Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going. Annapoorna (girl in maroon shawl) is pursuing Chemical engineering and shares her wonderful experience of internship days.
Semester break – that exotic time of the year that spells relaxation and fun to engineering students like us! It is also the perfect period of a student’s life to equip oneself with some soft skills and hands on experience which play a strong role in shaping up one’s career.
I was fortunate enough to find one such perfect opportunity (thanks to Internshala!), in the form of a Fellowship Programme for the social enterprise Pollinate Energy. Founded about 3 years ago by a group of Australians, Pollinate Energy is a non-profit organization which works in the urban slums of Bangalore. Many products such as solar lamps, water filters and menstrual cups are sold at affordable prices for the betterment of their current living conditions.
The Fellowship Programme spanning 26 days hosted 10 Indian Fellows and 12 International Fellows who worked as a team to review the existing sales structure and policies of the enterprise and also worked on developing new products. Among the International Fellows were students and young professionals from Australia, New Zealand and USA. The Indian Fellows were mostly students and young graduates. But the common factors which served as a binding force between the International and Indian Fellows was a burning desire to understand the needs of the urban poor and the passion to reach out and make a difference.
A typical working day was divided into 2 halves – a “Working Bee” session in the morning and community visit with the “Pollinators” in the afternoon. Working in various teams during the Working Bee sessions was a fun-filled learning exercise, to say the least. The community visits to slums every afternoon was definitely a life changing experience to each one of us. Seeing thousands of people living in such poor conditions was an eye opener and I could not digest the magnitude of the menace called “poverty”.
We took some time to understand their way of life and to get acquainted with the kids, women and men in each community. Having led simple lives without basic facilities such as electricity and toilets, they welcomed us with open hearts as we belonged to the company that has improved their lives. They would offer lunch (and dinner on a few late working nights) and I have now grown to appreciate the charm of simplicity. I have also learnt to accept anything without complaining. The slum dwellers would gather in crowds and gleefully listen to the awareness talks given by us. Many new customers were encouraged to buy the products, thanks to the presence of the foreigners (aka the International Fellows)!
Another enriching aspect of the programme was the cultural exchange between the Indian and International Fellows. I introduced them to various Indian delicacies (mostly vegetarian, much to their surprise), the public transport and autos of Bangalore, taught them a few sentences in Kannada and some Bollywood moves! I also explained the various cultural and religious practices and the rich history and diversity in India with a sense of pride. The Australians taught me how University becomes Uni and Mosquitoes are Mozies!
There were numerous times when one could hear the fellows discuss issues such as “climate change”, “women empowerment” and the need for a universal system of education owing to globalization. Understanding each other’s perspectives on global issues made me realize that we are like-minded youngsters sharing similar concerns and dreams of a better world. Political boundaries and cultural differences are just barriers defined by futile minds.
I was treated to many a luncheon and dinner parties by the directors of Pollinate Energy. I also took part in a mega corporate event to clean up Cubbon Park with great enthusiasm during the course of the Fellowship Programme. The cricket and football matches, career day, laser tagging, Secret Santa gifts, trip to Hampi are just some of the fun times that shall remain forever imprinted in my memories.
In a nutshell, the Fellowship Programme was one big cultural extravaganza! I enter college for a new semester with a fresh mind and the satisfaction of having spent the vacation in a meaningful and productive manner.
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