Growing up as a privileged American teenager with access to computers, books, and other luxuries, I sometimes find it difficult to keep my feet on the ground and keep in touch with my roots. On many occasions, I have taken for granted the resources I am lucky to have access to in order to make my life easier. Oftentimes, people do not realize the value of these resources and the impact they can make in less fortunate communities. This is what Naina Mishra, Megha Sreekanth, and I realized in June 2016, when we flew to Bangalore for our internship with Mantra4change.
As a 15-year-old who had never witnessed such communities, it was truly an eye-opening experience for me.
We encountered parts of an underprivileged neighborhood first-hand and witnessed the dire conditions due to poverty in the community. Through conversations with the computer teacher and headmistress of one of the schools in the community, we learned that girl students are often married off at a young age, instead of attending school. They are then forced to take on the role of motherhood when they should be focusing on their education. Many students also live in utter poverty, and often times attend school only for the free lunch they are given. This was truly heartbreaking.
The reason I mention this past summer is to stress the impact it had on my personality, thought process, and subsequently our contribution this year (June 2017). This brought about a realization: these communities need resources and lack an effective education system. This experience made me understand the value of the resources I have access to and made me want to give every student access to these same resources, which is what I hope to work on in the future. It made us want our contribution to be as impactful as it can through the use of the large student bodies we have access to in school, a community in the US and India that is happy to help, and resources we have access to. We understood the value of the facilities and resources we have access to, which led to our main goal for this internship: to empower students in these communities with educational resources and foster independent learning aided by these resources. Hence, we decided to design and implement various projects in the schools and the community in order to solve some of these issues.
I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this experience. I am grateful for meeting and forming personal connections with the students, teacher, and school administration. This summer was truly a learning experience. The Mantra4change team has taught me various essential skills, such as communication, interpersonal skills, and professionalism. The humility, selflessness, dedication, and sincerity of the Mantra4change team was truly inspiring and taught me the value of these qualities and the importance of giving back to society.
My personal highlight this trip was during a conversation with the school Headmistress, where she was telling us about the backgrounds the students come from, and the hardships they must endure. She said, with tears in her eyes, “Look at them. Look at my students’ faces. You will see the tired dazed looks on their faces. They come to school to only eat food. They don’t even have breakfast in the morning. That is why I put in the library. These children have no money. I will do everything I can to make their education as close to a private school education as possible. I will do everything in my power to revolutionize their education.” Her drive and passion for this subject were truly inspiring. This asserted the need for us to assist her in her journey in revolutionizing education.
I am very thankful for the Mantra4change team for giving me the opportunity to meet many people, listen to various opinions on the education system in India, and experience the low-income communities of Bangalore. This has given me the passion for education transformation and inspired me to help them toward this goal in the future.
-Written by Ms. Aishwarya Suresh, Summer Intern, Mantra4Change