A Large Thank You!
During the year 2015, ABC have ended a long and successful collaboration with HIMAD. HIMAD (Himalayan Society for Alternative Development) was founded 1995 and have been a collaboration partner of ABC since 1996. HIMAD was established in Gopeshwar by people former engaged in different NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organization) and who have been working with awareness raising programs in the district of Chamoli.
The projects and collaborations of ABC are characterised by long-sightedness, but all projects have an ending point. Through a dialogue with Ann Ottengrim (the founder of the collaboration between HIMAD and ABC), HIMAD and Radiohjälpen, the decision to end the collaboration between ABC and HIMAD was taken in April 2015.
During the last years the interest in ABC’s volunteer program, arranged between ABC and HIMAD in 2002 – 2014, have decreased among the members of ABC. This have contributed to the successive reducing of communication and collaboration between the organizations.
However a new platform for HIMAD in Sweden have been established at the Linnaeus University in Växjö by Ann Ottengrim. Today HIMAD is collaborating with several other international organizations around the world who are managing similar work as the volunteer program of ABC. Moreover HIMAD have during the years of collaboration built up the necessary competence, knowledge and network that is needed for their important work.
ABC would sincerely like to thank everyone for the fifth teen years past. A combining text based on interviews with former volunteers and engaged people in the collaboration between ABC and HIMAD continues below. With this, ABC thank all of our members and donors for the support during the years and wishes HIMAD and Ann Ottengrim good luck with their continuous work.
Summary of the responses
HIMAD – Himalayan Society for Alternative Development has been a partner organization to ABC since 1996 and works with empowerment and social mobilizing in the Chamoli district in Uttarakhand in India. They believe, like ABC, in small- scale work in order to create change and are active on an individual level with society’s most challenged groups. During these years, HIMAD has managed to succeed in making positive changes in the society and has also worked in an exchange program with Swedish volunteers in order to make their voices heard on an international level. Groups of women and children, mainly from low cast people get together and work to change their lives with the aid and support of HIMAD.
Human rights and the enhancing of equality between men and women are important building blocks in this project. The Swedish Radiohjälpen granted ABC one million SEK in year 2008 for the construction of a new education program in Uttrakhand. An education centre was built and completed in the district of Chamoli year 2010. Focus lies on women and children of the lower casts and indigenous people and their ability to read and write. Of prime importance are the development of village schools and the quality of the education. Providing knowledge in the UN Convention of Children’s Rights and the UN Declaration of Human Rights to local authorities is also a priority. The common goal for the education centre is to provide free education for up to 130 000 people until year 2020. By the year 2012 the program had already reached over 100 000 people.
ABC and HIMAD have together developed a volunteer program where Swedish and international volunteers through ABC have had the possibility of doing an internship at HIMAD. The volunteer program have also been functioning as a knowledge- and experience exchange between different cultures where the involved people have been able to develop as individuals. Through the volunteer program a friendship bond have been created over boundaries and providing a chance of taking part in a small- scale development projects.
To gather experiences form former volunteers of ABC at HIMAD our intention was to contact them through email with a question of participation in the survey via telephone or a questionnaire via email. Unfortunately the falling off was big due to a large amount of the emails bouncing and some of the people that couldn’t take part due to different reasons. We managed to collect answers from six people that had been volunteers at HIMAD through ABC, three of them had done the volunteer period as an internship while studying at a university. Of the people answering all made their volunteer and internship period in between 2005 – 2013. Five ouf of six people answered that they had been active in ABC after their volunteer and internship period, and four people have been in the board of ABC. The person who didn’t engage in ABC answered that it was because of moving from Lund when returning from India.
In our sent out emails we turned to people who had been active in the collaboration between ABC and HIMAD. We got answers from four people who all had been active in the board because of their interest in this collaboration. They answered that they had been engaged between 2010 – 2014, which means that we have a low number of people answering if we look to the fact that ABC and HIMAD have been collaboration since 1998 – 2015. We also lack responses from people who have been stationed/employed in both Sweden and India during their engagement in ABC, all of our respondent have been volunteering or interns at HIMAD. The low answering frequency makes it hard to draw any conclusions from the responses we have got and also hard to guarantee the anonymity of the respondents. Below follows a brief and general conclusion of the responses we got.
Preparations before the volunteer period
The volunteer program was organized with a preparation period in Sweden before the departure and with a conclusion meeting when returning and finishing the volunteer period. The preparation meetings were held to inform the volunteer how ABC and HIMAD work together and as organizations. To discuss the project ideas from the volunteer and general information about culture, food and safety. The volunteers went in pair or more, hence the preparation gathering also being a time for team- building if the volunteers did not know each other from before. All of our respondents have been happy with the preparation period in Sweden and most of the respondents also concluded that it was well prepared, structured and containing most information needed before leaving. One person suggesting to shift the order in how the preparation meeting was structured and another had the session cancelled which did that the volunteers did not get to know each other which had been good before the departure.
The volunteer period
The volunteers in the volunteer program participated in the different activities of HIMAD at the centre and in study visits in projects in different villages. The volunteers could decide themselves to what extent they wanted to participate in the projects of HIMAD. The volunteers also formulated their own projects to realize during the period at HIMAD. Examples of projects have been workshops in gender and power, human rights, information about HIV and English skills/teaching.
During the volunteer period, the volunteers had supervision and coaching from a contact person from ABC in Sweden through email and their supervisor at HIMAD. This has been arranged differently during the years of collaboration and the volunteer program. Before the building of the centre ABC had a flat in central Gopeshwar where a coordinator from ABC lived. During this time the volunteers stayed with the coordinator in that apartment. After the building of the centre the volunteer stayed there instead, together with a supervisor from HIMAD.
There is a difference in how the supervision was done between the people doing an internship and the people being volunteers. The ones who went there as volunteers experienced that their counselling worked out really well whilst the interns experienced some lack in the supervision. Examples of this is the lack of feedback and problems in communicating this.
There were also some trouble with having continuous coaching sessions. The supervision from ABC was primarily communicated via email except for one of the respondent who lived with the contact person living in Gopeshwar at that time. The overall answers is that the counselling have worked out well except one person answering that the communicating deceased during the time at HIMAD and ended up with no supervision or communication from ABC and the same person did not get a follow-up meeting when returning to Sweden.
Some aspects that almost all of the respondents brought up as the most positive with the stay at HIMAD is the cross- culture meetings with the locals, which was experienced as very enriching and something most of the respondents remembers with warmth. The majority also mentions the nature and surroundings in the area, Gopeshwar is situated 2000m over the ocean. The most important thing is also all the things learned from HIMAD as an organization and their inspiring work in the region.
Homecoming and continued engagement
After homecoming some of the volunteers and interns met with the ABC supervisor to conclude and discuss the time at HIMAD. This was not the case for all people. No one of the respondents answering our questions were engaged in ABC before joining the volunteer program. Hence, getting in contact with ABC when looking for possible volunteer or internships.
After volunteering, one person who worked with one project at HIMAD from Sweden also became the ambassador for the volunteer program. The others who also joined ABC after finishing their volunteering and internships engaged in administrative roles in the collaboration, where the urge in the beginning was to keep the collaboration going. All respondents thinks that it is unfortunate that the collaboration have been ended and feels that they have learned a lot during their engagements.