Namaste from Sangam World Centre in Pune, India!
My name is Heidi Storm and I’ve been in India since the end of July. I’m serving as the Community Relations Intern here, which means I work with a wonderful team of women who have connections to Girl Scouting and Girl Guiding, and who come from all around the world. Arriving at Sangam was an adventure for me! After more than 24 hours in cars, airports and planes, I was welcomed by another Intern, Robyn, from Utah and then went straight to sleep! Over the course of the next weeks, I dove into the culture of India, the traditions of Sangam, and got to participate in an event with girls from the UK and Canada. We learned all sorts of things that seem very obvious to Indians, such as riding in auto-rickshaws, shopping for saris and celebrating a festival dinner sitting on the floor and eating with just our right hands! We also visited the community organizations who partner with Sangam, such as Deep Griha Society who run a family welfare organization, nursery schools, women’s groups and an HIV/AIDS program.
During my training, I came to appreciate the contrast between the peaceful setting of Sangam and the noise and bustle of India. It’s truly fabulous to have the opportunity to experience a culture so different from mine, with the support of our volunteers and staff. They always love to answer questions like “Why are there cows in the road?” or “How do you find a good place near MG Road for lunch?” In fact, after two months at Sangam, I felt like a guide for our guests and new volunteers. I always encourage them to ask questions, even though I hesitated myself at first. I think that living and working at Sangam has encouraged me to draw from a different kind of strength and look to my friends for help when I’m stumped.
With volunteers and staff from the USA, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Mexico, Nigeria, Malaysia, India and the UK, we spend a lot of time explaining stories. We even translate from English to English so that everyone understands across different accents. Sometimes we need extra time to understand people’s beliefs and ways of doing things. Still, the sweetness of living and working with such diverse women is that once we get past the language issues, we have much to learn from each other. We celebrate Indian holidays like Ganesh festival and Diwali. We had a great Mexican Independence Day a few weeks ago. We all have stories of growing up as Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in our home countries, and our dinner conversation can range from Vegemite, peanut butter and Nutella to ideas about health care and poverty in our different nations.