TAFE students visit India to see grass-root community project

Orange TAFE students have returned from an eye-opening visit to India where they spent time in a village learning about grass-roots community development.

It was the first trip to India to be undertaken by TAFE NSW students as part of the Outbound Mobility Program.

Community Services teacher Sharna Dean and 10 community services students embarked on the 10 day visit where they worked with Indian students from remote and disadvantaged areas.

“TAFE has been going to China for a number of years but this is the first time they’ve done the Indian run,” Miss Dean said. 

Orange student Bryan Theobald said he returned to Australia feeling humbled.

“Entering India itself was a massive culture shock, we take a lot of stuff for granted,” he said.

“The biggest shock for me would have been how disconnected a lot of the residents there are, disconnected from the rest of the world.

“Another thing that was really obvious was the gap between the rich and the poor and seeing people wash their clothes in stagnant water.”

However, he said the Indian people were surprised to see older students in the TAFE group, which includes adults changing careers. 

He said it was also eye-opening to be the cultural minority. 

“In some of the places we were the first white people and westerners they’ve ever seen,” Miss Dean said.

The program was based in Bhubaneswar in eastern India and they also visited Delhi, the village of Paralakhemundi and spent time at Centurion University.

She said the university is equivalent to what they would do at TAFE, and is self sufficient, and members from the university took them to a village to see their work.

“What they are trying to do is get people from this village to receive training and go back and bring back their skills,” Miss Dean said.

“The idea is to maybe come back and develop their own business or sewing business … what it’s really about is community development.

“Here in Australia we talk about community development but this is community development at the grass-roots, building things up from the ground.”

During the visit the students also immersed themselves in the ways of the people the people they met and needed to find strategies to work effectively with diverse people who have low-level English skills.