Elleore Bomstein is the Sustainable Development Project Manager at Saint Laurent Paris. She took a solidarity leave benefiting Maitreya CSR in India.
What inspired you to get involved as a volunteer?
When I found out about the Solidarity Leave programme, I was immediately excited by the idea of discovering another culture while putting my skills to good use for an NGO! I wanted to spend my holidays in a different way, to truly feel useful and to have a strong experience. The Kering Foundation provided the personalised support I lacked, from the choice of the mission to going back home to France. The two-week duration of the programme seemed ideal to me for a first experience in volunteering. Finally, the testimonials of previous volunteers definitively convinced me: most of them wanted to go back as soon as possible!
What was your role during your mission?
I worked with Maitreya CSR, an Indian NGO that helps groups of farmers from different regions obtain a fair payment for their products and develop more environment-friendly agricultural techniques. My mission was organised in two phases: I spent the first week teaching basic accounting to the NGO members, 15 people, in the city of Pune. The second week, I went with two translators to Tikona, a small village in the mountains, to train two groups of women beneficiaries of the NGO. The objective of this mission was to give them tools to improve their household budget management and to develop their business: how to write down and follow expenses, calculate a profit, fix the selling price of a product, etc. We used examples from their everyday life. Since some women were illiterate, we also set up an initiation to writing numbers... in Marati, the local language!
What are your best memories of this adventure?
I have amazing memories! This mission has brought me a lot on a personal level: I was completely out of my element and I met women with an absolutely extraordinary energy. My greatest satisfaction is to have been able to give them a little something to make their everyday life easier. I wanted to be in an authentic environment, to live just like the beneficiaries and with them, and I was not disappointed. It is extremely rewarding to be in contact with people from a different culture and to work with them. All the beneficiaries I trained were very enthusiastic, eager to learn and understood very quickly. I was a bit apprehensive before leaving, but everything went naturally once I was over there.
Plenty of beautiful images remain from these two weeks: uncontrollable laughter during the training sessions, the women's songs and games in the evening when the daily training session was over, preparing bread on the kitchen floor, an unexpected conversation about forced marriage between accounting exercises... Beyond the training itself, the interactions with the beneficiaries taught me a lot. I can't wait to go back!
What advice would you give to future volunteers or to people who hesitate to take a solidarity leave?
Hesitate no longer! The Kering Foundation and its partners offer missions that are adapted to everyone, according to your wishes and experience, and they will guide you every step of the way. It is a unique opportunity to be immersed in another culture, to feel incredibly useful and to gain perspective on your everyday life.
I would advise future volunteers to prepare for their mission before they leave, but to be ready to change everything once over there, because being on site is always different from what we imagined: leave your prejudices behind and open your eyes and ears wide!