This blog post was written by BRIC Participants Chris Lally and Ursula Dedekind…
When we encounter or become aware of social issues and have the means to help, what is our responsibility?
Coming into our week as team leaders, our intention was “care for the cohort”, a goal that we set in order to ensure that we were looking out for one another throughout the week. However, as we discovered, it is as important to care for our global community. Awareness and responsibility are contentious subjects, ones that we spoke about a lot inside and outside the classroom. The concept of slum tourism and the role of NGOs were two topics that we discussed over the past week which can be argued for on both sides. Regarding slum tourism specifically, we have argued about both its educational purpose as well as its entertainment and objectification components. Similarly, we talked about NGO intervention with Professor Ghosh and if these organizations are doing more harm than help in developing communities; it is clear these issues are not merely black and white. Over the past week, many of us have seen poverty and slum communities on a large scale, integrated into everyday life here. In India, we have been learning how to navigate our own roles in society and how we can best help those communities in need.
Our visit to Swecha provided an immersive insight into the lives of native Indian people actively taking a stance to improve communities battling the hardships of their environment. Talking to the students who are learning life skills in Swecha’s “Me to Be” education program emphasized the impact a well-intentioned organization with limited resources can have when general access to reliable and beneficial knowledge is rare. After convincing their parents that continuing to work with Swecha beyond the ninth grade was more valuable than working, the children in the community center emerged into adulthood with the ingrained values of gender equality and hope for the future. These previously foreign concepts predominantly contrast ideologies they are surrounded by at home and in their greater communities. Swecha may be a small example of a relief effort in comparison to the poverty and devastation of countless communities in India and around the world, yet its represents how impactful any effort to help can be when hope and education is a rare commodity in life for so many.
The answer to what our contribution can be to these global issues is a debate without conclusion, yet if there is one thing that we have learned it is the importance of continued exploration of the considerations of the actions we should take as a society. As we continue our journey through India and beyond our perspective will continue to develop, and we should continue to invite the lessons of each experience to continuously shape our mindset.