Validation is hardly the first objective of philanthropy, but no person can deny the incredible satisfaction one gets from pursuing a project to its end. USC Project RISHI has given me not only real world experience that I would have never received in a standard college curriculum, but it also allowed me to connect with people around the world who expanded my worldview and truly changed the way I think about healthcare.
We wrapped up our hard work with both the literacy and tobacco initiatives, and we were tremendously pleased with our results. That is not to say our success came easily. From the fifty individuals that we had interviewed before for our anti-addiction pilot study, we finalized the selection of our sample. Sadly, many of the men (who were our primary target for our tobacco initiative) worked incessantly throughout the day and were only free late at night, severely limiting the amount of data we would be able to extrapolate from their experiences. This proved to be a rather large struggle for our research division, yet we ended up finding two more individuals who were quite excited to participate. We distributed our anti-tobacco products to a test sample of ten individuals by the end of the day, separating into different groups that used primarily Teaza (a tea-based alternative), Grinds (a coffee-based alternative), or nicotine gum. Such division, we projected, would afford us the opportunity to determine which alternative would prove most effective in solving tobacco addiction – and once such a solution was isolated, we could begin to ship in bulk. We provided these alternatives to Gita, a shopkeeper referred to us by the village elder, who would keep track of their progress and relay the data to us. As such, we gave these individuals the convenience to go to the same shop that they bought tobacco from, but instead would voluntarily be given the alternatives. We put up numerous educational posters throughout the village and continued our multimedia presentations, with the villagers displaying extremely positive reception.
Our literacy campaign unfortunately hit a few unforeseen snags, largely due to the fact that the villagers were primarily out working in the fields due to rain patterns (or were participating in seasonal religious activities). While this created some logistical issues to be sure, we were able to pull off our first literacy class for women without a hitch, and although we were dismayed that we could not continue our work personally, our village liaisons assured us that they would utilize our curriculum to the fullest and attempt to expand the educational mission into a fully-grown initiative all their own.
As of right now, we are exhausted but proud. As we get ready to head back to Mumbai, I remembered all of the amazing memories we had, especially the village children who conversed with us (and greatly entertained us) every single day. I had always known that I would enjoy this trip, but I never expected the people of this village to be so welcoming and kind. We haven’t even left yet, but I’m already ready to come back.