SOPAR and Bala Vikasa are two sides of an NGO which focuses on development in India. The partnership between SOPAR and Bala Vikasa evolved from the kind of love story you usually hear about in Disney movies – two people (French Canadian and Indian), two cultures, two languages, one shared experience and a lifetime of work devoted to helping the poor and vulnerable. Through SOPAR, the Canadian partner, and Bala Vikasa, the organization working on the ground in India, the agencies attempt to enact change in the lives of the poorest and most marginalized.
As an intern at Bala Vikasa, you will gain first-hand experience in Community-Driven Development (CDD), which focuses on “helping communities help themselves”, and emphasizes the importance of the community’s participation in its own development. You will learn about this development strategy in Bala Vikasa’s special People Development Training Centre, which educates people from all over the world in CDD. You will then get to experience these strategies at work, through observing and participating in some of the organization’s programs in the local community.
I can tell you first-hand that the internship was one of the most eye-opening and inspiring activities that I have ever experienced, and marked a turning point in my life and my career goals. The benefit of learning while actually in the development environment is incredible, and so different from studying in a classroom in Canada. You work alongside people from such diverse countries as Ethiopia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria who are already professionals in their field. This allows you not only to gain from their development experiences, but also to have a truly multicultural exchange. Through culture nights and conversations I learned about the unique and diverse traditions in many countries!
You are also given the chance to explore the local community and experience Indian culture first-hand. If you are there during November, you may get the chance to experience Diwali – the Hindu festival of lights – which is spectacular. Field trips are also organized for you to visit nearby Hyderabad, India’s technological capital, and ancient ruins and temples in the vicinity of Bala Vikasa.
This month-long internship is designed to be both a learning experience and an important career asset. Your participation will give you invaluable practical knowledge which will help build your resume and allow you to be influential in both your local and the international communities. It is open to both post-secondary students and professionals in the development field, and students are even eligible to get post-secondary credits for their participation! SOPAR is extremely helpful in terms of arrangements for both travel and visa requirements, and provide you with accommodation and travel arrangements while in India.
All in all, this internship is a fantastic experience in international development. It is guaranteed to broaden your horizons, and will help open your eyes to the situation of many people in India and around the world, while showing you how you can be involved in helping them help themselves to a better present and future!