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Project Week Story #1: What Social Change Looks Like

17th Nov 2014 by admin - , (0) Comment

Project Week2

You start and you end your journey at a train station; another public place in India that is always accompanied by homeless and poor people. You are once again confronted with this failed side of society, and once again demotivated to address such a problem of poverty, as it seems too immense to solve.

But not this time, not after my project week.

In India, it quite often seems that education, especially proficiency in a language, is a representative of the person’s social class. Education is parallel to class. This mindset to which I was exposed led me to feel very surprised when I had a fluent conversation in English with an orphan child who was HIV positive. I met teenage “untouchable” Dalit girls [1] who are currently studying German and French, hoping to become translators for foreign companies and help sustain their families. I exchanged, or tried to exchange, words with deaf Dalit children in sign language, who are studying in a primary school made especially for them and adjusted to their needs, built by the Vicente Ferrer foundation.

“The Vicente Ferrer foundation founded the Rural Development Trust (RDT). The RDT is a non-profit organisation which helps find solutions to the extreme poverty of Anantapur’s rural communities, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, in southern India.” [2]
As we, two faculty members and fifteen students, visited RDT’s campus, we were introduced to the great variety of social problems that the trust is able to address. These issues are concerning disabled people, ecology, education, health care and women empowerment, and are dealt with holistic and practical strategies that help recognise and resolve social problems. For example, in the field of women empowerment, RDT identified the social inferiority of women in comparison to men, along with the neglect of their potential force of income, as problems of the communities in the area of Anantapur. Recognising these issues, RDT promotes gender equality through education, women associations, and awareness activities. It also initiated several programs in which women are trained in certain skills with which they will be able to finance themselves and support their families. Some of these programs are puppet making projects and handicraft shops. Additionally, the RDT founded institutions for women where they can receive further education in secondary schools and even professional schools.

In the beginning, we were uncertain of the effectiveness of the organisation, doubting how much influence an NGO can really have on such a massive community (4 million people), especially since it was founded by merely two people. The truth is that the impact this one NGO has over Anantapur is almost immeasurable. As we visited more institutions, we kept getting pleasantly surprised by the practical and simple methods they used to address the complex needs of these different communities.

I took two learnings from this project week : first, with enough determination and strong commitment, true change can really happen, and second, coming across several people who are extremely passionate about helping others, without prioritising financial benefit, I was inspired to follow a similar path. Moreover, following this inspiration, I started doubting the social system in which I grew up, back in my home country, where money is the measure of success. More than a measure, money is the object that motivates people to work and to acquire education, thinking that by doing so they will be able to gain enough financial comfort and reach satisfaction.

What about making ‘helping others,’ or ‘public utility’ a measure of success?

 

[1] The lowest cast in the cast system

[2] http://www.rdt-vicenteferrer.org/

 

– Yarden Boytner

(Class of ’15)

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