Blending in.

Harmony. This is the term I would use to describe what I feel about India.

It has been only 3 weeks since I’ve arrived, but I’ve already been conquered by this country which has the power to take your hand and lead you through the magic of its culture and at the same time slap your face with the striking poverty affecting the majority of the population.

Harmony, when my mind gets anaesthetised by the cars around me and leaves me the space to enjoy the moment, or as Eckhardt Tolle would say, the power of now.


Harmony, because I can easily blend in and get mistaken for an Indian. I have to say that India has reconfirmed my theory that I look halfway normal wherever I go (at least in Southern countries) – in Northern Africa I was suddenly Moroccan, in Spain people would speak to me in Spanish and in India I can easily pass for Nepali or from the Assam region. Now that I know a couple of sentences in Hindi, I always take the chance to pretend I’m Indian till I run out off words and people notice.

Harmony, because I can find many similarities with the Philippines, my mother’s home country, to which I feel very close. I remember having a big shock visiting the Philippines, but this prepared me for India and gave me the chance to enjoy the Indian adventure right from the first moment.

After a couple of days spent in the Delhi, a 14h train trip brought me far away from the city chaos to Tirmasahun, United for Hope’s adopted village. I deeply enjoy the life in the village. Days are controlled by the sun, they start at 6am at sunrise and end around 6pm with sunset. Electricity is quite unreliable and with no light the only thing we can do is go to bed early. Something impossible in Europe, where TV, light and other electronic devices keep us busy till late night.

On the contrary to what the majority of you would expect from a remote rural village in Uttar Pradesh, days are quite packed and I’m always amazed by the many thing you can get done without all the facilities we are used in Europe. The part of the day which I enjoy the most is the evening when I lay on my bed. I feel as if the air could move through me like a colourful sari fluttering on the clothes line. A mixture of peace, accomplishment and freedom.

I think that all of us, here at the community centre share the same feeling, and that’s the reason why we started the evening tradition to share, over dinner, what made us happy during the day.

I will now share the top two activities that for some reason or  other reward me every day and make my heart sing.

Being a Teacher

Together with Alex and Payal, I’m responsible for our education programme. We teach 5 days a week both at the local government school and at the community centre.

At the school there are many children of different ages, also toddlers among them who just go to school to get a warm meal. At the beginning I found it quite challenging to find a way to involve all the children in the same way. Day by day, we found a good system which is a combination of classroom teaching, music, songs and games. Children love singing songs, I have to admit I also enjoy as I can sing freely too even if I’m not really in tune!


The best part is when they try to teach me Hindi during the classes. It’s a mutual learning experience. After two weeks I’ve learned how to count till ten, how to say sit down, water, milk…

In the afternoon we have our community centre classes. We teach 10 children, 5 girls and five boys.

I find it fascinating to discover  their personalities and characters. Each and every one has something special. Mintu is the talkative one and the leader, Bandana is the gentle one, Sarbaj is the rebellious adolescent, Anshu the entertainer, Guddi is the extrovert one, Pinkie the introvert, Deepak the one who always asks questions, Salander the charming one, Pooja the vocal one and finally Chinky who always has a radiant smile.

We provide an innovative educational programme. Our goal is to endeavour to come away from the traditional rote learning and encourage children to express their opinions, ask questions and present ideas and concepts. Children are making progress very fast.

Being the Water Lady 

The past week I started joining our water delivery team in the mornings. Our goal is to extend our customer base and raise awareness about drinking clean water.

Normally Payal and I walk after the water van and distribute flyers. Some of the villagers started calling us the water ladies. It’s quite unusual for people to see two young women (of marriage age) walking freely around the village. I have to say that we are quite successful. The water walk gives me the chance to get in direct contact with many different people from different castes, being invited for a chat. I especially enjoy the chats with the women. They all wonder why I’m wearing Indian clothes, and they tell me how girls are getting modern in Goa and wear bras, short pants and so on. Especially the old women ask me if they can join me to Europe. Men are mostly interested to know on how Italy looks like and my family and so on.


Awareness work together with the close contact to people also brings a number of challenges. You always have to be open to all kind of questions. For example, last week, one of our new customers was comparing the mineral water we are selling to RO water by the weight. He was arguing that our water weighs less than the other water. The discussion lasted for a while and was a mixture of Hindi, English and Bhojpuri (the local dialect). We made him understand that weight is not the ideal parameter to assess the quality of water. Two days after he purchased other 20l of our water!

Mission accomplished!

Some people say, that you will recognise your own path when you come upon it. Because you will suddenly have all the energy and imagination you will ever need. That’s what’s happening to me right now…

Evelyn for United for Hope


Getting started – My first weeks in India


The first days in India were simply overwhelming. The sounds, the smells and the people all combine to completely overpower your senses, at least they did with me. This happened to me in Delhi, where I was driven through the most insane traffic I have ever seen while driving past people yelling, the most colourful of buildings and a hand-full of cows standing in the middle of the road.

In contrast to all that, the village is a peaceful corner with happy people and playing children. In all honesty I didn’t know what to expect when I got here.

I arrived at the community centre, after a never ending train ride, feeling completely exhausted due to the lack of sleep and the humid and hot air.I got sorted, comfortable and started getting ready for the first classes with the kids.

I believe I can help teach the kids some english and some sense of music with my guitar and the songs we sing with them, each of which is thematically similar to the topic we are handling in class. So far the kids are responding astonishingly well to all the songs (and my singing, to my surprise), remembering the words of the songs and using them in the conversations we have with them.During the most classes I try to support Evelyn, who is doing just a fantastic job, in helping the kids with their pronunciation, checking their work books to see if they’re doing it right and if they’ve finished yet and answering any questions they have.

We have also come up with a weekly teaching plan together in which we set our goals for the children and ourselves, hoping to get the children speaking semi fluent english as soon as possible. All of this can be quite demanding but on the other side, can be so much more rewarding when I can hear them using the new words we just learned in a conversation with them. In any case the children have just so much energy and are so willing to learn that it’s barely believable but also makes our jobs a little bit easier.

We have also started to teach in the government school, just around the corner, in addition to the normal classes in our community centre. The classes are different because we have some more children in these classes of which a good part isn’t in the education programme. These classes can be a bit tougher, but in combination with some games and songs can also be very fruitful.

I have also started going on the morning water runs with our little van, during which I see so much of the village, its surroundings and of the people who make every run into a great experience. It also feels good to give the people access to clean mineral water, opposed to the close-to-poisonous hand pump water which they would be drinking otherwise.

fd96bbaf-1da5-4b31-b2e2-5f277dcef8b4All in all my first two weeks have been demanding, rewarding, colourful and full of wonderful people.

At this part i want to thank Tara, Evelyn, Sonia, Pyle and Bijender, Krishna and Vischal who are all part of the team here in Tirmasahun, for making these two months here in India so pleasurable for me.

Alex for United for Hope

“I am mainly expecting to come back older and wiser”


Alexander is a 19 year old German-US student from Munich heading to India for the first time for 2 months to volunteer for United for Hope.

How did you get involved into United for Hope ?

I met Tara thanks to my mother, who already knew her. Indeed, she was already helping Tara with the website and was also working as a treasurer for the organisation.

At that time, I was still going to school and I was wondering what to do in the future. The only thing I knew is that I wanted to travel and broaden my life experiences. When my mother introduced me to Tara, I realized that volunteering with United for Hope could be a great opportunity for me to visit India and see something of the country beyond being a tourist.

When will you start working with United for Hope ?

I am about to start now. I am leaving to India in the next days, and I will stay for 2 months.

What motivate you in working for United for Hope ?

I am especially interested in the education aspect. I already did some tutoring within my school. It is something I like. If the kids in India are willing to learn, then it will be the best part. Thus, this is a personal experience for me as well.

What makes you happy in general?

I am happy when I spend a good day. I am happy when I can feel fulfilled about what I am doing. I am happy when I am learning something new, when I am challenging myself, when I am playing guitar, when I meet my friends or my girlfriend.

What are your expectations about your experience in India?

Some people tell me to not expect anything, because it will be different from everything. But I am mainly expecting to come back older and wiser… and thinner !

Where do you see yourself in the future ?

I am still a student, so for now I am still planning on studying next year. I am quite influenced by my grandfa who was an engineer.

What’s your motto ?

« Take it easy »

How would you describe yourself ?

Above all, I am happy. I am a person who generally gets along well with people. But I have to say that sometimes, I can be shy, especially when I am outside of my comfort zone. I am as well kind of clumsy. And I am honest !

“I was immediately very excited about helping to educate women & children”


As the calendar turns to August, our Team Member Profile series continues with a look at one of our local Indian volunteers, Manish Jhamb.

My name is Manish Jhamb and I live in New Delhi, India. I am a software engineer by profession. I have over 10 years of experience in software design and development. I am avid reader and consider myself both an ambitious and ethical person. I do my best to live my life by the motto: “Sharing is caring”.

I have been working with United for Hope since its inception when I was introduced to it by my childhood friend, Vikas Malik. I was immediately very excited about helping to educate women and children. I also like the model of adopting a village which is United for Hope’s strategy. I designed the website for United for Hope and currently handle all the tasks related to web site maintenance and updates. I also help with a variety of online campaigns and promotions.

I  am very excited by the work that United for Hope has done and is continuing to do. I am proud of how United for Hope is helping a small village in India to grow and live a better life, how United for Hope is working towards providing basic education to the village children, and how United for Hope is developing partnerships with different organizations to provide the village with things like clean drinking water and toilets.


“I was impressed by United for Hope’s Vision”


This month our Team Member Profile series continues with a glimpse into the life and motivations of one of our copy writers, Kate Rodriguez.

I’m a copywriter, but I’ve had a long and varied career. Early on, I worked for the U.S. government in Washington, DC in foreign affairs and international trade. That’s where I met my husband, a German physicist. Then we decided to move to Chile where I worked as a writer and event coordinator for a volunteer organization while also taking care of our two young sons. We landed in Munich in 2007, and I first learned German before working in customer service and marketing for a start-up company here. I launched my freelance copywriting business last March.

Back in October 2014, Tara was invited to speak to a women’s professional group that I am a member of. She really impressed me with her vision and ideas for creating change at the village level in India. I liked United for Hope’s practical approach. Tara mentioned she was looking for volunteers, so I emailed her a few days later asking if she needed a writer. And she did! I started in November 2014 and do writing projects. I’ve helped with updating the text on the United for Hope website, drafting landing pages for the Christmas campaigns, and writing or editing brochures, reports and presentations.

I’m particularly enthusiastic about the Seeds of Hope project, which I really hope goes forward. It’s a program through which village women will undergo vocational training in sustainable gardening, health & nutrition, and literacy & basic business skills. By growing produce and selling it, they earn an income and improve their family’s and their own health. Plus, they gain some confidence and independence. I think these small, grassroots efforts can be game-changers over time.

Our Pilot Education Program


In February, United for Hope launched our first Education Program in our Community  Education Centre in the village of Tirmasahun. The pilot project includes 10 local children, five boys and five girls, between the ages of 10 and 12 who meet for after school classes 5 days a week. The topics for the classes range from general school subjects to awareness topics, such as citizenship, hygiene, cleanliness, respectful behaviour, and responsibility.

Patrick was on site at the village and directly involved in the project. He shared his experience with Teresa, a Munich-based volunteer.

Arriving at the village of Tirmasahun 

In March I came to the village Tirmasahun to support United for Hope in their water-, solar- and education projects. A big part of that was to set up a pilot class of ten students and assist the local teacher and help them get to know more interactive and modern ways of teaching.. I also helped recruit an additional female teacher, a smart young graduate who is the local school principals daughter, and from that day on we were giving classes together. The idea was to give her knowledge and confidence that she can keep on teaching the children after I left. This worked out pretty well and I had a great month at the village.

First impressions 

The first day I attended the classes the children were looking at me like I was an alien from Mars.. There was also a big language barrier, as I could just ask for their names in Hindi and little else. For the first weekend I had the idea to do some sports classes, as they don’t have anything like that in their school. I introduced two games that I played in sports classes in elementary school. This changed a lot. It took a lot of time to explain the games, as I could only use the few words I knew and the rest had to be gestures. As soon as they understood the game, it was very hard to stop them because they were having so much fun. Another big thing was when I told them how to write my name in English and Hindi. After that I was only hearing “Patrick Sir, Patrick Sir…!!!” a thousand times each day. 

After the students warmed up to me, the classes were the highlight of each day in the village. The children showed up half an hour before the classes were supposed to start, they were motivated and participated very well. It was also amazing how fast they could learn. The problem is that local teachers don’t speak English well, so they can only teach them vocabulary without any context. When I played games or gave them little tasks they remembered everything much easier and even started practicing on their own. For example, they were walking around and saying “This is a tree, a house, an apple…”etc. 

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Extended learning 

As the English classes were going well, I started to do maths and awareness topics. In contrast to schools in Germany, they were even asking me to write more tests just to get a smiley on their paper after I had corrected it. For awareness topics it was very important to teach in small pieces and very slowly; but for an average age of eleven that’s natural. So from the second week we had a mix of English, maths and awareness classes during the week and sports or gardening work on the weekends. Two of the students were very supportive with some gardening work we had to do. So I decided to give them a little bit of Pepsi I had. I don’t know if they had it for the first time, but the reaction was overwhelming! Anyway, they didn’t want a second glass because this would be too much of that ‘crazy sparkling drink’. After some time my Hindi skills improved a lot, as I got tired of not understanding what people were saying. Due to this, teaching became much easier and even more fun for the children.

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Wishes for the future

In the end I didn’t expect that it would be so hard for me to say goodbye. I had given English classes in other countries before for a longer duration. But in this one month I spent much more time with the children than we actually had planned. So I had a really strong feeling of responsibility for those children and I really hope that they get the chance for a good education and a good future. Hopefully, other volunteers can also contribute to that. 

Teresa for United for Hope

An Indian-American Architect’s Journey to United for Hope




Team Member Profile: Nutan Jäger

My name is Nutan Jäger and I currently live in Karlsfeld, Germany. I am an architect, an artist and a mom of 3 kids. I was born and raised in the U.S. by Indian immigrants (they are from the area south of Goa) and still have a ton of relatives there. We moved to Germany about 7 years ago (my husband is German) and we love it here.

After moving here, and finding it difficult to go back to work full-time with 3 little kids, with no family close by, in a foreign country in which I did not speak the language, and learning to drive stick-shift, I took some time to think about what kinds of projects I wanted to work on. It turned out I wanted less and less to go back full-time and sit behind a computer all day drawing yet another bathroom remodel for a family of 3 that already had two full bathrooms (with running water, nonetheless!) and more and more to use my skills to help people who had no access to design and current innovations in affordable technologies. So that’s where I’ve been putting my energy the last few years, researching and working on low-tech, eco-friendly buildings that help boost the local economy. A kind of cross over between architecture and development.

1. How long have you worked with United for Hope and what kind of work do you do?

I started working for United for Hope early in 2015, doing a number of things. It started with creating drawings for the community center, and then for the water building, and then it was graphics for a crowdfunding campaign, and then another fundraising campaign, then came the proposal for a women’s empowerment program, and now I’ve been elected Schatzmeister (Treasurer)!

2. What brought you to United for Hope?

Total fate! I was talking to some friends about a development project I wanted to start, and they mentioned having heard a woman give a talk about her NGO at the MWIC, a local international women’s organization, but they couldn’t remember her name. So I googled it, and found Tara and a site that showed that United for Hope was looking for volunteers to do some graphic design work for them. So I started thinking that the best way to gain more experience working development would be to work for a local NGO, and what better one than one based close to home where the founder was a native English speaker! So I responded to the ad, and Tara wrote me back almost immediately. Turns out she googled me and found out I’m an architect and was wondering if I could help out with some technical drawings. I remember, looking at the groups Facebook feed afterwards and literally seeing a post a day or two before, from Tara asking the group if anyone knew an architect who could help out on the designs for the Community Center Building! Perfect timing.

3.What is one thing about United for Hope that you feel the readers should know?

I’ve volunteered with other NGO’s before, but somehow United for Hope is different. It gets things done. Some of the larger, older organizations are so much slower in making change, or maybe they’ve been doing things the same way for so long, there’s no room for change any more. That’s what I like about United for Hope – you can see the change immediately. I am so proud of all the things the organization has accomplished since it’s been established – the toilets, the clean water, the hand washing program. Seeing pictures of the first bricks being laid on the community center and the clean water building was especially exciting. Nothing has been easy, and there have been many ups and downs on these projects, but seeing the first rooms getting built and knowing we will soon have a place to hold afterschool classes for the children, and empowerment training for the women of the village, and knowing I had something to do with making that happen, well, that’s just a great feeling.