Volunteers, Interns And Guests

Avani / Volunteers, Interns And Guests

Facilitating an Urban-Rural Dialogue

Learning through Conversation

Welcome to Avani! Thank you for being interested in volunteering or interning with us.

Before reading further, we encourage you to first explore the organisation’s website.

Avani is a non-profit organisation that was set up in order to create sustainable livelihood opportunities in the villages of the Kumaon. The hill communities are primarily agrarian with animal husbandry being the next main occupation. However, the need for cash incomes has led to outmigration of rural youth to cities in search of jobs in the army, government institutions and in the private sector. Avani’s intervention has therefore included discussions on migration, eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyles, efficient use of natural resources, health, education and so forth. It is a belief that such dialogues are most impactful when they are spontaneous and informal. Your interaction with the community will go beyond your work assignments as it will facilitate a two way learning and dialogue on cultural exchange, global realities and aspiration of youth in different parts of the globe. These conversations lend themselves to a lifetime of friendships and memories.

Of course, not everybody will get comfortable in the new environment right away. Simultaneously, in some instances your time here may not permit settling down at a leisurely pace. So, the team has developed a set of activities you could weave into your day that would allow you the opportunity to interact with people outside of your work-related team and even the community at large.

1. Activity Hours at Avani

The working day at Avani usually extends from 9am to 5pm. Like in other offices, there are days when deadlines are tight, and each one works way past these hours too. But at other times the team that comprises young girls and boys (age 15 to 30 years) and a few families have some free time between 6am and 7am in the morning and 5pm and 7pm in the evening. Depending on your interests you could spend 30 mins to one hour interacting with the interested members of the community on campus through a specific activity. If you plan this in advance, it can be announced accordingly in the daily meeting held every morning.

2. Get involved in village activities

If you are placed at a field centre during your time here, you will be living in close proximity to a village. Some of the women and men from the villages near the centre will be involved in the working of the centre and you could use activities like English teaching and learning to use a computer to facilitate casual conversations. Another possibility is to use after work hours like late evenings or early mornings to take a walk in the neighbouring villages to meet and greet people. The villages you may be based are rarely visited by tourists. So, any person from a city raises curiosity and people are usually eager to talk and exchange information. During seasons of harvest and plantation, you could also use this opportunity to offer any type of help that they may need. For instance, bringing them water to drink from the closest water hole, offering to roll chapatis if you happen to spend time with a family around dinner time or merely helping with the activity that they may be involved in at the time of your visit are some examples. Some of these experiences may be practically challenging and one is not expected to perfect their skills the very first time. But the fact that you are making the effort is in itself creating a context of interaction that moves beyond superficial differences and barriers.

3. Work in a local school

The school enables the creation of a space and time where socio-cultural and socio-economic boundaries despite existing are believed to be absent and less important. Children are energetic, willing to learn, curious and have a sharp ability to grasp. The predominance of government schools and the lack of training in experiential and activity-based pedagogy creates tremendous scope for the introduction of initiatives that can make learning more interesting. The teachers in these schools are usually overworked because of the poor student-teacher ratio and are almost always happy to share their workload. You could use activities based on your skills and interests to introduce the children (and even teachers) to something new. Avani will always be willing to support programmes that require resources in terms of manpower and structural planning.

Village life is very different from urban residential and professional settings. There is tremendous interdependence and people are usually connected through extended kinship and caste networks. News travels fast and rituals, practices, and customs could be enforced with greater rigour in face of strangers and visitors. Caste, religion, gender and economics often tend to determine boundaries and nature of interaction. Practically, therefore, sometimes you may sense a hesitation to interact informally or that your interaction is hindered in some way. Avani’s work over the years has taught that the more time you spend, the fuzzier these boundaries become and easier is the interaction. The team (and so many members of the larger village community too) is very enthusiastic and sometimes can help you discover aspects of your own skills that may have been previously unknown. This is also a fantastic opportunity for you to make friends and learn things like hand-spinning, knitting, crocheting, local forms of music, dance and games from some very talented individuals here. It is always good to remember that you need the community and the experiences it offers as much as they need you and your experiences. The willingness to learn and openness to perceiving things from different perspectives are qualities that will be useful companions in making your time spent here productive and memorable! To help you with your preparation for visiting Avani, it is suggested that you take a careful look at the detailed Visitor’s guide For any other enquiries,  please write to us at internships@avani-kumaon.org