By Amber Archdale
My name is Amber and I recently took part in a World Vision Global Citizens Experience in India. I was given this opportunity through VGen, which is the World Vision Youth Movement, and I am currently starting a VGroup at UniSA.
I wanted to go to India because I wasn’t confident talking to people about global issues such as poverty, overseas aid, fair trade and child and maternal health. However, while I was there I learnt far more about the work that World Vision does in developing nations.
World Vision is divided into field and support offices. Australia is a support office, meaning they send help, and India is a field office, meaning they ask and receive help from the support offices. In each national field office they identify the areas of the country where there is the most need for World Vision assistance. These areas are called Area Development Programs (ADP). Within each ADP, there are projects that work in specific communities on specific issues. The communities that we visited were all selected because they had a high amount of child malnutrition and the highest rates of poverty.
A project addresses the most pressing issues, such as sanitation, education, female empowerment and child malnutrition. However, in most of the communities that I visited, they mainly presented us with the positive influences that World Vision has had.
One of the only communities that we visited that didn’t have a 100% positive story to tell was the Delhi Child Restoration Project. We were told beforehand what the living conditions of the children were before World Vision started working with the community. Everyone lived on the streets, and many of them – including the children – were on drugs. The sad thing was that some families in that community preferred to live on the streets, and children often relapsed into drug-use. What was worse was that no one in the community seemed to love each other. After visiting that community everyone in our group cried. This is something that I am sure will stay with me for the rest of my life.
That project also massively changed my attitude towards people in my life who have not had the loving upbringing that I have had.
One of the most inspiring aspects of the trip was some of the women that we met. Women in Australia have a lot of amazing opportunities — for example, our entire group was comprised of girls except for one of the group leaders — but in India many aspects of society are still dominated by men. It’s not even common for women to drive. World Vision implemented education programs for both men and women so that now women are allowed out of their homes, and some of them have even started their own businesses — albeit small corner-stall kinds of shops. Groups of women in each of the communities have started things called Self Help Groups (SHG). Each woman puts in a small amount of money each month — 50 to 100 rupees (80c – $1.70), which equals a quarter to a fifth of their wages — and together they open a bank account. This means they can lend money within the group instead of borrowing from loan sharks that they then can’t pay back. For a lot of those women, just the prospect of having a bank account was exciting and new.
Hearing all of this, I was extremely grateful for my life in Australia.