Archive for the ‘Asia’ category

Jenna Richards: Out in Korea

April 30, 2007

‘The land of morning calm’ sounded like exactly what I needed after a very stressful year doing a masters degree, working for the student newspaper and holding down a part time job. It was for this reason, and the money I could make working as an English teacher, I decided to go to South Korea for some me time.

With images of tranquil parks full of people practicing Thai chi at sun rise, I arrived fully prepared to embrace the culture. Only to find my image was naively misguided and ‘The land of morning calm’ could be more aptly named ‘The land of daily stress’.

Motorists rush around with blatant disregard for red lights, dodging naive foreigners who haven’t waited dutifully for the green man before making the perilous journey across the road. Driving in Korea seems to be a constant race for the finish line with little or no regard for speed limits. Upon arriving it was explained to me that speed limits and red lights are more ‘friendly advice’ that absolute law!

People on the subway barge and push like their life depends on being the fist on, or off, the train. Having frequently travelled on the London underground standing in a sweaty armpit during rush hour I thought the daily commute couldn’t get more uncomfortable. Until squashed, sardine like, on the Seoul subway I had a group of teenagers, excited at seeing a fair haired foreigner, get out their mobile phones and shamelessly take my photograph whilst I was too squashed to even turn away!

But now I realize that rushing around is just the Korean way. As with any big city, in Seoul, people have things to do and places to be and they want to get there quickly. The Korean’s have one of the longest working weeks in the world, and I now find that I am also one of those rushing to get home and enjoy those precious few hours off from the world before I have to get up tomorrow and do it all again.

The teenagers on the subway weren’t taking my photo out of spite, but curiosity and wonder at seeing someone so different to themselves. Unlike the UK, Korea isn’t racially diverse and many people living here don’t get the same opportunities to travel that westerners do. It can be a novelty for teenagers to spot someone with fair hair standing next to them on the subway, for many the only other place they’ve seen a westerner is in their classroom at school.

In coming to Korea I didn’t find the de-stressed way of life I was expecting, but what I did find is a country where despite being one of the most technologically advanced in the world people still marvel at a foreigner on a train. Despite working long hours a stranger will find the time to stop and help as you struggle to the bus stop with your shopping

It is also a country that, once you look past the hustle bustle and skyscrapers, is steeped in culture and traditions. And whilst I haven’t found any parks full of people practicing Thai chi at sunrise I have found a culture and country that I can immerse myself in and, like a Korean spotting a westerner on a train, I am constantly in awe of how different it is from everything back in England.


Staying with nuns in India

April 23, 2007

Dominique Gelder-Smith
1. How old are you and what’s your occupation?
I am 19 and I am currently on a gap year
2. What made you decide to go to India?
I’d never thought of it until my friend asked me if I’d like to go with her
so that her parents wouldn’t get too worried about her.
3. Which organisation did you go with?
I stayed with an order of nuns called the Holy Cross Sisters for five weeks
in Mekkarai and Achinkovil and then I went on a tour of MP and UP with
4. How did you find out about them?
I went to a school that was founded by the sisters in New Malden and one of
the sisters who curently woks there invited us to isit those in India. I
found out about the Intrepid tour through my sister.
5. What were you doing out there? What sort of project was it?
The Holy Cross sisters that I stayed with ran several different projects in
their local areas. I helped at local visits to patients of the two small
dispensaries that acted as hospitals for the villagers, who live so remotely
from government funded aids. I worked in two nurseries run by the sisters
and one school where the sisters were placed as teachers. I also visited
homes of those with domestic problems in Achinkovil, where the sisters act
as independant social workers-diffusing domestic violence and educating
about alcohol and drug addiction. I also visited some women’s self-help
groups that had been set up in both communities to provide loans and support
for the poorest families.
6. How much of a cultural difference was it?
The cultural diffence was greater than I could have ever imagined. The only
thing that was not different, I noticed, was that they drive on the same
side of the road as we do in England. Eating idli and chatni for
breakfast…with my hands, seeing teachers caning 4year old children,
monkeys on the roof and washing in a bucket were the cultural differences
that made the trip real.
7. What was your best part of the trip?
The best part was probably helping at the nursery annual school day or
driving across the mountains in a storm
8. What was your worst part of the trip?
On the final night of my stay in Achinkovil I suffered from the worst asthma
attack I have ever had. It was inmpossible to convey my problem to the nuns
and I had to wait five hours until we could get a jeep with a driver to take
me to the hospital which was another 4 hours away. I never really got to say
good bye to my friends at the convent there.
9. Would you like to go back again?
Yes definitely…I’ve been told to bring my little sister back next year,
then my parents, then my husband and children…I’ll have to see how it
10. What was it like being back in England after being in India?
Cold and safe. It’s a bit lonely not waving at people all the time, and no
one invites you in their house just because you’e passing. I miss the food
but I don’t miss the diahorrea.
11. Where in India were you based? Did you do any travelling outside of
your project?
I spent time in Mekkarai, a small village on the Tamil Nadu border and also
in Achinkovil, a village in the Keralan rainforests. I spent a ittle time in
Kollam and Trivandrum and also travelled with a tour group near Agra, Delhi
and Varanasi.
12. What advice would you give people who are planning to go?
I’d advise anyone who’s travelling in India to bring plenty of toilet paper
and immodium.
13. Do you have any images/videos that I could use in the article?
I have lots just check out facebook.

Disaster volunteering: Helping tsunami victims in Thailand

April 19, 2007

Chris Beaumont, 33, Bradford, West Yorkshire, Carpenter and dive master


1. Where did you go to volunteer after the tsunami?
Spent all my time in Thailand after that spent all my money and back to the uk

2. How long did you go for?
I was there three months after for four months , went back to uk to raise more cash ,
set up my own charity for it , then back for a further 5 months

3. Why did you decide to volunteer?
Worked in Thailand Khao Lak before the tsunami as a dive master, heard of a
few dive buddies who died and was asked by the dive comp if I could help ,
was told not to go straight away and raise some money and get there when the
real building work was needed ,have traveled for a few years and as a
carpenter and dive master with no real ties to home was perfect to help on
both counts

4. Did you volunteer with an organisation or just go off your own back?
I worked for two organisations set up by Thai’s and just backpackers , the main
one , which is still going now and also ,. Tsunami volunteers was helped by a major org in setting up but became very successful just using backpackers mainly ,no money was taken all you had to do was turn up , and even unskilled people were soon helping move rubble or trained to build walls , I also trained a few in basic carpentry , which will also help them for life , mainly we used the backpackers though in the unskilled work and paid the Thai workforce in the skilled work, jobs were not taken by us doing it because of the huge scale , most of the Thai’s worked rebuilding the big hotels where they could earn more money!

5. What sort of things were you doing out there?
Also worked on a boat shed and then helping a Thai crew build the long tail boats , so the fishermen could get back to work and feed their families again, spent some time also diving and cleaning up the seas of debris and rubbish but to be honest it was too big a task ands eventually the ocean will do it, but in the main area got rid of the stuff so tourists coming back wouldn’t see stuff to remind them , spent a month on ph phi cleaning the Bay of Phi Phi which was a more obvious job because everything was very close to shore and in a relatively small area. Also volunteers did beach clean up getting rid of rubbish the seas kept bringing up again a lot around the one year anniversary so people who were coming back to grieve were not reminded too much with clothing or shoes etc on the beach also some volunteers did some teaching, read a little on your web and I agree two weeks holiday doing something like this is actually giving a negative affect , so most teachers had to sign up for 2 months or more, so the kids who got so close to you, were constantly, gaining trust then losing it if the teachers kept leaving

6. What was it like?
Emotionally and physically very tough. Everyday you’d here a horror story or see a smashed house or meet someone who d lost someone or a whole family but the rewards , just by a smile or a thanks for rebuilding there house made up for everything
7. How did you feel before you went compared to how you felt when you got back?
Definitely made me a better person, emotionally I struggled and had a little counseling on my return, but again, just by making a difference and knowing you’ve helped and rebuilt
people’s homes and lives will live for me forever

Disaster volunteering: Helping tsunami victims in Sri Lanka

April 18, 2007

Sarah Smith
West Yorkshire
Works for a national magazine

Volunteered in Sri Lanka in March helping victims of the tsunami

1) I wanted to volunteer to help out a worthy cause after seeing several
documentaries on tv, and working closely with I-to-I and understanding more
about what they do. I had always wanted to broaden my horizons and step out
of my city life comfort zone.

2)I-to-I were amazing and offered great help and support with good in
country co-ordinators to assist with any issues we had. They were very
committed to our safety also with good structures in place 24/7

3)I was working on a building site helping knock down destroyed houses to
build new ones, teaching children English and also helping at a sea turtle
conservation project.

4) It was a very humbling and moving experience that was very hard at times.
We were living in very basic and uncomfortable conditions but the people
were amazing and it made it very worth while.

5) I was terrified of going alone, but found it to be one of the best
experiences possible. I came back a very happy and confident person, who
realised how much I took for granted back in the UK

6)I have plenty of photos and some video footage of the area

7)We were based in Kosgoda near Galle on the South Coast which was one of
the worst affected areas of the whole Tsunami. There were over 30,000 people
killed and the devastation is still as if it happened only yesterday.
We were working with Orphans and homeless people, and also travelled further
north but were transported back down south when two bombs were dropped by
the Tamil Tigers on Columbo airport.

8) I would only used i-to-I for this type of volunteer travel

CAS Nepal

April 3, 2007

1. What does your organization do?

CAS-Nepal is a non-profit making, non-political community based organization. It was registered with Nepal Government-Chitwan in 2000 & with Social Welfare Council-Nepal in 2001 by highly enthusiastic board members. The primary goal of CAS-Nepal is to make community self -dependent & developed through utilization of local, national and international resources .A special focus is given to uplift the social and economic status of poor and indigenous people through various aid oriented programs. The Organization always deals with people of countryside community offering them some sort of profit making training on business skills, new technology on agriculture and animal husbandry, high value crops and access to market for small farmers and other programs on education and health and sanitation. This offers unique volunteering opportunities for those who want to render their services and support to communities.

2. How many years has it been running?

The community based organization has been running since 2000 A.D focusing on community development.

3. Where is it based?

This organization was registered with Nepal government in Chitwan district. The main office is in chitwan and contact office in kathmandu. It always seeks for rural communities of other districts as well even if it was registered in Chitwan. We have more other rural placements :Nawalparasi,kathmandu,Pokhara And Lumbini of Nepal.

4. What activities does your organisation offer volunteers?

Community Advancement Society-Nepal lets you a chance to make an important contribution to the people of Nepal and great experience to self by understanding culture and its people. One could have lots of knowledge and experience about the assigned work, Nepali culture, its people and people’ economic status. CAS-Nepal opens your door to see yourself and to help others as well.

It offers volunteering opportunities in the following program areas.

Teaching English in School and Village Learning Center (VLC).
Raise awareness on sanitation and environmental issues.
Develop income generating &training projects on weaving, craft skills, business & marketing skills etc.
Provide administrative support and computer trainings.
Sponsorship Programs (Child Sponsorship, Project Sponsorship& School Sponsorship).
Provide primary health education &health check up.
Financial & expertise support to small farmers.
Research opportunities on desired areas

5. How many volunteers does your organisation help a year?

This organization has been tailored its volunteering approaches to lessen the poverty of rural communities and develop communities through utilization of foreign knowledge and financial aid. We have started our volunteering opportunities just some months back. We aim to tap the school kids, young people and community people for their joint efforts to community development. We aim to bring about 80 volunteers from abroad annually and 40 volunteers from local community.

6. What do people get out of going on a placement with your organisation?

One could have lots of knowledge and experience about the assigned work, Nepali culture, its people and people’ economic status. CAS-Nepal opens your door to see yourself and to help others as well. You would have chance to see the real pictures of rural communities of Nepal. We also provide research opportunities to conduct on volunteers’ desired field. We make placement in such families and locations where volunteers wouldn’t have to worry about their stay and safety. our organization provides accommodation and foods during your volunteering period.


8. How much does a placement with your organisation cost? What does that cost include?

Volunteering in CAS-Nepal is totally funded by volunteers’ fees. We have affordable program cost which includes Application fee and Program fee. We are trying to lesson the cost of volunteering so that anyone could have chance to participate with us.

Application fee: $25

Program Cost:

– Two weeks $250
– One month $350
– One and half month $440
– Two months $530
– Three months $660
– Four months $740
– Five months $800

The above cost includes the following:
– Transportation to and from Kathmandu airport.
– Transportation to and from Placements.
– Accommodation and meal during training period and placement.
– Nepali language and cultural information class.
– Administrative cost.
– Contribution to CAS-Nepal projects e.g. Child learning center and youth mobilization activities in village


gunilla funch bangalore placement

January 29, 2007

Gunilla Funch


Born: Copenhagen, Denmark

Live: Edinburgh, Scotland

Arrived at University of Edinburgh, October 2003

International Business with French

Went on placement in India at Rave magazine, based in Bangalore, India. I thought that it was an easy way of going abroad and working while travelling, if I had a placement then I’d at least have something to do.

Went onto the I-to-I website and it told you everything you needed to know, it cost £1,000 for a five week placement.

It was a bit of a mixed experience while being on placement, wasn’t at all what it said it would be in the description. But I would of gone even if it said I’d of been an office intern. Generally wasn’t the most exciting thing to have spent the summer doing placement wise. I think it’s a lot of money to pay for something that you don’t get anything out of directly; maybe the description could have been more honest about the placement description and what I’d actually be doing.

From the placement I learned how to navigate MySpace. I learned interview techniques and how to research for articles, but I don’t think I’m cut out for a career in the media. I liked the pressure of working under deadlines but I don’t think I’m meant to be a writer.

I loved India, absolutely loved every bit of it. I came with no expectations and over the years I’d always thought it would have been a nice to place to go and see. The people were so friendly and really open-minded compared to back at home. Some people complained about the beaucracy of India and how long it took to get anything done but I lived in Paris for a year and it was nothing compared to the French way of doing things.

I had very little experience with Indian food and I found that I really liked it. If I ever went again I would probably more different foods, I didn’t get food poisoning though like some of the people I was staying with! The climate wasn’t too bad either, in Bangalore it was temperate and it felt like home sometimes, especially with the coolness in the evenings.

We travelled every weekend and the placements were pretty flexible about having time off and taking say a Monday off so that we could have a long weekend. I got to see a fair bit of South India. Hampi, Kerala, Hyderabad, Chennai and Mammallporam.

Kerala was one of the early trips that we did and it was just a beautiful place. Mammallporam felt more Westernised and there were always tourists around.

I quite liked having a placement because we had a base in Bangalore; it was nice to have somewhere to come back to after a weekend away. The place that I was staying at was much better than I expected, there were some great peope and we got all our meals cooked for us and we even had hot water!

If I went again I’d of definitely chosen a different placement. I don’t know if I’d of been cut out for a teaching placement but people out there who did teaching placements seemed to have a really good time and got a lot more out of it than media placements.

I missed India almost as soon as I got back. It was nice to be home at first, you get your own bed, the family around and bran flakes. But after a while you realise just how quiet it is and you miss all the people you met out there. You form quite a strong bond with the people you stay with and you’re out there together so you become close to them and then suddenly those people aren’t there.

Definitely go back in the future, I would like to see other parts of India but would definitely back to Bangalore at some point.