Travelling to India has been nothing like I expected. I've never travelled out of the country before and definitely had some anxiety about it, but India has relieved some of these feelings. India is so full of life. All of the colors, between the clothing, homes, murals on walls, are a beautiful site to see. The people of India are so kind and hard-working. I feel welcomed by anyone I have come in contact with and I don't always get that when I'm at home.
We have seen many beautiful historic sites, such as the Taj Mahal, while learning about the culture's history. We have also been to a couple of colleges, Loyola and Stella Marris, where we learned about the school as well the students. We spoke to the students about what human rights and social justice issues they face in their culture and I was surprised to learn that a lot of their issues are similar to issues being faced at home. This includes transgender rights, women's rights, and many more.
We were able to participate in a march with the Loyola students to protest women's harassment. I felt very connected with the students. We have also visited many non-profit organizations and learned about the work that people do for their communities including helping the disabled, poor, elderly, and those in need of medical assistance.
One non-profit that stood out to me was Sevalaya where free education is provided to children in the many surrounding villages. Not only is the school for younger children, but there are also college program available as well. The children were full of joy for life and just seeing their smiles and curiosity and drive to learn warmed my heart. I was amazed at how much the students knew. We were counting with the lower kindergarten students and we stopped at twenty, but they kept going on their own.
Sevalaya is doing great things for the lives of these children, as they are becoming ambitious, driven, and respectful members of their communities. They are receiving an education instead of working to support their families. It was also wonderful to me that if any of these students wanted to further their education that the school would pay for it.
We read a book called "The God of Small Things" before leaving for India. The book was based in India and shared the consequences of the caste system and how it affected the lives of one family very negatively. In comparison to this book where the caste system and human rights weren't met, by unjust treatment and oppression, I am seeing India as changed. I can not see consequences of the caste system just by observing others. One student at Stella Marris said that it is less apparent now and it is mostly common in rural areas.
So far I am seeing activism grow for human rights. I am hearing stories from students that are making a change. One student from Loyola helped organize a protest that ended with 700,000 people. The instructor at Stella Marris, and other non-profit directors, have mentioned that the Caste system means nothing to them and they welcome all. With this attitude India will continue to change and the needs of people will flourish.
I am very grateful to experience all of these things. I am feeling so inspired and motivated to make a difference at home, especially in the field of social work.