Over the last two months, Poonam Lalvani’s inbox has been flooded with internship applications.
Of the mails that have reached Lalvani, who is the managing trustee of the non-government organisation Life Trust, more than a dozen have come from students aspiring to pursue higher studies abroad this September.
These students hope to spice up their resumes with ‘community service’ experience to better their chances at securing admission. “The month of May has turned into the internship season and we have been receiving many queries and applications from students planning to study abroad,” rued Lalvani, adding that it was quite a hassle to sieve out the serious ones from the lot.
“Most foreign universities give weightage to community work done by students,” said Anand Pendharkar, founder, Sprouts Environment Trust, which has received numerous calls and mails seeking ‘blanket letters’. “There are some students who have attended the one-day beach clean-up camps and in return, have demanded a proper internship completion certificate,” said Anand Pendharkar, founder of the trust.
“For Christian students, their work in the church by itself matches the criteria laid down by American universities,” said Pendharkar, adding that “working for a social cause in a recognised organisation helped students’ resumes look good”.
NGO directors said that they were amazed by the customised demands that the students have been placing. “We have students telling us that they need a 30-hour work completion certificate,” said Priya Agrawal, director (operations) of Santacruz-based NGO, Sneha.
“Some students even mention their parents’ names in an attempt to help the organisation monetarily, in return of a volunteer work certificate,” she added.
In an effort to put an end to this menace, organisations have now smartened up and have decided to conduct a full-fledged procedure to recruit volunteers. “We are aware that students at the graduate level use our organisation as a stepping stone to secure better admissions abroad,” said Tanmay Arora, founder member, Make A Difference. “We thus, conduct recruitment drives in the months of February and June and recruit volunteers only after conducting a telephonic and personal interview.”
However, in spite of being careful about their recruitment procedures, certain NGOs continue to find it difficult to sight the students who have come with vested interests at the very beginning. “Recently, we had a group of college students who joined us as interns and seemed quite promising when they came,” said Lalvani, who along with her team structured a programme, allotting work to each one of them.
“However, within two days they disappeared, making the entire exercise futile.”