It is not an easy task to summarise my experience at the HOPE House. My six-month volunteer service was mixed with many kinds of experiences. I laughed, cried, was surprised and disheartened. My stay in India was everything I imagined and yet I never expected the experiences I was given. Like so many others, I had high hopes for my volunteer service. It is a big step to leave your home country for half a year, hoping not only to feel good with the decision made, but also hoping to gain as many experiences as possible. In conclusion, I can say that I am above all grateful for the experience and I could no longer imagine my life without this decision I made one year ago.
In advance of my voluntary service, I made the conscious decision not to inform myself too much about the country of India, apart from the 'necessities' I felt. I wanted to be able to make my own experiences and not let them be influenced by other opinions. I was happy to learn from the country and the people on site and the HOPE House taught me a lot about Indian culture and cuisine. I got to know India as a very hospitable country. I've often had a warm welcome from people I've only recently met. I was greeted in a friendly manner and asked if I had already eaten by strangers on the bus. I was invited home to tea and also to weddings. Especially in comparison to Germany, I noticed the cordiality that is usually shown.
Another thing I learnt during my volunteer service is that not every day has to be perfect. As expected, the first weeks in India were full of euphoria and excitement. Every day was special and always contained new things to experience and discover. But gradually the routine came back and everyday life returned. I had bad days and was not only irritated but also disappointed about my bad mood. I had perceived it as a lack of gratitude for my stay in India and didn't want to admit that. However, after a while I realised that I shouldn't be so hard on myself. It is normal and healthy to have good days as well as bad days. Just because I have this chance to live in India for six months doesn't mean I have to be perfect for six months. Of course I tried to be thankful every day and to be aware of my privileges during my volunteer service. However, I don't have to and can't force a perfect life.
(In this picture I captured one of the many wonderful sunsets at the HOPE House.)
I kept thinking about how I would like to contribute in the future. I can imagine offering myself as a contact person for future generations of volunteers. In addition, I will definitely stay in touch with and support the HOPE House over the coming years.
I will always be grateful that I came across the German volunteers program 'weltwärts' that enabled me to have this experience. I will never forget my time at the HOPE House, the girls I got to know and the life lessons I have learnt. My volunteer service was an experience I would and will recommend to anyone. Have I personally changed? I can't honestly answer that question right now. I'm sure I have changed. I think every experience in life changes a person and I don't think that a six-month stay abroad can go by without leaving a mark. However I believe the exact effects of my experience will only surface after my return to Germany, in the following weeks, months and years.