review

I arrived to begin my 12 weeks working on the Street Children project in Jaipur in early August 2015. I booked my volunteering experience through Love Volunteers but on arrival found that it was only with Sankalp, the partner organisation administered by an Indian husband and wife team, with whom I would be working.

I arrived to the volunteer house just after Sankalp had thrown three girls out onto the streets with no-where to go. One of these girls was just 17 years old.
Their reason for this was that these girls had written a letter to Love Volunteers voicing their discontent relating to how little of what they had paid to volunteer was going towards the projects. Their complaints had been brought to the attention of the administrators of Salkalp and they were asked to leave. Needless to say I didn't arrive in a very positive environment.

During our induction, the project co-ordinator (the wife, for the husband speaks very poor English) told us more regarding India as a whole rather than the projects they oversee and what we'd be doing day to day.
The main issue was that most people only discovered during this induction that they would NOT be working for an NGO. Love Volunteers claimed Sankalp was a non profit organisation as do several sites on Google. In fact the Sankalp website still states they work with NGO’s. I never worked with an NGO during my 3 months.

Also within our induction volunteers learnt that instead of 'helping' at a school you would in fact be put in front of 5-12 children who speak very little English with no idea of where they are at with studies to teach them English and Maths. She also told me false information regarding the level of my class. Which as it turns out she knows nothing about appearing for only a few minutes three times during my three months at the school and barely associating with the children. This is just one example of many that reveal the lack of regard for both the volunteers and the projects shown by the two administrators of Sankalp.

On arrival at the school I found that there were in excess of 50 children in 8 classes with only one teacher. Each time a new volunteer arrived they were given a group of children and there was little continuity with the teaching. If there was only one volunteer at the school they keep their one class whilst the main teacher is expected to teach the other 7 classes, all at different levels.
Although the school has been open for 7 years there are no desks, two classes to each room, 3 classes taught outdoors under a shelter and very few teaching facilities.

Each volunteer had a different method of teaching, being of different cultures and nationalities, most with zero teaching experience and with no instruction and very few books on what to teach. There was no record of what previous volunteers had taught before. This resulted in the children being taught the same things over and over. In fact, a system of keeping the tests that are completed every Friday in a folder to show where each class was up to was only implemented a week before I arrived after Love Volunteers began questioning the setup of Sankalp due to the amount of complaints they had been receiving from previous volunteers.

I could go on and on regarding how disappointed I was with Sankalp throughout my stay there:
- 80% of the volunteers left early due to them being so unhappy with the setup of Sankalp.
- The lack of structure within all the programmes for example: The Women Empowerment programme that has very little to do with women or empowerment seeing as the girls are all below the age of 16 and learn nothing to do with the rights of Indian women but are only taught such things as English nouns and body parts. Again, like on the Street Children programme there was no record of what had been taught to the girls by the previous volunteers.
-The state of the volunteer house: the paint and plaster in the living rooms are peeling away drastically, the beds are horrifically dirty and volunteers are expected to buy their own work clothes, cleaning products and toilet paper.
- The 9:30pm curfew in place for everyone till two 50 year old Indian men came back each night at around 11pm and nothing was said...

This is just a very short list of examples of what I saw that was wrong during my three months working with Sankalp.

Steps were being taken whilst I was there to improve what the girls complained about: storage shelves were placed downstairs to hold pens, paper, pencils and other school essentials. New folders were given to us to keep the tests the children did each Friday in order to keep a record of what they had studied previously. It’s just a shame that it takes people complaining and Love Volunteers to start asking questions before the administrators decide to take any action towards improvement.

I can see how far Sankalp have come since being launched in 2006. During my 9th week myself and several volunteers were called downstairs to ask what Sankalp could do to stop receiving so many complaints. This was the first time I got any real answer to where the money was going (into their pockets and then spent as they see fit: her words not mine) and saw the pictures showing how far they’d progressed. Yet with the amount people are spending to volunteer compared to how much it costs to live in India, plus the amount of volunteers they’ve had through the years I’m afraid in my opinion they have not progressed enough.

I think the fact that during my three months I didn’t see one volunteer out of 40 leave satisfied with their experience shows how successful Sankalp really is.

Location: 
Overall: 
2
Support: 
1
Value: 
2

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