Meet Ellen Karjane, Volunteer in Sri Lanka
Meet a volunteer
Ellen Karjane is from Estonia. She volunteered with Volunteering Solutions in Summer 2023 in Delhi, India in Women Empowerment Program and had a wonderful experience. She shares her experience of taking part in the program in India with VolSol.
Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Volunteering Solutions in India?
Last year, I became interested in India and wanted to travel there. Instead of inviting my family to a tourist trip, I figured I could volunteer there instead as it would give me a chance to travel to India, acquire some experience in volunteering, meet new people, and get a taste of independent life. The Women's Empowerment programme from Volunteering Solutions caught my eye immediately; I was intrigued by the chance to get to know local girls my age and participate in English lessons with them, in addition to learning about women's issues in India and discussing them. As a feminist, I am very passionate about women's rights issues, and I knew the Women's Empowerment programme was the one for me.
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
After having breakfast with the other volunteers at the accommodation, I would head to my workplace by auto rickshaw. My workday started at 10:30 a.m. and ended at 4 p.m. Every day except Wednesday was a 2-hour English lesson in which I would participate. In addition to introducing myself and my country to the teacher and students, I would also discuss any topics they discussed and allow the girls to practice their conversational skills in English with me. My other activities consisted of engaging with the girls at the educational centre, observing their activities, talking with them in English and getting to know them. The English teacher there also asked me to teach the students about some international organisations, which I happily did. After my workday ended, I would head back to the accommodation to have dinner and rest or head out and explore the city with other volunteers.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I had quite a lot of fears before my trip, but perhaps the biggest one concerned safety in Delhi. While researching Delhi, I read it's unsafe for young female travellers like me. However, as I settled in the city, all my worries vanished. The location of accommodation in South Delhi was in a very safe neighbourhood, which in addition was also calm. The accommodation hosts were amicable and helpful; I never had to go out alone if I didn't wish to. The only exception was getting to the workplace as I was the only volunteer at my project, but as the placement is only a 10-minute rickshaw drive away, it wasn't an issue. Also, as long as you follow your common sense and the recommendations given to you by the country director, Rajiv, you shouldn't encounter any issues. I felt very safe and at home in Delhi.
What is your favorite memories from the trip ?
It's hard to pick one favourite memory from my trip as I loved every second of it, but one definite highlight was meeting the wonderful people, locals and volunteers alike. I now have friends from all over the world, in addition to the locals whom I miss very much. I loved spending time with my Indian friends during the day and exploring the city with the other volunteers during the evening; I fell completely in love with Delhi during the process and it is by far my favourite place where I've travelled. During the weekends, we went on day trips to Agra and Jaipur, which were lovely. My trip wouldn't have been this enjoyable without the wonderful people who made me feel at home.
How has this experience impacted your future?
My trip to India taught me a lot. It was so interesting to get to know the girls and compare our cultures – there were many differences but also some similarities – and I now have a much better understanding of the culture and the general way of life there, which will help me when I return to India someday. I've now also got a lot of friends in Delhi who I'm still in contact with; I cannot wait to see them again. Additionally, I am now more aware of my privileges as a woman in my country compared to the women in India. It opened my eyes to my freedom when it comes to marriage and other life choices, and I'm more appreciative of my opportunities. My time in India also gave me a notion of independent life and what will await me when I start university next year. I am eternally grateful for the lessons and experiences this trip gave me.
Would you recommend Volunteering Solutions programs to others ?
I would definitely recommend VolSol programmes to others! The prices were affordable, the accommodation was pleasant, I had the freedom to do whatever I wished during my free time, and I had the opportunity to meet interesting people from different countries. The programme is also very suitable for people under 18 like me. My experience was unforgettable and I am so glad I went. If you're doubting whether or not to take on this adventure, go for it! I'm sure you won't regret it.