To make CHANGE you must take CHARGE

I will never forget...

the sound of leaves, dust, and trash being swept up first thing in the morning; the busy streets starting to buzz at quarter to 8:00, the chirping of birds and finally the feeling of sun on your face as you step outside to walk to work--a peaceful walk--and when you arrive, the sweat forming on your forehead from the muggy Indian heat. As I return home to my busy and comfortable life in quiet and beautiful Utah, I will miss these things. 


There are many things that I have learned during my time here, exploring Delhi and all of it's beauty and liveliness, working as an intern with Maitri, and learning about what it takes to make change among social issues and break social stigma.


To make Change you must take Charge: 


While cars fly by not even 5 feet from where children are running the the street playing with monkeys while their mothers make lunch from whatever food their family can afford for the day, instead of being safe in a school getting an education--you may feel helpless or overwhelmed with sadness. No one likes feeling helpless, so perhaps it would be easier to close your eyes and pretend that social inequality, lack of clean water or sanitation, health problems and poverty as well as social issues, violence, gender inequality, etc. exist all around you. Right? 

Luckily, you do not need superpowers to take on any one of these issues, you simply need passion, drive, and dedication to creating a better life for others. 

NGO's do important work in mitigating these social issues that. It is with passion, drive, and dedication that as a community, we can make chan

Now, I have learned many travel and life skills, what foods will make me sick, how to create a curriculum for an after school program, how to organize and lead efficiently and effectively. But of these skills that I have learned, it is still the passion, drive and dedication to a cause that I believe, will prove to be the most useful in my time to come, in whatever career I end up in.

To make a Change, I must take Charge. 

Keep your eyes open, hearts hurting, and relationships flowing for these are the basis of what drives people to make change in their communities. Remember that by yourself, or as a team, with a vision for a better world and the dedication to something that seems impossible at times, to quote Indian guru Mahatma Gandhi , you can indeed "Be the change you wish to see in the world". 

Thank you Maitri for hosting me and teaching me these valuable lessons and allowing me to meet some seriously incredible people! 

Playing Holi in the Holy City

The Widow's of Vrindavan give us our first "Holi" experience....

and man was it a good one. 

Holi celebrations at Maitri Ghar began with loud beats of drums, showers of flower petals and splash of colors energizing everyone present in the room. Amidst music and soulful singing, the widow mothers danced gracefully, splashed each other with color and rejoiced over this cultural heritage.

About 100 widows living in Maitri’s Old Age Home had been preparing and anxiously waiting for this day. Every festival is good and enjoyable but Holi is special for them. Celebrating Holi means breaking traditions that forbid them from touching color or rejoicing in festivity. These widow mothers have come a long way. They understand it is their basic right to be happy, express joy and celebrate festivals.

This Holi, and every Holi since 2010 , the widows of Maitri’s Project Jeevan have been able to step outside of the social stigma that surrounds them. Being widows, these women are restricted from celebrating Holi, a celebration that is near and dear to their culture and is a part of their Indian Heritage. Despite the stigma, Maitri believes that these women deserve to be able to participate in the celebration with full enthusiasm, colors, singing and dancing—in hopes of bringing joy back to this celebration.

This year, to celebrate Holi, Maitri arranged for about 30 of its children, students, interns, staff and teachers from two different communities in which we work to gather together and celebrate Holi with the Widows of Maitrighar in Vrindavan. Upon arrival, we were welcomed with music, drums, flowers flying overhead, color and loving hugs and smiles.

The Holi celebration is a wonderful insight into the love that these widows have for their heritage and culture despite the social stigma that they are supposed to comply with. With self-respect and pride, the widows showed everyone what it really meant to celebrate life with a smile and many colors on their face, flowers in their hair, and joy once again flowing through the room.

They cared for those who had never participated in Holi before and showed them a good time. Regardless of age, background, stories, nationality, etc. every single person at this celebration was able to forget our worries and connect with one another while we danced, tossed flowers and decorated one another’s faces with color. Not only were we able to have fun and welcome Spring, but we were able to grow together as a Maitri family and community.

This Holi, these women were no longer social outcasts but rather part of a family and a community that encourages each other to have confidence and respect for themselves, when the rest of their society suggests otherwise.

 

 

A whole new look at the "Western World"

This weekend Thomas and I, as well as the rest of the Maitri staff were invited to the ICAAP12 conference in Dhaka, Bangladesh. While at the conference, I learned a little bit more about the "western world" than I did about HIV/Aids, which the conference was actually about. 

Looking at the "Western World" through someone else's eyes....

or more like through someone else's lense. 

Whether with consent or not, my white face, ended up in probably around 2,000+ pictures over the span of 3 days. I have never experienced something quite like what I experienced in Bangladesh. 

I have grown to know that there is a "picture culture" in India, as we have travelled from one tourist site the the next, we have experienced the odd culture that people want to take pictures with us. At first, this was so strange to me. People would approach me and politely ask for me to take pictures with their babies, with their husbands, with their wives, or take "selfies", of course. This was so strange, I didn't understand why anyone would want a picture, let alone be {to western standards} taboo enough to ask for a picture with someone they did not know. Feeling awkward, and like I could not say no because I was genuinely confused why they would want a picture with me, I took one with a young girl, walking away thinking "man, I don't ever want to do that again." But it just kept happening after that! I would kindly say no, some would insist and go on to try to take selfies, when I would have to be more assertive and sternly say "No, I don't like pictures" and walk away quickly before they could snap the shot. 

Again, I just don't understand. I am not a celebrity, a model, or anyone important, i'm just here to see the India gate like everyone else! But still, they chose me to want pictures with. 

Now imagine this, but being stuck in a hall with 2,500 people roaming around, all of them with either phones or camera's pointed straight at you some asking for permission, some not, and some just plain staring.

Although being stared at still feels rather invasive, I would prefer that than secretly being taken pictures of. With the internet what it is today, you never know where these pictures are going to end up. Perhaps with a caption "You would never believe, I worked with a white girl from the United States today", or even just "I couldn't tell if this girl was famous or just 'western', but I got her picture anyway."

I apologize, I understand that this is blunt, and I wish I was kidding but unfortunately these are some of the comments that I got while at this conference.  Never have I ever felt like I had less privacy in my life. Until someone had asked for my personal information, I again politely said no, so instead they spent about an hour following me until they could get a good glimpse of my name tag, wrote down my information and tracked me down on Facebook. Atleast, this is the only reasonable explanation I have for how they still managed to find my information and why I was followed from one place to the next, an unfortunate amounts of times. 

Unbelieveable? 

I just kept saying to myself, after plenty of frustration that "this can't be real" and still i don't understand it... and I don't know if I ever will. 

But, I think I could have walked away from this strange experience in two different ways. 

Every night when I would get home after 12-14 long hours of note-taking and running from hall to hall to hear the next presenter speak, I would reflect on the day. Although there were nights that I really just didn't want to ever think about the feeling of invasion that I felt, I didn't want to come back to this blog and not write down any lessons that I learned from these experiences in Bangladesh. 

Lessons Learned: 

1. No one, NO ONE, regardless of skin color, nationality, gender, etc. should be praised nor should they be discriminated against. 

2. Never assume you know a person based on external features

3.  Take your experiences {both good and bad}--turn the page--and try to reverse the roles. 

I use this as my last and final lesson learned because I think it is the most important to being as open-minded as possible and ultimately, being a global citizen. 

All these people could see was that I had a different color skin, wearing traditional Indian attire, had a name tag that said that I was from the United States, and they were clearly curious. Did I walk away from this situation saying "Every single one of those Bangladeshi's invaded my privacy and in turn, obviously wants to be white and western?" No, of course not. I also tried not to leave with the impression that "that's just how Bangladesh is". 

Of course, I clearly left with disbelief because it was an experience I had never experienced before. But...as imperfectly as I can, I have been trying to understand why this happened. 

I've decided a few things, for sure. 

There IS a lack of privacy today.  Internet, cell-phones, camera's, social media, etc. So be different, ask if it's okay to "friend" someone, to take pictures, etc. 

Overwhelmingly, people do as other people do. When in a large group of people from all different countries, who all have their phones or cameras out to take pictures, who all want to capture and "remember the moment", we forget that there still needs to be a level of respect that we hold ourselves accountable to regardless of your culture, nationality, and walk of life. 

IT'S OKAY TO SAY NO... as awful as that sounds, and as awful as it felt sometimes to say no to young girls or doctors or that nice person who just interpreted for you throughout the entire session. IT IS OKAY TO SAY NO and IT IS OKAY TO FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE If you do it with respect for yourself and one another. 

*Lastly, since we were working throughout the whole conference unfortunately we did not get to go out and do any sight seeing but here are some rooftop views and a few pictures from our journey in Bangladesh. 

Trains, trains, everywhere {Except where we need them}

First, because it is utterly embarrassing and needs to be shared. I will tell you the story of our adventure to and from Jaipur for my birthday weekend away! 

Missing Trains left and right...

A lesson to anyone travelling by train, not only through India but anywhere! CHECK YOUR RESERVATION AND TICKETS 100X if not more. 

Thomas and I were all packed and ready to go for our stress free weekend in Jaipur, more commonly known as the Pink City. We reached Old Delhi Railway station, ready to experience the train system of India. As much preparation as I thought I had put into this trip, I clearly was mistaken! We showed up to New Delhi Railway station with only 15 minutes until our train was supposed to leave after our cab driver took much longer than expected. Turns out...we needed to be at OLD Delhi Railway station instead of NEW Delhi railway station {Duh, because that's not confusing at all}. There was no way that we were going to make it, so with bags in hand and tickets for a train that we would never make it in time for, we were left in a pickle. Luckily, we were near to a Delhi Tourism shop that would help us get squared away and onto the next train going to Jaipur. Phew, we had made it to Jaipur about 8 hours later (What was supposed to be a 5 hour trip). 

BUT, this was nothing compared to the story we now have of travelling back to Delhi. Wait and see. 

Jaipur, the Pink City, was beautiful! We hired ourselves a cab driver for the day who would take us around to 6 of the typical tourist stops for the day {exhausting but so worth it!} and yes, we really did see all of these places in one day! 

 

Sightseeing followed with Tea on the balcony and a good night's sleep...nothing better! Plus when I woke up the next day it was my birthday :) 

The Pink City Day two

We were refreshed and ready to go for round two of sightseeing and shopping! We explored Jahgar fort, Nagar Fort or did plenty of shopping! Again, a wonderful day followed by dinner and drinks for my 21st birthday! 

 

We had a wonderful trip to the Pink City, we spent way too much money and saw so many beautiful historic sights! But, all good things must come to an end, as it certainly did for us.

After a beautiful sunrise from the roof... our journey began. 

Now, as promised...

The story of our return to Delhi...

Key lessons Learned:

1. (As I started with in the beginning) CHECK AND DOUBLE CHECK YOUR TICKET AND RESERVATION 100X 

2. Bring a map of the town, city, country, train routes, etc. 

3. {As pathetic as it sounds} make sure you have data, minutes, and charge on your phone when travelling

4. Communication is Key 

5. Stay calm and ask for help 

We boarded our train and got nice and cozy, ready to return to Delhi. I'm sitting thinking "Yes! no problems this time, we've got this Indian train thing down!" Well..I thought way too soon. The train starts moving, I start diving into my book {and snacks} when the conductor comes around to check our tickets. He reaches Thomas and I, with my passport and ticket ready to hand to him he is reading Thomas's ticket, then he grabs my ticket and looks at me. By this time he has a confused look on his face. He asks us where we are trying to go, and both of us say without hesitation "Delhi!".

The conductor looks at us again while shaking his head saying "oh no, this train is going to Mumbai!" For those of you who do not know Indian Geography, Mumbai is about 15 hours on a train South of Delhi. We were headed completely in the wrong direction. Luckily, he had come around and checked our tickets before we were on a train all day, even though that's how it turned out anyway! We got off at the next stop, and managed to get the only tickets left back to Delhi in a couple hours. 

The train that we were supposed to board, we had nice cozy sleeper seats all to ourselves so that we could sprawl out and sleep on the way home. Once this train back to Delhi finally arrived a few hours later, we realized that we were in the general seating which contains metal benches, no air conditioning, and a good chance that you will be sharing the car with as many people as can squish into the very little space! This is indeed what happened. 

Little did we know though that this was an all women's compartment and Thomas's trip in this car was about to come to an end as there were angry men and women yelling at him in Hindi telling him to get out! 

At this point, we had been on the train for about 9 hours, now Thomas is being kicked out and I am left with his luggage, not knowing where he went, not knowing where we had been stopped, not having service or data to check a map and contact Thomas. I had women and their kids sitting on my feet, half on my lap, and crammed on the luggage carrier above our heads. This car is completely packed, I am being stared at, talked to in Hindi (which I cannot speak) haven't eaten all day, and starting to panic. 

If you have anxiety, being crammed, hungry, and absolutely clueless as to where you are, this is not a good combination! 

Luckily, the women all surrounding me could tell that I was starting to panic. So kindly, they went to find the ONE person who spoke English to talk to me and calm me down. They were all so helpful and kind, and for an even bigger blessing, the one lady who spoke English was going to the same place that I needed to be. I called someone from Maitri, who was able to calm me down and point me home. After 3 more missed train stations (because none of them were the ones that we thought we knew)  I got off and found a cab who completely ripped me off but it's okay because I really just wanted to get home! Thomas had gotten off at a different station and also had to find his own way home. 

Alas, 14 hours later, we reached home. Phew, what a day. After learning many life lessons, I had never been so excited to get home to my uncomfortable bed and cold shower back in Delhi. 

We returned home to find Sonal, Maitri's head coordinator/organizer, asking if we wanted to go to Bangladesh in a couple days. But that's a story for tomorrow. 

 

 

 

Emotional Rollercoaster while Interning Abroad

This week was amazing...and exhausting... and up...and then down and up again! 

As I began the week, I visited Soniya Vihar to work with the adolescent girls to discuss the struggles and journey of going through puberty and the menstruation cycle in a place that can shame you, for being a girl, and going through this trouble once a month. Young girls here have an incredibly hard time, as some of their families will leave them in a room--alone-- for an entire week, just sitting and waiting for their periods to end.

I know, I know.

This is not a topic you wanted to read about,! BUT, NEWSFLASH! Most young girls, in economically challenged communities in India have to go through this process completely alone, missing school for a week every month and eventually missing so much school that many have to drop out and never go back to school. Hence, adding to the unfortunate cycle of poverty. Periods happen, period. If talking about it with these girls will help them to be able to cope with the stress and emotions that are flooding their bodies during this time, then that's what we need to do! We met with these girls to better understand how we can be a support system for them during their adolescence,  a huge transition time in their life. Ultimately, the goal is to develop lessons and a program for young women to encourage them to stay in school, give them the support they need to do that, and give them the confidence they need to realize that as a woman, they are superhero's. 

Meet Rani, she is one of the adolescents that we work with through the women's empowerment program. 

Meet Rani, she is one of the adolescents that we work with through the women's empowerment program. 

*BY THE WAY THIS DAY WAS DEFINITELY AWESOME AND SO INSPIRING--but like I said, this week was a rollercoaster so onto the next adventure! 

Shatrunjay (another Intern) and I visited R.K. Ashram, another Maitri site, meant to target and help migrant rickshaw pullers get identification as well as HIV/Aids testing and treatment. 

Although I got to hang out with Monkeys at this site---YES, I really did say Monkeys! This day turned out to be very difficult. Most of the men that Shatrunjay and I Interviewed were migrants from other states in India. These men had nothing, living in the slums of Delhi making meals out of whatever they could afford from the little earnings they made the day before. The men and women living in these slums wouldn't have the resources to get health screenings if Maitri did not set up a clinic in their community. The men and women of this community are now able to get HIV/Aids testing and treatment if needed. 

THIS, is a part of India that I had not seen yet, and it was hard. My emotions were stirring. I was feeling thankful that because I was born into the conditions that I was, I have never had to experience hunger and the hardships that some of these families have. Because I do not speak Hindi, I was not able to converse with the men but what I was able to pick up on, made me feel helpless. I could not help these men with their conditions and circumstances, but Maitri has been able to enhance their lives greatly! So again, this trip took me on a loop or two of the emotional rollercoaster that was this week! 

So after one long day-trip, two monkeys and one meltdown. This day was over. 

Onto the next...and all I have to say is...

1 CRAM PACKED ROOM, 3 LAYERS OF PAINT, 6 INTERNS, 9 HOURS, AND 30 DESKS AND CHAIRS LATER....

After 9 long hours of painting were were exhausted and covered in 3 colors paint, but ALWAYS proud to be a UTE! GO UTES!

After 9 long hours of painting were were exhausted and covered in 3 colors paint, but ALWAYS proud to be a UTE! GO UTES!

To end the week off on a high note...

THE BEAUTIFUL TAJ MAHAL LADIES AND GENTS! 

The Incredible India

The country that never stops moving...

and impressing me more and more everyday 

Humayun's Tomb-Old Delhi 

Humayun's Tomb-Old Delhi 

It took me a while to learn to drown out the cars constantly honking, dogs barking, and pigeons flapping against my window but i'm actually starting to admire the constant progress being made everywhere I look! We hear so often that India is a developing nation, but it's a whole new ball game to see it actually developing in front of your eyes. I have never met such hard working people! It's incredible the standards that they hold themselves to.

India is estimated to be the next Hub for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Maybe you have seen, maybe you haven't. Prime Minister Modi has launched a movement called #StartUp #StandUpIndia. This is an initiative that aims to make entreprneurship in India, the easiest that it has ever been. 

I'm so excited that I get to be here during a time that Entrepreneurship and Innovation is encouraged in Government and Public Schools. I'll be teaching classes on Leadership, innovation, and Entrepreneurship while I'm here and then going home to continue being involved in the Lassonde Institute which preaches innovation and entrepreneurship. I love it! I am a part of a community that is looking forward. 

The days of just doing what you are told, working your hours and getting your paycheck are not as common as they once were.  More and more, employers are looking for their employees to have entrepreneurial skills, such as flexibility, adaptability, creativity and the ability to think on your feet. Being entrepreneurial, in some form, will soon be more the norm."-Enterprising Oxford 

India has the right idea, with some of the hardest working people I know. I'm excited to see what the future holds for India, the ever-growing and never stopping developing nation that holds 1/8 of the world's population. 

Just one of the many  beautiful women of Soniya Vihar-Sewing Class 

Just one of the many  beautiful women of Soniya Vihar-Sewing Class 

What are you entrepreneurial skills? What are you doing in your every day life that will boost your creativity and helping you to discover your passions? 

D'Chica- This jewelry making course is offered to women and girls with little education to learn a new skill while earning a small income 

D'Chica- This jewelry making course is offered to women and girls with little education to learn a new skill while earning a small income 

Oh...and the colors here are To-Die-For

Oh...and the colors here are To-Die-For

 

 

New Beginnings and Getting Uncomfortable

Travel Goal: Get Uncomfortable

Un-comfortability is the key to success

Before we begin: 

*Un-comfort-ability {the ability to live/struggle/succeed while uncomfortable}*  and no, this is not an official definition. It's my own. 

I love to explore while at home, in Utah. But, I have only ever explored while in the comfort of being in my own state, with my own car, with too many clothes and possessions than I know what to do with. I have just started a whole new journey. I am now exploring the world outside of my comfortable bubble of Utah and the United States. I am now exploring the uncomfortability of India, and Asia. This is a brand new place with brand new people, a new culture, new food. New everything.

Now, it is January of 2016, the month of new years resolutions and big new plans for a new year. Instead of having a list of new years resolution, because alas, lists typically fit nicely inside of the box my box of comfortability, I have decided that for the year of 2016 my goal is only a single word. My word is (you probably guessed it)...UNCOMFORTABILITY! I choose this word because according to my own definition, uncomfortability means that I am surviving {succeeding even!} while i'm 100% out of my comfort zone! 

I hypothesize that if I can strive to exist outside of my comfort zone--that 2016 will be my best year yet. 

 

Meet Me!

MEET ME!

Hello! My name is Stephanie I am a Junior at the University of Utah but this semester I have the honor of working at Maitri in New Delhi, India. My graduation title is ridiculously long as I am studying a wide array of things: International Studies, Religious Studies, Consumer and Community Studies, and finally Entrepreneurship. This might seem like a strange combination of studies but it perfectly makes up my interests and passions. I have a passion for understanding and getting to know people from all different walks of life, with different interests and passions. I believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to discover themselves and make their dreams come to life.

WHY INDIA....WHY MAITRI?

I chose the internship with Maitri because I saw that Maitri was an organization centered around providing that opportunity to people who would not get it before. Maitri believes in educating the kids of the community and providing that extra structure and support to be able to create and follow their own dreams. Maitri not only provides that extra support for kids but for women, widows, rickshaw pullers and the elderly who face oppression in India.
Plus...who wouldn't want to work with these sweet faces?

Plus...who wouldn't want to work with these sweet faces?

WHAT I BRING TO THE TABLE...

Of course, I mention Maitri’s work with Kids and adolescents first because this is the group that I am working with, specifically. I am working to re-structure the kids after school program to be more organized and provide all of the extra help that the students need in order to feel confident and prepared for their futures. We are doing this in many ways such as creating classes and training the teachers in order for the students to learn leadership, innovation and creativity, confidence, and their role as a global citizen among others. We are working on restructuring this program to ensure the best possible support for the students and further growth of the program.

I am humbled every day working with the amazing people that I do. All of the employees and volunteers at Maitri are dedicated to their community and the people we are serving. By the end of my four months in Delhi I hope to be challenged, eat good food, travel, form relationships, and understand a culture other than my own. But ultimately I am hoping to understand what it takes to create an organization that is able to reach the breadth that Maitri does, to as many people as Maitri does in hopes of one day fulfilling my own dream of doing the same. 


New Delhi Travels

Final Destination: Delhi, India. 

The phrase I've been thinking, hearing, talking about, anticipating for the last three months.

It's finally here, I have successfully and safely arrived in India.

*side note* if anyone is wondering and if anyone is planning a long flight to some foreign destination, fly on Virgin Atlantic. They were wonderful! I had a 24 hour flight, and I was as comfortable as could be for the entire time that I was flying Virgin Atlantic, it's like a little mini vacation before actually arriving at your destination. 

But back to what I was saying:

I have arrived in India! If you thought the air in Salt Lake was bad, think again. Today is a bit more clear but yesterday you could barely see 100 feet in front of you. This is a public service announcement that whatever you are doing in Salt Lake, think twice, and think sustainable. Our air might be bad but it could be 100x worse, I would know. I am now living in it. 

The people of India are kind, the drivers are crazy (and incredibly courageous/risky, although that is not a quality I prefer when picking my drivers). 

I have just arrived at the office in which I will be working, Maitri. Maitri exists to empower women, and children. I walked in and automatically felt welcomed. There are more women than men working in the office, not something you are typically used to in the United States. Although I do not have an extensive workload yet, I am excited to share the work that Maitri is doing with all of you. You can check out more about what Maitri does at Maitriindia.org

Some of the things you will find:

  • How Maitri works to empower women
  • How Maitri works with after school programs and the kids of New Delhi, India. 
  • How Maitri works to help women and children who are affected by HIV/AIDS.

It's only the first day, more to come. 

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The back-alleys of Delhi, always so full of color and mischief

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Yes, that really is smog behind the bars on my balcony--we're lucky when the sun can make it's way through the clouds and pollution...

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