40K Globe was a program I had heard about at university but had never had the courage to apply for. As an alternative to traditional volunteering, the program works as an internship in social enterprise for university students. University students go abroad to learn about tackling the global issues hands on. The issue 40K Globe tackles? Education in rural India.
Educational outcomes in India are not equal between government and private school children, especially in subjects like English. As a “Glober”, you work for a month in teams within a community in rural India to set up an English educational facility. The facility, called a PLUS Pod, uses tablet technology to teach kids of all ages English in an interactive and fun environment. Each Pod has around 50 kids enrolled at any time from grades 1 to 7, preferably from government schools.
Being a Glober is an internship in social enterprise and does not involve the actual teaching. Running the classes is left to trained local facilitators and the Pods, once up and running, are looked after by local field staff. In conjunction with the community, your role as a Glober is to set up the Pod, liaise with community groups, find a facilitator, and enrol students. Basically, we get the Pod up and running.
The 40K PLUS projects focus on creating sustainable educational facilities that employ local staff and are set up to last. Your team is based in the one community for the whole month. With an open attitude you are welcomed with open arms into daily life. We consumed (more than) our weight in chai and chapatti, and got to know with people of all ages and backgrounds. Despite the language barrier, we were able to make connections and learn a lot about the culture and peoples’ stories. Albeit, it did involve copious hand signals and telling smiles.
What is the 40K Globe Program?
Each year there are four “Globe months”: December, January, February, and July. On each of the months around 60-70 students from around Australia come to participate in the program. All the students are divided into groups of five with a Team Leader and assigned a community near Bangalore, Karnataka. 40K Globe used to be a lot of small entrepreneurial projects in varying sectors (health, education, etc.) but now it focuses on 40K PLUS. Each group of five sets up a PLUS Pod English education facility in a community, playing an important role in scaling up accessible education. There are also two media teams that work towards creating a longitudinal documentary about PLUS students, and documenting the progress of each PLUS Pod during the month.
By the end of your Globe month, the Pod should be up and running in time to see the first class. The weeks happen a little differently for each team and community, but ours went a little like this:
Week 1: introductions and inductions, meeting key community members and the government school heads, beginning the search for a facilitator, scouting out a Pod Space
Week 2: holding community meetings with key members and parents, finalising the Pod space, designing flyers to give information to the community, locking in a facilitator, planning the mural design for the Pod, beginning training for setting up the tablets
Week 3: cleaning the Pod, fixing up structural issues (plastering, electrical works), beginning to paint the mural, facilitator training, sending out the invitations to the grand opening, organising contracts
Week 4: finishing the Pod design, setting up the Pod furniture and tablets, hosting the grand opening, attending the first classes
The weeks are roughly five days long, and on the weekends you have free time to explore India with a long weekend in the middle. For my long weekend, I decided to go to Hampi and on another weekend ventured to Mysuru. The weekends are a great time to get to know each other outside of the project work.
Dotted throughout the weeks are special activities. The first major one is the Scavenger Hunt through Bangalore which I *just* missed. With bizarre and uniquely Indian challenges all around the city, only one team is crowned the victor and you never hear the end of it. Two of the other most memorable events are the Holi Fight and Final Dinner on the last day. On the final morning you pack up your bags and head up a hill to throw the Holi powders at each other. It’s a heap of fun and sums up the colourful adventures in India; I wish I had stopped laughing though because copping a fistful of powder straight in the mouth is not pleasant! The Final Dinner takes place in Bangalore and is an opportunity to dress up and say your goodbyes.
The final Holi fight left no part of your skin uncoloured. Hot tip: don’t open your mouth for anything!!
READ MORE: Don’t Worry, Be Hampi: Exploring Hampi
Who becomes a Glober?
Globers are university students mostly from Victoria or New South Wales. The 40K Globe program has good relationships with universities so participating in the program can be counted as a unit with 6 credit points. Depending on the university, you can apply for a Colombo Grant which will cover the majority of the cost of the program, making it more accessible.
You get out of Globing what you put in. If you come to India with an open mind, a genuine passion to help others, and a desire to learn more about this fascinating country, you will go a long way. This program uniquely combines making a social impact, learning about effective enterprise, and providing an in-depth introduction to India. So, if you’re a people-person up for a rewarding challenge, this is the program for you.
What does a day in the life of a Glober look like?
Each day is different. Not everything always goes to plan in India so no two days were the same on the Globe Program. But a kind of rough schedule is:
8:07 Morning meeting with the day’s plans
9:30 Go to the community for meetings, painting, or other tasks
2:00 Back to the community to continue the morning’s tasks
4:30 Head back to the accommodation to do admin tasks and assignments
Being in the community is definitely the highlight of the day. No matter what time, a swarm of excited kids always seem to find you. Over the course of the month I have learned a lot of new games and now answer the question “how are you?” with a customary “I am fine”. The boys entertained with cricket games and all of us attempted to teach the Macarena (not sure why, might’ve been out of ideas). It’s definitely going to be strange going back to Australia and not having a crowd of happy kids around all the time, that’s for sure.
Everyone is incredibly welcoming, too. The times we were asked in for chai and experienced exceptional generosity were innumerous. It is a different approach to hospitality than we have in Australia; here you are welcomed as a guest even when you are a stranger and it was really nice to experience. The warmest moments come from being welcomed into a home. Our wonderful facilitator, Harshita, had us all over for lunch before the grand opening. This was particularly memorable because the food was delicious but *so* spicy. She had to bring out a fan in an attempt to cool us down!
As with anything in travel and life in general, the program comes with challenges. Working in a totally foreign environment with 60-70 people you start off not knowing is going to do that. Some of the challenges are inherent, some are personal. It is important to share all the aspects of a trip, not just the good stuff.
As I discussed more in depth in “India Happened“, there were a lot of challenges with working between cultures. To make the 40K PLUS Pod successful we had to adapt to a new way of thinking, especially when it came to things like meetings and deadlines. The whole approach to business is totally different in India so we had a lot to learn! Although it was hardcore culture shock to begin with, eventually we loved the differences and the project was a lot better for it.
Being around others all the time
This is either a blessing or a challenge depending on the type of person you are. The 40K Globe program is very people-focused: you live in dorms with your roommates, meals are communal, and working in the communities involves a lot of interaction to be successful. Being people-oriented makes Globe successful because it fosters positive relationships between Globers themselves and between 40K and the community. These relationships ensure we’re having the desired impact in communities. It also plays a key part in safety by making sure a Glober is never alone.
Being around everyone is an overwhelmingly positive experience. Inherently, however, there are not many opportunities for alone time. I am someone who relishes in being around people but I also need time to collect my thoughts. Having been mostly an independent traveller previously, it was a challenge in the first week to adjust to this new way of being. After the first week, I was completely used to it and loving all the new friendships.
Am I actually making a difference?
It is difficult to quantify the impact you are making in the world in any area. Most days on the project I totally backed myself, but there were also some days when I questioned my difference-making ability. Reassuringly, the difference made by 40K Globe can be seen as a whole. More PLUS Pods are opening, more kids are getting enrolled, English skills are improving, and other grades are improving alongside this. On the days where I didn’t feel so confident, looking back at the bigger picture was an important reminder.
Even though there were days when the work felt nebulous and it was hard to picture the end goal, it all became real and clear at the Grand Opening. Seeing that within only a month a new educational facility was open, and 50 children were actually attending, was a huge sense of satisfaction. Our final day at the PLUS Pod we were fortunate enough to be able to watch a class. Despite it being Harshita’s first day facilitating a PLUS class, she seemed like she had it all under control. Cool as a cucumber and loved by the students. The kids were full of enthusiasm and eager to learn. Seeing that was seeing the difference.
Is Globe a good thing to do?
Globe is different to any of my other experiences so far both in university and in travel. The social enterprise approach, rather than traditional voluntourism, was something I was a lot more comfortable getting around. Each Pod was set up consulting the local community at each stage, and local staff were employed to give jobs to the community.
Participating in Globe helps contribute to alleviating a significant educational gap in rural India. You will be one person in a large project, however you will still make your own individual mark, particularly on the community your team is working with. Having been to up-and-running Pods, the difference in outcomes is noticeable and the children are thoroughly enjoying the program. Seeing this is reassuring that the impact was tangible.
In addition to helping combat an educational problem and improve lives, there is a lot to be learned here about social enterprise in general. 40K Globe provides ample opportunities to learn about how social enterprises operate and learn skills for the future. With activities like the Mini Project, Treasurer’s Challenge, and debate, there is plenty of time dedicated to critical thinking.
The social aspect of Globe makes it unique and attractive to university students, too. With the right balance of activities, the chance to travel on the weekends, and being with 60 likeminded others, Globe is actually a fun experience too. The friendships and memories made here will undoubtedly last a lifetime.
If you want to make an impact, learn more about social enterprise, and have a unique experience in India, then you should consider 40K Globe in your next university break. It is a month that will change the lives of others and teach you many valuable lessons along the way.
If you have questions or comments about being a Glober or the 40K Globe program, leave them below — I would love to hear from you [icon color=”#ea3590″ icon=”icon-heart2″ size=”24px”]