This summer I will spend six weeks working at an NGO called Human Wave, which is in a suburb of Kolkata, about 30km north of the city proper. Kolkata was the capitol of British India, and is now the capitol of the state of West Bengal. Human Wave does community development projects in the poorest areas around Kolkata. I will be teaching English in one of their tutorials while I am there, while studying school distribution in the area and how it might relate to socioeconomic status and other factors. My research goal is to find a correlation between federal and private school locations and demographics, in order to try to identify why the NGO is needed to fill the education gap in this neighborhood.
I was drawn to this particular NGO and project because I am interested in urban planning in developing countries. There are so many new problems faced by megacities and informal settlements, and I hope to have a hand in solving them. Education is an important topic to me because when students fall behind early in their education, they are denied the opportunity to better their futures and their communities. It is a great loss of intellectual resources, as well as all but guaranteeing that they remain in poverty. Human Wave is dedicated to abating this cycle of poverty by providing these children with opportunities to which they would otherwise not have access.
I am writing this in Chicago, where I will catch a flight to Frankfurt this afternoon, and from there to Mumbai and then Kolkata. I cannot believe how quickly this day has come! It feels like I was just accepted to the fellowship, and I’m already leaving the state, country, and continent. During the past couple weeks, I was so busy with finals and moving home that it really didn’t hit me until yesterday that I am actually leaving. The thing that I am most excited for is meeting the other volunteers at Human Wave and the students whom I will be teaching. I am also excited to see all of the cultural differences in India, some of which I have read about and some of which will inevitably come as a surprise.
One thing is certain- this is going to be an adventure like I have never experienced before!