Photo courtesy of Gordon Zook

IVEP alumni Mukul Vandana Harishchandra and Vandana Shubhra Deep Ghose, MCC India representative Carol Zook and Kathryn Deckert at an IVEP alumni meeting in June 2017 

Staff reflections on a trip to India:

The vibrancy and movement of people in Kolkata is mesmerizing and engulfing. I found it hard to stand still on the street, like dipping a foot into a rushing current, feeling like I’d get swept into the steady movement of bodies in motion. There are so many stories to tell. Since 1965, 137 Indian young adults have participated in IVEP. On a recent trip to meet with alumni in Kolkata, I met with two women who participated in IVEP several years ago. Most served in rural areas and the experience of standing on a street corner waiting for a car to pass by - no less a person - must have been soundly disconcerting compared to the rush and bustle of their home context. When looking back on their time, they shared these thoughts:
    “I, yes, I think of it more than not”

“It was good exposure and broadening of vision.”
    “I realized what is home”
    “That [living in the U.S.] was a time when we could think for ourselves. In the States everyone got their own space. I gained confidence. Now I am not afraid to say things - the courage is there. When you have your own space you can develop your values.”
     “It is important to show the other side [of a culture] - not only the good things because then we realise – good, it's not only just one country.”

In one of the smaller cities I met the Rev. Pramode Kumar Singh, the first man from India to participate in IVEP back in 1965. When he arrived in the small U.S. town where he was to serve, he had to stay at a dormitory for a while waiting to meet his hosts. He fell ill there and when he was taken to the hospital to unearth the cause, the doctor told him that he was suffering from ‘homesickness’. Once he left the dormitory and met his family he was cured. And now, years later, he looks back with a smile. Within the story of his life, the people he met in a small U.S. town still bring animation. Sometimes it flickers like a passing memory and sometimes it springs to life anew and revives the feelings of learning to live into difference until that strangeness starts to transform into the shape of a home in a foreign land.

By Kathryn Deckert, IVEP National Coordinator, Canada