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[Interview] What Two Dharavi Youth Learned From An International Leadership Program In Rural India

Kaveri and Hasnain, two graduates from Reality Gives’ Youth Empowerment Program, recently joined youth from the French NGO Global Potential for a four day leadership course in our partner village, Chinchoti.

Global Potential is an 18 month leadership and entrepreneurship program for youth from underserved communities. A key aspect of their program is a 45 day service-learning project in a rural village. During the month and a half immersion, program participants learn from local youth and cultures, carry out internships, and support community projects in health, environment, education, and media.

This year, they came to India for the first time to explore potential partnerships and partner villages with our co-founder Krishna. They also took the opportunity to host an abbreviated version of their leadership course with their students, and invited Kaveri and Hasnain along too!

Global Potential and Reality Gives
The group before their departure along with Reality Staff, Nick and Lethy.

Upon their return we sat with Kaveri to reflect on her time away from Dharavi.

What was it like working with young people from France?

“We were like friends… even more… like family members! I already miss them. We spent 3 days together, always helping each other! It was really very nice!

I know Indian people but for the first time I also have foreign friends! I’m very happy. We are still in contact, even if they are back in France!”

What did you have in common?

“At the beginning I thought that the language would have been a barrier. How we would communicate? But [it] was amazing to see how we always manage to understand and to make us understood! And sometime they were also helping me to improve my English, correcting me.”

What differences did you have?

“The language is the big difference! But I improved my English and I also taught a bit of Marathi to Adina [one of the French students]. Words like ‘goodnight’ and the names of the food and she was always tried to speak Marathi.”

How is life in the village compared to the city?

“It was my first time in that village. In the city there are people from all over India, and also from all over the world. In the village just Marathi people…there are not good schools, not much development, no computer classes, just 450 houses and not much possibilities.

And the market is very far! You have to go far far away! They need a lot of help and education! Most of them don’t know how to use a computer.

But if you ask me if I prefer the village or the city I will be confused, because I really like the village, but just for some days not for life long! Because there the life is very hard, I’m used to the city, where I was born! I’m happy here!”

Workshop in Chinchoti
Joined by youth from the village, Global Potential facilitates a leadership workshop

How did you feel coming back to Mumbai?

“Lucky, because the life in the city is easier, and I have much more possibilities than the people in the village.”

What did you do in the village?

“Mountain trekking, for two hours was very amazing! We learn how the bricks are done [and] we collect the rice, that was hard work – I didn’t know that was so hard!

Also the journey was very nice! We took a boat [and] I did also some translation work (from Marathi to English and English to Marathi).”

Rural Maharastra Rice Factory Visit
The group visited a rice mill to learn about a local industry as well as where their food comes from

How will your experience change you?

“Now I want to speak more English, because I usually speak Marathi, but after these days I see that is possible to communicate in English and I want to practice more! Because I need English!”

What did you learn?

“I learn leadership…and the day we did the trekking in the mountains it was my first time and it was very hard, but with the positive thinking, I knew that it was possible, and I reached the top of the mountain! I keep on repeat to myself ‘you can do it’ and I did!

I learnt how to overcome the difficulties, focus and achieve my goal! Also during the farm workshop, it had always been a team work, we were collaborating all together. So I also understood the importance of the teamwork!

Thanks also to the help all the others, we were always tighter, helping one other!”

What was the best part of the trip?

“I like the village people! They were so nice and polite. I felt like I was in a family. They gave us everything we need and we became very close! When we left she cried!”

What was the hardest part?

“It was not hard! Maybe the part of the trekking… but then I reached the top so it was no longer hard. We were always happy!”

How will you use the information you learned?

“My idea is to use what I learnt for changing Dharavi, where I live. The problem in Dharavi is the garbage, which is everywhere! I would like Dharavi to be cleaned…and we also need more clean toilets! And if all Dharavi people collaborate it would be possible!

I would like to change these two things in Dharavi!”