Sangam, one of the five WAGGGS World Centres located in Pune, India, has recently reopened its doors to international guests for the first time after a two-year hiatus due to the global pandemic.
From 11th-12th June 2022, the World Centre hosted a small group of guests as part of their 10-day “Come Home” event. This event brought together women of all ages from five countries including Australia, Costa Rica, Malaysia, The United Kingdom and The United States.
Sangam, meaning ‘Coming Together’ in Sanskrit, was founded to unite Girl Guides and Girl Scouts from around the world. Since 1966, it has been a safe space where individuals can come to grow, connect and have fun with one another. With borders closing due to the pandemic, the international side of the World Centre's activity slowed down. However, the vital work that Sangam delivers to support charitable community-led organisations not only continued but flourished.
Since November 2021, the Her World, Her Voice Project (HWHV) coordinated through the Sangam Community Outreach Team and in partnership with local organisations, has supported those in the Pune community who have been most affected by the pandemic. The project offers COVID-19 awareness sessions, vaccination booking assistance, hygiene and food parcels and essential health and wellbeing workshops for members of the community/individuals. Since the project's inception, more than 800 people in Pune have been supported!
Her World, Her Voice
For me, it has been a real privilege to work as the Her World, Her Voice Sangam Project Manager. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the Sangam team more and learning about their experience delivering the project. and how they feel about the impact of their work on the community. It has also been delightful to hear about the impact of the project on the world of young women in the community of Pune, which is why I’d like to take this opportunity to share their stories- starting with the shining stars who are responsible for the success of this project.
Photo: Radhika (left) and Priya (right)
Priya Bhole Sangam’s Programme Assistant and Radhika Tiwade, Sangam’s Guest Services Assistant have been the kingpins of the project, ensuring that it reaches girls, women, boys and men in the community. Here's what they had to say about their experience working on the project.
Leading the project has given them more confidence in themselves and working closely with members of the community has provided them with insight into others' lives. They are proud of what the project has achieved and the difference it has made and continues to make in the lives of women, girls and community members participating in the project. As for the participants, many expressed that they loved and benefited from the well-being and COVID-19 awareness-raising sessions. They also remarked on how peaceful Sangam is and how much they enjoyed being there. Amongst all the hustle and bustle of Pune, being at the World Centre brought them peace and reminded them of being in a quiet village.
The well-being sessions, which included yoga, dance and drawing gave participants the rare opportunity to have time to themselves and the space to focus on self-care. The Yoga instructor, Kirti, provided participants with practical tips on movements that they can incorporate into their daily activities. When they are preparing chapattis or completing household chores, they are able to use some of the tranquillity methods that yoga has taught them.
“I was a very active child who used to love dancing and singing. After getting married, my life became very busy with household chores, so I didn’t get any time for myself. I completely forgot about my personal life and taking care of myself. Through practising yoga at Sangam my body feel much better, for a moment I forgot about my family and my domestic life. The project has also taught me valuable skills, including how to protect myself against COVID-19. I really enjoyed the time I spent at Sangam!”
- Woman participating in a Sangam session through the Spherule Foundation
Photo: A woman participating through one of the community partners holding a pencil first time ever in her life. She shares that she was very happy and loved it, she had a wonderful experience.
Come together in times of COVID-19
The Come In to Sangam song talks about how people visiting Sangam can leave behind the barriers of culture, race and creed. At Sangam, individuals can come together, and world harmony can succeed. This is just what the Her World, Her Voice project delivery has done for many in the Pune community.
The information sessions have been extremely well received by the community and provided community members with vital information about reducing the spread of the virus, while breaking down barriers and misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Before attending the sessions, we were so scared of taking the vaccine because people in the community have been spreading the news that vaccination causes people to fall sick or die. Through participating in the sessions we learnt that this isn’t true and we are now confident that the vaccination will make our immunity against the virus stronger. We learnt that that vaccine will help our bodies to better fight COVID-19 and cause the infection to be milder ifwe are infected with COVID-19 virus.”
- Girls participating in a session at Sangam through Tara Mobile Crèche
The effects of COVID-19 has caused many people in India to lose their jobs and families have found it increasingly difficult to afford food. A girl who participated in the session at Sangam through the Green Tara Foundation shares her experience. “The effects of COVID-19 caused my family members to lose their jobs. We couldn’t afford to buy food, so we’d often only eat cookies and milk or drink black tea. With the food parcel we received through the Her World Her Voice project at Sangam, my family has had food provided for one whole month. The food parcel was a great support to me and my family.”
Although it appears that the worst of COVID-19 is over, the impact of the pandemic will still be felt for years to come among young women and communities across India and the world.
How can you support Sangam to continue helping people near and far come together?
A donation or a visit to Sangam will ensure the team can continue to allow people to come together, grow and learn!