Happy Ganesh Chaturthi

28 August 2017

Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most colourful and popular Hindu festivals celebrated throughout India to observe the birth of Lord Ganesha. The 10-day long fiesta started on Friday 25 August when Lord Ganesha left his home on Mount Kailasha to visit the homes of his devotees. Lord Ganesha homecoming is observed by devotees placing an idol at home, and hosting him as they would a real human guest. He is pampered with his favourite feasts, songs and rituals.

Ganesha is one of the most popular and loved Hindu deities, and is highly recognisable with his elephant head and human body. Ganesha is the lord of happiness, wellbeing and success and he is the patron of writers, travellers, students and has a fondness for sweets.

Ganesha’s mythical birth

Ganesha is the son of Lord Shiva and the Goddess Parvati and he is the brother of Karthikeya, the god of war. It is believed that he was created by Parvati using earth which she moulded into the shape of a boy. Shiva was away at the time and so she sent Ganesha to guard the door while she took a bath. Shiva returned home unexpectedly and, on finding the boy guarding the door, was furious that the little boy claimed to be Parvati’s son. A ferocious row ensued and an enraged Lord Shiva severed the head of the little child.

At the commotion, Parvati ran from her bath and was enraged to find that Shiva had killed their son. A repentant Lord Shiva promised to give Ganesha new life and ordered his followers to find a new head for the boy. The first animal that they could find was an elephant, and so the head was fixed to the child’s body and he became the most distinctive of the Hindu gods.


How is Ganesh Chaturthi celebrated?

Preparations start two to three months before the festival when beautiful clay models of Ganesha are sculpted by skilled artisans and sold in the markets. On the day of Ganesh Chaturthi, these statues are brought home and embellished with ornaments and offerings of modak (a sweet dumpling made from rice flour mixed with coconut and sugar), coconut and jaggery to indulge his sweet tooth. The idol is showered with unbroken rice and turmeric to signify the welcoming of prosperity and happiness. An oil lamp is lit for all ten days to ensure that there is no darkness around the idol.

Huge pandals are set-up in various neighbourhoods with huge statues of Ganesha, temples incorporate special rituals and cultural performances, and priests invoke life into the statues amidst the chanting of sacred verses. On the last day of the festival, devotees carry Ganesha idols through the streets in a procession accompanied by singing and dancing to immerse the god into a river or the sea. This symbolises his farewell and his return to his heavenly abode, taking away with him the misfortunes of all mankind and marking the end of the festival. The festival ends on 5 September this year.

Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai, September 29, 2012. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash.

Mandela Day 2017 – Words to live by

18 July 2017

Nelson Mandela’s birthday is celebrated today and in honouring his legacy we are encouraged to recognise our own ability, and responsibility, to make this world a better place.

Mandela Day commemorates the 67 years of public service that Nelson Mandela spent making a difference to South Africans and the world. The United Nations declared Nelson Mandela International Day in November 2009, inspired by his 90th birthday celebration in Hyde Park in 2008 when he said: “It is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now”.

Mandela’s legacy of service motivates us to recognise our individual power to promote peace and equality. Here are a few of our favourite quotes that inspire us to lift the burden. 

Indian innovation in tackling public health issues

25 April 2017

Fatima, who was diagnosed with epilepsy, was forced to give birth under a tree within full public view in 2009. The local hospital denied her medical care because she did not possess a BPL (below the poverty line) card. At the time of Fatima’s public delivery, India had the highest number of maternal deaths with 117 000 women dying during childbirth per annum.

Public health is one of the most crucial developmental sectors in any city or country, and India is no different. A city’s capability to offer adequate health services to its community determines the overall physical, mental and psychological health of the city and this directly affects morale and productivity. So it goes without saying that an efficient public health system makes for healthier, happier, more informed citizens.

When most people think of New Delhi, they imagine vibrant markets, scents of sweet and savory, street food and historical landmarks, but not many people know about New Delhi’s innovative approach to social development, particularly in the public health sector. As a young city, New Delhi still faces many socio-economic challenges, but what’s amazing is how they choose to deal with it.

The environment and the challenges

India’s overcrowded population is one of the main factors of overstretched resources. These factors make it nearly impossible for the government to provide for all the country’s needs, let alone reach infringed and underdeveloped areas. When you’re faced with such stumbling blocks, what do you do?


New Delhi is home to many inventive organizations and unique community-led projects that are tackling public health issues and filling the gap.

Khushi Baby

One organization that really stands out is Khushi Baby, lauded for their ingenious approach to mother and child health care that merges the efficiency of modern technology with familiar culture. Kushi Baby has developed a digital necklace that makes medical history wearable. This necklace is both inexpensive and culturally relevant.

We’ve integrated mobile health, wearable NFC technology, and cloud computing to produce a complete platform to bridge world’s maternal and child health gap; our goal is to be the digital key, marrying tradition with technology, to connect the last mile to health and social services”

This technology solves the following problems: lack of reliable health records that usually makes the work of community health workers erroneous and inefficient, and outdated data collection methods which lack patient specificity. It provides health officials with real-time, actionable maternal and child health data, ensuring mothers do not miss antenatal health visits and babies do not miss their vaccinations.

Volunteer’s experience

A common mentality when traveling from a more developed country to a developing community is that you, as the traveler, have a lot to offer or give. This is true in some cases, however, what you can learn from a community that is forced to innovate to meet basic needs in an all-odds-against-you environment is amazing. This is the motivation behind our Summer Volunteering program. We’ve put our effort into planning a meaningful itinerary for an unforgettable experience.

What to expect on your Summer Volunteering trip

On this trip, you will have the chance to:

  • Volunteer and spend time on specially designed projects at development-focused organizations
  • Attend workshops and trainings with local development sector mentors and experts
  • Go on unique innovative and networking-themed field trips around New Delhi
  • Visit Agra and Jaipur, seeing all of India’s Golden Triangle
  • Explore the sights and culture of New Delhi

This is truly a “give and learn” immersion where you can get to know how people on the other end of the spectrum approach challenges in public health. You’ll form new networks for your public health research and studies, and finally, put everything you’ve learned into action to give back and contribute to making real change.
Sign up for your Summer Volunteering in New Delhi, start saving and get your passport ready! Applications close 20 May 2017

From South Korea to Cape Town, Hanseul’s Mother City experience

18 April 2017

Traveling to a completely new country is a must-have experience for anyone who wants to grow professionally, academically and personally. Some find adapting to a new culture challenging but this was not the case for Hanseul Choi who was already on her second trip to Cape Town.

Hanseul came from South Korea to explore Cape Town for the second time in two years. She was accepted for an internship with one of South Africa’s most influential refugee organizations through if i could… In this post she shares her journey, the challenges and highlights of her internship and Cape Town trip with the senior program coordinator, Stephanie toe Water.

 Stephanie: What type of work did you get involved in during your internship?

Hanseul: I helped with the monitoring and evaluation of the peer support group that the organisation was running. I also did research on art therapy and peer counseling as the organisation is trying to improve their peer support program. I also worked in making the staff and performance appraisal forms; I got to observe the group sessions themselves and managed to do a funding proposal. She [the organisation’s director] gave me the opportunity to do many different things. I wish I could be here longer, two of three months would be ideal.

 Stephanie: That’s fascinating! Did you have any interesting findings from the research you conducted?

Hanseul: That was the fun part really. The research was really fun because all these different methods are being applied around the world.


Stephanie: Could you run me through a typical day at your host organisation. What was your schedule like?

Hanseul: I would go and complete my tasks for the day. I would speak with the director often. When I got home in the afternoon I’d shop for food, and from 4pm-6pm was the time I’d use to speak to my professor on Skype. So I’d be busy until dinner time. After that, in the evening, I’d hang out with my housemates and we’d cook dinner together. Then hang out and take some time to myself in my room.

 Stephanie: What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learned from this internship experience?

Hanseul: That there are nice people everywhere. In every culture and every country, there are always some bad people too. So I kind of see the universality of things around me. Fundamentally people are really similar. I also realized that if I respect people, regardless of their background, they feel it and it’s always better to have that fundamental part to communicate effectively to have a joyful experience.

Stephanie: How will you apply the skills you have learned?

Hanseul: I am really glad I got the opportunity to observe the group sessions because I really see the value of them and the need for them. The idea of this peer group counseling session is such a good idea that I can apply, not just to vulnerable groups, but to everyone, anyone who has mental health issues.

Stephanie: What were some of the highlights of your trip?

Hanseul: In general the trip was relaxing and really nice. I also gave a presentation on South Korea to the staff. Because they are from so many different countries they take turns to introduce their country’s culture during the staff meetings every week. Then I got to present a little bit, and people were very curious because they don’t see a lot of Koreans here and it’s very far away. Many people think Korea is a very traditional country, which it’s really not, it’s actually very modern. It is so big and I did share that it went from war in the ‘50s and ‘60s, but in 50 years it grew to be the 13th biggest economy in the world in such a short period of time. It’s a really unique and interesting country, it’s the only country that went from a recipient country to a donor country.


Stephanie: Were there any challenges during your trip?

Hanseul: I would get migraines and a little bit sick. So for one or two days I would feel lethargic. It wasn’t just the heat or anything, I just get them often. Then I would feel that I’m not getting things done because I’d be really slow. But the Director would check on me often, she was really kind.

 Stephanie: I’m sorry to hear that but I’m glad the organisation’s director was so accommodating and helpful. What about after work activities. Did you enjoy the outings that we organised for you?

Hanseul: Yes! the outing to town was one of my favorites. It was such a relaxed trip.

 Stephanie: What has been the most memorable moment?

Hanseul: The most memorable moment of my internship was getting to meet the refugees and migrants during the sessions. I felt like I was really part of the refugee support work. It was so inspiring to just be able to talk to so many migrants from so many parts of Africa.

Hanseul’s host organisation had only great things to say about her and similarly, Hanseul enjoyed her experience working in Cape Town’s NGO sector.

If you’re looking for a meaningful internship in South Africa’s development sector. Apply for our customized internships. You’ll  grow your skill set, build your CV and have a unique experience that will challenge, inspire and help you grow as an individual. On top of that, you’ll have a glowing portfolio addition to go along with it. So contact us today to find out more.



A city of beautiful contradictions: My first trip to New Delhi

8 March 2017

by Chido Dandajena

You can read and hear many things about India, but it’s nothing close to what the travel blogs will tell you. It’s a country of fascinating juxtapositions and stark contradictions: enchanting, urban, restricted, with beautiful people in some unexpected places. It’s essence can’t be captured in text, but I can take you back to the learning experience that changed my perspective on myself, other people and how my actions affect the world I live in.

Stepping out the plane into the grand Indira Gandhi International Airport, the air humid and dense, it’s nothing like I expected. Above the terminal gates nine pristine, hand-shaped sculptures (mudras) are mounted, greeting me as I pass through the gateway to New Delhi.


Among the busyness and rushed crowds, I spotted a friendly face holding up a placard with my name on it — relief! I’m warmly welcomed by my host who’s struggling to hide her excitement. Luggage collected, cab hailed and we’re off we’re off to my accommodation. My New Delhi journey is really beginning!

Chaat (Street food) - Chandni Chowk

There are hollers and honks from cab drivers, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and hustlers trying to make a quick buck with whatever they can sell you (doesn’t help that I stick out like a sore thumb with my tourist vibe), and the sweet and tangy scent of chaats and spices being sold at shop corners and street carts squeezed on every sidewalk. My entire opinion of New Delhi can be summed up in one phrase — diversity in unity. From the hustle and bustle of Chandni Chowk (inner streets and shopping mall) to tranquil, sunrise yoga sessions in the Lodi Gardens, this feeling is constant and intoxicating.

If you want to experience ‘dili’ not Delhi, it doesn’t get more authentic than a tuk-tuk ride through Chandni Chowk. This famous mall provides everything from books, clothes, food, souvenirs at dirt-cheap prices,surrounded by overcrowded pathways coupled with the chaos of traffic, customers and sellers intersecting and colliding. For those who persevere, the rewards are delectable and worth it. Insider tip: Gyani Ji Ki Fruit Cream standing in front of Gurudwara and Natraj Key Dahi Bhelley near Central Bank are must-eats!

Like any city, among the beauty there are also areas to be improved. Being a woman in New Delhi is not easy.Simply using public transport here will more often than not be accompanied by unwelcome winks and comments from men. Although, staying vigilant and taking the safe options my host family told me about meant I was fine.

Chandni Chowk ShoppingThis gender dichotomy in India is what motivated me to come here to learn about the fight for gender equality. India is a strongly patriarchal society where women don’t have many of the freedoms we do in the developed world. Working in the development sector in New Delhi was humbling and eye-opening to the plight of some women and the starkly different lives they lead every day.

I left the city feeling inspired and invigorated to continue working for gender justice at home too.

During the course of my learning immersion, I saw more than my eyes could contain, smelt, tasted and experienced more than I ever had. Wide-eyed, I took it all in (I wasn’t sure when I’d get this chance again). I would recommend anyone who is serious about a future career in the development sector to travel abroad and get practical experience. It will enrich you, challenge you and give you a far more enlightened perspective.  

Experience New Delhi by coming on if i could…‘s learning immersion programme this summer. Sign up here for more information.


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