As soon as I found the Women’s Empowerment Program run by Volunteering Journeys online – I knew it was perfect for me right away. It twigged a nerve within me, and it was exactly what I have been looking for. I feel very strongly that all women – no matter where they are from, deserve respect, dignity and also to have confidence in whatever they are doing. I have a background in Psychology, so I hope to gain further insight as to how women work and manage themselves in turbulent times. I would also like to know how we can help them gain a sense of control of the things that they can control. I’m sure there is a common theme of how women cope with challenges across the globe – and I am excited to learn more about what it is.
My arrival to Cochin (Kochi) airport was seamless and easy. As I walked out of the airport amongst the crowds of people, I saw Raja with a sign with my name on it. During my flight I had a lot of random thoughts and ‘what ifs’ if my driver wasn’t there or there was a miscommunication of when I landed. So it was comforting to know that the program is very well organized! I spoke to Geetha as we were driving to the accommodation. She was checking to see how my flight was and if I needed anything – very thoughtful and nice of her seeing as it was 1230am!!
When we arrived to the accommodation I was pleasantly surprised. The rooms and house in general is so lovely and clean. My personal favorite part is the retro tiles in the bathroom..it’s the little things in life!
The next day I met the other volunteers who were on for the week. We were encouraged by Geetha (who has been so lovely and helpful) to get to know each other and settle in. We were provided with our first meal from Jessy. She is the most amazing chef! She has cooked us some beautiful traditional South Indian meals – full of flavor and a real kick of spiciness.
We had a tour of Fort Kochi on a rickshaw and enjoyed observing the organized chaos of it all! We also went to Athirappilly Falls. Geetha organized a taxi driver to take us there and chauffeur us around for the day – what a treat! The falls were really beautiful and there were so many people there! We figured that Sunday is a family day all over the world. However, it was funny at first, but then it got annoying– seeing that we were the only foreigners there we were treated like celebrities!
On the Monday we had the pleasure in meeting Midhu – who is the other facilitator of the Kerala program. It was lovely to have an introduction to the women we will be working with that morning. I could see in their faces the true beauty of them all. I was excited for them to share their stories about who they are and what their ambitions are for the future. Overall – the general vibe was very positive which was shown through their kindness and interest in us and what we will be helping them to do. That afternoon we had an introduction to the primary school children also. They were gorgeous! So cheeky and full of life and fun. Afterwards, Geetha and Midhu took us to try our fist chai masala. I am a massive chai fanatic, and this one by far was the best I have had! It was really nice just sitting at the stall watching everyone walk past and just having a nice old chat in general.
The next day we got into the swing of things and started facilitating the program for the women. I ran a session discussing self-confidence and self-compassion. It was really interesting to see how all the women reacted. Some were very shy, and almost embarrassed when they were prompted to think about the core strengths of their personality. I really loved facilitating the discussion and I would be more than happy to know that at least one person learned something new that they could practice at home. The second half of the session my fellow ‘volunteer-er’ ran a workshop on English grammar. This is where their interest is also. They said that in order for them to be confident about themselves and also about getting a job – they need to improve their English. We all agreed to have an English grammar section, but also 30-45 mins of just practicing having conversations in English. Overall, the first session was a huge success with many giggles and smiles. The women were so kind and lovely.
So far so good with Volunteering Journeys! The main thing I enjoy is not having an absolutely non-negotiable strict schedule. Geetha and Midhu are very flexible. Nothing is ever a problem and they give us plenty of time to take things in and do whatever we please (within reason of course!). I’m excited for what is to come next ☺