Cassanda was one of 10 RMIT student volunteers who travelled to India to build a female dormitory at a rural Bangalore school.
In August 2016, I took part in a two-week volunteer program, We Build Vedike, with 10 other volunteers from the RMIT School of Property, Construction and Project Management.
The We Build Vedike program was an amazing experience that provided me with the opportunity to immerse myself in Indian culture and put the theoretical skills I have developed in the classroom to practical use.
Over the two-week program the other volunteers and I participated in the physical construction of a female dormitory that will form part of the Vedike school in rural Bangalore, India.
These are the most important lessons I learnt through this experience.
It’s important to have an open mind
This year is the first year RMIT students have had the opportunity to take part in this program, so we went in with an open mind and were optimistic about truly helping with the development of this underprivileged community.
I found the program particularly interesting because it showed a practical aspect of the construction industry and provided us with the opportunity to get our hands dirty. The program also highlighted the contrast in the building conditions between Australia and India.
Exposure to different construction techniques can help you grow
The tools and construction techniques used in India are vastly different to those seen on construction sites here. A lot of manual labour is used during construction.
Although it was a challenge carrying bricks by hand and standing on scaffolding made of bamboo, it was truly an incredible experience that required me to think outside the box when problem-solving. It challenged me to apply what I learnt in Australia to support and add value to building and construction in India.
As a part of my daily routine I also took part in language classes with the enthusiastic children from the community centre. As a result, I gained an understanding about not only the construction process in India but also some of the Indian culture.
In helping others, you can help yourself
Being involved in this program had a number of benefits not only for the community but also for me individually.
For the community, the Vedike program enabled the provision of basic infrastructure we take for granted in Australia.
Our project will not only provide shelter and food for the girls, but will also give them the opportunity to learn and go to school, which is a rare privilege for girls in these rural areas.
As for me, it was an eye-opening experience that highlighted the differences between Australia and India on a number of levels, including cultural insights, teamwork and problem-solving.
Try new things
The program was, at times, challenging, but I would highly recommend future participation by RMIT students.
I had the opportunity to meet new people in the world, and, most importantly, also within the RMIT community. After initially starting the program, mostly as strangers, the group all left as lifelong friends.
Overall, the program was an incredibly rewarding experience and an opportunity I am incredibly honoured and grateful to have been a part of.
Story: Cassandra Mattiuzzo