Gilles de Preux & Valentine Tchekhoff

Volunteers from Switzerland

We have been planning to participate in a humanitarian project for a long time, if possible in India since this country fascinates us. It was also important for us to work with an organization that would allow us a concrete local involvement. After many investigations, IFPD appeared to be the best solution. We prepared an action plan before devoting our summer to this experience.
India has the reputation of being an extraordinary and disorientating country:the land of extremes. As soon as we arrived, with a temperature of over 40°C and close to 80% of humidity, the tone was set!
After two days of acclimatization and adjustment to our whereabouts, we went to the offices of Agragami, IFPD's NGO partner organization, in the slums of MadanpurKahdar in south Delhi. We received a very warm welcome. The team is united like a big family, which we had the privilege to be part of during our stay. We had lunch together and exchanged culinary as well as cultural knowledge.
After we were shown around, we quickly realized the major challenges that were expecting us, given the very different customs and culture we were faced with. Thanks to our colleagues' long standing experience, we were able to adapt our action to the local needs and constraints. For example, we managed to create partnerships between the NGO and local companies with a view to helping young people to prepare for professional life. We also set up a program with various courses allowing them to get trained.
What particularly impressed us is the slum dwellers' capacity to adapt. If you ask them where they come from, it turns out that they are not only from areas close to Delhi but from all over India and even from neighbouring countries. They live together like thousands of inhabitants of a huge village but these families have actually different languages, religions and cultures.Nonetheless, they are united by a common goal: to pull through. This is an outstanding example of cohabitation and mutual respect.
Among others, we had the opportunity to meet the first two taxi driver women in India. Still very young, they had to stand up against their families and friends, and fight against tradition to make their dream come true – a dream that may seem very ordinary to us. Their pride and will to succeed show on their faces, and make you want to fight for these people who demonstrate so much determination.
Our mission has not only taught us a lot about Indian culture, it was also very enriching. The context, the country, the dynamism we experienced convinced us to stay committed. To continue our action, we decided to become part of IFPD's Young Advisory Committee in order to share our experience and keep up our involvement in this beautiful project!