Students discuss "huge impact" of week volunteering in India

Students and alumni from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) rounded off a week of volunteering in India by proposing ways of using their experiences to address global challenges.

A group of around 50 current and former students attended a conference at Ahmedabad’s Environmental Sanitation Institute to discuss projects visited during the past week.

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Three groups visited different charities on Tuesday, while a group of Architecture students have been helping to build new homes for residents in one of the Ahmedabad’s poorest districts.

All four projects link directly with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a series of global goals to improve life for people around the world. DMU has been chosen by the UN as a ‘designated hub’ for SDG number 16, which promotes peaceful and inclusive societies, justice for all and building inclusive institutions.

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Following a welcome from Simon Bradbury, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Design and Humanities, students and alumni were invited to split into four groups to discuss the most impactful aspects of the project they visited.

They also spoke about how the projects could be improved by partnerships, how they could be applied in Leicester and what lessons they have learned from visiting them.

A special video message from Maher Nasser, Director of the Outreach Division of the DPI at the United Nations, was played to the group of students and alumni.

He explained the origins and significance of the 17 SDGs and said that the UN needs to partner with young people, universities and people from all walks of life to ensure that all people are free and equal, as set out by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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He added: “For all people to be free and equal in dignity and rights they need to have access to health, to education, to safe drinking water, to sustainable energy, opportunities for work, economic growth, to live in safe, resilient, inclusive and sustainable cities where we are not only looking after the humans but also other life.

“Goal 16, which De Montfort University has a special relationship with, is about building a world which is peaceful and just with strong institutions.”

The four groups then came back together to feedback their experiences and share ideas about how the projects can be taken forward in the UK. Students and alumni were then challenged to come up with one thing that they will change when they return home following the trip.

Nicole Hyatt, a third-year student nurse, said that she plans to change her buying habits when she is back in the UK as a result of her experiences in India.

“I’d like to make a conscious effort not to buy things that are unnecessary,” she explained.

“Seeing how people here don’t have a lot has made me feel like I don’t need a lot either. A lot of things that you buy end up in the ground when you throw them away anyway, so I’d also like to reduce my waste and live more simply and conscientiously.”

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Alumna Mazvita Makaiyi, who graduated from DMU in 2011, said that her time in India has encouraged her to think about what she can do to make her own society more inclusive.

She said: “This trip has been a very reflective journey for me. It’s made me realise how privileged I am and how I shouldn’t take things for granted.

“We’ve met some really amazing people, we’ve met people who are deprived in the community and people who are isolated in the community and it’s about taking that back and considering how we can have an inclusive society.”

Second-year Architecture student Veniamin Bampilis, from Greece, summed up the impression that the past week has had on him. “This trip has had a huge impact on me,” he said.

“It has felt so good giving back to the community and it has made me realise how grateful I am to live in the EU.

“What I’d like to do in the near future is get involved in more opportunities like this and do more volunteer work in general.”

Posted on Friday 7th December 2018

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