Calum Lindsay-Field: The first few days with Atma

Calum and Lauren on day one at the Atma office in Mumbai.

Calum and Lauren on day one at the Atma office in Mumbai.

We've been generously welcomed by the ATMA team during the first few days of the trip. The staff and volunteers are friendly and passionate about their work. ATMA is dedicated to providing quality education to all children and they achieve this by supporting the many education enterprises that exist in Mumbai. ATMA has thrown us right into the detail of their work and have tasked us researching, interviewing and observing best practice organisations in Mumbai that support people with an intellectual disability. Although there are many similar challenges between Indian education organisations and Australian orgs (paper work, complex regulations across governments etc.), the noticeable difference in Mumbai is the amount of young people they serve and the lack of financial support they receive from government. ATMA's positive framework of approaching work in India is both neccesary in this circumstance and inspiring from a personal perspective. Service delivery is so complex in India compared to Australia it would seem very easy to give up. ATMA and the organisational partners it works for tackle these challenges every day.

On a personal note, the cultural and language barriers have been difficult but quite funny in hindsight. For our first interview with a Mumbai org I launched into a series of questions with the org's director only for him to stop me and say, 'I can see you're very eager, but what is your name'. Building a relationship with the person you are working with before engaging in work conversation appears to be much more important in Mumbai than Melbourne!

My first experience of Mumbai was a trip upon a rickshaw. The Mumbai streets are like nothing I've ever seen before. The 3- wheeled rickshaws split 2 traffic lanes into 4 at top speed while weaving between stray dogs, people, trucks, and bikes. At first, there appears to be no order to the traffic or the vendors crammed into tiny spaces facing the streets but somehow Mumbai has made it work!