Here it is folks. The log and perceptions I had turned in to EEK! (with a wee bit of editing) of what had happened during the program for the days I actually managed to take them.
I encourage the feedback all parties involved to be taken into account before making any decisions.
Daily notes (some repetitive) follow general…
To the best of my understanding, the cost of my flight change was going to be covered by EEK! when the plan was to send me to China for the second group of kids instead of keeping me in India for both. Once that was changed back to keeping me in India, Gustav informed that the full cost of the change I had previously requested was once again my responsibility with no explanation. This was after he had previously mentioned that he didn’t believe time mattered as far as cost in getting the flight changed. Something that proved to be incorrect when I was told I would be responsible for around a grand because it was so last minute. Weeks before, when I had first requested the flight be changed due to the cost of my vaccines, I expected to cover a $100 – $200 fee. Instead I ended up having double that taken out of my pay, even with EEK! finally agreeing to cover half.
From the time of beginning to work with my director, Chris, and fellow mentor, Jessica, I felt put in a situation that was set up to fail. Instead of two colleagues who were passionate about these kids and EEK! I had two individuals who were constantly grandstanding, talking about teenagers with rolling eyes and seemed to be in it for travel and/or advancement in career. I also noticed from the way Chris would talk to Jessica (and his body language) that he may have had a crush on her (or more).
Jessica was quick to lecture me on a constant basis. Both of them, especially Chris made a habit out of cutting any of my (and sometimes her) ideas off. Something he said later was because he was in “triage mode”. Both of them cut my ideas and input off to what felt like a cumulative 90% of the time. Together they would screw around during the day watching Youtube videos, shows, etc. and then expect me to stay up late at night to continue covering material. At one point and after seeing many signs that concerned me, I expressed my worries to Chris about the potential of his running the program in a military manner.
Chris had made comments in a cocky manner multiple times about how he was putting certain activities in the program because they were what he wanted to do. Three days before the kids came, he stated (with arrogance once again) that he was going to keep us up until midnight after 12+ hours of covering material (and the two of them having their moments of screwing around) because he wanted to take the next day off. A statement he tried to back step later by saying that he had miscommunicated his reason.
From the start there had an imbalance between the three of us in many ways. Jessica started sleeping in Chris’s room on a normal basis until she got her own room. I don’t know what happened from there. He loaned her money (I also loaned her 1,000 rupees that I never got back) and gave her four undisturbed days off during which he would take meals to her on a constant basis. He also stated that he was going to stick around to make sure she wasn’t disturbed on one of the days. I had already had two days off canceled by that time for the same kind of readons that would have “disturbed her”. She also got the last evening off for “packing” even though that had already been one of her days off.
l was left alone with the kids on that night for what I perceived to be the evening that had been the hardest to keep them in line during the entire program. They weren’t misbehaving, just what seemed like fed up (mostly with Chris and Jessica) and distracted by being at the market earlier in the day followed by India Funday and a birthday party for their last night at home base.
Chris was off again with Raja. Something that that had been a constant and, according to an undisclosed third party (not part of EEK!) who had spent time with all of us together as well as separately, was a lot more about hanging out than EEK!. Chris told me within the next couple days that they (him and Raja) had been discussing next year’s program. It came of questionable.
I only ended up with one day off while the kids had been in Dharamshala and missed the Golden Temple and the Taj Mahal with the kids due to Chris reasoning that it made sense for me to be the one to stay back for the last couple of days because of their (his and Jessica’s) stronger experience as it was their second year.
The day they left was again supposed to be my second day off but it didn’t happen as one of the girls woke me up before 6 AM for a scorpion in her room. She didn’t know how to find anyone else. Consequentially, when Jessica had gotten her own room tucked away from the rest of us, she had expressed her excitement about the kids not being able to find her. I believe the kids knew how to find Chris but didn’t feel emotionally safe/thought it more likely to get a negative reaction and no help if they went to him.
There were times I questioned Chris’s judgment and tried to go to him with my concerns. Especially in regard to safety. The first issue was when he put Jessica in charge of picking up all the kids at the airport (minus the one he was going to pick up) with the justification that it was safer for her as a woman. The situation ended in Jessica on her own (she said both Chris and Ishan were MIA) and almost losing some of the kids which in turn made them almost miss their second flight. Later on, he refused to take responsibility and tried to justify his actions by saying that it was what he had decided (as in regardless of right or wrong) and that was that. Something I noticed throughout the program to be the normal for both of them was to not take responsibility for their actions.
The second situation was when I was feeling dizzy and disoriented after pushing myself/feeling required to go beyond my physical abilities when checking out all of the kid’s placements all over the mountain. I had later been disoriented and barely able to keep my eyes open during the Hindi language lesson that I was not a part of facilitating and tried to sneak off to my room for half an hour to lay down. Chris showed up to my room livid (I had not checked in before leaving due to his being in the middle of the crowd) and, shaking with anger, lashed out with comments such as how, if I needed to work 15 hours without any breaks, that was the job. I had already been noticing him constantly taking what appeared to be breaks throughout the program.
When trying to talk to him about it later, he stated (as he did multiple times through the program) that our (as in the mentors) well-being is not his concern. That worried me on multiple levels. I would think that, as the director, it would be one of his top responsibilities/concern. Also because I thought that, as ex-military, he could read basic signs when something was physically wrong. Lastly because we all have human bodies and, regardless of title, need to look out for each other. Especially in India.
The third situation had been when Jessica got back from the hospital. She had been severely sick and had not been allowed to sleep or eat for the majority of the three days before that. He asked her if she was OK to go right back to work that day (without even a night’s sleep) and put her back to work when she said yes. When I came to him with my concerns about that, his defensive and angry response (though I did see him make an effort to work on his anger as time went on) was that she knew her body and said she was alright, so he believed her.
When she left the letter of personal attack on my bed the next night, I had originally believed that a lot of it was based on being upset by her experience (along being out of it) but later thought differently when she hadn’t shown any remorse and her hostility toward me continued to build.
-Both Chris and Jessica talked down to the kids and didn’t think it appropriate and/or had no interest in hanging out with them outside of structured time. Specifically thinking of sitting with them for meals (which I did and they were threatened by).
– They left me alone with the kids so they could go hang out with the king during a movie they knew was likely to trigger some. I was the only adult there when three of the girls left in tears and two of the boys tried to sneak out. Jessica later tried to justify it.
I was at a loss with what had been going on with her. She had suddenly got more and more nasty with me/hostile and engaged in verbal attacks more and more no matter how nice I tried to be, how hard I tried to communicate or how much I tried to support her. She seemed to take everything I said in the opposite direction of my intentions. I could only speculate thoughts such as her potentially being threatened or competitive? I really just din’t know…
-When talking about “purpling” (boys and girls going into each other’s rooms) he stated as a response to kids joking around that he didn’t care if any of the girls were lesbians sleeping together because they couldn’t get each other pregnant.
– Blew off the kids needs, requests and emotions. Often with either comments about how they’d have to deal/tough shit or how teenagers are dramatic.
– Blowing me off without what I perceived as really knowing about EEK! policy in regard to my being given petty cash or reimbursed when I needed taxis to get back to base on the times I couldn’t physically handle the steep hills/stairs. Also when I took a student to lunch to counsel her when she was on the verge of going home.
– Backed up Jessica’s letter when insinuating that I must get the negative feedback he gave me in my personal life. As I continued to try to bring up my issues with the letter, he also continued to deflect any wrongdoing on her part and even went so far as to justify it.
– Continued to respond to me when I expressed my concerns of unprofessionalism/getting emotional in negative ways that we were not in a corporate environment and that lines are blurred in regard to how it is OK to treat each other.
– Ignored and/or blew me off when I asked questions and/or brought kid’s requests and feedback to him.
-I wasn’t sure but based on his actions, I was under the impression that he often told headquarters what he believed they wanted to hear as opposed to what was really going on in order to make himself look good. Two things quite often different from each other.
– Came down on me hard from day one with no consideration for my being new.
– Commandeered my photojournalism blogging project once complete which I never got to see again.
– When one of the girls confided about some of the sexual things boys were saying that was upsetting her, Chris pulled her aside without me (or even Jessica) to talk about it.
– Constantly gave the kids attitude when they tried to talk to him. One of the kids said he responded with “sass” instead of help.)
Chris did seem to have gotten a little better/be trying a little harder for a couple days when he had returned with the second group (I got the impression due to reprimand from other sources) though it still wasn’t to an acceptable level and didn’t continue.
Changed the program schedule without informing us. Jessica commented that it seemed like a girls vs boys situation.
8 AM: Jessica started lecturing me in a catty manner about how I was inappropriate to raise my voice at her in front of the kids (for taking my belongings without permission). As was the norm, she didn’t take responsibility for what she had done or the hostility on her part that I was reacting to. She also continued to lecture me after I said that Chris needed to be there to communicate about any kind of issues.
9 AM: Chris and I talked about multiple issues. Made progress on a some and not on others.
He said he’d talk to Jessica about her lecturing me. Explained where they were coming from. (I was making them feel bad in the way I’ve been talking about bonding with the kids.) Told me I’m doing a good job as emotional support to the kids.
NOT SO GOOD:
He said it’s not his responsibility to watch out for the well-being of mentors and insisted that Jessica knows her limits and was OK to say she could work within hours of getting out of the hospital. Got emotional about essentially telling me not to boss him around (how he took my feedback). Wanted me to take orders and not ask questions.
Ageism from both him and Jessica. They brought up my age in regard to work more than once, often within the same 24 hours, which suggested it to be one of the many things there were talking about behind my back. Referred to what they have deemed my insecurities. Chris stated that I had called them that in the past after I had asked him twice not to use it as it is a trigger word. It appeared to be a personal jab when he continued after I had asked him not to.
Talked to Jess and him after the convo (still with no accountability on her part) and we group-hugged. I did not believe in genuine and was not comfortable with it.
Jessica jokingly told one of the boys that if he wore his pants sagging he was looking to get gang-raped.
7:15 PM Jessica undermined me to the kids when stating sarcastically with rolling eyes that she thought some information I had been giving them was being made way too complicated.
Gustav called upset about the complaints he’d been getting about the program, none of which were my areas to focus on and I’d had a problem with as well (not enough photojournalism and Chris running things like a drill sergeant). Also tried to blow me off twice about whether or not he had the letter Jessica had written and my response documented. Specifically in regard to it being so unprofessional and creating a hostile work environment. Finally stated that he has not, it will be at the end of the program, and that Jess and I needed to work it out. Also that nothing was to happen in front of the kids. I took responsibility for my part in our snapping at each other the time she had taken something of mine without permission.
Also blew me off when I tried to bring up not trusting Chris’s judgment in ways such as safety (ex: my hiking outside of my limits in program, Jess being out in charge of all the kids but one when flying in, putting her to work right after getting out of hospital/before getting rest) and took it in the direction of telling me that I was never to question him and that Raja said I had since the beginning.
Something that bothered me as Raja had hardly ever been around and had never seen us interact in any way that could point to that. From what I could tell, he would only be giving that feedback based on what Chris was saying and without feedback from myself or anyone else. It was upsetting to have to wonder whether the situation with that lack of communication was due to faulty management, a “boy’s club” or sexism. Gustav said that we were all making ourselves look good bad to the whole company.
Phone cut out so much (because of our location or his using Whatsapp?) that he was getting frustrated and it was hard to carry a conversation.
Chris seemed to be making more of an effort to keep his calm, work as a team and to make sure I actually got a day off. I got the impression that it was due to Gustav scolding him (he had asked if I had a day off yet the night before when we had spoke) though maybe…Hopefully…he was just realizing that I was on compassion fatigue + over-stimulation + exhaustion mode as I hadn’t had so much as a day’s rest since the 10th of June given that the two days I was supposed to have off didn’t work out because of kids not feeling well and/or not being able to keep up with activities.
Chris told me during the mentor/director end of day meeting that I should have stopped one of the girls (backed up by one of the boys) from giving me more info. about the situation between the boy who got sent home and Jessica (noted) and that he didn’t want to know what info. she gave me. Went to Gustav. He wanted it and OKed me to shut down the kids from trying to come to me with it in the future.
Stated my concern to Chris once again with the letter of personal attack from Jessica not being addressed by either Chris nor Gustav. Chris told me that neither of them thought it warranted documentation and that he did address it. I did not recall him doing so with the specific letter, only our general interactions. I told him that at that point I was talking it to HR and was telling him first because I didn’t want him thinking that I was trying to sidestep him. He, once again shaking in anger, told me they wouldn’t care and insinuated that I’d just be causing trouble for myself. Told/asked if I was planning on leaving after the first session and pushed with comments such as stating that EEK! would pay for half of my flight. I had not said anything about leaving and had even sent sent him notes for the next session an hour before. Made me wonder if EEK! wanted me out.
Told me that he had told Jessica to handle me with kid gloves.
Made a couple derogatory comments (one toward me and one toward both of us) about how he thought we would know better about a certain course of action (such as when I tried to verbally back Jessica up to the group), so he hadn’t say anything, and then I went ahead and did it anyway.
Commented on how, with the challenges we had faced in regard to situations we had been put into on the part of EEK!, he believed anyone else would have failed. He believed our skillset together has kept us afloat.
Chris was chill about hanging back with me while I caught my breath on an incline and with lots of stairs.
Girls in the group were talking about Chris going into their room without one of us female mentors when I was going over the rules Gustav had reminded us of the day before in which two of us leaders were always supposed to be together when entering their rooms and one should always be of the same sex.
Jessica took off after dinner and didn’t show back up for the planned EEK! activity for the night. Started to get worried. Finally went back to her room and had to wake her up. Had a feeling she was drunk.
I addressed a situation with two of the boys not getting permission to stay back from placements (AKA: working with local kids) which I had found out about when other students told me that they had heard them talking about wanting to stay back to play video games. I had a five minute talk with the boys about it and then Chris sent a message stating he was going to. When I tried to communicate with him about actions to be taken, he cut me out of communication/only responded to Jessica, even with my direct questions, and then told me that he had already discussed it with her when she confirmed she hadn’t. Besides being instructed to give a verbal warning to the boys and to inform them that they would be calling their parents with his supervision that night, he cut me off from involvement. He also told us that he was trying to set it up in a way where he was setting them up to be kicked out.
Chris had the blog post material from my blog workshop for 10 days (I did not have airdrop or a laptop to collect) and sat on it until within 24 hours of Ashwsni, a professional photographer, coming to critique. Chris told us within the hour of Ashwini’s arrival that we may have to wing it due to missing content.
AOn another day he was quick to tell me to stay behind when jumping on taking a few girls who had asked me to see a local artist because, in his reasoning, he knew where the shop was. I got the feeling it was much more for his personal benefit. Feeling like he took advantage of his position for personal benefit had become the norm to a comedic level.
Chris seemed to be blowing off one of the kid’s trauma triggers and didn’t respond to me three times when I tried to talk to him.
On her part, Jessica had seemed to be trying to keep things cordial the last couple of days before that.
I’d noticed that, especially with Chris, his behavior in writing had not been matching up with his mentality and actions in person.
Chris got noticeably frustrated with me in front of a couple of kids at lunch for my not understanding his instruction about what to write on a board and continued even after I had pointed out that Jessica and I both couldn’t understand what he was requesting (she had mentioned that she would follow up with him later). He told me, still frustrated, that I should have tried and appeared to find me argumentative when I pointed out that I had. He continued to push the subject by looking up on his phone what he had written and tried argue about it. My response was that I was just telling him what Jessica and I had perceived.
Asked Chris and Ishan at least two times each for a contact there for when they were gone and was not given one. Of lesser importance, also asked Ishan for supplies multiple times and he did not get them.
Chris was not at India Funday and then chose to hang out with Raja to BS (according to him) about the following year on the last night in Dharamshala when the kids were all over the place. Had earlier told me that he was coming back to Clouds End where he could provide a hydration pack for one of the girls who needed it and then didn’t. In addition, two of the boys were locked out of their room because he had the key. Had someone else bring it back. He had also given Jessica the night off after 4 days off (including that one) to “pack”.
Jessica got attitude with me about not knowing who the Leader of the Day was (Chris had ripped the poster down that showed the assignment) when I was having breakfast with the kids to say goodbye on what was supposed to be a day off. Once again something that didn’t happen due to being woken up to take care of a scorpion when the girls didn’t know who else to go to.
Chris & Jessica did not include me in any of the prep for the next program.
Confirmed by a mutual party (I did not ask) that most of the time during the many times that Chris went to meet Raja for “meetings”, they we’re just hanging out/not doing anything regarding EEK!.
Emailed correspondence between the company’s Director of Program Operations and myself after my return to the US. Some of which will make more sense/you may want to come back to after the next couple posts.
Wed, Aug 8, 4:13 PM
To: The Director of Program Operations, bcc: Tim (my soon to be hero)
Hey again (a few hours after in person)!
Now that a wee bit of peace is settling back into the EEK! world, the business side of my brain wants to follow up on a previous request about a bonus.
While I appreciate all the kudos, $100 or $200 to compensate for what I took on for the India program, along with what I did for the kids in relation to the cost of the program, is insulting. I have a hard time believing such a low amount is in line with EEK!’s standards.
I suppose bonus was the wrong term for what I was requesting. I’m looking to get paid according to the roll I was put into, as it was far advanced of what I agreed to or was paid for as a first-year mentor. Also due to an entire additional salary (or two?) that would have been paid to more staff if we had the appropriate amount of support.
Even when reality got turned upside down over there, I never stopped believing in EEK! or that our goals were in line. I want to see all involved treated right so I can keep believing as such and can continue to hold onto my passion about being involved. I hope to continue working together in any way we see to be a good fit, whether overseas, virtual or here at home. I have never been a part of something so in line with what I am making an effort to contribute to in this world outside of volunteering. I don’t want that to stop.
For those who think of the program as a failure, just look at all the pictures and video I put up on the program’s Facebook page. Regardless of all the challenges, there was still a life-changing amount of success, love and inspiration in the ways that are at the core of what it’s all about. Had I known everything, I still wouldn’t have hesitated to say yes one hundred times over.
So much fun coming in to say hello to y’all. Tell Anna to remind me to bring in some ice cream next time. That is if it won’t melt on the way there. It’s as hot here as it was back in Delhi!
Until next time,
To the best of my understanding, the cost of my flight change was going to be covered by EEK! when the plan was to send me to China for the second group of kids. Once that was changed back to keeping me in India, I was informed that the full cost of the change was my responsibility with no explanation. Gustav had mentioned that he didn’t believe time mattered as far as getting the flight changed as early as possible and then came back to me when the cost was around a grand because it was so last minute. Weeks before when I had first requested the flight be changed due to the cost of my vaccines, I expected to cover a $100 – $200 fee but then ended up having double that taken out of my pay, even with EEK! covering half.
Only one day (not night) total off from both groups while in Dharamsala.
*Jessica was in the hospital
*To cover her four days and one night off
*Kids staying back from activities for not feeling well or not being able to keep up with
*One of the many forms of personal attack and taking advantage of position by Chris & Jessica
*Tim and I being the only two taking care of the second group of 22 students
*In addition to taking on most of the care for the first group of kids, constantly working on damage control with them regarding their feelings toward and the actions of Chris and Jessica
*The way I was treated by the only representatives set up to represent EEK! and made to think the organization was trying to push me out
*On a lesser note, taking on responsibilities of and handling damage control of the ill-equipped and/or bad behavior of local staff
From: Director of Program Operations (after I had forwarded to others due to lack of her response)
Aug 15, 2018, 3:34 PM
to Gustav, John (Gustav’s boss)
Please accept my apology for the delay in responding to you. We still have a lot of programs running and, as you can imagine, a tremendous workload still going strong. I was reminded today by our Admissions team when you sent a second email asking for further clarity and answers from me directly.
I am sorry to hear that you do not feel you received the answers you are seeking regarding your original request to Gustav and John. After your original email came in, I did take the time to read it and seek more clarity from John, Gustav, Tim, the local team in India, and others at HQ regarding the nature of your request.
As I noted in my earlier thank you email, and as you are aware, your experience did take on a different shape than many other EEK! staffing experiences. We are incredibly grateful for the amount of passion you gave to our students and for your continued dedication to the program. That is not to be overlooked in the slightest.
For the sake of transparency, I want to share some facts from our perspective:
The ways in which you stepped up were specific to your program situation. Similarly, there were (and still are) multiple HQ staff, Mentors, International Directors, Local Directors and Local partners stepping up all around the world to fill gaps that inevitably arise in this ever-changing, fast-paced environment of our global programs; literally no program was unscathed this summer.
As you know, the 24/7 nature of working and living alongside colleagues and teens makes for some seriously hard work, which you can clearly attest to. Resiliency and the ability to work under pressure are an essential expectation of the job. Our teams around the world are dedicated to this profession, rise above adversity and pour their hearts into their work year after year, with no expectation or request for bonus pay.
What we can offer you is the promise of an increase in wages should you return to work with us again next year as a Mentor. Full transparency, our costs are almost equal to our revenue and keep rising each year. Despite our very small margins, EEK! strives to offer one of the most attractive compensation packages in this industry and we reward select return staff by offering both a wage increase and expanded choices of program location.
We do recognize the effort that you expended this summer and I believe I speak from all of us in saying that we are grateful that you were in India to support our students when we needed it most. I believe that Gustav acknowledged that we will certainly cover food and snacks that you covered for the students during the program. If there are any such expenses, please email both John and Gustav, and cc myself so we can prioritize.
I appreciate your continued faith in what EEK! does for our students and our world. No doubt it is because of everyone involved that perspectives are being shifted on a daily basis. I regret that we’re unable to offer you further compensation for the work you put in this summer. Thank you for openly communicating with us.