180 days in India and PwC

Emma Derham talks about her volunteering experience with PwC India Foundation, and getting her ‘hands dirty’ for social causes in rural India

​I have been to India many times before, but this time was somewhat different. Having decided to take a six month 'career break' from my fundraising job in London, the objective of this trip to India was to get my 'hands dirty' with some volunteering work, and to learn some Hindi. After reaching out to family friends and contacts, things started to fall into place and I was lucky enough to arrange a voluntary placement with the PwC India Foundation.

Despite the delays in getting the visa (I would now consider myself a semi-expert in the different types of visas and various rules and regulations), I finally arrived in December just in time for New Year, the fog and the cold. My brother, who had previously lived in Delhi, had warned me about the latter but I assumed he was exaggerating – how can it be cold in India? However, I soon found out that I should have taken his advice seriously, and one of my first trips around the city was to buy a heater for my flat.

Having only ever worked for very small NGOs in London, the corporate environment at PwC was a bit of a shock to my system at first. It took me a while to get my head around all of the different acronyms, processes and polices that exist at PwC - thanks to the patience of my colleagues I eventually got there! From the very beginning, I was treated like a member of the team and was not just given photocopying and coffee runs to do (an experience I had previously had.) In fact, the opposite happened and I was thrown in at the deep end and, at times, actually worked harder than I ever had done in London.

The project that I spent most time on was an initiative to improve sanitation and access to clean drinking water in eight government schools across the Pali district in Rajasthan. Despite this being my 12th visit to India, I had never before visited a rural school or village, so my first site visit in February is something I will never forget. Despite the language barrier, (my broken Hindi only got me so far) interacting with the children was a definite highlight. However, the thing that will stick with me forever was one of the grade 6 boys standing up in class to say that “One day when I am rich, I will build a toilet at home." Not only did my visit highlight the importance of initiatives such as this one, but it also drove home the fact that 70% of the students did not have access to a toilet, something we take for granted in the UK. 

During the six months, there have been so many other highlights that I regret not having kept a diary or written a blog. Some memorable moments include the time I spent with SSE India helping them to fundraise and getting to know some of the inspirational fellows; the highly competitive game of Uno and Cards against Humanity with Shalabh and Mohit in Neemrana; getting to know PwCites on the volunteering trip to Jodhpur; overnight train journey back from Jodhpur with Alka and Aakritee (and my first taste of Jamun); and all the various lunches and chai breaks with Rishika and Tanu.

It hasn't always been smooth sailing and, as is the case with moving to any new country, I experienced a variety of challenges ranging from – being ill, two Uber crashes, an unwelcome family of rats in my apartment, my debit card being blocked, my clothes hung out to dry flying off in the recent storms and the dreaded Delhi belly. However, despite all of this, and the fact that I am only a tiny bit closer to being fluent in Hindi, I will leave India with a heavy heart.  The six months have flown by; I have made some good friends, eaten some amazing food (fingers crossed the mishti doi survives the flight home) and had an incredible experience. Above all, my time with the PwC India Foundation has afforded me a valuable insight into the “Other" side of fundraising and has definitely enabled me to fulfill my aim of getting my hands dirty on a variety of projects, for which I am very grateful to Jaivir. 

Contact us

Jaivir Singh

Jaivir Singh

Vice Chairman
PwC India Foundation

Tel: + 91 124 4620114

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