Action for Self Reliance and Alternatives (ASRA) – Experience Report 2012

ASRA

August – October 2012

by Sahar Sadid

Why?

The reason why I wanted to do this internship in Delhi, India and specifically with an NGO is an implication from my past experience. One year ago, in 2010, I had already done a 4-month internship in Delhi and I was so overwhelmed by my impressions and experiences from India that I wanted to return. Actually, I am studying Economics and British Studies in Mainz, Germany, but after my first internship in India I was thinking about to focus in my future profession on a rather social area, accordingly I wanted to intern with an NGO this time.

ASRA:

ASRA (Action for Self Reliance and Alternatives) is an NGO which was found in 1992 by Ms. Vandana Mishra who is also the current President. The organization has his headquarter called ARTC (ASRA Rehabilitation and training Centre) in Uttam Nagar which is located in the western part of Delhi and offers different services within the slum communities in which they are active (currently 39 slum communities) called the CBR program (Community based Rehabilitation). The aim of ASRA is to support mainly disabled people in the slums of Delhi and to improve their living condition by promoting their economic and social independence, hence empowering and strengthening their self-reliance. ASRA´s main activities can thereby be divided into: – Social Sector & Vocational Training Rehabilitation, – Education Rehabilitation, – Medical Rehabilitation and – Economic Rehabilitation. – The Social Sector & Vocational Training Rehabilitation implies different courses as for example Computer Training, Tailoring / Fashion Designing or Beauty Culture which enables the beneficiaries to acquire new skills and to find a job or become self-employed and thereby financially independent. – The Education Rehabilitation offers Non Formal Education for children who never went to school, Remedial Education which are classes additionally to school education, and Special Education for mentally retarted which helps the pupils to improve or intensify their education and thereby job prospects. Moreover, ASRA´s Education Sponsorship Program provides financial support in the form of a Sponsorship to slum children with disabilities. – The Medical Rehabilitation implies different therapies as for example Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy or Speech Therapy which improves the beneficiaries health to facilitate a more self-reliant life. Furthermore, ASRA provides appliances as for example crutches or tricyles. – The Economic Rehabilitation implies the financial support of ASRA in the form of Seed Loans (Micro Credits). The beneficiaries can get a free loan ranging between 5,000 and 15,000 Rupees to start their own business or to buy additional items for their shops and thereby to increase their monthly income or to become self-employed and independent. The beneficiaries can make use of these services, respectively courses, classes or therapies, for very less money or in special cases for free. For more information about ASRA: http://www.asra.org.in/future_vision.html

Internship:

Preparation:

To apply for visa I applied for a Tourist visa which is valid for 6 month and costs around 50 Euro at the Indian Embassy in Frankfurt. The application can also be done online and send by post along with the passport and a photo. The embassy will return it within 1-2 weeks.

To get your vaccinations The following vaccinations are important for India: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhus, Rabies, Meningococcal Meningitis and Japanese Encephalitis. Generally, you have to pay for your vaccinations yourself, but in some cases your health insurance will take over the costs, but this is up to your insurance and the vaccinations.

To conclude a foreign health insurance A foreign health insurance is very important as, according to my experience, every second person gets sick sometime. I was already insured with my credit card and consequently didn’t had to conclude an insurance.

To organize foreign money There are many cash machines in Delhi and possibilities to exchange money but I think traveler checks are the cheapest and safest form to organize Indian Rupees. The checks can be cashed in some banks in the city centre (Connaught Place) for very less money.

To book flight As flights to India are quite expensive, the flight should be booked as soon as possible. I flew with Turkish Airlines from Frankfurt to Delhi with transit in Istanbul for 520 Euro both ways.

To organize accommodation As I got the confirmation for my internship very late, ASRA wasn´t able to help me to find a accommodation. They referred me to Romi Johri who accommodated the previous intern and who finally helped me to find a room in Delhi.

Arrival / Accomodation:

I arrived 5 o´clock in the morning and was welcomed at the airport by Sanjeev Kumar who was one of my future work colleagues. He dropped me at Ms. Vandana Mishra´s house who is the President of ASRA. After a nice breakfast and conversation with her I was brought to Ms. Romi Johri where I stayed for one night. The next day she helped me to find a nice room in the area where I used to live the year before, in Kailash Colony, which is in the southern part of Delhi. Although my room was quite far from my workplace and it took my every day 1:30 h by metro and although it wasn´t very cheap (10,000 Rupees), I preferred to stay there as the southern part of Delhi is generally safer and cleaner. I had my own room and even a little balcony but shared the kitchen and bathroom with two nice India girls. At night the gates to our streets were closed and controlled by watchmen, so that it was very safe. Generally, I would recommend future interns to contact the embassy as they have some addresses of international people who let rooms or flats.

Occupation:

I had the task to prepare a feedback sheet and based on this sheet to conduct a use-of-potential analysis to find out in how far the beneficiaries benefit from ASRA´s support. Hence, my typical workday at ASRA started at around 9.30. I had a short briefing with Ms. Ankana Gupta who is the organisational manageress of ASRA about my daily routine. Basically, I interviewed beneficiaries at the headquarter, ARTC in Uttam Nagar, or we went directly to the slum communities where the beneficiaries were waiting for me, or we made house calls. Thereby, I was always accompanied by a translator and a driver. The task was very interesting as I had direct contact with people and thereby got a direct insight into their lives. It was definitely shocking to see under which circumstances these people have to live and even more shocking to see from which disabilities they suffer. Generally, the atmosphere at ASRA was very relaxed. All colleagues were always very nice and polite to me and I had many liberties while working, even though I have to admit that I sometimes felt to be treated more like an inspector than an intern. Nonetheless, they nicely surprised me on my last workday, and simultaneously birthday, with a birthday party.

Delhi:

Shopping: Delhi is a shopping paradise, so don´t bring too many clothes with you. At some local markets like Lajpat Nagar, Sarojini Nagar or Dilli Haat you can find nice clothes or souveniers for very less money, for example shirts or dresses from western brands for just 1,50 Euro. Thereby, you always have to bargain. For a foreigner they will make the prices more expensive, so you should always take an Indian friend with you who helps you while bargaining. You can also find very cheap jewellery (silver and gold) or can get cheap tailor-made clothes.

Nightlife: There are few nightclubs in Delhi and you will usually always hear the same music and meet the same people, but I always enjoyed going out. There are some nice bars in Hauz Khas Village, and some nice nightclubs in GKI- N-Block called Urban Pind and Boombox Café. I also liked the club Hype near the city centre (Connaught Place). You usually don´t have to pay an entrance fee and it´s a good possibility to meet other foreigners for example AIESECinterns. Additionally, thanks to the Rikschas you will always get home cheaply.

Travelling: I would recommend to everyone who decides to do an internship in India to budget some weeks for travelling. India is such a beautiful and diverse country and it´s so cheap to travel. Especially the good location of Delhi, close to many impressive cities, enables to do some nice weekend trips for example to Agra, Amritsar, McLeod Ganj, Jaipur or Shimla. Thereby, you should rather travel by train than by bus. It´s an adventurous experience!

Generally, Delhi is a city full of: Dirt, animals (cows, elephants, apes), poverty, delicious food, cheap shopping facilities, cheap transport facilities (Rikschas, Metro), cheaters, very hospitable people, rain and complete craziness. It, definitely, won´t be ever boring!

Conclusion:

I, once more, really enjoyed my stay in India and would recommend to everyone who thinks about doing an internship in India to embrace the opportunity. It’s a different country with a different culture, mentality, language and definitely a challenge but it will expand your horizon and hopefully change your worldview. Additionally, I want to thank Gateway to India and ASRA who made this possible!