Australian Volunteers International

December 21, 2020

Reflection from Deakin University student Ria Pillai

Ria Pillai is a third year Deakin University student studying a Bachelor of International Studies, majoring in Politics.

Currently, she is taking part in a AVI virtual internship with Restless Development, India as a Project Coordinator – Social Inclusion. Ria was recently awarded the NCP Scholarship Award and will spend eight months in India in 2021/2022. Here, she reflects on her experience working with Restless Development.

“I am passionate about supporting young people to use their power and facilitate spaces for them to be heard. When I learned about this opportunity I applied to work with Restless Development after learning about how impactful their work with young communities around India has been. I felt it aligned with my values, and that the organisation approached development and advocacy authentically. 

I have always believed it is important to provide a space for young voices, to make efforts to never speak on behalf of any marginalised community. Prior to my experience however, I’d been challenged in how to do this effectively and realistically. 

After working with Restless Development, I learned the first and most important step to this process was to reframe advocacy and development in my own mind. Instead of thinking to myself, ‘This is such an important need for this group’, I asked myself ‘What can I do to learn what this group might need’. 

This simple reframing meant the onus of being informed, and more importantly, of listening was transferred onto myself and any other advocate or ally wanting to support the community. I learned to remove myself from the equation, take a step back and approach the work without my ego or political inclinations. 

As someone who has always been astutely opinionated and political, this was an exercise that really challenged me. However, it also pushed me to listen actively, to adapt swiftly and to centre the people I want to support in my work more holistically.”

Ria Pillai
Deakin University Student