Destiny Reflection/Foundation is based in Kolkata, India, and works to economically empower survivors of human trafficking or women at high risk of being exploited. Destiny Foundation is the organization’s charity arm, which provides vocational skills training and social programming; whereas the social enterprise business arm, Destiny Reflection, provides creative employment opportunities, a fair living wage, and a safe work environment.
The city, Kolkata, where Destiny is located, is an enchanting, provoking and evocative city. The people of West Bengal share a wonderful genuineness, kindness, and proudness; they place immense value on culture, arts and learning; and, there is nothing a Bengali likes better than food, festivals, family and friends.
I was completely immersed in the street scenes of the city, the fantastic sights, smells and sounds, and, the ways of life and spirituality of its people. I felt “at home” in Kolkata. I was treated as a local, even if the intrigued questions and stares were constant.
This International Co-op placement facilitated great personal, professional and academic growth and development. Myself, and another fellow Health Sciences student, were integrated into a completely different culture, work environment and work ethic, and into an organization that was experiencing its own expansion and development. Our work at Destiny was extremely flexible; we were given no task list or organizational structure. As long as we did our work, and remained accountable to ourselves and the organization, we could take days off to take trips around West Bengal every other weekend, often for 3 or 4 days at a time. We made up for the time spent traveling during the next week, or during evenings. We were able to determine our work role and generate our tasks and projects collaboratively, in response to the needs of the organization. In India, the concept of work and productivity are completely distinct from North American understandings. Work was undertaken with minimal management supervision and few resources, enabling us to bolster our leadership and organization skills, and self-sufficiency and adaptability. It took some adjustment, and finding a fine balance, but I became adept at fitting ideas and action for the organization within the cultural framework of Kolkata, India. I gained an understanding of, and garnered competence in intercultural communication. Having the opportunity to get to know the spirited and inspiring staff and women employed at Destiny, and to work amongst such wonderful ideas and goals was definitely the highlight of my time at Destiny.
Upon returning to Canada, my Co-op partner and I have formed a club at SFU, SFU Student Advocates for the Elimination of Global Enslavement, with the hope to raise awareness of the pertinent issues of human trafficking and modern day slavery, and to remain connected to Destiny to assist in fulfilling the overarching aims of the organization and facilitate market access for their products.
The placement at Destiny Reflection has been an immensely expanding, and enlightening opportunity for me. Being immersed into and gaining knowledge of another culture, becoming acquainted and establishing myself within a novel and thrilling city and work environment has truly allowed me to grow and develop myself. Each and every experience, skill and knowledge I have gained during this time is transferable to my personal, career and academic future.
Beyond the Blog
In 2011, a group of SFU students volunteered at Destiny Reflections. Read their stories in the blog: SFU Health Sciences Take India.