It’s Wednesday 31st May and we’re in terminal one of Dublin Airport. Before us stand four teams of volunteers who are travelling to India as part of the Suas Volunteer Programme 2017.

Nervous energy hangs in the air. Some are excited, others anxious, but all are ready for the challenge that lies ahead. Their destination is Kolkata – but there is nothing final about it. In fact it marks the start of a journey that will influence their lives for years to come.

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Like all adventures there will be many highs and lows. But these volunteers will discover that the biggest highs will be found in the experiences they share together. Right now they may be strangers but over the coming weeks they will become friends for life!

The Beginning of the Suas Volunteer Programme

Since 2002 Suas trained volunteers have travelled to to work alongside our partner organisations in India, Kenya and Zambia. To date approximately 1,200 young people have flown the Suas flag working as teaching assistants in some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities.

India has always been a destination for our volunteers – because of the clear need for educational support. Even though it’s one world’s fastest-growing economies, it’s also one of the most unequal. Millions of children live in poverty. They face daily hardships – lack of a quality education being one. These children may never get to realise their full potential, let alone experience the childhood they deserve.

Our international partners are doing incredible education-focused work to help tackle these complex societal problems. And as an education development organisation, this is a method for change that Suas fully supports.

Today’s volunteers will work alongside the staff of Development Action Society, Sabuj Sangha and the Thoughtshop Foundation. Thoughtshop is our newest Indian partner – we’ve been involved with them since 2015 but this is the first time we’ve sent a dedicated team.

Our relationships with our partners are based on mutual respect, admiration and understanding, which means our volunteers work with some truly inspirational change-makers.

Their Journey so Far

The build up to this moment in Dublin Airport has already been a challenging journey of self discovery. All of our volunteers apply and interview for their places as individuals, but now they stand together leaving Ireland as teams.

In Suas our theory of change is that to make an impact on the wider world you must first understand yourself, and then how you work with others. Therefore we place a huge emphasis on training. Helping volunteers to understand their strengths, motivations and values and then how to use these to work effectively within teams.

Collectively the teams have also raised over €200,000 through a variety of fundraising events. These funds will support the volunteers on their six and ten week placements, with any additional funding going directly to our partner organisations.

Slán

So for now, we say ‘Slán’ to this incredible bunch. We thank each and everyone for the energy they have given so far. We wish them safe travels and a big, warm ‘Nomashkar’ when land on Indian soil.

Stephen Cassidy, International Volunteer Programme Manager, closes off with these words,

This is always such an exciting time for Suas. Since the recruitment started last autumn and then interviewing in December, time has finally come to wave the teams off! All the training weekends, table quizzes and bucket shaking have been leading to today.

I’ve been a volunteer on the Suas Volunteer Programme twice. I know what a challenging, rewarding and sweaty time they’re going to have! Each and every one have done an amazing job to get today – but now the real work starts!

If you’d like to be part of the Suas Volunteer Programme in 2018 – click below to submit your details.

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