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Amitee Parashar's experience in Ahmedabad

Name: Amitee Parashar
Volunteering activity: Researcher
Organisation: Saath Charitable Trust
Why did you decide to volunteer in India?
I would like to work in the development sector and I was very eager to build my overseas experience in this field. I was particularly interested in volunteering in India because, like many other young British Asians, I had only had the opportunity to travel and visit family in India for short periods of time. I hoped that on a personal level, this experience would allow me to gain a greater understanding of my culture and my background.
During my placement, I hoped to contribute and become a part of an Indian community and in doing this also wanted to improve my Hindi language skills. On a professional level I hoped this experience would enable me to gain an insight into key issues in grassroots development, particularly those facing India. I also hoped it would give me a chance to transfer some of the skills I have built during my studies and work experience to date to a development sector setting and make a positive contribution to my country of origin.
Could you describe the organisation which you volunteered for?
Saath is a well established charitable trust based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. It works to improve the living standards of people living in slum areas across Gujarat. It does this by taking an integrated approach to slum development, working alongside local communities to improve all aspects of life for slum residents  – from upgrading physical infrastructure to ensuring access to health, education and finance facilities.
What was your role and what activities were you involved in?
During my volunteer placement at Saath I worked on a project called the Urban Resource Centre (URC). This is a new initiative being set up by the organisation to improve the sharing of information and the co-ordination amongst all the stakeholders involved in slum development process including service providers, community members, and governments. In particular I identified some of the key market oriented functions of the URC.  I also helped to develop systems that map out the public and private services available in the health, education and micro-finance sectors. The role involved liaising with field level staff and conducting in-depth industry research to create detailed surveys to monitor the facilities available in each of these sectors. I also tested these surveys by conducting samples surveys. The best thing about working on this project was that I was able to work alongside people from all walks of life - from researchers, field level staff, service providers and slum residents - and I gained a real understanding of some of the key issues faced when trying to develop slum areas.
List qualifications or skills areas required to fulfil your role successfully?
  • Adaptability
  • Initiative/Enthusiasm. I think the most important thing needed to be successful at this role is to be enthusiastic and pro-active. Often you are required to work with very little direction and supervision so it is important that you can motivate yourself and set your own work plan. You also need to be able to work effectively to gain the support and help of those around you to complete projects.
  • Research Skills
What did you gain from the placement? Any learning from your placement and how would you use this in the UK?
During my volunteering project I developed  transferable work skills that will be very useful in anyjob - both in the UK and elsewhere. I also learnt a lot about India - its history and about the challenges and opportunities that it faces as it moves into the future – not to mention learning more about my own background and culture. I have had the opportunity to experience India in a way that I would never really be able to as a tourist and now feel that I have my own personal attachment to it.
I think also on a personal level one of the most important things I have learnt is that I can survive in India on my own, and that really enjoy it too! I know feel confident and inspired enough to tackle India on my own and hope I can develop my connection with the country even more in the future.