July – September 2016
by Josef Eiter
I am a bachelor student of law and economics at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. In my second year at the university I decided to do some volunteer work in my summer break. Because I also wanted to get to know a new culture – I haven´t been outside of Europe for work or travel at that time – my decision fell to a country outside Europe. India was a country I didn´t know much about (except that it has a fast growing economy; very much people; an old, colourful and versatile culture; spicy food and a lot of dancing in movies), but wanted to get to know it. Apart from the volunteer work I saw this internship as a personal challenge to prove that I can get along abroad on my own.
Through the project Gateway to India from the University of St. Gallen and over the Swiss Dalyan Foundation I got to know the Non-Profit-Organisation MEDHA. The reason Medha got hold of my attention had two reasons: First, co-founder of Medha Christopher Turillo visited the Dalyan Foundation on the day of my interview and I got to know him. And more important. Second, MEDHA works with students from the working class, who are possibly the first in their family to study and don´t have much money. This is a topic I can relate to very well, because my parents also come from the working class and I am the first man in my family who goes to university.
My internship took place for a duration of eight weeks in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, between July 11th and September 2nd 2016.
2. About MEDHA
Medha is an NGO which set its goal to improve the employment outcomes for youth in India. To achieve this goal, Medha works together with various colleges and universities and provides different skill trainings (spoken English training, computer training, job application training, …), career counselling and workplace exposure, ongoing job placement and alumni support to students.
Since its founding in 2011, Medha has trained over 3´000 students from 30 educational institutions, made placements for internships and full-time jobs at 200 leading employers and built a public-private partnership with the government of Uttar Pradesh.
Medha is supported by leading global foundations like Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Citi Foundation, and EdelGive Foundation; and has received numerous awards and recognitions for its work, including the Echoing Green Global Fellowship, the Dasra Girl Power Award, and the Sitaram Rao Livelihoods Asia Award.
3. Activity Report
3.1 Ordinary Tasks
The working week of Medha was from Monday to Friday and had some flexibility depending the work hours – I had to work eight hours a day, but I was free to arrive at the office between 9:00 and 10:00 and leave depending on my arrival. Because the schools hadn´t started jet in the beginning of my internship, most of the Medha employees worked in the office, doing their wrap-up of the last and the preparation of the next semester. Later on a lot of the team was at the schools performing their trainings.
My tasks contained the work on different projects in various departments, which are explained in detail in the following passage:
Formatting annual reports for schools and CAB documents
As explained earlier, in the beginning of my internship many Medha employees were working on the wrap-up of the last semester. This contained writing reports for the schools to show what Medha had accomplished at these schools over the last year.
Even though the contents were finished some trainers asked me to have a final look over the formatting.
Connected to the preparation for the next trainings, Medha improved the curriculum of its Career Advanced Bootcamp (CAB). The CAB contains various skills – which are crucial for every career – like public speaking, resume writing and interview preparation. The result of this improvement were about 50 – 60 word documents with different formats.
My task was to give them a consistent format and merge all into one script, as a handout for the trainers.
Improving the TAB curriculum
Last semester Medha introduced the Technically Advanced Bootcamp (TAB). The TAB curriculum contains training about the counterprograms Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, which are skills necessary for every office job nowadays and is designed for students with no prior knowledge about computers. Because this program was held for the first time last semester, it had a lot of points to improve.
My task was to go over the whole curriculum and simplify explanations, cut out insignificant content and complement necessary content. This also included writing two manuals (one version for students and one version for teachers), designing exercises with standard solutions and developing an assessment for base and end line to be able to determine the improvement of the students.
Due to the advice of a British accountant, who did a volunteer program at about the same time I was at Medha, a new Human Ressources (HR) Software was established in the organisation. Prior to this new software all the HR related tasks (like organising leave, the employee database and the employee’s attendance) were managed by hand or with Microsoft Excel.
My part was to study the user manual and help Sharia from HR with the data entry and the establishing of the software.
Designing report templates
During the wrap-up the problem was discovered, that all trainers used different formats for their reports. This is not only inconsistent, but also time consuming, especially for the midterm reports for internal use.
I made templates for weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual reports so the trainers can generate them easier and faster.
Debug student’s database
Because of an error in the student´s database, most of the entries got some minor mistake. They didn´t had much influence, but had to be changed. With about 3´000 entries it would have taken too long to correct all the entries one by one in the online database.
My task was, together with Marissa from monitoring & evaluation, to find a solution for this problem, where we succeeded in.
Templates for student’s evaluation
To improve the monitoring of Medhas impact, Medha decided to start an evaluation in all the classes. In every class they want to measure the performance of the student’s bevor and after the trainings. The only problem is, that without templates, this is very time and labour intensive.
My Job was to develop an Excel Template with fast and easy data entry, which returns the improvement automatically. I also designed a Word Template, with which the trainers can generate reports to hand out to the students.
3.2 Special Events
13.07.2016: Dinner with some colleagues of the office
In my first week, Shivani, Rohit and Shireen invited me to have dinner with them. We went to one of their favourite places in the city and had some food I never heard of before. It was also a good opportunity to get to know the colleagues better.
26.07.2016: Gunjin´s last day
Gunjin was employed at Medha for many years and responsible for marketing & communication, he also helped many people in the office with Microsoft Excel problems. He switched to another job, because he wanted a new challenge. On his last day there was a small farewell party with some snacks and cake and everyone gave a short speech about the experiences they had with Gunjin.
Also two colleagues had birthday in July and the birthdays at Medha are celebrated at the end of the month together, so this was also part of that evening.
27.07.2016: Karaoke with the office
Due to the fact, that not all colleagues were present on Gunjin´s last day, the office decided to have a second farewell at a Karaoke bar. We went there in the evening after work, had some snacks and some far too difficult (but funny) Karaoke in Hindi.
29.07.2016: Excursion to Rajat Girl´s Degree College and farewell Chimi and Alex
Two other interns, Chimi (from the USA) and Alex (from England), had their last day at the office. During their time at Medha they worked on questionnaires to measure the satisfaction of the students with the Medha programs. They went to the Rajat Girl´s Degree College to hand out their last questionnaires and took me with them. It was my first impression of an Indian college – and surprisingly there were a lot of boys even though it was named girls college.
After the questionnaires were filled out and we had some interaction with the students we had lunch in an East-Indian restaurant called “Baatichokha”. In the evening back in the office there was a small farewell party for Chimi and Alex.
06.08.2016: Excursion Axis Bank Headquarter Lucknow
As part of the career orientation of one of their programs, Medha arranged an industry exposure visit to the Axis Bank Headquarter in Lucknow for about 15 students. The purpose of this excursion was to show the students possibilities they have in a career in banking and it contained a presentation about Axis Bank and a guided tour through all departments.
I accompanied two trainers on that day to Axis Bank and had the duty to make pictures for the Medha website.
15.08.2016: Independence Day
Even though the Independence Day is a work free day in India, some people met in the office anyway to celebrate the 69th anniversary of their independence together. As celebration we decorated the office in the colours of the Indian flag and drew a big banner with thinks coming to our mind, when we think about freedom.
18.08.2016: Snakes in front of the office
We weren´t able to get into the office at the normal time, because Christopher (cofounder) was on a trip and one forgot the key to the office, so we waited about 20 minutes in front of the office for Byomkesh to arrive with the key. During that time, two guys with a whistle and two baskets stopped by. It turned out they were some snake charmers.
23.08.2016: Visiting two CAB classes at Avadh Girls College
On this day I was able to visit two Career Advanced Bootcamp (CAB) classes at the Avadh Girls College, see the Medha trainings in action and interact with some students.
The first class was about time management and we had a short discussion afterwards (although the students weren´t very talkative) about some additional inputs I had and also about internships.
The second class was about presentations and the students had to hold short speeches about assigned topics. My part in this class was to give the students feedback on their body language and speaking. This group was more open and we had a discussion about the value of internships afterwards.
On my last day I was quite busy because I wanted to finish my last project (a complicated Excel Template for student’s evaluation). I worried that, if I don´t finish it, Medha won´t be able to use it, because it contained a lot of formulas and most of the people at Medha weren´t experienced in it (it is something you don’t use ordinary). For that reason, I was still working with the rest of the office preparing my farewell party behind my back.
After I finished my last task the farewell party began immediately. It was very nice. My colleagues talked about the projects I worked on with them and how they noticed me. Also Graham (a British accountant who lived in the same guesthouse as I) prepared some funny stories over a couple of trips we made on the weekends together. During the party we had some snacks and cake and I got handed a present bag with some Indian spices (I told them, that I wanted to bring spices back home for my parents).
4. Conclusion Internship
During my eight weeks with Medha in Lucknow I lived in a nice guesthouse about 1.5 kilometres from the office (which Medha organised for me). The landlord was very friendly and I had a very luxury room with an air condition, for which I was very glad for at night.
The work at Medha consisted of helping with the daily tasks that came up in the NGO. I did a lot of formatting of reports and curriculums, helped to improve the curriculums, designed different templates, helped establishing an HR-software and assisted at the monitoring and evaluation of students data.
On my typical work day, I stated at 9:30 o´clock in the morning, had lunch together with my colleagues and left the office at about 18:00 o´clock. I also was able to make some excursions to schools and interact with students, which helped me to understand the Indian school system and why the work of NGO´s like Medha is important.
What I also liked very much about the internship, was that I was able to travel around on the weekends. The people in the office were very supportive and helped me to find places to visit, as well as busses and trains to get there (for a European perspective the public transport is too complicated). I haven´t been outside of Europe before, so I didn´t have much experience about that. With their help I was able to gain some very valuable memories and get to know the Indian culture better.
All in all, this internship was an impressive experience and I was able to get to know new people, a new culture and develop personally.