By Bethany Williams
Docklands local Ashleigh Streeter has returned from a “surreal” trip to India with hope of continuing to advocate for some of the country’s most vulnerable people.
Ms Streeter, 19, was an intern with World Vision when the opportunity arose to travel to India with its youth movement, VGen.
She and seven other VGen representatives from around Australia travelled with two World Vision staffers to some of India’s poorest communities in Delhi, Jaipur and Kanpur.
For some, the thought of India conjures images of Bollywood films, spicy curries and the Taj Mahal, but Ms Streeter and her companions were exposed to a much more gritty version of India.
“It was different going into the communities and getting the real story,” Ms Streeter said.
This included speaking to girls her own age who had been abused and others who had entered into arranged marriages and had children before the age of 16.
They also visited a World Vision project working with drug-addicted street children, who often started out sniffing glue before moving on to harder substances.
Although these experiences were confronting, they provided an understanding of the need for the work NGOs such as World Vision do.
The group visited people and communities who had been helped by World Vision’s work and heard stories of hardships but also about how lives had been changed.
“So many people thanked us because we represented the organisation that’s helped them get out of poverty, get an education and given them hope for the future,” she said.
“They were very honest with us. It’s definitely not all about songs and dances,” Ms Streeter said.
After returning from India, part of her role as a VGen representative was to share her experience and advocate for the need for continued support of foreign aid.
Ms Streeter has continued her internship with World Vision and has spoken with her local Rotary club, university group and old high school to share her experiences and to reinforce the importance of their support.
She said her experience had given her a new perspective and had made her appreciate what she had so much more.
Ms Streeter is studying international politics and hopes to pursue a career with an organisation such as World Vision.
“I’d really like to do something on an international scale.”