Let's Start From the Beginning

I arrived in India only one week ago, but if you peek in my journal, you’d find that the stories already fill twice as many pages! Last Sunday, after more than two straight days of traveling, I stepped out of the airport in Bangalore, hailed a cab, and clumsily pronounced the part of the city to which I was headed. Then, I held on for dear life as the driver recklessly sped off in what I could only hope was the right direction, and I could not stop smiling. I’d made it! Not only had I made it but it was already everything I’d hoped for and more. This ride was just as I’d been promised – crazy traffic, blaring horns, cows lazing, unperturbed on a highway median. Plus, there were pedestrians scooting fearlessly across lanes of high speed traffic and babies balanced in laps at the front of motorcycles! I was in equal parts shocked and thrilled.

I arrived at the hotel after a long series of wrong turns and narrow roads and many stops to ask for directions. So far in my experience, the cab divers here tend to just drive and hope that someone will be able to tell them the right way to go. Comforting, right? Anyway, I arrived safely and soon began to meet the other members of my fellowship cohort. As everyone began to arrive, it soon became apparent that this was a very special group of people. There are 14 of us from the US, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Australia, the UK, Botswana and Nigeria, and everyone is committed to social impact and social change. How cool is that? We spent this past week together at orientation, meeting and listening to speakers who are experts in the field of social change, Indian society and development. We went on a field visit to a local social enterprise called AMBA, which uses a unique training model to teach IT skills to people with mental disabilities, giving them the ability to become independent and earn a portion of their household income. This was something that previously was widely considered impossible in India, but AMBA is making it a reality for hundreds of individuals and families daily. Another day we broke into small groups and brainstormed ideas for a hackathon project for Ashoka India, which would engage youth in social change. We had one day to develop our ideas and then we presented to the whole group and representatives from Ashoka. It was great to see what everyone came up with, the creativity, where our thinking overlapped and what was totally unique. By Thursday, when we moved out of the hotel and into our permanent housing, I was more than ready to start getting settled in and have the weekend to relax and explore. Of course, this is India, so that’s not exactly how it would play out…