As I anxiously await the processing of my next Indian visa, I dream about the job I’m going to do when I get back to Mumbai.
I volunteered with Atma Education Trust for three months before being invited on board to work with the NGO. Though I’ve done volunteer work all over the country, working with Atma was by far the most worthwhile and fulfilling experience I have ever had.
Atma began when founder Lee Bolding realized that there were over 60,000 NGOs in Mumbai and still an overwhelming number of social problems. Her goal was not to begin another school or build another orphanage, but to help existing educational NGOs do their work better. Atma provides resources like consultancy, skilled volunteers and an exchange platform to their partner NGOs, with the aim of creating quality education for all children.
What a new and interesting idea, I thought! How many countless NGOs are there in Mumbai and across India that are doing incredible work but struggling with a lack of funding, manpower and other resources? Why not support these NGOs instead of creating a new project?
These are some of Atma’s achievements in the field of education, through its partners:
CHIP: From the time of Atma's involvement, it's partner CHIP expanded the impact of its Balwadi Program from one school to seven schools
Mumbai Mobile Creches: Atma Fellows helped MMC expand its reach from 4,000 to 10,000 children and helped raise over 32 lakhs in corporate sponsorships. Twenty five laptops were also donated to network the Creches site offices.
Muktangan: A 7-year-plan built by an Atma Fellow helped secure a 270 lakh grant from Tata Foundation. Atma Fellow Marianka built the curriculum for English-as-Second-Language training for teachers in the school.
Nareshwadi: A Fellow performed water-testing to demonstrate water quality had improved after Atma's efforts.
The aspect of Atma’s work that impressed me the most was how thoroughly and completely they access the skills of their foreign volunteers. Too many times have I seen Ph.D students come to volunteer in India who are told to ‘go and play with the kids.’ This is because any foreign volunteer requires a little bit of integration and help before they can truly be involved, and many NGOs don’t have the resources to give that effort. Atma provides that help and integration, and then treats your volunteer role as a professional job. You are responsible and accountable for your actions, and will complete a project that is meaningful and will not be forgotten. It is a partnership and a commitment on both sides, and the result is an incredibly worthwhile, on-the-ground experience with an educational NGO. I would highly recommend Atma as a volunteer experience, and can’t wait to start my new job as communications associate with them.
More information about Atma and its work can be found at:
Bronwyn McBride is from Vancouver, Canada. After years of circus school in Montreal and Quebec city, and then a long summer in Varanasi, she now lives in Mumbai. Besides working in communications and fundraising for an educational NGO, going for runs and sampling Mumbai’s fabulous variety of street food, Bronwyn loves to observe and write on all facets of Mumbai’s diversity, beauty and struggle. Her personal blog can be found at www.littlebirdbombay.com