Gina's New Job

Gina writes:

Regular readers know that my decision to change placements was finalized and announced more than a month ago. I had some work to finish at SOVA, so decided to work there until our one-year anniversary of being in India, which was last week. I've worked for 4 days at SPREAD so far, which isn't long enough to really answer the question, "So how is it?" but I'll tell you what I know.

SPREAD stands for Society for Promoting Rural Education and Development. Not the greatest name, I know. The organization has been around for almost 20 years. They connect tribal people with the government benefits and programs that they're entitled to. For instance, the following examples:

  • People below the poverty line (BPL) are entitled to subsidized food through a public distribution system. Often, the food doesn't actually make it to the beneficiaries--the weight of the rice or flour is manipulated so that each recipient gets slightly less or the delivery schedule is communicated incorrectly--resulting in profit for somebody. SPREAD helps the people to submit complaints properly and create systems that ensure proper distribution.
  • People whose families have been farming small parcels of land for hundreds of years are suddenly told they must vacate the land because it belongs to the government or a local wealthy landowner. SPREAD helps hundred of families every year to secure land titles.
  • Everyone in India is entitled to work for 100 days per year on projects like roadwork, public construction, or land development for a minimum wage from the government. The process of applying for these jobs, securing the work, and garnering wages is complicated and frought with corruption. SPREAD helps villagers through this complicated process.

SPREAD's People
The amount of impact that I can make in an organization here in India is dependent on the support of the organization's upper management. Staff won't value my input or agree to change their way of doing things unless they know that their boss wants them to. From what I've seen so far, this will not be a problem I have to endure any longer. The director of SPREAD is a soft-spoken, thoughtful man. I can tell that he truly cares about the people that his organization serves. I asked him whether I should call him "sir" or by his first name (a question I wished I would have asked at SOVA, since I never knew if it was offensive that Corey and I were the only ones to address the director by his first name). His response--"No, no, don't call me sir. We are working for the same people. I am no different than you."

SPREAD's Office
SPREAD is a smaller organization, about 40 staff members spread throughout Koraput district. The number of office-based staff is a grand total of 4--and they're not all there every day. In fact, during the afternoon of my first day, I was literally the only person in the office for an hour!

I will definitely miss the socializing and friends that I had at SOVA. The only other women working at SPREAD are out in the field a vast majority of the time, so no one will be braiding my hair or monitoring my bindis and bangles anytime soon!

There are other things that I will have to adjust to also, mostly as a result of the smaller size. No canteen means no hot lunch prepared for me every day. I have to walk there and back every day (but it's only a half-mile), even if it's pouring rain or sweltering heat. I don't think there's running water in the building. The bathroom facilities are...basic. Not working at the same place at Corey has its advantages and disadvantages, as you might guess.


SOVA Office

I'm not complaining, though. I think this next year will give me the experience I was expecting as a VSO volunteer--a simple, no frills office environment full of people working hard but in need of some specific training and skills in the area of communications.