Empowerment in India

Max Lit served as a Fall 2015 JDC Entwine-Gabriel Project Mumbai Fellow

I made a decision about 2 years ago to get involved in community projects in the Durham, North Carolina area, my home back in America. This decision was the result of a series of conversations with friends and family. I came to realize that many of my life successes (good health, a college degree, employment, etc.) were not so much personal achievements as they were a culmination of a larger support system I had around me. I couldn't have gotten that degree without the support of professors pushing me to learn. I couldn't have done much of anything if I didn't have wonderful family and friends who removed all barriers to success and told me anything was possible. I decided that there is no better way to honor my support system than to make myself available to be a part of someone else's.

For those who are not familiar, Gabriel Project Mumbai provides education, nutrition, and health care to both adults and children in the slums of Kalwa as well as the areas surrounding the Shilonda Village. Volunteering as a JDC Entwine Multi-Week Fellow with GPM in Kalwa has truly been the intensely immersive, service-oriented experience I was seeking from the outset. Daily challenges include interfacing with extreme poverty and finding ways to be the most effective teacher you can be amongst varying levels of literacy. However, these challenges seem to almost immediately fall by the wayside as we arrive to a loud, boisterous greeting of “Good Morning Teachers!” from the smiling children and begin singing our daily hygiene-themed songs.  

So what's the main takeaway? Well, for me, the true beauty of volunteering in Kalwa rests not so much in our administration of informal education to low-opportunity youth as it does in what I would consider its more powerful by-product: empowerment. Reflecting on my life experiences up to this point, I am most appreciative of role models such as family, friends, teachers, and coaches not so much for the lessons I've learned from them (though those are also quite valuable), but for the underlying message within those lessons that communicated to me that anything is possible. By virtue of being present for the children in the classrooms of Kalwa, the work of GPM has the potential to increase the autonomy and self-determination of this community in such a way that it empowers the children to represent their interests in a responsible manner. 


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January 26, 2016 at 3:52 PM



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