Celia Gueto Melo spent three months volunteering in Rajasthan, India with youth-led social action organisation Pravha. The Jack Petchey Foundation awarded Celia with a £300 Individual Grant for Volunteering to support her volunteer work.
Celia’s volunteer project focused on the education of children and women in the village of Morra in Rajasthan. Celia and the other volunteers in her team worked to ensure that every child in the village was enrolled in the anganwadi which provides pre-school education. This proved to be a challenging endeavour, as pre-school education is not considered to be very important in rural areas of India. Therefore, the volunteers arranged to collect the local children every morning, taking the burden off of the parents, which significantly increased the attendance at the pre-school.
The second part of their project consisted of targeting early marriage and early pregnancy in the village through Community Action Days and workshops. Celia said “this was without doubt the toughest project as it tackled entrenched traditions and culture.” Despite the challenges, by the end of Celia’s placement she felt that the voices of the women in the community had been heard and that they felt more empowered to speak up about issues such as women’s education or the fight against child marriage.
Celia reflected on the success of her project, saying “I would say that the main benefits we saw in the community were youth and women empowerment. In such a patriarchal society having other women come from a totally different place but with whom you still relate to has been such a strong attribute for our project.” Celia believed that tackling the sensitive issues of caste and gender as outsiders to the community worked to their advantage. The group witnessed more integration within the village when they organised community events, with participation from locals regardless of caste or gender.
Celia reflected on what she has learnt from her volunteer work, saying; “I have learnt a lot from a totally different culture. The main learning has been in terms of the sense of community. I now try to engage in local activities in my neighborhood.”
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