When we began planning details of our time in India, the students in our delegation requested that time be set aside for community service. This is consistent with the OWU culture and the commitments of OWU students. We quickly found it also is consistent with the culture of Lady Shri Ram College and the LSR students.
LSR students participate in numerous programs of outreach and community service. Most notably, as reported by Brenda Gable, each afternoon between 30 and 50 children from a nearby slum spend an hour at LSR where they engage in activities and receive tutoring from LSR students. We were told that these children often come from very large families that, if they are lucky, have a single room in which to live. We were told that these students likely will all be out of school by the time they finish the tenth grade. At LSR, they receive an extra dose of care that could make all of the difference in their lives. For our work with these students, activities that do not require language were planned. On Monday we worked together to make origami’s, and on Thursday we watched the children create beautiful artwork on an outdoor patio through an Indian folk art known as rangoli (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rangoli ). The LSR students are making an enormous difference in the lives of these children, and for two days our students were able to join in.
As reported by Craig Ullom, we also visited Muskaan, a center for intellectually disabled youth and adults that is the brainchild of a former LSR faculty member and now serves more than 100 persons every day. We saw the various work centers where these individuals help grind and package spices, make candles as well as decorative container for the candles, make gift bags with lovely art, and bake pastries that are packaged for sale. Our students interacted with the people working at Muskaan and engaged in a friendly game of basketball with a group of them.
Through the daily commitments of the students at LSR working with children from nearby slum and through the life work of Shanti Auluck in creating Muskaan, we were reminded of the potential that exists in each person to change the world. Gandhi challenged his colleagues to “be the change you want to see in the world.” This amazing journey has taught us much about Gandhi, much about the complexities of the culture of India and our own culture, and much about the opportunity to make a difference.
Be the change you want to see in the world.