Author: tristan@astdesign.co.uk

Asish Das – Summer Volunteering

Asish Das – Summer Volunteering

After completing his A levels through the Pestalozzi scholarship programme, achieving an A* and two As, Asish Das returned home in July to West Bengal in India. He decided to take a gap year to give him the opportunity to do further research into physics and maths, finish his EPQ qualification and get involved in more volunteering projects. He’s already giving back to his community. Here’s what he’s been up to since returning home in July.

My last volunteering project opened up many doors and made me capable of doing things which I never thought of doing, which led to me starting my own education project.
One morning, shortly after returning home, I saw some children playing outside and wondered why they weren’t at school. After asking the reason behind them playing instead of attending school, some replied that they do not go to school, while the others said that they are looking after their house because their parents are at work. The statistics say that at least 35 million children aged 6-14 years do not attend school in India and this is a serious problem. After talking to them for a while I realised that their circumstances and the lack of support are keeping them behind. That is why I decided to support them, and to make them realise the importance of education and help give them what they deserve.
Living in a conservative society, there is always a fear of what other people will say. The biggest challenge was to come up with an idea and then convince their parents that the project would be great for their children. I found out that many of those children did not have books or notebooks for studying, so I donated some extra books, pens and notebooks to the children who were in need. For the past few weeks I’ve spent some time each day with them to teach them and see how they are getting on at school. It gives me immense pleasure to see them studying together outside school and enjoying their education.

In the process, I found that you can learn so much from children. Working closely with them taught me how simple and free their minds can be and they are not afraid to dream big. In a session where I asked them about their dreams, the responses I received were overwhelming: some wanted to fly, while the others wanted to become doctors. We often say living a life is not easy; it`s not child`s play, but while growing up we kill the child inside us. We eventually become fearful to try out new things or reach for our dreams and we get bound by the norms of society. For me, the biggest takeaway from this project would be: we should never be afraid to dream big like children. Some people are successful only because they have kept that child alive inside them, and dared to dream big.

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My time at Pestalozzi – Patry Noble

My time at Pestalozzi – Patry Noble

Hola, I’m Patricia from Spain.
Before arriving at Pestalozzi I studied for a degree in Educational Psychology and had been working as a teacher in Spain. I came to Pestalozzi to volunteer for ten months as part of the Erasmus + programme (specifically the European Voluntary Service), in August 2018.
My journey started more than a year ago when I was in Spain feeling that I should do something different, something that could fill my heart. I didn’t want to think about earning money or living in this busy-empty world of today. I wanted to experience new things and do something rewarding. So I decided to look for some volunteering opportunities. I found an amazing organization in Spain called AIPC-Pandora who assisted me on this journey until I found the Pestalozzi International Foundation. After finding out more about the charity, I felt that I could identify with their philosophy of “head, heart and hands”. My gut instinct told me that it was meant to be. The chance to work in a multicultural environment was something that appealed to me and would be a unique opportunity.

As a volunteer in the Student Programme Department, I assisted with different events: International Women’s Day; Interfaith Cultural events; Model United Nation (MUN) debates and Holi; trips to London, Oxford, Portsmouth and Camber Sands; and extracurricular activities such as dance, Christmas Carol concerts, movies nights, karaoke and Intercultural Dinners. I also ran weekly activities: Spanish lessons and study techniques. I believe that my position here was more like a role model/older sister for them, someone who they could trust, who supported them and tried to have fun with them. Pestalozzi encourages the students to make positive changes back in their home countries, and in the world. I like to tell them that “with positive energy and a big smile, we can change the world” and if we believe in the thing that we are doing, it can be very powerful.
I remember that the students were not yet here when I arrived, so I walked around the field connecting with the environment and feeling completely open to this new experience, but I didn’t know how much it was going to change my life. It was an adventure from the first day. I was trying to remember their difficult names, whilst at the same time trying so hard to understand them, which was impossible for me for the first month. I had to communicate with them through smiles, body language and foosball. I truly believe that fun is an international language. Thanks to their patience and help, we built a strong relationship. Now that it’s time for me to go back to Spain, I don’t think that I’m ready to say goodbye and I will tell them “see you soon” trusting that we will see each other again one day.
I have learnt many things here and not only at a professional level; I have also learnt how big the heart is and how much we can love when we are in the place where our heart wants to be. I feel that here, at Pestalozzi, I’ve found my second family: sisters and brothers from all over the world in a small village in East Sussex. It’s a magical place where, over two years, young people learn about hope and discover that life with fewer borders and layers shows us that we are all the same and that we are citizens of this world as a great family who must help each other more with the head, heart and hands.
I only have words of gratitude for this experience, to all the staff who welcomed me from the first day with open arms, to the students who taught me how to become a better person and to this place of peace and tranquillity that allowed me to reconnect with myself and find my way. I have, over the last 10 months, felt very much at home.
I leave as a free soul cultivating positive energy!
Patricia Noble – Volunteer from Spain – August 2018 – July 2019 – ERASMUS+ programme, Youth Projects, Key Action 1 – Youth Mobility (EVS). You can find out more information about ERASMUS+ here.

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My experience at Pestalozzi – Anaise Constant

My experience at Pestalozzi – Anaise Constant

I was looking for the opportunity to take a break from my daily life and discover new horizons, so joining the Erasmus+ program to carry out a volunteering mission was something which appealed to me.
I wanted to find a place where the human dimension would be valued as I’m convinced we all need to be questioning and revising the principles that govern our lives. This is why the philosophy of Pestalozzi immediately pleased me; it puts forward a principle of unity. It’s also an invitation to celebrate differences rather than erase them. It’s the belief that great things can be accomplished by capitalising on the intelligence of the heart.
I discovered the Pestalozzi Village, a privileged place dedicated to helping young people from low income countries. All these students are smart, opened minded and assertive. They may be from different cultures, but the friendship between them is obvious and free of social barriers.

When I joined the marketing, communications and fundraising team, we were about to launch the Ripples Campaign. We understood that expanding the range of possibilities for all these young adults can’t be measured, but the beneficial impact they will create around them must be valued.
While working on our missions, I found the concept of “tipping point”, “the point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change”. We can appreciate how learning to live with your head, hands and heart can actively influence a much needed shift of consciousness.
I’m glad of the time I spent at Pestalozzi and I want to use wisely what I learnt to be part of the change I want to see around me.
Anaise Constant

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Ruramai’s Summer Project

Ruramai’s Summer Project

Hello!
My name is Ruramai Chivasa. I am a 19 year old Zimbabwean girl, currently in my last month of studying in the UK, on a scholarship from Pestalozzi International Village Trust.
I have made it my goal to make 1000 reusable sanitary towels for disadvantaged girls in Zimbabwe.

On International Women’s Day this year, March 2018, I attended a conference at Pestalozzi and was inspired by a woman named Geraldine, who spoke about several projects in Uganda she is currently running. One of these projects is making re-usable sanitary pads for girls who cannot afford to buy them. This means they have had their education compromised because they are unable to attend school for days at a time. I did some research and discovered the same applied to many girls in Zimbabwe; reports show statistics of 62% of girls don’t go to school during their period. So, at the conference I said to myself ‘If not me then who?’

I set a goal to do everything I could to help those girls with any resources I could get.

My plan is to make reusable sanitary pads and donate them to girls who cannot afford them, starting with those from my village in Gokwe. Not only do I want to supply them with the sanitary wear, but also to teach them the trade where they could make an extra allowance from selling them to those who can afford to buy them.

This project will be set up in September 2018 and will run during my gap year, but I plan to establish it as a small organisation so that it continues to run even after I go to university. I have the desire, the motivation and the drive to get this project off the ground, but I am lacking the financial resources and support.

The costs that need to be covered include buying two sewing machines, materials to make the 4 layers of the sanitary pads (nylon, cotton, towelling and fleece), transportation costs to and from remote areas and paying electricity bills (electricity is quite expensive in Zimbabwe).

I have created an achievable plan of employing 2 women to make 600 pads over the course of 2 weeks. I will make the other 400.

The pads will be given to those who cannot afford to buy them and sold to those who can. The profits will be used to pay those making the pads and anything left over will be put back into making more pads.

This is such a worthwhile project – My thanks to all who have made donations to help me achieve my goal so far.

Thank you!

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Aswathy Manukumar – Three Things I Learnt From Pestalozzi

Aswathy Manukumar – Three things I learnt from Pestalozzi

Pestalozzi alumna Aswathy Manukumar, who graduated from the International Village in 2016, shares the three things she learnt from her time here.
At Pestalozzi, literally, every day brings us an opportunity to learn something new, and to choose and explain just three of them is a really difficult task. However, here are three ways in which Pestalozzi has influenced my life, or in other words, three things I learnt from Pestalozzi.
1. Be open minded enough to welcome the unexpected
The first thing I struggled with at Pestalozzi was getting used to people from different countries; there was so much to adjust to. “Negroes aka Africans are bad” is something I grew up hearing but it was at Pestalozzi that I met Africans for the first time. I was really scared of them at first; I wouldn’t stand near them or let them touch me. But as time passed and we became one big family, I realised what people think about them is rubbish and felt ashamed of how judgemental we could be. Each and every one of them there was too good. The way they took care of me, accompanied me, educated me on the things I didn’t know, everything they did only increased my love and respect for them. When we left Pestalozzi, I cried for them as much as I did for the others. Now, at home if I hear someone talking like this about the Africans, I defend them; I tell them how nice they have been to me and how we shouldn’t judge them. And I’ve done it to such an extent that none of my family members have this opinion anymore.

My Class mates and me – Front Row, 2nd from the right
My story doesn’t end here. Through this I realised, there are so many things that aren’t true but we grow up believing they are. I had lived with those thoughts about Africans for 16 years but if I had continued to do so, I would have missed out on the love they had for me. It is important in life to let go of some of the strings we are attached to, in order to embrace the new. Pestalozzi provided a platform for such insights for a number of youngsters like me.
2. It is OK to change plans as well as to not follow the crowd
When I was 12 I had decided I would be a medical doctor. I would take the science stream, crack my 12th class with 98%, crack the medical entrance in my first attempt and in five years I would be a doctor. I knew I could do it and I was determined that I would. Then Pestalozzi happened.
By the end of the first year at Pestalozzi, every student had made up their mind to continue their studies overseas. It gets to a point where all of our lives revolve around just one thought – “study at university abroad”. So like everyone else, I dreamt of my ‘Bachelors in the US’. I even got an offer to attend one university, but with a partial scholarship which meant I had to let it go and take a gap year instead. That was the first time I encountered failure in my life, or at least that’s what I thought then.
Indians don’t really understand a gap year, or at least the people in my village don’t. They consider it as a synonym for failure and I was blinded by the disappointment of not being able to go to the US that I too believed it was true. “So she got in but you didn’t?” people asked. The fact that some of my friends did go to the US, and I didn’t created more problems and confirmed my failure. I thought I would crack the entrance exam and be a doctor, but that didn’t happen. I also thought I would go to the US and do my Bachelors, but that didn’t happen either. After two months of feeling disappointed and helpless, I decided to change tack. While still applying to colleges abroad, I chose affordable Asian colleges and within few weeks I got into one in Malaysia. However, the total costs of studying here still turned out to be unaffordable. I approached different people, asking for help and failed miserably. No one was ready to help me and I gave up on Malaysia too. Throughout this process, I was having ups and downs of depression, stress and rays of hope. But were these really all failures?
In my gap year I worked for a few months, I helped at the Pestalozzi Selections 2016 at Bangalore, I travelled alone to different states in India, spent more time with friends and family, but more than anything, I realised it was OK that my friends went to the US and I didn’t. And I realised it’s okay to not have a detailed plan but to have a goal. My ultimate goal was to continue my education and here I am, doing really well in my Bachelors in Medical Microbiology at Dehradun. I don’t regret a bit about my gap year.
When people ask me if Pestalozzi was worth it, I tell them, “If I hadn’t gone there, my life would have been much simpler; Pestalozzi only made it more exciting to live and moreover, I would have never learnt to fall over and get back up on my feet again.” I will always be grateful to Pestalozzi for making me the strong, resilient person I am now.
3. Don’t feel ashamed to ask for help and help others when you see the need
We often find it difficult to open up to people and ask for help. I used to have difficulty in even asking someone to pass me the ketchup bottle at the dining table. I tried my best not to converse with any staff. When I was sad, I would sit in my room and cry alone, but not tell anyone. As I grew closer to the staff at Pestalozzi, I realised they were a bunch of people ready to help anyone anytime. Of course, financial help isn’t the only thing we need.
Later during my time there, I could go talk to them at any hour of the day and they would be all ears to listen to my problems and help me fix them, Sometimes I didn’t even want solutions; simply talking to them was all that I needed. Sometimes they would notice that I was sad and then try to make me tell everything that was bottled up inside me. I was already a friendly person and helped anyone who asked for it but the relationships I developed with the staff created a sense of responsibility in me to help people who were too shy to ask for help but needed it desperately as well as making them understand it is OK to ask for help.
The help from Pestalozzi continued even after I left. Multiple times, during my gap year, I sent long emails to the staff explaining how depressed I had become with the things happening. Their replies, full of positivity and encouragement, helped me hold on and as I started the next phase of my life, studying for a Bachelors Degree in Dehradun, it was my time to give back.
One of my friends was having the same problems as me, and trying to finding college where she could afford to study. I talked to the CEO of my college and helped her get admitted here with a 50% scholarship. She couldn’t afford the costs of the college hostel so I moved out and rented a house where we both can stay and I can pay the rent. I am not rich but my expenses are covered by the education loan I took, and I could do this much for her. She could only find enough money to study for her first year at college, so I talked to some people I know and one of them agreed to lend her the money she needs to complete her studies. When her mother fell ill and couldn’t go to work, with the help of my friends I managed to send her family some money too. However, she never really asked me to do anything.
I am not showing off about how great of a person I am, but want you to understand how much Pestalozzi has made me a selfless person. The way people help each other there, build strong relationships and become determined to take on any challenges has inspired all of us. Let alone ask me for help, she was too reserved to even share her problems with me but I had learnt from Pestalozzi to read the eyes and figure out the problem. I didn’t spend that much money on helping but she has a new life now.
Thank you Pestalozzi, for now I know I won’t have a second thought in helping someone in need.

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My Pestalozzi Journey – Archana Verma

My Pestalozzi Journey – Archana Verma

Going to school and learning new things, writing exams, getting good scores, helping my friends understand any concepts they were struggling with; this was my life in India and I was entirely happy with it. I just did not know what I was missing.
Pestalozzi International Village Trust changed everything. I was no longer the person who could solve the most challenging questions in my text books. Studying in the UK was challenging. I felt I was the weakest student in my class and I didn’t like it. Despite watching so many inspirational and motivational videos, I struggled to push myself to go to the classes. Not only that, I was also expected to take part in many extracurricular activities and all of them were new to me. My self-confidence plummeted. It was the staff and other students at Pestalozzi who became my family who constantly encouraged and supported me. They gradually restored the faith and self-confidence I had lost.
Without realising it, I had been transformed into a completely different person.

While in India I hated being challenged by problems of real life. I would run away from my problems rather than face them. I would rather never try something new than risk failing at it. All of this changed during my stay in the UK. I started to step outside of my comfort zone; and not to limit myself to what I already knew. I wanted to know more and more. Of course, I was learning new things in my academic studies but more importantly I was that I was, unknowingly, preparing myself to deal with real life problems. I was no longer the reserved and introvert person I had been in India. I was no longer simply waiting for hard and difficult times to pass by; instead I was dealing with them. I began solving problems rather than avoiding them. I was becoming resilient.
It is my life changing experience at Pestalozzi UK that helped me get through the seemingly impossible problems I faced when I returned home. The person I had become in the UK, was ready to accept any challenges. That is why I was able to support my family financially. I applied for a job and luckily got one. I am currently working as a “Basic and Advanced English Speaking” teacher in Infomax Pvt. Ltd, Chipledhunga. I also prepare students for IELTS Speaking tests and interviews.
Of course, there are challenges at my current job, but I never let them bring me down. Instead, I accept the challenges and fight them and this would not have been possible without my Pestalozzi Journey. I will be attending University of Rochester in New York this August to start my undergraduate studies, and with a fully-funded scholarship. None of this would have happened – getting a job and a scholarship to study in the USA – had Pestalozzi International Village Trust not been there to support me.
I don’t know how to express my gratitude to Pestalozzi, its staff and all the kind and generous donors who provided us all with immense support and encouragement. Thank you so much. Dhanyabaad!
Archana Verma

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