A handful of Brandeis University students — both undergraduates and graduate students — are in India this summer as part of internships, research, and study abroad programs. Working closely with local partners, they are exploring the many angles of their chosen fields — in education, coexistence, development, health, and social activism. Here is a brief glimpse into their experiences.
Youth and community in Kashmir
Fayaz Ahmad Dar
MA Candidate, Coexistence and Conflict
Fayaz Ahmad Dar will be conducting a field research to analyze the perceptions of Kashmiri youth (approximately aged between 15-30 years) of their civic rights and duties, and identify the issues and needs they recognize as being critical to their engagement in community transformation especially while living under circumstances created by violence and uncertain security and political situation. This research will be conducted in the three districts i.e. Baramulla, Ganderbal and Srinagar of Indian-administered part of Kashmir. The research will commence in July 2010 and is expected to finish in December 2010. Fayaz Ahmad Dar is a candidate of Master’s in Coexistence and Conflict at Brandeis University. Before joining this program in 2009, Fayaz obtained an MBA in Human Resources Management and worked for over 12 years in diverse and cross-cultural settings for various organizations in non-profit social and education sectors in Delhi. Born and raised in Kashmir, his passion for social justice and peaceful coexistence is driven by his first hand experience of the conflict in Kashmir and his experiences in Delhi.
Theater for social change in Mumbai
Kayla Dinces ’12
Dinces, from Camden, Maine, is majoring in Theater Arts with minors in Peace, Conflict and Coexistence Studies and Religious Studies. She is one of five 2010 Sorensen Fellows at Brandeis. An avid performer, she has spent her formative years on the stage dancing and acting and continues to do so at Brandeis. Her passion for the arts has led her to explore its connections to social justice and peacebuilding. This summer she will continue this exploration with an internship with the Experimental Theatre Foundation in Mumbai, India. The Experimental Theatre Foundation works on bringing theater from the stage to the streets with their unique method of “Theater of Relevance.” Kayla will receive training in this method and implement it in the creation of a theater piece with a group of school children from poor communities in Mumbai. Her internship builds off of a similar project initiated by the Brandeis student group Revive Mumbai in summer 2009.
Here is an update from Kayla as of June 28:
Kayla is experiencing the struggle of trying to connect with children beyond the basic smile as she continues her work at the Parivartan School, in the slums of Wadala through the Experimental Theatre Foundation. With a firm grip on the local trains and an endless fascination for the constant heat and or rain, after six weeks in Mumbai Kayla finds herself asking more questions and finding fewer answers, as she continues to explore the role of non profits, theater and the arts in creating change for the numbers of marginalized peoples that dwell in this teeming metropolis.
A global education in Bangalore
Kelsey Grab ’12
Sociology/Women and Gender Studies
Grab, from Middleboro, Massachusetts, is also one of five 2010 Sorensen Fellows at Brandeis. She is majoring in Sociology and Women and Gender Studies and minoring in Peace and Coexistence Studies, and she is interested in education policy and leadership development. Grab has been an active staff member of the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership program in Massachusetts since 2007, where she helps to educate and facilitate experiential learning programs for sophomores in high school. She is an orientation leader, midyear mentor and eco-rep on campus, as well as an avid painter. Grab will be teaching English in the Bapagrama School in Bangalore, India. The Bapagrama was founded in 1949 under Gandhi’s advice by Saraswathi Natarajan, a respected activist in the struggles of the poor and exploited peoples. The school educates students of the Dalit population ages 13-19. She will be exploring India’s educational system and challenging her own ideas of what it takes to educate a student.
“Unite for Sight” in Patna
Samuel Icaza ’12
Health: Science, Society, and Policy (HSSP)
Samuel “Sammy” Icaza ’12, a major in Health: Science, Society, and Policy (HSSP) and international student from Panama, will be joining the non-profit organization Unite for Sight this summer for an internship in Patna, India. Mr. Icaza will be supported at Brandeis by a selective Louis D. Brandeis Legacy Fund for Social Justice grant, which supports talented undergraduates performing an unpaid summer internship in an agency whose mission address issues of social justice.
Unite for Sight empowers communities worldwide to improve eye health and eliminate preventable blindness. The Patna site in India is one of the organization’s many locations around the world and one of three in India. Icaza and other Unite for Sight Global Impact Fellows will work with the A.B. Eye Institute in Patna on providing free care to local residents, assisting with care, and reaching out to communities through educational opportunities. In addition to the on-site experience, Icaza is completing a Global Impact Training for Unite for Sight through online courses and workshops, including cultural competency preparation. He is also hoping to conduct a research project during his stay in India with the support of biology professor Melissa Kosinski-Collins. Icaza is seeking IRB approval to conduct a study on eye drop installation patients – of which only one comparable study exists in the world. As part of his efforts, Icaza is also raising money for the A.B. Eye Institute’s clinics. His goal is to raise $5,000, and he has already raised almost half that amount through outreach to friends and family. To reach his donation web site, visit http://tinyurl.com/yjwflnq.
Here is an update from Sammy as of June 28:
I have been working at the A.B Eye Institute in Patna, Bihar, with the Sinha Family, the founders of the clinic. Bihar is one of India’s poorest states. Patna, Bihar’s capital, is congested with people, rickshaws, motorcycles, and pollution, which is an incredible juxtaposition with its rich past. Patna is the old town of Pataliputra. It used to be the capital of ancient empires like the Gupta dynasty. The Lord Buddha is said to also have visited shortly before his death. In modern day Patna, few international NGOs work here, which should not be the case. The A.B Eye Institute is a partner clinic of Unite For Sight. I personally see approximately 90 poor patients everyday (sometimes many more or less). I record their vision, take their patient history in Hindi (which I am still learning), recognize common eye diseases, and provide a provisional diagnosis for eyeglasses if needed. I usually work from 9/10am-10/11pm. First I go to the A.B Eye Institute. Every afternoon around 4-5pm we visit a different charity clinic in Patna. On Thursdays, we go to one outside the city in Danapur. Electricity comes and goes frequently but it does not stop us from working. If it’s dark, we use flashlights to screen patients and continue providing them eye care. Poor patients that need cataract surgery, or further care, are referred to the A.B Eye Institute. I observe cataract surgeries performed by Dr. Satyajit Sinha in the operating room. I also observe Dr. Pooja’s work. She is a retinal specialist and works with many diabetic patients. This internship has been an incredible learning experience, and I cannot believe how fast it is flying by.
Water Aid in Lucknow
MA Candidate, Sustainable International Development, Heller School for Social Policy and Management
I will be in the North Indian city of Lucknow for my practicum. My host organization is WaterAid, an International NGO which works in 26 of the world’s poorest countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific region. In India it works in 10 states. During the practicum, I will investigate the role of governance in improving service delivery and removing barriers to realization of the right to water and sanitation in the case of the slum-dwelling urban poor. India is a very complex society. On the one hand, it is emerging a new giant on the global scene with rapid and sustained economic growth and with modern institutions, markets and technologies. On the other hand, it remains a tradition bound society. Caste, Gender and other identity based exclusions and marginalization are still entrenched. They govern everyday life and shape the actual functioning of the formal institutions and structures as well. This forms the backdrop of my work with WaterAid through which I will strive to contribute to the planning process for realizing the Right to Water for Urban Poor. It will entail identifying the barriers to realizing this right, investigating which strategies have worked and which have not in the water and sanitation scene in the Lucknow slums, and making recommendations for moving forward. WaterAid is in the beginning phases of formulating their next 5- year Strategic plan (2010-15). During this period they are looking to move from need-based approach to Rights Based Approach to Water. I will work with the WaterAid team, with its partner organizations in Lucknow, with community leaders in the slums, with elected representatives to the local bodies of democratic governance, with the administrative machinery of the State of Uttar Pradesh and with the slum-dwelling communities themselves.
Health awareness in Mumbai
Sriya Srikrishnan ’12
Biology/Health: Science, Society, and Policy (HSSP)
This summer Sriya Srikrishnan will be volunteering with a secular, non-profit organization, SNEHA, that addresses the special needs of slum women and children in Mumbai by working to improve their health. She will be assisting the Project officer in conducting the monsoon health camps, health awareness camps, and sessions and counseling addressing geriatric health issues with a project called SNEHA Shakti in the Shastri Nagar slums in Santacruz, Mumbai. This internship will fulfill the requirements of her HSSP internship at Brandeis.