By Meagan Corr
I had never been out of the U.S. prior to my experience with SkillCorps, and I was
certainly given a crash course on international travel upon arriving to India! With a brand new
passport and my first visa stamp in hand, I immediately found myself immersed in an
environment I had never experienced anything like before. The thick, humid air and aromas took
me a while to get used to. I was alarmed by the unorganized traffic and constant honking of
vehicles. I have never heard so much honking that existed without any actual road rage
I was also taken aback by the living conditions I witnessed in several areas. Families
living under tents, crowded apartment buildings with curtains as windows, people sleeping on
blankets in the dirt, and trash all over the ground. On our way into the hotel, little girls ran up to
us trying to steal items out of our hands and purses. At another time, little boys came up and
knocked on our car windows asking for money. I’m from Cleveland, Ohio, and the only kind of
begging I was used to prior to this was adult panhandlers downtown. Occasionally children will
ask me for work, but I have never been approached by a child who was poor and so desperately
begging for food. I have to admit, that was really hard for me to see in person.
A thrilling and fascinating aspect of being in a new country for me has been the animals.
I’m used to mainly squirrels and deer roaming around. Here, there are wild cows, pigs, dogs, and
I even saw a monkey on someone’s roof! The wild animals in the U.S. seem to avoid and be
fearful of humans, but the wild animals in India co-exist amongst humans very comfortably. The
wild dogs walk by and even sleep right around people, and as opposed to acting more feral, they
actually wag their tails when you acknowledge many of them.
I feel very culturally informed and understanding after just a few days in India. Although
I am saddened by some things I have seen here, I am focusing on the positive path to
sustainability for developing countries. This concept is extraordinarily inspiring, and we strive
for this with our partners of SkillCorps. Instead of feeling sorry for those who live in countries
less resourceful as our own, I feel hopeful that these countries will develop to the point of self-
sustainability. In other words, they don’t need my money, they need skills and a foundation to
function successfully on their own. I am contributing to the sustainability of their country by
volunteering with SkillCorps, and that is something I can feel hopeful about.