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