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UNITED SIKHS-Oxford University TravelAid

Volunteers' Commitment Statements - 2009

  • I am very keen to volunteer for UNITED SIKHS because the programmes run by this organisation in Panjabi schools allow students from minority or underprivileged backgrounds to aim high in terms of education. The difficulties faced by such students in England is also a serious problem – I have witnessed firsthand the struggles which members of a minority or underprivileged community face when trying to gain entrance to a top university. As such, I am very interested in projects which seek to raise the educational aims of young people and facilitate their progression towards a university place – it seems clear that the UNITED SIKHS' projects fulfil these criteria. Additionally, as I have said before, I feel very privileged to have attended one of the top universities in my country and feel that it is the duty of those who have been lucky to share their good luck with those who need assistance.

    - Hannah Yusuf-George


  • I have three main reasons for volunteering; firstly, I enjoy volunteer work and particularly enjoy working with children. I know it’s a bit cliché but I’d really love to give something back to the community and have the satisfaction of seeing that giving my time has made a visible difference to someone’s life. Secondly, I feel that this project in particular will allow me to develop my interpersonal skills and put them to use in a teaching context. I’d love to gain more teaching experience. Thirdly, I love seeing new places and meeting new people and learning about different cultures and ways of life. Living in India is an amazing way to do this and the best thing is that working there will enable me to benefit people as well as experiencing India from the inside, rather than just as a tourist.

    - Lucy Craig


  • I find the project very interesting and well planned, so it is the kind of voluntary work I want to get involved in this summer. The aims of the project are especially appealing to me. First of all, I was a ‘bright child from an underprivileged background,’ so now I try to help others who are in a similar situation. All children should be provided a good education, yet the brightest ones are those who will suffer the most if they are not given an equal opportunity to develop their abilities and interests. What is more, the community itself will suffer if the bright children are not given a proper education. That is why I think the aim of this project is beneficial on many levels and therefore very rewarding, especially since I like working with children. Second of all, the fact that there is a ‘train the trainer’ course indicates that the project is very well structured and as a volunteer I will have a chance to improve my teaching skills and therefore be able to more successfully prepare the college students for IELTS exams. The project gives me an impression that the time in India will be spent efficiently and I will have the possibility to help those who need it in various ways. In addition, I wish to participate in the project because Punjab is one of the places in the world I would like to see the most, but not merely as a tourist. The project would give me an opportunity to live in Amritsar, which sounds more than amazing to me. I am very fond of Punjab because I have many good friends from there, as well as from other parts of India, and I would like to experience the life and culture of this country even more.

    - Monika Waszczuk


  • There are three main reasons I wish to volunteer for UNITED SIKHS. Firstly, My friends at TravelAid have spoken extremely highly of the organisation and the work it does in Amritsar. Secondly, through involvement with local primary schools, I have become passionate about the role of education in solving global poverty and social inequality. I believe that UNITED SIKHS’ involvement in educational works provides means by which I can contribute and be a part of the solution. Thirdly, I believe that volunteering will give me not only the opportunity to help students achieve their potential but that it will give me the chance to experience a fascinating region of one of the world’s fastest developing economies and cultures.

    - Emer Morrison


  • The rich culture and history of India and the region is immensely interesting in itself, however my main motivations for wishing to be part of this project are to make a difference to the people I would work with, and to experience, connect to and try to understand the place and people of the Punjab. Education is incredibly important to an individual’s prospects and to the development of a region, and being so worthwhile it is something I would love to contribute to. In particular higher education is crucial to increasing someone’s career opportunities, and therefore being able to help young people with the English needed to access university is especially valuable to me, having been fortunate enough to benefit from university education myself. I’m also aware that English language skills can be very useful to people in other parts of the world for working and conducting business domestically and particularly where interaction with foreigners is concerned. English being so widely spoken makes it a very valuable language to have and I would like to contribute what I can to facilitating exchanges, communication, and understanding between people of different countries and regions. The further opportunity to contribute to increasing the educational facilities in the area through fundraising only adds to my enthusiasm for the project. From a more personal point of view I’ve always wanted to experience more of the world and in particular to travel to India - having close Indian friends has furthered my interest in the country and its culture. Spending a continuous period of time in Amritsar and working closely with local people, I hope will mean I can come to know the character of the place relatively well; an experience which I’m sure will benefit my personal development and broaden my view of the world.

    - Elizabeth Manly


Volunteers' Commitment Statements - 2008

  • During my last three years of professional service, I had developed a need to help people who are less fortunate even further. After my recent trip and first ever trip to India at the end of last year, it opened my eyes to the poverty of ‘my' Indian/Panjabi people. It highlighted how fortunate we are living in the West with not a care for things we take for granted, the next meal, education, jobs, social security, health…. It was a humbling and upsetting experience as I had not been exposed to this ever before. For these reasons, I believe the project of teaching English will help me develop spiritually and also professionally, allow me to ‘give something back' to a country which is still developing and could potentially achieve so much. It will allow me to follow a dream, fulfil a challenge which I have developed a need for. I feel I possess some of the skills I think are imperative to volunteer with this project; patience, good communication skills. As I work within a caring profession, it has also enhanced my need to help further in a much wider capacity.

    - Harpal Kaur


  • While studying at Oxford, the director of my exchange programme suggested I apply to TravelAid due to my interest in international relations. After looking through the projects, I was attracted to India because I had been studying Anglo-Indian relations at university, was interested in the idea of teaching younger and university students, and was attracted to the values of UNITED SIKHS – the unity of all peoples worldwide. Having benefitted greatly from my time abroad, I wanted to help, if in a small part, with UNITED SIKHS' interest in developing an exchange from this programme as I feel that the students of Amritsar can benefit as I have, if not more so.

    - Casey Armstrong


  • My reasons for wanting to go to Amritsar for the UNITED SIKHS are wide-ranging. When I initially heard of TravelAid, I only knew that the program involved teaching English to university students and possibly children: I began imagining the things I could do, the people I would meet, and different approaches I could use in the classroom.

    I have never been to India and have not studied the country, but I have a genuine interest in other cultures as well as a budding interest in religion, specifically religions incorporating meditation and a belief in a Universal God as a life force devoid of a resemblance to man's image. When I did further research and found that Amritsar was the capital of Sikhism, I became even more compelled to apply to the program. I am particularly interested in Sikhism on the grounds of its rejection of materialism as well as asceticism, in the belief that both display manifestations of the ego. From my understanding, these features, as well as its rejection of caste structures, make Sikhism, and thus Amritsar, cross-cultural. This being the case, I imagine that working with people in Amritsar would be an especially fruitful experience. I would relish the chance to visit temples and research the Sikh religion, including any other aspects of Punjab that may be encountered.

    Above all, I am interested in Amritsar because I am interested in the conveyance and exchange of ideas: I want to teach, to contribute to the community, and learn from others in turn.

-Vanessa Brown

  • I am very excited about the opportunity to volunteer with UNITED SIKHS and TravelAid as I feel that teaching English is a very effective way of increasing the opportunities available to young people. I think that I would be ideally suited to teaching both university students and a younger age group as I have experience in teaching English at both levels of expertise.

    I have experience in both helping those who already have a good grasp of the English language to bring it up to a very high level, as well as teaching basics to younger pupils. I feel that through teaching these age groups I would also benefit, as I would broaden my own cultural horizons through meeting people of my own age group as well as the younger age groups that I would also be teaching.

    - Emma Bodenham

  • Enthusiasm for new experience - volunteering aspect appealed - enjoy working with children and students.

    - Richard Anderton

  • Immediately out of college, I was on the pursuit of a challenge and eventually found my way to the Southwest side of Chicago to teach at Peck Elementary School. One of the main reasons for choosing inner city Chicago was not only the diversity but the ability for students to freely express their diversity and enjoy it – not parade it for a month allotted to them and forget it. Curriculum, classroom culture, after school activities all reflect the student body's social and cultural diversity. Meanwhile, I was able to include my own culture and share it with the kids to build a strong bond in planning character education.

    With culture and religion being very much the basis of who I am, it is important to not forget about where I came from. Being in the teaching the profession, this is a great way to extend my hand and help the Sangat in Amritsar.

    I also receive the benefit of having the summer off which allows me ten weeks to devote myself to something. Plus, I feel that I am at an age where I can still participate wholeheartedly in programs such as UNITED SIKHS without having to sacrifice the time I put in to plan and prepare (i.e. lesson plans, activities, etc).

    - Manpriya Kaur

  • I am hugely interested in taking part in the ‘UNITED SIKHS - Oxford University TravelAid Project'. It is an eye opening and inspiring project that will provide me with the opportunity to help others and do sewa. I have been very fortunate here in the UK as I have been able to obtain my education and fulfil my career goals. I would now like to play a role in assisting others too in achieving their goals, such as in their education so that they too can reach their full potential. Not only will this project enable me to do so, it will also enable me to share my knowledge and skills and learn from others.

    Through previous experiences, one of the many skills that I have been able to gain and further develop is communicating with others. A major part of being able to communicate with others is also being able to listen. Having worked in a hospital pharmacy, part of my role has involved training staff. Such experiences have included providing presentations and holding teaching sessions. I have thoroughly enjoyed this part of my job as it has enabled me to help others learn and develop as well as being a learning experience for me. This is therefore one of the reasons why I am applying to do this project.

    Coming from a Punjabi background, taking part in this project is an ideal opportunity for me to visit Punjab and learn about my heritage and background, its history, the people and its culture. I am a reliable, hard working and enthusiastic individual and see this project as a challenge which would not only allow me to motivate myself but also motivate others. It is therefore a thoroughly rewarding project that I would like to be a part of.

    - Jasvinder Kaur

Volunteers' Commitment Statements - 2007

  • I have been thinking of participating in a voluntary project of some kind for a while as a way of doing something worthwhile and being able to help others. I heard about the project and applied because India as a country has always fascinated me and it seemed an amazing opportunity to combine voluntary work with visiting a country that I have always wanted to go to.

Education, at the heart of the project that I am volunteering on is very important and gives people opportunities that they might not otherwise have. In the modern world English is increasingly spoken and therefore having a native speaker to assist with the learning of the language can be enormously beneficial. In this small way, I hope that I can make some kind of a difference to the lives of others.

- Laura Watts


  • I would like to participate in UNITED SIKHS – Oxford University TravelAid for many reasons. I would like to get a better understanding of the culture as well as the issues that affect the people in that region through daily life there and interaction with the people. I think that everyone deserves the same opportunities; however this is rarely the case in underprivileged countries. By volunteering in this project I know that I would be able to make a difference through helping students to improve their English thus giving them better prospects for the future. The idea of teaching English to university students especially appeals to me as this would allow me to meet people my age from completely different backgrounds who have grown up in very different cultural and social circumstances. I know that the opportunity to go to India with this project and help disadvantaged students would be a rewarding experience, as I would be able to help people in a more direct manner.

- Maria Patoczka


  • I am interested in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and the UNITED SIKHS project in Amritsar (which I learned of through the Oxford TravelAid group) offers an interesting opportunity to pursue this interest, in that it is a summer project in which I can take part, and involves teaching relatively proficient students for a month. I am particularly interested in becoming better acquainted with India because of a short holiday I made there in 2005, in which I travelled through Delhi to Ladakh. I saw several NGO projects in action while I was there, and am interested in taking part in one myself.

-  Emily Corran


  • Very good experiences with volunteering in the past.

- Sophie Preuss