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Students and staff swap lectures for Himalayas

Published: 19 March 2024 at 12:30

The hills around Sainji, India

ARU volunteers to support with health and education projects in Indian village

A team of 11 students and staff from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) is heading to India on Friday to provide their time and expertise to help locals living in a community in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Sainji, a village of around 400 people in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, faces many complex challenges, some of which are compounded by a rapidly changing climate.

As part of the Sustainable Sainji programme, ARU volunteers will work with teachers at a local primary school, helping with English language tuition and lesson planning, including encouraging the development of interactive lessons. 

Midwifery lecturer Rebecca Percival is part of the ARU team and Rebecca will be helping with nurse training at the Landour Community Hospital, as well as observing antenatal care in a local village, and exchanging knowledge and skills with maternity workers.

ARU will also be assisting the Van Gujjars, or forest nomads, who are a marginalised group of semi-nomadic people. ARU volunteers will be working alongside a charity that is preparing the Van Gujjar children for mainstream school and will also run an antenatal clinic.

Professor Alison Greig, Director of Education for Sustainability at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and organiser of the programme, said:

“The Sustainable Sainji programme is a powerful example of how universities can be a force for good. 

“This project is unique in that through collaboration with community leaders, it matches volunteers’ discipline-specific skills and knowledge with the community’s development priorities. 

“This will be our sixth visit to Sainji, and over that time the programme has evolved and grown. Sustainable Sainji has inclusivity at its heart, and we make sure all students can apply to take part, regardless of income.”

One of the ARU students flying out to India on Friday is Uno Masango, a first year BA (Hons) Social Work student at ARU Peterborough. Uno is originally from Zimbabwe and spent almost seven years serving in the UK military, including postings to Germany, Cyprus and Afghanistan.

“As a child growing up in Zimbabwe, I had seen first-hand the international aid agencies arriving in the local villages,” said Uno. “As a child it was just a curiosity but as an adult, I appreciated the value of the work that was being done by social workers.

“I am really enjoying my university experience, and the last six months have been a whirlwind,” added the 41-year-old Peterborough resident, will be working with teachers in Sainji to improve English language skills. 

“I have subsequently found myself getting involved in things I could have never imagined. I didn’t realise there would be so many exciting extra-curricular opportunities.”

The Sustainable Sainji project is part of Anglia Ruskin University’s International Community Experience (ICE) programme, which has been helping students, staff and alumni undertake volunteering projects in communities in India, Croatia, Botswana and Ukraine since 1997.

In each country ARU volunteers have worked alongside local community leaders to engage in grassroots, participatory development. Previous trips have seen volunteers help to renovate community buildings including a rehabilitation centre in Ukraine, a school for the blind in Botswana and an orphanage in Croatia.