trip for Mari and she returned home to pick Maya from Irvine, while I stayed back to do some work on Project Tech4Dev

I did miss spending three to four week with an NGO and doing stuff with the kids. However, I’m starting to accept the fact that those days might be long gone, but we do hope to come back and spend more time as a family with a lot more NGOs sometime in the near future.

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