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Village Volunteers

7 Mar

Village Volunteers are representatives from every corner of the Wardha district that function as intermediaries between citizens and the Kamalnayan Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation (KJBF). Our group held workshops with them to learn more about their work and recognize their critical role within KJBF.

People become Village Volunteers for a variety of reasons. Some hesitantly join at the urging of friends and family, while others jump at the chance to have a leadership role within KJBF. Whether shy or outgoing, they are selected because of their dedication and ability to work hard. Women, men. landowners and tribal members come together to guide water, farming, and microfinance initiatives within their villages.

Village Volunteers discuss the challenges they face and brainstorm solutions at workshop organized by CMU students.

Village Volunteers discuss the challenges they face and brainstorm solutions at a workshop organized by CMU students.

The program strengthens the Volunteers’ confidence, initiative, and public speaking abilities. Through mandatory leadership training, women like Sushna found “the courage to not only leave [their] village, but also speak in front of large groups of people. Prior to her involvement with the Baja Foundation, Susha claims she was unable to leave her home, let alone her village.”

Village Volunteers not only help run KJBF initiatives, but they are transforming citizen involvement within Wardha. Rebuilding the trust of villagers is key in a region that has suffered from government mismanagement and little outside assistance. Not surprisingly, villagers are initially skeptical of proposed KJBF projects: Farmers fear that KJBF might exploit their land, and microfinance group members have difficulty trusting one another with money. Volunteers allay these fears by “effectively communicating the goals and methods of KJBF and providing villages with an accessible support system.” This dedication and clarity helps to rebuild trust between KJBF and villagers so that projects will be embraced and cared for by the community.

The Village Volunteers are knowledgeable teachers to the Social Change Semester students. Not only does the program allocate critical on-the-ground support, it emphasizes to both Volunteers and villagers that they are valued members of KJBF.  As the Social Change Semester aspires to expand into year-round partnerships and involve more CMU students, it has to continue building support and trust amongst Wardha citizens. While this relationship has begun through our various workshops and field visits, the challenge is now to continue these interactions once we return to the United States.

 

All quotations are from the transcription notes of Alexandria Hernandez.

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Hello, Friends!

17 Jan

Dear Visitor,

Welcome to the blog of the CMU Social Change Semester!

The Social Change Semester brings Carnegie Mellon students to Qatar and
India. Our goal: to learn how to change the world by partnering with those who
are already making a difference.

The semester begins in Doha, Qatar, where we will collaborate with migrant
workers from South Asia. While teaching these workers English, we will learn
from them about Qatar, South Asia, and the inequalities of travel. We will learn
to recognize the privilege of studying abroad in a world in which many travel out
of necessity.

From Qatar, we will fly to rural central India, where we will live at Mahatma
Gandhi’s ashram in Sevagram, Maharashtra. We will work with a rural
development organization, the Kamalnayan Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation, to
carry forward Gandhi’s legacy. We will assist the Bajaj Foundation and its
village partners with water management, sustainable agriculture, education, and
community development projects.

From Sevagram, we will travel to one of India’s largest cities, Chennai. There,
we will partner with three educational organizations that focus on educating and
empowering underprivileged children: Avanti Fellows, the Olcott School, and
Visions.

The last week of the semester will take us to India’s capital, New Delhi, where
we will meet with leaders in government, business, civil society, and the arts.

Throughout the semester, students will take courses and conduct research,
while designing and implementing service projects in collaboration with our local
partners.

By directly engaging in the many challenges and opportunities facing Qatar and
India, we will gain the confidence, purpose, global awareness, and intercultural
skills that are best learned via service-based experiential education overseas.
We will learn with our partners how to mobilize social innovation in pursuit of
social justice. Together, we will leverage CMU’s resources to advance the work
of our community partners in Qatar and India.

The CMU Social Change Semester is a collaboration between Carnegie Mellon,
Amizade, and Visions. If you would like to know more about the Social Change
Semester, please contact Nico Slate at slate@cmu.edu