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Intern helps bring life-changing products to India's poorest communities

15 March, 2019

An opportunity to complete a unique internship with Pollinate Energy in India through the McCusker Centre for Citizenship at UWA came at just the right time for Grace Roberts who undertook the internship in her graduation year.

Grace has just returned from three weeks in Bengaluru (Bangalore) India as an intern with Pollinate Energy where she worked on a project that aims to give local women the opportunity to sell low value but high need products in their communities to gain an income.

Pollinate Energy is a social enterprise business based in India and Australia that was founded by six Australians who witnessed the detrimental health, financial and environmental impact of kerosene fumes for people living in India’s urban slums who relied on them as a source of light. Pollinate Energy works with these communities to provide healthier solutions, such as solar lanterns. 

After a number of consultations with women from several urban slum communities to find out what their challenges were in their communities, Grace and her team identified products that could help alleviate these challenges in some way. They included medical kits, rash creams and torches.  Products that are often taken for granted here in Australia.  

“I was surprised how the simple act of people purchasing products for a small amount gave them dignity and gave them a powerful voice as a consumer.”

“I’ve seen how Pollinate Energy must align with the interests of the community and how this model can contribute effectively to ending poverty and providing healthier environments on a larger scale,” says Grace.

Grace’s appreciation for her own upbringing was reinforced during her time in India.

“Some of the greatest moments of the experience involved connecting with the women.”

“I realised how similar we are in spite of barriers of language, culture, geography and differing life circumstances.”

“I am learning that it is only that I was dealt a ‘lucky hand’ that separates us, nothing more.”

“The experience has reinforced my strong belief in maintaining personal connections with people and communities who are affected by challenges like the ones these women face to not only better understand the complex factors affecting their lives but because they often already hold the best solutions,” says Grace.  

Grace will continue her path in international development and will soon leave for Cambodia to work on a project with the Federal government’s Australian Volunteers for International Development program.

She believes the internships that the McCusker Centre for Citizenship facilitates are invaluable for university students as they provide first-hand experience to learn about and contribute to solving complex social issues.

Listen to Grace talk about her internship experience.

Find out more about the Pollinate Energy internship program.