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A lifetime experience for UNICEF interns in India

© UNICEF/India/2005
“I go back with very rich experience.” - R Yamachika

By Srinivasan Kannan

August 2005 - For the 107 interns from eleven countries who came to India for a ten-week summer internship programme, it was a lifetime experience to have worked in a group situation in India.

This was a first effort of its kind made by the UNICEF in India to have so many interns come together at one time and share their experiences with others not just in classroom sessions but also in field trips.

After the three-day induction programme in Manesar, located on the outskirts of New Delhi in May, the interns were divided into twenty-six teams and sent to various parts of India to gather valuable information in their respective field projects. And after nine weeks, when the interns returned to the capital and showed, at the Habitat Centre, the twenty films they had produced based on the work done, one knew it was a worthwhile effort.

Given the unrelenting heat, field trips were not exactly easy. Yet, most of the interns want to be back in India at some time or the other.

Not only did the interns get to share their experiences with noted speakers, but were appreciated for their efforts as well and presented with a certificate for completing the programme successfully.

Some reflections from a few of the interns we covered earlier.

© UNICEF/India/2005
“I would have loved to be on the field longer” - Haady Taslim

Ten weeks later …..
Gabriel Vockel: “it brought me face to face with reality

His field study pertained to right to health campaign.
“It was a wonderful programme in Pune and I was lucky to have a good team with me and the NGO I was associated with was also very helpful,” he said. “It was a fascinating experience to go into the rural areas and document the process of the right to health. Yes, at the   same time it brought me face to face with reality as well,” said Vockel.
What touched Vockel most was listening to a heart-rending tale of a man who had been denied medical attention. “I am sure cases like this should raise awareness, says Vockel. He surely wants to come to India again and also be involved with a UNICEF project.


Ryusuke Yamachika: “I go back with very rich experience.”

Dealing with a tough topic like sanitation in rural areas and documenting the case studies was a challenge. In Yamachika’s view, it was not just getting information from the locals which was tough but also trying to speak to the health inspectors. “I think the level of sanitation in Gaya was high,” he said. “But one could not make a generalization.In smaller villages, there is a lot more to be done. All I can say at the end of this project is that I go back with very rich experience.”


Haady Taslim: “I would have loved to be on the field longer”

Haady’s case study was related to breast-feeding practices in South India. “For me, the nine weeks programme was non-stop work. If in the day it was travel and interviewing people, at night I was on the video editing table” he said. We did manage to educate the village folk, teaching them the importance of colestrum and why breast milk is the best till a baby is six months old” said Haady. If there was any regret for Haady, it was time. “I think nine weeks was too short to do too much. I would have loved to be on the field longer” he said.


Youngwan Kim: "We were not there to revolutionise the state in nine weeks, but yes we did a lot of education as well."

In our nine weeks here, not only did we do case study work but also made sure we were educating the locals. “It was not tough to tell the women that sugar water was not good for the newborns but breastmilk. We were not there to revolutionise the state in nine weeks, but yes we did a lot of education as well. The data we collected has been very good” said Kim. If he does get the chance again, he would love to be back in India and also be associated with one of the UNICEF programmes.


Marian Wouda: "We had studied about poverty being one reason for employing child labour. But there’s more to it like social, cultural and illiteracy as well."

“I spent the first two weeks reading a lot of literature about child labour in hybrid cotton seed production. Understanding the issue was my first priority” she said. Wouda and her group next did a pilot project before venturing into the field trips. Asked to sum up her overall
experience, Wouda said it was “stressful.”
“We were involved with Government officials, self-help groups and went to collect data to document our case studies. I think nine weeks was too short for a broad case study like ours” she said.
“Getting the farmers to speak to us on video wasn’t easy. And after getting back, I had to translate everything, which made my job tough, added Wouda. “I know for sure what I studied in theory and what it is in reality relating to this topic is very different. We had studied about poverty being one reason for employing child labour. But there’s more to it like social, cultural and illiteracy as well. I am sure I could have never got this valuable experience had it not been for the UNICEF programme,” concluded Wouda.

 

 

 

 

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