Dear Celanese,

In the last three years, Celanese has established corporate social responsibility goals to make a difference in the community. This year has been unique and more important with the 100K volunteer hour challenge setting a clear objective and direction. The selection of Global Citizen Network (GCN) members and the Celanese International Impact Program (CIIP) were both part of this challenge. It was huge for me to be selected for both. I would be able to understand a different region and contribute to a community I didn’t know much about.

With the support of Cross Cultural Solutions (CCS), we did not have to worry about certain details like transportation, food, or accommodations. All 10 of us in the program were all from different Celanese sites, were very serious about volunteering, and very cooperative and accommodating.

We were teamed for our volunteer assignments. Laura Otto (Dallas) and I were assigned to an Anganwadi, an early childhood education center, about 10 kilometers from Dharamsala. We were excited to get our assignment and there was a sense of responsibility that we have to try and make a difference. We had mixed feelings when we reached the aganwadi. The first day was depressing, looking at the infrastructure with limited resources. Our head teacher had been promoted leaving the facility to be managed by the assistant teacher. She cooked food for all the children, cleaned, and at the same time tried to teach; a real daunting task with around 12-15 children each day.

The assistant teacher, Ms. Malini, was friendly and open (probably relieved) to have us. Urban India and rural India are very different. Mothers came to drop off their children were very different those one’s you find in metro cities. These mothers were very curious to what we were doing and the new things we offered.

Laura cheered everyone up with her singing and rhymes. With each passing day children came closer to us, they really loved the care and warmth we gave them. We taught nursery rhymes, drawing, clay making, and coloring. I could easily strike up a conversation in Hindi, but it was really impressive to see children get closer with Laura, who is not fluent in Hindi.

Rural India may not say thank you, but they show it with gestures. One day a mother brought us Indian sweets (Jalebis). Another day, a nearby shopkeeper brought soft drinks. When we asked why, he said it was what he could give to us in return for the time we were giving.

The two weeks went by and we were on the last day of the program. We played, sang songs, and had cookies and some children danced for us. As everyone bid us farewell, we departed with a heavy heart but with moments to cherish for a lifetime. Similarly, it was hard to bid farewell to my colleagues who came from different parts of the world, each with a deep desire to do something for the community.

Through CIIP, I had the privilege of embarking on a new, enriching journey to be closer to the community and make a difference. I am sure the anganwadis where we volunteered will remember us for the contributions we made.

Words fall short, but sincere thanks to Celanese for this fantastic experience. We all should have a sense of responsibility toward the community.

Sugam Kulkarni

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of 9 blog posts by Celanese International Impact Program (CIIP) team members who served for two weeks in Dharamsala, India.