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Volunteer for the Sustainable Livelihoods Program: Nick Ross

“My name is Nick Ross. I worked on the Sustainable Livelihoods Program for three months in the summer of 2009/10, and returned this year (2011) to work on the HEAL program, conducting research into the relationship between perceptions of the cause of illness, and care-seeking behaviour. My relationship with Seb’s Projects has been a central part of my academic career and professional goals.

Working on the SLP in 2009/10 was one of the most inspiring experiences of my life, and left me determined to find a way to address issues of poverty and injustice in my career. As volunteers we were given both the support and freedom to begin designing a program to address the needs of the Thattan Kottai villagers, instead of just the busy-work and photo-opportunities offered by other NGOs to their international volunteers. Returning this year, I was moved to see how much the program had progressed, and the wonderful things Seb’s Projects staff had been doing in the meantime.

Designing and conducting the research project for the HEAL program, in collaboration with a team from SPI, was an experience of responsibility and independence most people my age could not hope to experience. I was able to employ the skills I had acquired as part of my undergraduate degree to a problem with real implications for people’s quality of life, an experience which has given me renewed enthusiasm to refine my understanding of what once seemed dry academic research techniques. I anticipate these experiences will set me in good stead as I begin my career in community development.”Nick has visited the volunteering projects twice since he first started his work with Seb’s Projects India, and is fondly remembered by all the lives he touched in his health work.

“My time working the Sustainable Livelihoods Project was perhaps the most the rewarding few months of my life. We went hoping to help to alleviate poverty in the tribal villages, and came back having received so much more in the way of love and kindness than we could ever have given.” Inspired by her experience, today Pia works as a campaigner for an environmental charity and Rajakumari, the little girl with her, is at high school studying to be a doctor, thanks to volunteer scholarships.

“Working in the Jawadhi Hills tribal villages, we had a lot of highs and lows! From the tractor breaking down in the muddy forest in the rain whilst trying to move our mattresses in on the first day to the roof of our school hut being eaten by termites, there were so many times we just felt like throwing our hands up in the air! But I’ll never forget going out with the locals to use bow and stones to kill rats for dinner, or the all night comedy show they put on for us at the end of our project.

I smile every time I realise- those little kids that used to wake us up with armfuls of fruit are at school working to be doctors and teachers today, partly because I slogged through a muddy village in the rain every day for three months. When I look back at it, even the lows were some of the best moments of my life.” Megan still supports the SLP project in Thattankuttai village as much as she can, and is looking forward to visiting us once again next year to see how things have changed in the village!“

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