It has been over five years since I have been in India. I made the trip as an Asia Initiatives’ intern with the mission of learning about poverty alleviation and helping the community where I lived for one month. For that month, I lived in a small village named Kannivadi, which is located in South India. This village hosted M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) sponsored projects such as the Village Knowledge Centers and Self-Help Groups. I taught English to local workers of MSSRF and conducted a summer camp for children as well. While the time may be short, during this one month I learned many things that truly changed the way I think about poverty alleviation. I’ll present a picture story of my lessons and stay here…
Lesson 1: I taught English to this group of individuals. Within MSSRF they are referred to as animators, who help maintain and conduct activities of the Village Knowledge Centers. These activities include collecting weather information for farmers, literacy training, and community organizing. These individuals took strong pride in their work with MSSRF, and believed in the betterment of their community and themselves. Their sense of dedication struck me as the singular factor that can help with poverty alleviation in communities across the world.
Lesson 2: Teaching English to children was an exciting and challenging experience. Children have an incredible thirst for knowledge and can quickly learn and digest new information, therefore its tough to keep up! These children inherently wanted to learn. I am convinced that given the opportunity any of these children have the capacity to go beyond basic schooling and receive higher education that can result in a sustainable job and income.
Lesson 3: Focusing on smaller scale economic development can inspire unique and creative ideas. I visited many small micro enterprises ranging from a banana pulp paper production project to a bio fertilizer project. These micro enterprises run by women were part of the self-help-groups (SHGs). The women in the SHGs were committed to improving their lives and their family’s lives by running these projects for their communities and in turn SHGs were supported by their communities. This cyclical relationship and commitment is key in sustainable development.
These three lessons have stayed with me. Being in India for short amount of time crystallized the importance and opportunity of poverty alleviation. When individuals are given the right support and education, they will work hard to give themselves, their families, and their communities a life for the better. To see more photos from my trip please click the link.
– Harish Pathak, Junior Board Member