As I type, I am in India – traveling, experiencing it and meeting like-minded people. By good luck my travel mate in Varanasi is Navi, coincidentally a young woman from my town and yet by chance we meet half way around the world in one of India’s holiest cities.
Navi is taking a 3 month break from work to tour south east Asia but what brings her to India, aside from visiting her heritage, is a non profit that she is lending her talents to called Paper Kite.
We are Paper Kite Children’s Foundation, a non-profit charity working to ensure that basic necessities are available to the orphanages in the state of Bihar, India. Our work empowers the children to fulfill their aspirations and end the cycle of poverty.
This is but one of the many grassroots causes, started by folks who were touched by India and wanted to help solve some of her issues. Today over lunch Navi and I met another kindred spirit from Madrid who is working for a small NGO helping impoverished folks with medical issues. And in Agra I met a woman who, along with 12 others, is volunteering with a program to empower women.
There are a lot of commonalities among these causes (size of the organization, support by women volunteers, and the endless need for services here in India) but I think local involvement is one of the most crucial. Without oversight that is informed, understands the local culture and ways, speaks the language and has a significant and ongoing presence, the power of corruption will win out.
We have seen false front organizations, heard about good agencies gone bad and the struggle to get things done. As a volunteer you need to do a lot of research to find the right causes. As I travel I find that the informal network of volunteers that forms when good people meet like minded folks might be more powerful than Google.
So if you are looking to contribute in some way I encourage you to join a grassroots organization or start one – India needs you.