Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Thank you

As the Director of the Niswarth program, I am grateful for the tremendous support of people in various organizations who helped to make our three weeks in Mumbai a transforming experience.  

Alana Rush, faculty in the Community Service Office at Phillips Academy, has helped to conceptualize this program and understands how service-learning can empower young people to become involved in their communities and learn more about themselves.  

Many sincere thanks to the parents of all of the students involved.  Thank you for sharing your wonderful sons and daughters with our program.  Each of them has learned to combine goodness, knowledge and action in meaningful ways.  As you have read in their blog entries, each student leaves Mumbai with a deeper resolve to become positive changemakers in society. With your guidance, they will create their own paths with passion and courage.    

At Phillips Academy, this program was launched from the Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD) and Community Service offices, and this year we partnered with the Global Perspectives Group inviting four PA faculty (Dr. Christopher Shaw - econ and history/social science, Andy Housiaux - philosophy and religious studies, Peg Harrigan - art, and Stephanie Curci - English) to participate in portions of the student program.  

The Head of School's Office helped us to coordinate Barbara and David Chase's schedule so that we could host them in Mumbai for a few days towards the end of our program.  The Dean of Studies and the Global Initiatives offices have been instrumental in helping the Niswarth program consider links to the academic program.  The Communications office have written fantastic press releases and have done a great job to share the central elements of the program with the greater PA community.  The Office of Academic Resources reached out to PA parents and alums to help raise necessary funds for Niswarth and coordinate different presentations in the US and India.  Our Financial Aid office also provided necessary funding for any student on campus to access this incredible opportunity.  The Abbot Academy Association awarded a grant so that Tessa Pompa ('08) could purchase the necessary equipment to make a video documentary and she also received help from the Audio Visual Center.  Finally, the Business Office and Isham Health Center made sure that we covered all bases in terms of safety and health precautions. 

This is the fourth year that PA faculty and students have been involved in a service-learning program in Mumbai.  The first two years were funded by the International Academic Partnership and our gracious hosts have always been the Godrej family (Navroze '01 and parents Pheroza and Jamshyd).

This summer we partnered with different organizations and heard from individuals representing the following groups:
Udayachal School
Save the Children India
Akanksha
Mann Deshi Mahila Bank
Pratham
American School of Bombay
US Consulate - Mumbai
Government of Maharashtra
Mumbai Police
Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd.
Haath Mein Sahat, Mumbai
Ashoka Youth Venture Program - Mumbai
Tata Consultancy Services

It has been a privilege and an honor work with such smart, creative and determined people from all of these organizations.  Their varied perspectives encouraged us to think about development issues from the government, citizen sector, and corporate points of view.  

Through our service, readings, reflections and discussions our group engaged in difficult topics and had genuine encounters with different communities.  The program was unsettling and challenged many of our preconceived notions about India, ways in which communities function, access to resources, and the role of young people in becoming changemakers.  Out of these experiences emerged a sophisticated empathy, a sincere desire to become involved, and a deep commitment to leave a lasting change for good.

It was an incredible three weeks!  We now look ahead to sharing our work with others, thinking critically about social issues, and becoming changemakers.

We have been invited by the Phillips Academy Summer Session to speak as a part of the annual W.E.B. DuBois Colloquia series.  Our program, "Niswarth:  Empowering Global Citizenship through Youth Empowerment" will take place on July 31st at 6:15pm in Kemper Auditorium on Chapel Avenue on the Phillips Academy campus.  The program is free and open to the public, and we hope to see many of you there.

Best wishes,
Raj Mundra


2 comments:

Aftab said...

Mr. Mundra and Alana,
A very big thank you to you both. Zahra, and I am sure the students in the Niswarth program, have got a tremendous amount of return in various aspects of life and knowledge. The students will all be better individuals as a result and they will affect positively those around them.

Thank you both again for all the hard work you have put in.

Regards,
Aftab & Masooma Bhaiwala

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