Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Hosahalli Projects (Ashley, ILR'16)

Phoebe and I are staying in Hosahalli to complete the project portion of this program. Hosahalli is a region rich in natural resources and about 80% of the population in this area is composed of rural and tribal communities. SVYM has two institutions in this forest belt to help improve the quality of living and education for children. Phoebe is working at the Vivekananda Tribal Centre for Learning (VTCL) while I’m stationed at the Vivekananda Teacher Training and Resource Centre (VTTRC). We are working on transferring student admissions and postgraduate information from notebooks to computer databases. We also facilitate a “Spoken English” class in the afternoons for the VTCL staff. 

The English classes are fun! We’ve come to know and understand the VTCL staff more and more as they try to communicate with us in our language. Many of them already know English pretty well while others are really benefitting from our help. Aside from the effort they put into learning English, we’ve also noticed that they are very humorous. They are always making jokes inside and out of the class, which we appreciate greatly. 

Both the VTCL and VTTRC staffs have been tremendously kind to us and have already called us part of their Hosahalli family. A couple of teachers (Jyothi who teaches Science and Chikkabomma who teaches English) have invited us over to their villages nearby, and one of our favorite teachers at VTTRC, Madame Triveni, was kind enough to guide us on our journey to and from Mysore last weekend. 

Most recently, Phoebe and I have been given the opportunity to teach the tribal students English. They are rowdy but so much fun to be around. When I’ve taught the students, I’ve found out they actually know less English than expected for their respective standard. This is unfortunate but I’ve realized that VTCL does not have the resources to improve their English education. The students and I rarely understand each other and they can be rowdy, but they are just so much fun to be around. 

We’ve been having a great time in Hosahalli and cannot wait to see what unfolds for us in the coming weeks!

Mysore Projects (Kenyatta, ILR'14)

V-LEAD Project (Mysore): Diagnosing the Adaptive Challenge 
My partner, Mallory, and I have been chosen by Dr. R. Balu to evaluate the environment and organizational culture of SVYM’s subsidiary activities at V-LEAD Mysore, with specific reference to Adaptive Leadership. V-LEAD (Vivekananda Institute for Leadership Development) offers training to youth, NGOs, the government and the corporate sectors, customizing various programs to suit specific needs on issues of Management, Community Development and Leadership. The project entails the construction and dissemination of an online survey assessment, and in-depth individual interviews of each of the organizations employees, including executive management (approximately 73). While this data collection and analysis will certainly be challenging to complete in our short time here, the information we are gathering seems to be invaluable to Dr. Balu’s goal of creating a more adaptive environment within V-LEAD.  Upon completion of the assessment of the organization’s DNA, we will attempt to analyze the data, alongside our mentor Dr. Balu. Then we will strategize to arrive at sustainable solutions with an action plan to improve upon the quality of the organization, introducing new processes, building upon what works, and discarding what does not work.  We have been working toward this for two weeks and have been enjoying building relationships with the employees here, as well as learning more and more about the organization. 

GRAAM: Literature Review on Disability in the Labor Market 
The past couple of days have been busy for Jeffrey at GRAAM. They have had multiple staff meetings and recently celebrated the birthdays that occurred in June. Jeffrey’s project is off to a good start, now that he has settled in more into the office and has a better grasp on things. The project that he is working on is writing a literature review for a study that GRAAM is conducting on the inclusion of people with disabilities in employment provided under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in the Kolar District of Karnataka. The NREGA is a federal program/law which states that all rural families should have 100 of unskilled work provided to them per year and the aim of the study is look at how people with disabilities fare under the program. Jeffrey is looking forward to continuing to make progress on the project in the coming weeks.

Palliative Care Project (Mysore)
Palliative Care Mysore, which operates under SVYM’s V-LEAD, provides in-home physical, psychosocial, economic, and spiritual care to terminally ill and bedridden patients. As part of that, they provide training and materials for the patients to make bangles, necklaces, umbrellas, and more, which are then sold so the patients gain some income. Andy’s project involves updating the products offered and finding a new means of selling them. On the side, he is also updating the awareness video and volunteer training manual for Palliative Care Mysore.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hyderabad Projects (Katie, ILR'15)

Teresa and I have now been in Hyderabad for two weeks, working with the Society for the Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) on disability issues. 

Teresa’s project involves analyzing the employment and skills assessment program for SERP. She will be creating a tool that will streamline the evaluation of persons with disabilities for potential careers. My project is to interview persons with disabilities in regards to lack of accessible public transportation. I will then compile findings from the interviews into an essay that SERP can use to advocate to the government to have more accessible public transportation. 

In addition to working hard at our projects, we have been able to see a lot of the city. Hyderabad is really vibrant, and we’ve had a lot of fun exploring. 

We went to the Charminar on Saturday, which is an icon of the city. We climbed all the way to the top, which offered wonderful views of the greater Hyderabad area.

We also went to Laad Bazaar, which is a really old bazaar in the heart of the city. Hyderabad is the city of bangles and pearls, so we had a lot of fun picking out pearl bangles!

We’re having a great time here in Hyderabad and are very excited about our projects. It’s hard to believe that we only have two weeks left! 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

SVYM Potluck Dinner (Onella, GH'14)

Cornell students (working in Kenchenhalli and Sargur), along with other visiting students from the United Sates and United Kingdom, had the privilege of attending one of the monthly potlucks held on for the physicians and staff at the Vivekananda Memorial Hospitals in Kenchenhalli and Sargur. The event took place on Friday evening in the home of Dr. MA Balasubramanyam, the CEO of the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement. It was an enjoyable evening filled with hearty laughs, entertaining games and good food. When prompted to suggest activities for the group, the American students managed to teach and lead engaging rounds of Rock-Paper-Scissors and Telephone. Those of us who were not sure how enjoyable these games would be were quickly silenced by the active participation of everyone present. 

The evening gave the students a chance to meet and interact with the staff at both hospitals in a relaxed environment. Whether it was a comparison of education systems across the world, a lesson on geography or a discussion on India's chances of winning the ICC Championships trophy this year, a conversation was it full swing at every corner of the lawn. Between the vibrant chatter, we were entertained with beautiful renditions by Dr. Dennis and Dr. Rashmi and were treated to a traditional Indian dance performance. By the time the food was about to be served, everyone was in a jovial mood. Not even the sudden down-pour of rain was able to place a damper the feeling of contentment that floated in the air. Those that were serving the food calmly moved to a room inside the house and the party continued. At the end of the night, everyone agreed that the event was a success.