Spotlight on Service: A Two-Week Tour of Hope in India
Hope was the overwhelming emotion that eight Millbrook students two faculty members felt after their first day in India. Over 16 days altogether they found smiles, optimism, spirit, and energy in places they never expected to.
A group of ten Millbrook students (Alix Creel '14, Mansell Ambrose '14, Lena Hardy '13, Caroline Ronveaux '14, Laura Van Pelt Mezzanotte '14, Gray Palmer '15, Mary Ma '15, Alden Woolford '14, Ben Marr '14, and Julia May '14), accompanied by Rev. Cam Hardy and Director of College Counseling Nancy Keller-Coffey, faculty recently returned from a service trip to India, where they worked primarily with a non-government organization called Deep Griha. Founded almost 40 years ago in the city of Pune a few hours east of Mumbai, Deep Griha is run by Dr. Neela Onawale and her husband Rev. Bhaskar Onawale. They started a one-room clinic to treat the residents of Pune’s marginalized community, but fnding that the needs of the community were far greater than this clinic could provide, they realized that many of the medical conditions affecting the slum community were caused by malnutrition and lack of education. So Dr. Neela and her husband began programs to support and empower community members—to educate them on how to maintain good health, to help them discern their own sustainable skills and vocation, and to support and empower each other.
The Millbrook group made a wonderful connection to the Deep Griha Society and were able to see many of the excellent projects that DGS is doing in Pune, at City of Child and at City of Knowledge. Much of their time was spent at at City of Child, a rural “boarding school” for 45 boys from difficult family circumstances. Living mostly in one large bunk room during their time there, they tutored the boys in the evenings and during the day planted bamboo, fruit trees and coconut trees and visited the local elementary school to teach a craft, sing songs, and play games. In addition to touring ancient temple caves near Aurangabad in Mumbai, the students and two faculty members took an educational tour of the Dharavi slum, which allowed them to see the thriving community within the slum and to understand some of the economics and politics of the area as well.
Already making plans for a return trip next summer, the group found this trip to be full of interesting challenges, work, and lots of different sights, sounds, smells and mostly, happiness in getting to know and be with the people of India.