Volunteer Stories

Testimonials from volunteers

A month in Kolkata is an experience. It is an adventure involving human relations, cultural shocks, and language barriers. And not to forget, an opportunity to get lost in the amazing and lively Indian culture.

With IIMC, it’s important not to arrive with the expectation of saving the world. Because you will not. But this project is a small part of the puzzle to make the world become a better place. For you this is an incredible opportunity to observe a very well-functioning human development project; to see the wide spectrum of people who benefit from the project, and to meet the local volunteers who keep this project going. Some of them were even on the receiving end of help just a couple of years before. The project renews and recycles itself.

As the volunteers are changing every month, the locals are the perennial part of the project. Like many others, I faced the question: does my presence here matter? Dr. Sujit has had this question many times before and he had a good answer: the foreign volunteers are the catalyst to keep the chemical reaction that is IIMC going. The volunteers are also there to show the poor people of Kolkata that the world cares about their situation.

But to me this month was most important for me as a person. It is not what I brought to Kolkata but what I learned. I got to practice some easy medical procedures but the main experience was all the wonderful and strong people I met from all over the world. I will always carry this adventure with me in my future medical career and personal development.

P.S. Pro tip if going:
Always bring a snack. You never know how long a meeting will last. It is better to be ready for anything and to keep the blood sugar stable. D.S.

– Pernilla Stam, volunteer 2017

West Bengal was just like India — but tuned up. More smells, tastes, people, heat, dirt and love! It was both amazing and tiring. As a volunteer, I got to observe and interact in otherwise unattainable situations and meetings. It was a month of both laughing and crying. But it was an unforgettable month that I will always cherish.

The strongest memories are from the nights when me and the other volunteers sat on the roof by the swamps in Dhaki and meditated with Shamol, one of the most loving people I’ve ever met. We looked at the stars and reflected over the day and over ourselves.

I’ll bring a huge portion of humility from the month in West Bengal. Humility for all the people that I have met on site and who work day after day and who put their souls into the work of IIMC. I have also learned that patience is one of the keys to mentally surviving in India. But I have most of all learned to learn from other people.

– Linus Kullänger, volunteer 2014

My strongest memory is seeing the hundreds of people waiting in the hospitals and clinics that we visited. We could only visit one specific clinic twice a week, which made the number of waiting patients unreasonably high. It is difficult to perform thorough examinations when there already are a couple of hundred patients waiting when we arrive at eight o’clock in the morning. It really gave me an insight of how the poor resources in LMIC’s (lower middle-income countries) affects people.

After traveling around for a while one realises the differences and inequalities in healthcare — both between countries and locally. The most modern clinics in India keep world class standard, while the less fortunate have to settle for testing blood pressure and being given a quick injection by someone who couldn’t even speak the language well enough to explain the procedure. After my time in India, I really understand the meaning of ”Global Health Inequity”. I hope that more future volunteers can bring this knowledge back home to Sweden to continue the work for a more equal and fair healthcare for everyone.

It was immensely educational to follow the projects focusing on empowering women, such as Women’s Peace Council and the work of making microloans accessible. I had heard about Mohamed Yunus before and knew that microloans benefit many communities, but that the woman’s role within the family and society grew stronger thanks to these loans was something I didn’t fully realise until I saw it in action. In India we got to hear about both the struggles and the successes one can experience as self-employed.

– Gustaf Drevin, volunteer 2014

My favorite memory from the month in India was when we traveled to a place called Dhaki for an extended weekend. The village was so beautiful and all the volunteers lived and slept together in one big dormitory. It was very peaceful and felt completely disconnected from the otherwise very hectic tempo in Kolkata. During the days we visited schools outside of the village and during the evenings we cooked together around an open fire, drank chai tea and stargazed from the roof of the building we slept in. Shamol was the man who ran Dahki, and every night he led a short meditation session for all the volunteers. He was a very charismatic and inspiring person. Together with him we spent ten minutes each night to reflect over the day that had passed, in order to use what we had learned the next day.

After my month with IIMC I have learned how to be patient and how to face struggles while staying positive. Another big realization from the journey is the importance of focusing on providing help to the women if one wants to make a difference in a country like India. During this month we met so many ambitious, determined and responsible women through Women’s Peace Council. It became clear to me that they are the ones who are gonna improve the standards of living for the rest of the population.

I have also learned that an umbrella is your best friend during monsoon season.

– Cajsa Schalling, volunteer 2014

I went as a volunteer with IIMC the summer of 2014 and had a very exciting month in Kolkata. I learned so much and got to know amazing and inspiring people. I was prepared for the relatively easy medical work tasks — taking blood pressure, tending to wounds, giving injections and so on, but I had not realized how many other things IIMC do. I was for example very impressed by the project of microloans. This project really helps people taking themselves out of poverty, working with long-term goals and combining this with empowering women.

Something that I have taken with me from India is the realization of how many of the things one thinks of as problems don’t really matter in a larger perspective. I also feel a strong admiration for the people who are going through difficult times still can stay positive and happy and spread hopefulness to others.

– Maria Öhman, volunteer 2014

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