When talking about India, one might think of its caste system, hygienic problems and crimes, with just a so-so impression. Ashlyn Lin Yuqi, a Year 4 psychology student of Lingnan who went to India to participate in a Service-Learning project, not only had no negative impression of India, but also got impressed by the determination of some local people who tried to change the society. She hopes that social inequality would finally disappear.
In the last summer, Ashlyn went to Mandurai, a southern city in India, to participate in a Service-Learning project organised by Lingnan’s Office of Service-Learning. The project lasted for a month and was divided into two parts: the first part was a two-week cultural study led by student volunteers and mentors of a local college, visiting non-profit making or voluntary organisations such as human rights bodies and those helping AIDS patients; the second part was to volunteer in non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Ashlyn was assigned to provide services in an orphanage and a special school.
During her service period, Ashlyn made friends with quite a number of the locals, giving her a better understanding of the Indian society. “The people I know in India were simple and true, not as negative as the news reports.” What impressed her most was that some local middle class were willing to strive for changes in the society despite their relatively prestigious identity. “When I visited human rights organisations, some Indian friends told me that local NGOs were often suppressed by the police and thus were on the verge of collapse. But some NGO staff had no fear and were willing to put down their own middle-class status to file complaints to the authorities, successfully preventing the collapse of some organisations.”
Apart from the above, Ashlyn had some thoughts on the social inequality in India. India has been practising the caste system for long which divides people into ranked categories. There are strict regulations on the social status, rights, occupation and duties for different categories, resulting in serious social inequality. Ashlyn has heard of stories of people who could not choose their loved ones under the caste system. In addition, there is gender inequality in India, some women even have no chance to study, and married women have to treat their husbands as the family focus, while their families have to obey their son-in-law. After hearing these stories, Ashlyn feels lucky, as she lives in an environment where she has the chance to study and that gender and other inequalities are much less prominent.
Ashlyn feels that the Service-Learning trip has widened her horizons. She appreciates those people who try hard to eliminate social inequality, and she hopes that social inequality would finally disappear.