Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hello from Bangalore!

Hello from Bangalore! I arrived early on Friday morning and met with Naresh Bala, director of the PremaVidya project, before heading to the office for the first day of my internship. While in India, Medalis and I will be working with an established NGO with offices in several cities in Karnataka, the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM). Led by Dr. R. Balasubramianiam, SVYM encompasses a wide variety of projects relating to health, education, advocacy, training, and community empowerment. At present, PremaVidya is SVYM’s largest undertaking. The education-based project contains three primary components: increasing the average percentage of students who pass their SSLCs (exit exams which tenth-grade students must pass in order to matriculate and be eligible for pre-university courses), providing additional support for the most academically promising students, and enabling economic uplift through structured tuition savings systems and vocational training programs.

The first day of my internship proved exciting. Naresh escorted me to the PremaVidya office, where I was introduced to the seventeen staff members currently working on the project. Thirty SVYM employees, who work at the central Bangalore office on the same block as the PremaVidya office, offer further support. Thirty-five teaching assistants from various regions all over Karnataka receive training on how to implement components of the project; on Friday, the TAs gathered at the central SVYM office to discuss the successes and obstacles they encountered in their schools. Most of them speak and understand English, enabling me to learn a bit about their backgrounds and experiences. The passion, conviction, and bravery with which the TAs approach their work is inspiring.

Medalis arrived early on Saturday morning. We received further orientation to the program, and were given supplemental project materials with which to familiarize ourselves. Over the past few days, Naresh and Pavithra (our program coordinator) have met with us several times to discuss PremaVidya’s current needs and the type of work in which we are interested. They arranged for us to spend a couple of mornings visiting the pilot schools, where we spoke with teachers, principles, and students about the Indian schooling system and the progress PremaVidya has engendered thus far.

Currently, we are preparing a report on the most effective English language acquisition strategies. PremaVidya operates 25-day summer spoken English courses designed to improve language skills and increase self-confidence. The program, which was launched in 2009, will be modified based on our findings and suggestions.

Bangalore is an incredibly vibrant, welcoming city. Several PremaVidya staff members have spent their evenings escorting us around the city, exposing us to the Bangalore’s wide cultural array. On Sunday, we visited several parks, palaces, and places of worship. Naresh has suggested we visit the SVYM office in Mysore, a neighboring city. We look forward to continuing our adventure in the weeks to come!

Finally, Medalis and I would like to thank Donna, Arun, Prof. Kuruvilla, Naresh, Pavithra, and everyone at ILR who facilitated this wonderful opportunity – we are extremely grateful, and are certain this will be a memorable and transformative experience.




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