Department of Environmental Sciences
Geography / Urban and Regional Studies
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Participants 2008

Silja Ramseier

Silja Ramseier was born in 1986 in Baselland. Her interests are culture, music, film, travelling, languages, photography, nature and sports. She did her precollege degree with stress on Latin. Now she is doing her Master's Degree in Geography and Sociology.

What I expected from the internship and from India: The expectations grew the closer time of my internship came. They grew while doing the application, getting my research topic and having a good look at my topic. I expected to get a good insight into the work of a NGO and gaining experience in the field of development aid. I expected also to gain work experience in a total different context than in Switzerland, to get to know a foreign culture and to deal with the different behaviours. To get experience in doing an own research and to write a report about was another expectation.

Preparation:I did not know that preparations for the internship will be that intensive. At the end of the preparations when I had my preparation paper finished I had to admit that such an intensive preparation time is necessary. I had gained some background information about my topic and felt more comfortable to go with this knowledge to AIDMI. I was now more aware of what I was expected to do in India.

Aspects of the Internship: General impressions: Neither literature research nor stories from people who were in India can teach you how life in India is. Although I heard so much I could not imagine how it would be and I was surprised about everything during the first days. But it has to be mentioned that you get used to the changes very quickly. Working conditions are quite different than in Switzerland. I had to get used to work with a lot of people in a small room and it was not always easy to concentrate myself while writing my report. Working in general is not as easy as in Switzerland because you have to cope with climate and different food. Despite these impacts it was nice to work in the office. The atmosphere was always good and members almost always had time to explain something when I needed some information. Concerning the general circumstances of life in Ahmedabad I have to commit that mostly at the beginning I had to get used to this mass of people in the streets, the incredible traffic and the scarcity of green and open space to move. Sometimes it was also hard to accept that you feel almost too tired to do something because I am a person who likes to move. Apart of these issues I enjoyed the experience in Ahmedabad.

Empirical study in slum communities: Since I was supposed to do participatory methods with members of a community I was aware that everything is unpredictable. The two meetings were delayed for about two hours and people were not at the meeting for the whole time. But anyway when you are in India you get used to the fact that everything is different than planned and it also makes you more relaxed than when you are in Switzerland and everything is over-planned. Despite of these issues the meetings were always a great experience and it was also a lot of fun. The whole time I spent in the communities especially in one community got one of my greatest experiences. People are so friendly. Although you can not talk to them directly you can understand them. It was also funny how I always got bindi and flowers in my hair once even during the meeting. Fieldwork is a really good opportunity to get an insight into the live of the poor people. You really can not get this experience by reading or having a lecture about it.

Personal conclusion: I know now much more about the work of a NGO. Only in India I could realise besides other issues what it means to be affected by disasters, what dimensions poverty have and what pressures such as noise, population and traffic is on Indian cities. Beside this I could also observe what capacities a NGO or a community itself has to change the current circumstances. That was a really good experience for me. I also learned much about how to do a research and to write a report. It helped me a lot to think in complex ways and to order my thoughts. While doing all the preparations, talking to people and writing the report I could also improve my English.

Recommendation and opinion about this internship: This internship was an input and motivation to my further studies. I think it is useful to do an internship now so when I am finished with my studies I can start working directly. This internship made me also more confident to future internships or jobs in Switzerland but also foreign countries due to the skills I learned.

Daniel Rufener

Daniel Rufener was born on January 10th 1985, interested in aviation and music since then. He is a Master's student in Cultural Topologies. His personal interests are IT, languages (he speaks four languages fluently), travelling and foreign cultures.

Impressions and comments: Before arriving in India, the expectations and the excitement were at a high level and was perfectly transferred to the local context and work by the AIDMI team. The preparations at the University of Basel proved to be adequate to the requirements and engagements of an NGO internship as well as they were the backbone of the field studies and the final report. To have a solid preparation showed to be critical when it comes to empirical work in poor communities: results only can be gained with a well-prepared theoretical background. Otherwise, such an experience could be too confusing or even overwhelming for an unprepared scholar. Further, the preparation helps to contextualize the experiences gained. This leads to an even increased appreciation and estimation of the internship, which lets the scholar test his theoretical knowledge and capacities in a practical environment at a young age with a high gain of personal as well as educational experiences and values. Therefore, the AIDMI internship and the preparation at the University of Basel can highly be recommended.

Claudia Wipf

Motivation: My first contacts with AIDMI came from a term paper I wrote about the organisation and then my meeting with Mr. Sadhu in Basel. Both of these events and the work that AIDMI have impressed me greatly. In particular, I was impressed by AIDMI's holistic approach in providing sustainable development and improvements for the poor and vulnerable. My professional ambitions are in the field of development cooperation. In order to get further practical experience and to attain additional skills I wanted to do an internship abroad and applied for the internship at AIDMI.

Work experience: Working in another country was a challenge. Not only the working hours are different but also the way of working differed much from what I was used to. The people from AIDMI were extremely helpful not only because of their assistance for the work itself but also because of their positive way of interacting, which created a good work climate. During my internship I undertook several field visits to different communities in Ahmedabad, Bhuj and Kheda. There, I interviewed microinsurance clients about their experience with Afat Vimo, AIDMI's disaster insurance. Before I came to AIDMI, I was not able to imagine what it means to subsist on less than 2$ a day and what a slum looked like. Visiting slum communities and talking to its inhabitants was a great experience. I came into touch with people I would never have had the opportunity to talk to. I was mainly impressed by their positive way of thinking. Even if they were very poor they had not lost their optimism. Coming from a rich country many dissatisfied people I was greatly impressed. During the field visits I also gained insights into different forms of living and different kind of businesses ideas I could not have imagined that they exist.

Overall experience: Not only personally but also professionally I could benefit from this internship. I learned a lot about the approach with slum communities, disaster mitigation, livelihood relief and microfinance, mainly microinsurance. Even though I had read about these concepts before my arrival in India, it was only there, by working in practice, that I realized what they actually mean.

Christoph Schlumpf

Christoph Schlumpf is studying Economics at the University of Basel. His hobbies are sports, culture and travelling. He did his Bachelor's Degree in Geography and Economics in 2008.

What I expected from the internship and from India: It is very difficult to write about concrete expectations. I read and heard a lot about India and AIDMI, but I knew that the reality will be completely different. I expected hot temperature, a lot of rain, everywhere many people, a lot of work and the chance to gain important experiences for my future.

Preparation: The preparation was very strenuous and needed a lot of time. We had to do a lot of research, what we did not expect in advance. But anyway, we learned a lot. It was good to have an idea about the own research topic before arriving in India.

Aspects of the Internship: General impressions: It was a great experience to work in an NGO. Their different areas of work are very interesting and it was nice to get an insight into the whole variety. Next to that, the experience to work under completely different conditions was very precious.

Empirical study in slum communities: As I had a different topic than the others, my work was not based on visiting communities but on interviews and internet research. To prepare and carry out interviews with two organizations (Self-Employed Women's Association and All India Disaster Mitigation Institute) might be very useful for my future work.

Personal conclusion: It is possible to read about the work of NGOs, about poverty or about an unknown culture. Thanks to the internship, I had the possibility to see what poverty means and to realize once again how rich Switzerland is. To work in a NGO was very interesting. I had to cooperate with several people and had to adapt to the different way of working in India.

Recommendation and opinion about this internship: In my opinion, it was great to do the internship before finishing the Bachelor. To gain work experience is always good and the work in a NGO shows one work possibility of the future. I can recommend to every student to do an internship in an NGO far away from Switzerland. Like this, there is the possibility not only to work in another language but also to learn a lot about a new country and its culture.

Basil Gilliéron

Basil Gilliéron is 28 years old. His personal interests are travelling, foreign culture and sport (football and ride a bicycle). He is a Master's student of Economics at University of Basel. He did his Bachelor's Degree in 2008 in Geography and Economics. His research interest is informal economies.

What I expected from the internship and from India was the opportunity to work in an Indian NGO, to come more closely in touch with the Indian culture and life, and to gain an insight in development cooperation and programs.

My general impressions are that it was a mix of theoretical and practical work. The Field visits have been very impressive and interesting. The atmosphere within the office was pleasant. Concerning the empirical study in slum communities I would say that the case studies as a qualitative research method were very helpfully to learn more about the impacts of microcredit schemes. The local people of the communities were hospitable and never in a hurry. They gave me interesting and helpful information. I have learnt much about work within communities, about case studies and how to manage the different work circumstances. Furthermore, I learnt much about the Indian culture and life.

Esther Gloor

What I expected from the internship and from India: Before coming to India, I was talking to several people who have been to India before. They all said about the same – India is so different. With this attitude, I came to India. I was told that especially the noise in the city, pollution, hygienic condition, the wet climate, the food, poverty might be very difficult as a Swiss to get used to. Another thing I could hardly imagine was that there would be people every time and everywhere. From the Internship, I did not really have an idea what would be expecting us in India in terms of conditions of work and in the office. Though I was eager to get to know friendly people at AIDMI and to work on my project.

Preparation: The preparation program for the internship was very extensive and thorough. Thus, a lot of time had to be invested besides the regular university classes. This was not always easy. At the end though, I really felt prepared and secure concerning my research topic on disaster recovery of small businesses. It was definitely worth to take this effort. Aspects of the Internship: Working in Ahmedabad, India: Working in India itself is so different to working in Switzerland. Circumstances, time management, cultural aspects, climate and other working conditions were sometimes very difficult. I had some health problems and therefore had some weak and difficult moments besides many great experiences.

Aspects of the Internship: General impressions: The internship itself was a time full of experiences and impressions. There were many things I learned – both in relation with the topic and also for my life. I think life experience was the main thing I gained here. We went to visit slum communities. There is such a big difference in knowing things and seeing things on pictures and experiencing them in your very real life. Now I feel like understanding poverty and humans a step better than before. Another good, though sometimes difficult experience was to learn how much and how good I am able to work under most difficult circumstances like hot and wet climate, sickness, difficult cultural aspects and at the same time having to deal with so many new impressions within a very short period of time. It was good to experience my very own limitations, though not always easy.

Working in an NGO: Working in an NGO was a great experience, as I had heard and known about NGOs and their work before but never really could imagine how work (office and field work) of an NGO looks like. Now I can at least refer to one example, although I have to keep in mind that it is a regionally concentrated and a rather small NGO – it would be wrong to generalize my experience on other NGOs. People at AIDMI were very friendly and cooperative. The atmosphere at AIDMI was very comfortable for working on the project.

Empirical study in slum communities: This work was very impressive and new to me – as it is not about theories, but it is about livelihood and life. To meet people in their environments and to gain knowledge and life experience from them was a great experience – they could give me so much – besides the data requested in the questionnaires.

Personal conclusion: All in all, I found this internship most interesting. It was an experience I would never like to miss. My own perception of both the life of other people and my own life has changed so much. I have learned how less it needs to become happy and how much I should appreciate my own life and every thing I have.

Recommendation and opinion about this internship: I can truly recommend this internship program to anybody. Still there should be some interests and personal attitudes like one has to be very simple and open for everything, and spontaneous to make the best out of any situation. Physical problems (climate, illnesses) should not be underestimated. To me, this internship was mostly about life experience besides the big knowledge I could gain for my Geography studies.

Nadezhda Sliwa

Nadezhda Sliwa, born in 1982, graduated as a violinist from Basel Music Conservatory in 2004 and with a Master's Degree in 2009 in Geography and French Studies at University of Basel and with a Post-Graduate Degree in Urban and Regional Studies from the University of Basel. She did her graduate research on “Business strategies of micro enterprises in disaster affected areas in Gujarat, India”. As a participant of the 2005 project “Recovering Slums”, she has been working in Indian slum communities before. Based on the experience with GIS-based social science research in four slum communities in Bhuj, Gujarat, the current research topic emerged.

On the experiences in India: “Working in India as part of both pilot projects “Recovering Slums” and “Business Strategies of Micro Enterprises in India” has been a most rewarding experience that has sharpened my professional skills for activities in developing countries and has contributed to my personal growth”. 

Claudia Saalfrank

Claudia Saalfrank is a Ph.D. candidate and research associate at the Department of Environmental Sciences (Geography / Urban and Regional Studies), University of Basel, Switzerland.

C. Saalfrank is writing her doctoral thesis in the field of micro insurance. The title of her Ph.D. thesis is "Micro Insurance and the Interface between Insurers and Insured Households – an Analysis of the Afat Vimo Partner-Agent Model of Micro Insurance in Gujarat, India".

Her research emphases: developing countries, in particular micro insurance, micro finance, disaster mitigation, building up resilience and reducing vulnerability. Her work focuses on Gujarat, India.

As a participant of the 2005 project “Recovering Slums”, she has been working in Indian slum communities before. Based on the experience with GIS-based social science research in four slum communities in Bhuj, Gujarat, the current research topic emerged.