Namaste from the exotic, hectic, sweltering, holy city of Varanasi, India! On my daily rickshaw ride to The Dove Foundation, the vibrant colors, smells, and sounds of Varanasi bombard my senses. The Dove Foundation, is the largest youth-led non-profit organization in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
The foundation aims to provide quality healthcare and education, and to expand educational and employment opportunities to youth members of marginalized communities, with a high emphasis on urban slums. At 3 years old, the Dove has already established three programs including Project Arambh, which has received the 2010 MTV Staying Alive Foundation Award. Project Arambh provides HIV/AIDS and reproductive health education to the low-caste community of bicycle rickshaw pullers in India. The Dove Foundation also runs two other programs: The Youth Education Program (2011), and the Community Involvement Program (2012).
I found the Dove Foundation through internship site leads posted on the Brandeis India Initiative website. I emailed Abhinav Singh, the listed Dove contact person, showing general interest in their organization over winter break. I soon received an enthusiastic response that we might be able to work together.
As a Communication Intern for the Dove, I will help develop the organization’s online fundraising campaign; create a short promotional video about various programs sponsored by the organization that will be distributed on social media sites and webpages; facilitate programs for members of the marginalized communities that Dove assists; write and edit web content and brochures; and manage the Foundation’s social media sites.
When I first arrived at the Indian Medical Association Building, where Dove Foundation is based, I was thrilled to finally meet Abhinav Singh and Mohita Keshware, my two internship coordinators with whom I had been corresponding with since last winter. Both introduced me to several other Dove volunteers, all less than 35 years old. The youthful spirit and energy of the group of volunteers is contagious, and makes working for this organization much more fun. I’ve already picked up some interesting slang from my co-workers.
The first week, the Dove organized the World Blood Donation 2013 mega event. My first day at work involved advertising the Dove Foundation’s blood donation campaign in Varanasi’s bustling IP Sigra Mall. This was fantastic exposure. I met up with other Dove volunteers, and learned several phrases in Hindi about the blood drive:
Didje to-fa dzindi ghee-ka: Donate blood, save a life!
Ya “Blood Donate” carne aye gha!: Come Donate blood now!
Also… Apke sahg-nam kiya-he? : What is your name?
The following day, I visited a local ashram/ orphanage with Dove volunteers to create a skit for a street theater performance with the young children for The Dove Foundation’s World Blood Donation Day rally. For this, I learned more lines in Hindi, and felt warmed by the bright faces of the young boys.
The rally was the most exciting part of my first week. An open-backed van mounted with several large speakers pulled into our office parking lot for the rally event. We decorated the van with vinyl posters and white and red balloons on all sides. The van blasted music as it drove towards the IP Sigra Mall, where a large crowd gathered. After we performed our skit for a hundred or so pedestrians, the van drove to its second destination, the gates of Benares Hindu University, for a flash mob performance to promote World Blood Donation Day 2013. A procession of motorcycles roared along the van’s path and volunteers holding signs followed the van as it reached the destination. As the van made frequent stops to announce its campaign to the community, volunteers distributed informational pamphlets and free coupons to a local restaurant.
At the gates of the university, loud music began to play and a group of fifteen dancers gathered behind the van. The crowd circled around them, and the dance troupe broke out in a choreographed hip-hop piece. In addition to publicizing World Blood Donation Day, and passing out pamphlets, and acting in a Hindi skit at the rally, I also took pictures.
Overall, my first week at the Dove Foundation made me even more excited to be working for a group of energized creative individuals for the rest of my summer. I anticipate learning much about how non-profits function in non-western countries, in addition to understanding the conditions and issues facing the marginalized populations the Dove Foundation assists.
Check out my more frequently updated blog…more focused on cultural musings and interesting tidbits about my travels in India.
Aliza Gans ‘ 15
4 thoughts on “The Dove Foundation Week 1: Very Nice in Varanasi”
It sounds like you are having a great time in Varanasi working for The Dove Foundation! You mentioned that your main responsibilities this summer with the non-profit were regarding social-media promotion and distribution? Is social-media culture the same in Varanasi as it is in the West?
Hope all’s well.
I loved reading about what you have done so far at the Dove Foundation. Working with so many young people sounds great. I am especially interested in what you learn about how non-profits function in non-western countries and can’t wait to hear mroe about what you observe. As Noah mentioned, I am also curious about the social media culture in Varanasi and how you have had to adapt to the culture there (or maybe it is the same as it is here).
Best, Sophie Brickman
Your internship at The Dove Foundation sounds really cool! I think working with youth is one of the best and most efficient ways to improve a country’s living standard. It provides a really strong foundation and gives the youth the necessary tools to be successful. It seems like you’re really enjoying your internship and are able to work with some incredible people. I can’t wait to hear more about your experience!
First of all, that is a great picture of you. I think it is interesting that your organization is youth-led, and I’m sure it’s a great experience hearing about how people our age found themselves working with the Dove Foundation and the stories they have to tell. You appear to have immersed ourself wholeheartedly into your experience with the foundation and India itself; I expect you will have a fulfilling experience as a result. I look forward to reading more about our trip.
All the best!
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