Day 5: A Valuable Learning Experience

Project RISHI is nothing if not an adaptable organization. We spend countless hours each week working to bring our initiatives to fruition, yet there is absolutely no doubt that theory rarely translates perfectly into reality – we are constantly changing and reforming our fluid projects in tandem with new information we receive, all so we may better aid the people we serve.

Following a quick breakfast and debriefing, we immediately set to work with the aim of continuing our anti-tobacco initiative and beginning our literacy drive in earnest. Yet at such a crucial stage in our mission, we found more than a few kinks in our well-devised projects. In an interview with yet another of our valued liaisons, Dr. Swim Parmar from the local Tolani Eye Hospital, we were advised to focus not upon the increasingly aging majority of the village, but upon the “second generation” - people aged twenty-five to fifty, primarily because they were not yet chronic users of chewing tobacco/snuff and were more likely to understand the implications of their habits upon their children (as well as to take remedial action). Dr. Parmar had been our first health-care initiative partner for our keystone project (the optical health camps) a year ago, subsidizing our camps for the local rural population and providing us with both expertise as well as materiel, and we trusted his judgment. As such, we were forced to duly revise our initiative, with our new mission for our pilot study to focus on this particular demographic to ensure the cessation of tobacco usage in not only this current generation but also for all of posterity.

Our research division began to conduct surveys in the hopes of setting a foundation for our planned future initiative of constructing a permanent health clinic in the tri-village area, and we found yet another great surprise. We were greatly startled to find many of the villagers well informed about prevalent health issues in the area, but simply unable to access the necessary healthcare once they became sick or injured.

Yet another portion of our morning was spent at the Mata Lachmi Rotary Institute for Deaf and Dumb Children, a school focusing on innovative technology-infused education for children unable to hear or speak. While only tangentially related to our current initiatives, it is of paramount importance that USC Project RISHI support our philanthropic partners in Gujarat, furthering not only their causes but also gaining valuable information from their experiences in order to better guide our own initiatives. We not only went to celebrate the Institute’s Foundation Day, but also got to interact with local children who had learned various skills (including fireless cooking) under the Institute’s care.

In keeping with our aim of beautifying the village, we painted two murals to bond with the children: one of a heart with kids’ fingerprints, and one of the Hindu god of luck and intelligence Ganesh (not only a gesture of goodwill in the village, but also a guard against people spitting tobacco juice in public).

Our day was not without its unexpected pitfalls and twists of luck, yet it was truly a valuable learning experience. After all, flexibility is one of the most valuable tools in Project RISHI’s arsenal, for without it, we would not be able to create the sustainable philanthropic change that we so pride ourselves upon.