Sampark – Experience Report 2017 I

June – July 2017

by Katja Schönle

The Organization
Sampark is an NGO based in Bangalore, Karnataka. Their Mission is to help the vulnerable and poor, especially women, to gain direct control over and improve their lives through educational interventions primarily aimed at increasing people’s income earning ability. Sampark seeks to empower target groups through skill building, guidance and hands-on orientation programs. Ranging from formation of Self Help Groups and credit facilities to imparting education for children and women. Their efforts are driven towards creating sustainable and holistic growth for the most vulnerable of people. Sampark has projects in Bangalore as well as in Koppal, which is in the Northern part of Karnataka State in a more rural area.
Sampark is active in different fields. They do training and capacity building for people to become selfreliant, for example by helping to set up micro enterprises which are completely owned by the local people. This kind of project is implemented in Koppal. Furthermore, Sampark supports migrant construction workers in Bangalore by creating awareness among those people about their entitlements. For the children of the migrant construction worker the NGO opened crèches where they get education and learning support. Apart from these activities Sampark also engages in research and evaluation studies on various development issues across India and South East Asia.
For further information on Sampark, please visit their webpage (http://sampark.org).
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The Project
I was working on the crèche project for the children of the migrant construction workers. In Bangalore, Sampark has established 9 crèches, and ensures the children of construction workers a safe and clean place to play, learn and interact with each other, where their growth is protected and they are nurtured in a healthy environment. In addition to proper nutrition, the children have access to immunization and regular health check-ups.
My task was to conduct an impact study on the crèches, which Sampark opened for the children of the migrant construction workers. For the study, I used both quantitative and qualitative data sets. At the beginning of my internship I could visit different crèches to get an impression of this project. After having written down my personal observations and impressions of the crèches I started with the data collection. The quantitative data set was provided by Sampark. The other intern from Switzerland, Kathrin, helped me with the evaluation of the quantitative data since I hadn’t enough time. For the qualitative data, I had to prepare different questionnaires for the parents, teachers, construction managers and Sampark staff. Most of the qualitative data was collected through focus group discussions (group interviews). For example, I went together with a Sampark employee to three different crèches and did focus group discussions with about 20 parents each. Since most of the interviewed people did not speak English, someone from Sampark’s staff helped me with the translation and the scheduling of all interviews. Most of the interviews I had to make on the weekends (Saturday or Sunday) because during week days the people were too busy. After having collected all the information, I wrote the report regarding the impact of the crèches on the migrant construction worker families and gave some recommendations on how to improve the project. Finally, I presented the findings on my last working day to Sampark’s staff and some of the board members. Even though, my internship only lasted for five weeks, I was able to write an extensive report and the timeframe was adequate for the study. The working hours are rather relaxed (starting around 9:30 until 17:00) but you often work on weekends (at least every second Saturday).
Apart from this project I went on a field visit to Koppal together with Kathrin (the other Swiss intern), a Sampark employee and another visitor. In Koppal the Sampark employees showed us during two days different projects, such as the self-help groups and women empowerment projects as well as the educational activities in schools. This was very interesting and I was very happy we got the opportunity to see those impressive projects and visit a more rural area in Karnataka.

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Life in Bangalore
I stayed for 5 weeks in Bangalore. The first three weeks I was “alone”, afterwards Kathrin joined me and also became my roommate. I was living in a Paying Guest (PG) room very close to the office (It’s called Esha’s Nest). In the PG, we had a double room with an own bathroom and on the terrace, they served delicious Indian breakfast and dinner, which was included in the price. The rent was 11’000 Rupees per month (approx. CHF 160.-). The accommodation was organized by Sampark and I had the chance to choose between two different PGs after my arrival. The area where I lived was rather quite (except the barking street dogs during night times) but with Uber / Rickshaw you could easily go to more crowded areas in Kormangla (a part in Bangalore) with lots of restaurants and bars within 15-20 minutes. In the PG lived about 30 Indian girls (20-30 years old) and it was very easy to get in contact with them. On the weekends, I regularly went out with them to explore the city.
During my time in Bangalore I signed up in a Yoga Studio (a1000yoga Premier) in Kormangla, where they offered lots of different Yoga classes. Bangalore itself is not a touristic city and you can’t do that many things. However, I visited some nice parks / gardens, went to different malls, went out for dinner or to some bars. In Bangalore, especially in Kormangla, there are lots of nice restaurants and bars. I often spent my free time with the younger people from Sampark’s staff or with the girls from the PG.
In my opinion, Bangalore was the ideal city for an internship in India. The climate was very pleasant. It hardly rained (even though it was during monsoon) and the temperature was always around 25 degrees. Regarding safety, I didn’t have any concerns in Bangalore. The only negative aspect is the traffic but this is in many Indian cities an issue.

Travelling in India
During the internship, Kathrin and I went after the Koppal field visit for one day to Hampi, since it was very close. I would really recommend visiting Hampi with its ruins and impressive temples. You can take a direct night train from Bangalore, which stops close to Hampi. Apart from that I didn’t have time to travel during the internship because I was often working on the weekends.
After the internship, I travelled for almost three weeks through India. We first went for about 10 days to Kerala, starting in Kochi and travelling down to Trivandrum. Afterwards we flew from Trivandrum to Udaipur in Rajasthan. From there we went to Jaipur, Agra and Delhi. In Kerala, we travelled by bus and in the North, we did everything by train. If you plan to travel by train, it is important to book the seats in advance. Most of the time I really enjoyed travelling around India but it can also be very exhausting. ☺

Personal Experience / Impressions
Looking back, I’m very glad I decided to go to Bangalore with Gateway to India. Due to the internship at Sampark I got in contact with various local people with very different backgrounds. This gave me a good impression of the Indian culture and I could learn a lot.
Sampark’s staff was always very helpful and they did everything to make my stay as pleasant as possible. The working environment at Sampark’s office was very enjoyable. There were so many young people and we had a lot of fun together.
Furthermore, the projects of Sampark are very impressive. It was interesting to get insight into an NGO working in the development sector. The field visit to Koppal was my personal highlight of the internship because it gave me insight into some very inspiring and remarkable projects. I was truly impressed by what the women achieved through their self-help groups and how they could personally develop. I would like to thank Sampark and Gateway to India for this internship and all the experiences I made during that time.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me!