Eugénie LEBLEU: one year of humanitarian mission in India
In order to accomplish a humanitarian mission in India for a year, Eugénie LEBLEU, a 3rd year student of the Grande École Program at IÉSEG, decided to take a year off during her studies to support isolated people in India. She tells us about this experience which changed her vision of life.
What was the objective of your humanitarian mission in India?
I went to India with the association Points Cœur, an international NGO, created in France in 1990, present in 26 countries on 4 continents. This mission with a social vocation had for objective to bring a presence to people suffering from loneliness in places of the world where few people (if any) want to go, like slums and difficult districts. During the mission, I was immersed in a neighborhood to live among the locals, the same way they do. In my case, for example, I washed with cans and slept on the floor because there was no furniture. I also ate like them. As soon as I arrived, I could see the hospitality of the people there who seemed to be delighted to meet me; they saw me as a “friend” of the association, and not just as Eugenie, a French girl they did not know.
Our days were punctuated by prayer and meetings. In the morning the doors of our house were always open to welcome the children and mothers of the neighborhood. We played and discussed with them. In the afternoon we went to visit the inhabitants. And very often, our daily life was shaken up by beautiful surprises. Indeed, we were regularly invited by our friends to various traditional events like weddings, births, Hindu celebrations…
I had this desire to do humanitarian work since the second grade, and I started by doing marauding in Lyon on Sunday nights for five years. These moments of sharing with people in need taught me a lot and reinforced my idea that I wanted to go further by accomplishing a long-term humanitarian mission. During this year spent in India, I was able to refocus on the essential, what is important in life. Since my return to France, I try to keep this vision of life in my daily life and to enjoy the present moment even more.
How was is to come back to your previous life after this experience?
At first, there is the pre-departure period for the humanitarian mission, which is not necessarily easy because you leave everything behind for a whole year. But at the same time, we know that we will find our friends, our family and our comfort when we return. On the other hand, when I left India to return to France, I had to go through a stage of acceptance of the fact that I would probably never see again these people with whom I spent so many moments, and who became like a second family for me. The return to France, and especially the arrival at the Business School, were particularly difficult because I am no longer in the same state of mind and the same way of life. Even if I want to keep certain characteristics of my lifestyle in India, such as living in the moment, being welcoming, being attentive to the needs of others, it is difficult to live “this essential” in the same way in my French daily life, where we are often in a hurry with busy schedules.
Do you think that this humanitarian experience brings you something for your personal life and your studies at IÉSEG?
From an academic point of view, yes completely. When I went to India, my level of English was quite low, but after practicing it daily for a year with other volunteers there, I am now completely comfortable with the language. This allows me to follow all the courses taught in English at IÉSEG without any problems. As the school is very international, I often come across Indian students, and I enjoy going to see them, talking to them, and building relationships with them. I think that my experience contributes to the bond that IÉSEG seeks to build between local and international students.
On a personal level, this experience has clearly changed my outlook on life and my hope in difficult situations. By listening to the particularly hard life stories of these people, I was able to see the resilience they had and the strength of their hope in the face of difficulties.
I also feel that I have strengthened my adaptability and my ability to be open to different opportunities. This experience was challenging on many levels and allowed me to push back the fear to embark on new projects whatever they may be.