“It is not enough for education to produce individuals who can read, write, and count. Education must be transformative and bring shared values to life. It must cultivate an active care for the world and for those with whom we share it.”
Ban Ki Moon, Former UN Security General
On July 16, Tierra Baird will leave the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota for India. Fatoumata Kabba will do the same from the Bronx, NY. So will Isaiah Singleton from Oakland, California. At the other end of the world Priyanka Shrestha will leave her native Nepal. So will Rethabile Lesofe from Soweto, South Africa. In India Vandana Devi from Himachal and Boli Kadirappa from Andhra Pradesh will start their own journeys. The Leadership Collective 2018 will have begun.
This year 20 US teenage students will join 5 from South Africa, 8 from India and 1 from Nepal on a three-week fully funded trip to India around the theme of Adaptive Resilience in a Changing World.
The US students who all come from low-resourced backgrounds were selected from an application pool of nearly 100 who apart from providing personal details including household income also wrote narratives about their leadership and community interests, personal experiences of adaptability/resilience and how the trip would help them with issues important to them. The Indian, Nepali and South African students were all referred by organizations focused on BOP communities.
Currently using Google Classroom and WhatsApp the group is getting to know each other, applying for passports and doing pre-departure assignments around the theme for the trip. They have already learnt that April 27 was Freedom Day in South Africa. On this day in 1994 South Africa held its first post-Apartheid elections. The Indian students have shared pictures of themselves in traditional costume, explained “buffalo momos” to the uninitiated and posted pictures of how a tribal community in the northeast of India catches fish by thrashing the water with bamboo sticks.
They have written, drawn cartoons, composed poems, produced go-Pro videos comparing and contrasting Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Crazy Horse, Irom Sharmila etc. as examples of Political Resilience. They have done an assignment on resilience to Climate Change understanding the difference between adaptation and mitigation and the more severe impact that climate change has on marginalized communities. Their next assignment will be to study examples of the Tibetan diaspora, how cultural identities are preserved as examples of Social Resilience. As part of that assignment they had to write or post a picture or video of an example from their own communities. Their last assignment, working in groups, will similarly address examples of Economic Resilience.
By the time July comes and each of these trippers leaves their comfort zone to share space and bread with others who were strangers only a few months ago, they would have gone through an orientation unlike any they have experienced before they were selected for this trip.
Their trip in India from the city of Hyderabad to the rural Kuppam campus of the Agastya Foundation in Andhra Pradesh to the high tech city of Bangalore to the Tibetan communities of Dharmshala to Delhi and Agra will reinforce the theme of resilience. Through interactions with individuals and Organizations working in the social sector, homestays with Indian families and workshops involving hands-on projects the three week they spend in India will provide the students with a transformational experience which should positively impact the trajectory of their lives.
In 2015 after ten years as a Board Member of AIF and Chair of the Clinton Fellowship program I, along with a group of alumni of that Fellowship, created the 360Plus Network to provide “Learning through Travel” opportunities to high school students from low resourced backgrounds in the US. Each of us had experienced the benefits of travel and the broadening of the mind and our own opportunities that it provided. My own experience with certain grassroots communities also showed me that while opportunities provided to them may be the same as anybody else their ability to take advantage of them is limited by their lack of exposure to a broader life experience. Further, this lack of the soft personal infrastructure forces them to self-constrain their aspirations.
360Plus was created to level the playing field for at least some of these young people by giving them travel experiences which were otherwise outside their reach. We decided to focus on ages 15 to 18 because we feel that a slight nudge at that age would provide the greatest trajectory change in their lives.
We started in 2015 with 10 US students, increased it to 15 in 2016, and 20 in 2017, and added 5 Indian students into the mix. In total, students from 16 States in the US and 3 in India have participated in this experience. Our goal remains to progressively increase this experience to 100 students from at least 10 countries.
The entire experience is fully funded by donations from individuals and corporations. I invite the Indiaspora community to consider sponsoring a student ($5000), pay for his/her airfare ($1750) or passport/visa/($500) or travel insurance ($250) or accomodation/food ($1750), or support at any level. All I can promise is that you will give one young person a better chance to reach his or her potential.
For further information see www.360plus.org.
To donate please see below.
Bonfare Markets Charitable Foundation
Account Number: 524008422
Address: 461 S. Milpitas Blvd, Suite #1 , Milpitas, CA 95035
Heritage Bank of Commerce
Routing Number: 121142287
Address: 101 Ygnacio Valley Rd, Suite 100, Walnut Creek, CA 94596
Checks can be made out to Bonfare Markets Charitable Foundation at the Milpitas address.
Sridar is an Indiaspora Patron member and independent mentor investor in early stage start-ups and companies. In addition to creating 360Plus, Sridar is co-founder of The Sounding Board. He also serves as an Advisor of Murugappa Group. He is an independent ddvisor to a number of companies, particularly those operating in the United States and India corridor. He has made a number of private investments in a wide variety of sectors and spent 35 years involved in global business, 15 years of which were India-related. He is a founding charter member of TiE and remains active with TiE India and the President of its Global organization as well as the Silicon Valley and Mumbai chapters. He previously served as Chairperson of the American India Foundation’s Clinton Fellowship for Service in India program, and is involved with the Foundation for Democratic Reforms in India. Sridar has a B.Com. (Honors) from University of Calcutta and has attended the Executive Education course at Stanford. To check out Sridar’s blog, visit here.