Volunteers Experience

Volunteers Experience

Caroline Michler and Fabienne Zühlke - Internship placement at CTRD

Our names are Caroline and Fabienne and we worked from September to December 2018 at CTRD Trust in Gudalur, Tamil Nadu, South India. Like Daniel and Christina before, we are participants of the German ASA-program. Both of us studied the bachelor’s degree “International Cultural and Business Studies” in Passau, Germany. Caroline recently finished her B.A. and Fabienne her M.A. in “International Management Studies”.>

When arriving in Gudalur it was raining a lot and the rain stayed a constant companion through our stay at CTRD. The rainy season here is very long and can last from June to December because of two different monsoons in this area. Because of the mixture between rain and sun and the constant temperature of around 24 °C it seemed like a never ending rainy June in Germany.

We did not only work at the campus in Gudalur, but also lived in the ground floor of the office. Our tasks were very diverse and wide-ranging. Besides the drafting of project information for public relations and the acquisition of external funding and cooperation partners, we were mainly responsible to write a project proposal on “Empowering the livelihood and independence of the Adivasi Community by enhancing food security and income generation” for the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Even though communication was sometimes difficult due to our lacking Tamil language skills, the working atmosphere between the CTRD employeeswasalways very pleasant, friendly and enjoyable. Our work did not only consist in office work, but we were also able to undertake several field trips to some Adivasi villages to get a better understanding of the projects, like the Biogas and Organic Green Tea project. Moreover, these field trips enabled us to get in contact with the target group of CTRD, the Adivasi, getting to know their living circumstances, traditions and culture.

When we arrived in Gudalur, Ranganathen and his wife Sumithra gave us a very warm welcome and received us with great hospitality. Both of them were not only our superiors, they became our friends and our Indian family. Sumithra always ensured that we had enough food and she cooked every day fresh breakfast, lunch and dinner for us, which has always been very delicious. After work she taught us at her home how to prepare typical South Indian dishes like Sambar, Rasam (pepper water), Chapathi and many more. In return, we cooked some German dishes and showed her how to prepare them.Ranganathen took always care of our safety and well-being, giving advice and recommendations.

Due to this internship we were able to get extensive knowledge about the work of a local acting NGO, its projects and the tribal communities. Since we were fully integrated into the Indian family life, we also participated in traditional festivals like Diwali and Puja ceremonies (prayer ritual performed by Hindus) and, hence, got an idea of Hinduism. These three months did help us a lot to develop professionally as well as personally, and we will always carry a part of India with us.

Our Stay at CTRD

Email: xyz@gmail.com

We, Christina and Daniel, stayed for 3 months at CTRD Trust in Gudalur in 2017. We applied through the German internship program ASA. Daniel completed a M.Sc. in Ecological Agriculture and Economics and Christina is still in a M.Sc. in Human Geography. Being responsible for the marketing of the organic tea as part of the green tea project, our expertise fitted together very well to be able to do a good teamwork. >

When arriving in Gudalur it was raining a lot and the rain stayed a constant companion through our stay at CTRD. The rainy season here is very long and can last from June to December because of two different monsoons in this area. Because of the mixture between rain and sun and the constant temperature of around 24 °C it seemed like a never ending rainy June in Germany.

We were the first volunteers who stayed at the new campus in Gudalur where the green tea factory was being built during our stay. In the morning when Ranganathen brought our freshly prepared breakfast the construction workers were already busy, walking around on the roof. The food was always amazing! Breakfast, lunch and dinner were usually prepared by Ranganathen’s wife Sumithra, who is a great chef! For dinner we went to their house where we got Parotta, Dhosai or Chapati with different varieties of sambar, chutneys and vegetables. Being vegetarian was very easy for us since all is cooked vegetarian except on Sundays.

We both learned very much during our stay at CTRD, both from the work with the other stuff members and by working with each other. First thing we had to learn was that German timings and Indian timings differ a lot and we had to find the Indian working rhythm.

Our work was very diverse. We worked a lot in the office writing proposals, designing the new website or doing the marketing for the green tea. But we also visited several tribal villages, where we took GPS coordinates, took short movies and pictures for the website and for the German partner Organization. Christina further interviewed the local tribal tea farmers for her Master Thesis. Visiting the tribal villages was always a nice and valuable experience, since we learned a lot about their culture and history. Getting a bunch of very tasty fruits in every village wasn’t too bad either!

We definitely recommend a stay at CTRD when you seek to gain valuable international working experience in a small NGO with great colleagues, a pleasant working atmosphere and interesting projects. You will not only be able to learn a lot about the NGO work, but also about South Indian culture and you will make many new friends. Ranganathen, his family and the colleagues will welcome you with warmth and hospitality to make this stay unforgettable for you.

Jessica Schroeder - Internship placement at CTRD

Email: jessicaschroeder@gmx.de

Hi Everyone

I am Jessica from Germany. I have been working with CTRD for six weeks and I can not imagine leaving this wonderful organization in two weeks time. Before I started my internship in CTRD I was studying in the IISE (International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs) in Kerala, near Trivandrum.

The IISE institute empowers visually impaired people from all over the world to start their own social or environmental projects. You learn how to write project proposals, conduct effective fund raising campaigns, deal with media etc, in summary, everything that you need to be well prepared and equipped to join the community of NGOs and to make a positive change in the world.

One very important part of this one year training course is the two month internship with an NGO. The description of CTRD and its different projects were so exciting and engaging for me that I decided to undertake my internship in this organization. Fortunately the executive director of CTRD was willing and sufficiently open-minded to welcome me on an internship. This forward thinking approach is not so common in India, where the attitude towards disabled persons is still rather negative. Many organizations can not see any benefit in employing or training a disabled person. They believe that this would mean an additional burden for them. That a disabled person can bring new and progressive ideas into an organization and can develop a new sense of humanity, is for many NGOs, companies and industries difficult to imagine. To counter these negative perceptions, and to take advantage of the many benefits of employing a person with disabilities, Mr. Ranganathen was really happy to receive us.

Since he is working with the disadvantaged tribal and rural populations of the Nilgiri district of Tamil Nadu, he encounters first hand the ways in which disabled people suffer. He experienced that many disabled people have no job, no school education and receive insufficient care from their families. Often they are kept in houses like animals and families are afraid to present themselves with their disabled children in public. They are scared of the embarrassing questions, the staring eyes, the cold ignorance and the harsh insults of some members of the community. CTRD wants to improve the living and working conditions of disabled people in the Nilgiris. They want to bring disabled people into mainstream society so that they can really participate, benefit from resources and will be accepted as equal and valuable members of the community. Please see the below link for further details:

Johnson my internship partner and I are helping CTRD to develop ambitious and sustainable projects which improve the living conditions of disabled people and which create awareness and tolerance for their needs and rights.

CTRD is like a big family for me. Right from the beginning I felt really welcomed and received with open arms and minds. All the staff are very open towards new ideas and they always try their best to involve you in their work. I was really impressed how engaged all of them are to include you in their conversations.

The language barrier is quite significant because many of the staff can only speak a little English, but despite this, they really use all their effort to speak to you. It really works well.

When we visited the family of a blind and mentally retarded child, and we conducted an interview with them, even though the staff could only speak a little English we were able to ask questions and get very valuable answers. The staffs always listen patiently, and in turn you as a volunteer should just have the ability to simplify your terminology to some extent. Often the simple things are the clearer ones.

Mr. Ranganathen is a very kind-hearted and sincere man. He is really committed to his job and spends all of his day dedicated to the different projects. He is always full of energy and new visions and dreams. His attitude and charisma inspired me a lot to put all my knowledge and creativity into my work to bring some benefit to CTRD. Although Mr. Ranganathen is very busy most of the time, he always has an open ear and mind for my questions, ideas and needs. He is a very attentive listener and always considers my suggestions. For me he is really a great leader role model, which is rather seldom in the world. I am sure you will enjoy the work with him and all the CTRD staff.

The beautiful surroundings will make it so hard for me to leave CTRD. Tea plantations, silver arc trees, and pepper bushes surround CTRD. On the edges of the road different herbs and grasses grow. My favourite grass is the lemongrass. Its blades smell so fresh and exotic that I can never get enough of it. I never touched tea bushes in my life and I love to drink tea. Now I can always touch the green and different shaped tea leafs. CTRD workers collect the leafs and make big piles to transport them to local tea factories. I like to put my face in these piles, it feels so smooth and it smells so green and reminds me of the forest. You should really try it as well. The food in CTRD is very tasty and you can be sure you might gain some weight. Everything that the cook prepares tastes very healthy and he uses so many different kinds of vegetables and spices. This was really an adventure for my taste buds.

The combination of all these things makes me feel really homely and safe. The entire atmosphere is so friendly and warm and the people are very motivating. You can do a lot if you have ideas and you encounter amazing and unique people. I will really miss CTRD a lot when I have to go back to Kerala and I will always remember the broad minded and committed CTRD staff.

Johnson Konnah Kortue - Internship placement at CTRD

Email: johnsonkonnah.kortue@gmail.com

Hi to you friends,

Kindly call me Johnson Konnah Kortue. I am from Liberia, in West Africa. I am disabled (blind).

Presently, I am undergoing 11 months of studies in Kerala, India. The Institute at which I study is called International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs (IISE). The program started in January 2009 and will end in December the same year. This institute brings blind and partially sighted visionaries from all around the world to enable them to become social entrepreneurs. This program will make these ambitious young and talented people qualified and capable to set up and manage their own projects, in their own countries. After the studies, each person will have skills in project proposal writing; preparation and presentation of speeches; management; business practices; operation of recording studios; use of computers and in conducting successful fundraising campaigns.

In August 2009, I started my two month internship at the Centre for Tribals and Rural Development Trust (CTRD). This choice was the best one I ever made in life. Being that I am disabled, and a foreigner, I never thought that I would be accepted by the administration, but to my surprise, I was accepted unconditionally. From the time I entered such an amazing organization, things have been going well with me. To tell you the truth, the entire working staff of CTRD are humble and open to all people. When working at CTRD if there is anything you dont know or that you need, then contact any of the workers, they are open and will handle and solve your problems.

Mr. Ranganathen himself is a very good role model for everyone. This man is always busy making sure that the right thing is done and that workers are on job. Mr. Ranganathen is indeed a hero in serving people. To the family of CTRD is not by mistake that you have such a leader to guide you - put your arms around him and dont let him go.

For the past 20 years CTRD has been working in improving the livelihoods of the tribal people. This organization has transformed the deplorable conditions of the tribal people into better conditions. Through their tireless efforts, the children of these people now attend schools and families are sleeping in safe and comfortable houses. God bless CTRD and long live Mr. Ranganathen.

Even with all these existing achievements, Mr. Ranganathen said he is still not satisfied if people with disabilities are not on board. He tasked Jessi and I to join him to help and improve the lives of disabled people in the local community. It is indeed true that the conditions of disabled people in these local communities are, at present, terrible. So my peer and I wasted no time in starting with a needs study. During our needs study, we came across a large number of disabled people in the area. Indeed, their concerns and problems were discovered by us. Based on the results and facts we developed a project proposal, which will be sent to donors in support of this project. I can inform you, there are instances at present where people with disabilities are sitting behind closed doors, doing nothing the entire day, with no-one paying any attention to them. Through a network of self-help groups, CTRD will help build the confidence of people with disabilities and provide training for them, before their unfulfilled futures perish.

To you my dear readers, my internship period in CTRD has now come to the end. I am very sad and sorry that it is time to leave, however I must. Before my departure, I want to kindly invite you to join the CTRD family. The staff here are working continuously to help disadvantaged people in the local community, and especially people with disabilities. My humble request to you is to please offer your time and resources to this beloved organization. Anything that you think you can contribute will be much valued. Listen friends, whenever you are in good position to help others, do not tell that person to come back tomorrow, when you know you can do it today. Note thousands of disabled people deserve a better future. If you are thinking about your accommodation dont worry, CTRD has a very big compound withs facilities to house volunteers. This place is surrounded by hills, forests and tea plantations, and is a beautiful and very colourful home in which to stay. There is electricity and water supplies. Dont mention about food - through the kind gestures of Mr. Ranganathen, his wife and the CTRD cook, you will enjoy nice meals that you will never forget about. Everyone eagerly waits to receive you, but the only thing I have to tell you is to fasten your belts, because Mr. Ranganathen never allows one minute to pass without doing something. Every minute is very important in this amazing organization.

Thanks for your time and I wish you good luck.

Lucy Pinches - Volunteer placement at CTRD

Having previously spent four months working with a development NGO in Nepal, I joined the CTRD team in September 2009, for a two-month placement.

Due to my prior employment experience and area of expertise, my efforts were focused primarily in assisting CTRD with their administration, including help redesigning and rewriting their website, proof reading and preparing documentation and drafting needs studies and fund raising proposals.

Through comprehensively researching CTRD's projects in order to write about them for the website and proposals, and through joining CTRD staff members on sight visits, I was afforded an in-depth insight into the breadth and scope of CTRD's work and impact.

I have found CTRD to be a very professional and extremely worthwhile organisation, which is making a tangible improvement in the quality of life of beneficiaries in the local disadvantaged communities.

Mr. Ranganathen, the Executive Director of CTRD, established the trust in 1988, and has dedicated his working life since this point to improving the lives of marginalized tribal and rural people in the region. His dedication to this cause is extremely worthy and inspirational, and under his guidance CTRD has expanded greatly and continues to advance. The entire CTRD team are fully committed to realising CTRDs vision and are steadily making continued, sustainable progress in achieving this.

The approach that CTRD adopts in all their programmes is focused and participatory in its intervention, empowering local disadvantaged communities to help escape the crippling cycle of poverty.

The CTRD campus in Eallamanna is surrounded by beautiful hills, tea plantations and forests, and is a wonderfully tranquil and refreshing place to live and work. All the CTRD staff are extremely friendly and helpful, and as a volunteer here I was readily accepted and warmly welcomed to the team.

Anyone who is interested in development work and the alleviation of poverty, and who is confident in written English, will be able to provide valuable assistance to the CTRD administration team and can help this worthwhile organisation achieve their goals.

There is also a lot of potential for those with medical qualifications to assist in the many health initiatives conducted by CTRD, including the opportunity to work in the CTRD Community Based Hospital.

In addition the scope for those with an interest in tribal communities is great too, as through their work over the last two decades and more, CTRD has earned the access, trust and respect of the tribal people in this region.

Els Van Dongen - My stay at CTRD

My name is Els van Dongen. After finishing my Ph.D. in Chinese Studies, I spent 5 weeks as a volunteer at CTRD Trust. I chose this NGO because I was impressed with its project descriptions and because I wanted to learn more about life in the Indian countryside and the situation of the tribal population in the region.

When I arrived at the CTRD campus in Ealamanna village, I was stunned by the beauty of the surroundings. The view is one of palm trees, mango trees, tea plantations, and mountains as far as the eye reaches-a lush green oasis of peace. The only sounds one hears are those of birds chirping and insects buzzing. In the night, the sound of drumming and flute-playing tribes might be added to that.

Culturally, I learnt more about Indian traditions and habits than I could ever have imagined. I observed the Hindu customs of the staff members?such as the daily prayers and the special activities during the festival time?and I even took part in several pujas myself. Every day, the cook prepared me fresh and delicious local food, which made me discover ingredients I had never heard of. During several field visits to the tribal villages, I was able to learn first-hand things about tribal life. I even had the opportunity to attend a tribal marriage during my stay.

Professionally, I have never learnt so much in such a short time merely by observing and experiencing. I assisted with the writing of funding proposals, which taught me a lot about the workings of NGOs and the state of the field. Through visits from CTRD's partner organizations like Raleigh International, I also got a lot of valuable inside information concerning the NGO sector. It was very enriching to see the faces behind what was hitherto but an abstract acronym to me. The IISE institute empowers visually impaired people from all over the world to start their own social or environmental projects. You learn how to write project proposals, conduct effective fund raising campaigns, deal with media etc, in summary, everything that you need to be well prepared and equipped to join the community of NGOs and to make a positive change in the world.

What I enjoyed most about my stay here is the fact that CTRD, in spite of having grown over the years, remains a grassroots organization that works closely with the local population. I was able to get to know the beneficiaries and to witness some of the results of CTRD's interventions with my own eyes, such as the inauguration of CTRD's first biogas tank at Ealamanna, the construction of new houses for the tribal people, or the visits of women from the numerous Self-Help Groups.

I was amazed by the sense of commitment and genuineness of the staff members, who involved me in their work and shared their experiences with me. I could have never imagined the obstacles and problems these people face on a daily basis. It was most inspiring to see how people here always believe that everything is possible, no matter what the circumstances are. In this and many, many other ways, my stay at CTRD was a truly life-changing experience

Vera Hofmann - My stay at CTRD

My name is Vera Hofmann. After finishing my Bachelors degree in Psychology in Germany, I decided to volunteer in India for 6 months.

I chose CTRD Trust because I was fascinated by the various projects that they had to benefit the Tribal community. Moreover, I was drawn to their "grassroot" character. CTRD Trust is based in and empowers the Tribal community in the Nilgiris District tea plantations. Moreover, I enjoyed living at this site because I am fascination by the tea plant.

Since mid October 2013, I worked in different projects. After two months in my new environment, I shadowed staff members and helped them on the field. Having gained confidence from working in the field, I began conducting projects of my own. I continued developing projects until the end of my stay. My projects included helping the CTRD Home start five Vision Centers and renovating the kitchen at the CTRD Home.

On one hand, I worked very closely with tribal and destitute children. On the other, I cooperated with German Companies who supported the CTRD. Mr. Ranganathen gave me a lot of freedom to organize my projects the way I thought best. And when I had the feeling to have fresh air and take a break from office work, I would go to the CTRD Home to work with the orphans in the kitchen garden.

At CTRD, I learned a lot about tribes, the rural population in India, and their perception of life and values. I experienced firsthand the pleasures and sorrows of day-to-day life in this NGO. I am very grateful to all of the staff members who received me so cordially; because of them I learned a lot. I'm especially grateful to Mr. Ranganathen, he made this experience so authentic and unique.

Connecting with the destitute children and senior citizens at the CTRD Home widened my perspective of life. They showed me how beautiful and funny life can be even if you've nearly lost everything. The companionship among them and close relationship they built with me during my six month stay in the Nilgiris made me think about human bonding, dependency, and our western, more individualistic lifestyle.

I recommend staying at the CTRD Trust to those who are interested in learning more about the NGO sector, to those who are interested in working with experienced social workers, and to those who are willing to delve into an amazing, life changing experience in rural India.