Dear IHP Family and Community,
Upon arriving to India, we were met with the beginnings of an intense summer heat. We were sleep deprived but excited to settle into a new city and meet the people we would soon be calling family. Abid Ji, our country coordinator, greeted us at the airport with a warm welcome and a few jokes. On our way to the hotel, our eyes were drawn to the brightly colored green-and-yellow rickshaws and dozens of dogs roaming the streets of Delhi. After learning a bit of Hindi and listening to a safety and culture briefing in our orientation, we finally had the opportunity to meet our families. Each pair departed to their respective neighborhoods in Delhi and were met with wonderful home-cooked meals that filled us with excitement to try all the flavors India had to offer.
Towards the end of our first week in India, we visited Goonj, a nonprofit that takes donations of waste from urban households in India and repurposes it into goods that can be donated to families in rural areas. We had the honor of meeting with the founder, Anshu Gupta, who told us about his background and mission of “making clothing a subject.” Mr. Gupta said that while it is a challenge to refrain from promoting charity, giving must be done in a manner that is dignified.
Our second week started with Holi, the Indian celebration of Spring. It is a wild, fantastical holiday filled with color and life. Groups of us gathered in our neighborhoods to throw dry, brightly colored powder at each other and avoid the incoming water balloons from children on nearby roofs.
We returned to class on Tuesday, ready for a full week of programming. We had two of three classes in our Social Entrepreneurship class this week. Our local faculty, Manisha, founder of Start-up India! had a trove of knowledge from working with entrepreneurs and social impact projects. She gave us an informative and enriching background to the social enterprise landscape in India, which would help frame our preparation for completing case studies. The three groups (Social and Financial Inclusion, Health, and Education) visited organizations that related to their respective themes and compared them with other site visits we went on throughout our stays in Delhi and Jaipur.
We spent one day in a village close to Delhi called Mewat to visit two initiatives: Basix, a financial inclusion and ZMQ. It was enriching to get to spend time in a village seeing that, as we learned, 68% of India’s population is village based. We spoke with Basix employees and beneficiaries to hear about how being able to receive loans has affected them. After, we visited ZMQ, a health initiative created to help monitor patients with tuberculosis to ensure they are taking their medication.
The highlights of our third week were from our excursion in Jaipur. We were all excited to see a new city in India, though we were sad to leave our host families in Delhi. Our week was filled with inspiring and thought provoking site visits in more rural areas than we had seen in Delhi. One of our favorite visits was Barefoot College, a vocational training program that teaches those from marginalized social groups skills ranging from puppeteering to solar engineering. The most unique thing about Barefoot College was that the courses there were not taught in any specific language. Its beneficiaries come from all over the world. To communicate, they use props, books with skillful illustrations, and gestures. Barefoot College truly struck us as a utopia for empowerment and knowledge transfer. The people we met working there were engaged in their work and took pride in what they were doing.
Week four was our last week in Delhi, so we aimed to make the most of it while also working on our projects and assignments. One of the highlights of the week was visiting Sulabh International, a multifaceted non-profit organization that promotes hygiene, human rights, environmental sustainability and social reform through education. We got to explore their facilities (no pun intended) and witness the amazing variety of services that they offer – from waste-disposal technology to biofuel and biofertilizer to wastewater treatment systems. We also got to explore their Toilet Museum (which included some fascinating historical toilet-related memorabilia) and visit the public school that they set up for local students.
On Thursday, we had our last class in India – Design Thinking with Sophia, our traveling faculty – where we explored the idea of “Spaceship Earth” and discussed Malthusian vs. Cornucopian interpretations of population growth. Personally, this I felt this was one of the most thought-provoking classes we’ve had in India, and I’m glad we’ll have the opportunity to explore these ideas more in depth once we get to Brazil.
After completing our projects and bidding farewell to our Indian host families on Friday, we were ready for break! We spent our well-earned break time venturing outside of Delhi and exploring some more of the wonders that India has to offer. We returned from our breaks refreshed and ready to embark on our next adventure – Sao Paulo, here we come!