As I boarded my flight on December 28, I was full of anticipation for the two months ahead of me. I had never travelled to India before and while I had heard stories from people who had travelled there in the past and had gone on the 40K program, I still had no idea what to expect. Needless to say, it was one of the greatest and most rewarding experiences of my life.
During the month of January, I spent the majority of my time living in Kannur, a rural village outside the city of Bangalore and it is here that I have the fondest memories of my trip. When I was told that I would be going into a local village to help set up a social business and facilitate its progression, I thought it would be hard work. In fact, it was even tougher than I first imagined but the fact that I was able to see the benefits to the local villagers first-hand inspired myself and my team to continue working hard and by the end, it seemed less like work and more like we were making a positive difference. We were able to find and employ two local woman, Lalita and Manjula to make our product and the look of jubilation on both their faces when my group told them that they would be able to earn an extra income to help their struggling families was a sight that I will never forget. This was essentially the reason why I decided to go on the 40K program; to make a difference by helping those that were not financially well off and to see first-hand how thankful they were made all the work we put in worthwhile. An added bonus was that they were making great, sellable products!
Another thing that really stood out was how the villagers reacted to us being there and the relationships I formed with them. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sight of 50 kids running towards me screaming in excitement when they realised that the next group of 40K Globers had arrived or how much my muscles ached the next day after having 6 kids hanging off my body at a time while asking us to carry them and give them piggy-back rides. Working with the kids in the 40K Plus Pods and facilitating their English lessons was also rewarding in that I was able to see how the money raised by the 40K Foundation was being used and I could see the benefits that some the of kids had obtained. More than anything, seeing this makes me want to go back in the near future and see the improvements that the organisation has implemented into the educational program based on our recommendations.
After the program finished, I decided to travel around South India for the majority of February. This period of time really made me appreciate the bond I had with a lot of the other students who also participated in the 40K program. When you live and spend the majority of the month with a group of people, you either tend to love them or hate them. Thankfully they became my second family in the end so it was great to be able to travel with them after the program and experience everything India had to offer with people I was comfortable with.
All up, I didn’t expect to love and enjoy India as much as I did. I didn’t expect to fall in love with the culture, the people, a simpler lifestyle and of course the celebrity status that comes with being an Australian in India. It was a humbling experience and one that I would definitely like to do again in the future.