Rose of Tralee Clare Kambamettu has recently returned from an eighteen day tour of India organised by international development charity Voluntary Service Overseas.
The Athy woman is the official ambassador of VSO, a charity that sends volunteers on long-term overseas work placements. While in India, she visited VSO volunteers in Hyderabad, Berhampur, and Delhi.
The trip was especially poignant for Clare as she was accompanied to India by her father Ravi who was born and raised in the Indian town of Hyderabad. Ravi who met Clare’s mother Breda at the Merlin Park Hospital in Galway twenty five years and Claire grew up in Athy.
An example of VSO’s work in India are two programmes Clare visited in Delhi focusing on disability and secure livelihoods.
Disability is a goal area of VSO in India and across the world. Most of India’s 70 million disabled people suffer unequal access to education, employment and justice. VSO volunteers are working with groups run by and for disabled people to raise awareness of their rights and the issues affecting them.
One such group that Clare visited in Delhi was the ASTHA charity. ASTHA a VSO a partner organisation run integrated education centres where children with and without disabilities are taught together to combat the stigma of living with a disability. Another service supported by VSO is the establishment of India’s only help line for people living with disabilities throughout India.
Clare also visited the SWECHA charity in Delhi which is an enterprising initiative that is a great example of how VSO supports people to earn their own income. This programme helps people to live healthily but also to enhance their ability to earn an income.
The SWECHA charity assists some of Delhi’s poorest residents – “the rag pickers”.
Every day “rag pickers” pour into the cities’ dumps to sort through piles of food, material, rubber, plastic and everything else. The rag pickers salvage what they can before selling it onto markets for next to nothing. The SWECHA charity employs tailors who pay the rag pickers a fair-trade wage before turning the waste into recyclable products. Clare visited the dumps, the markets and the tailor’s workshops to see how the rubbish is transformed from car tyres and waste fabrics into beautifully crafted handbags and purses. The products are then sold at many of Delhi’s upmarket shopping centres with a generous percentage of each sale coming back to the VSO supported programme.
Speaking of her experience Clare said: “I have been to India many times but was really amazed at the level of work VSO are engaged in across India. I visited many programmes at grass routes level but still was able to see the amazing results achieved on the ground and the knock on effect this has in fighting poverty across India. It was really great to come back here with my Mam and Dad and see the other side to Indian life and the positive results organisations like VSO are achieving.”
Psychologist Claire was accompanied to India by VSO Ireland Director Malcolm Quigley. Speaking about VSO in India he said: “I am delighted we decided to visit VSO in India not just because of Clare’s Indian heritage but also the VSO projects we have visited are some of the most vibrant and innovative initiatives we have in place across all our programmes. Real results are being achieved here on the ground thanks to the vital work of our volunteers.”