Over the last three months, Sharana has received six volunteers from OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway. The six young women are all studying a Bachelor’s degree in Child Welfare and have come to India as part of their course — a unique opportunity for them to gain work experience in a completely different context. It has been an enlightening and enriching experience for the students, who have worked closely with different social workers on various projects.

Three of the volunteers, Andrea, Kristine and Maria, were asked to create an activity booklet for the crèche and preschool children. Over the last three months, they have been working with the staff and children at the Street and Slum Children centre. In constructing the booklet, it has been interesting to see how they have incorporated their prior knowledge from working with children in Norway, with the new understandings of child behaviour they have observed here.

The result? A highly useful book, which can be used by our team across the different programs. We look forward to conducting the activities with the children.

Sharana deals with very vulnerable young people. Given this, it is very important that each member of our team is aware of and closely follows our Child Protection Policy. To ensure that this is done correctly and smoothly regular workshops and trainings are held for the social workers as well as for the other stall of the organization.

The material for the trainings was put together by Sharana’s Child Protection Officer, Manuel, and volunteer Katrine, one of the students from Norway (for the past 3 months). Katrine, worked closely with Manuel, providing research support and insights from her own studies in Child Welfare. She also assisted Manuel on 3 internal staff trainings and refresher workshops on Child Protection during this time.

The last two of the volunteers, Aud Marie and Karoline, spent the three months working on an impact assessment of the Street and Slum children Back to School program. They were helped by social workers Prakash and Vijayalakshmi who also dedicated a lot of their time to this study.Together, they carried out an incredible 120 interviews: 5 interviews were conducted with Sharana’s social workers, 50 were carried out with the families and 65 were conducted with children. These figures demonstrate the depth of the research and the time taken to make their findings robust.

The results have been very encouraging for the team given the overwhelmingly positive responses that came through in the interviews. They have also provided Sharana with some important insights and areas for further work.

On a last note, we would like to extend a thanks to our beneficiaries and their families for their participation in this research. In fact, the researchers ended up with double the number of interviews with families, because of how willing they were to be involved. Their enthusiasm and cooperation speaks to respect that the beneficiaries feel towards Sharana — a fact that is highly motivating for our team after some years of working with these families.

During their visit the 6 students also had the opportunity to twice visit and use the services of the Pondicherry University library for their assignment work for their University assignments, thanks to facilitation by Dr Nalini, board member-Sharana and head of Social Work department, Pondicherry University. A warm thank you to Chief Librarian Dr Samyukta for her permission for the same.

We are looking forward to a potential tripartite collaboration with Pondicherry University and Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway in the coming months. (read more about it at link)