Each year, USC Project RISHI primarily focuses on planning two trips to India, one in December and one in the summer. As an organization, we devote our time to ensure that our volunteers’ journey runs smoothly and our initiative is able to make a sustainable impact in India. From fighting tobacco addiction to creating dental camps for citizens in a village known as Naga Valadia, USC Project RISHI has strived to efficiently complete our objective overseas with our volunteer abroad group. While we’ve always aimed our efforts towards the village, we have also wanted to focus on our community here on campus for some time. This school year, we decided to do just that and work with the people near us.
We understood that while it is important to build relationships with the village that we work with in India, it is also important to connect with the USC community here—with different students, clubs, faculty, and organizations. Last semester, we decided that a networking night centered around non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like Project RISHI could help students understand the ways they could contribute to organizations, as well as help us understand how we could improve our own projects. So last November, we hosted our first inaugural social impact and change night, RISHI RISE—Recognize, Innovate, Sustain, and Evaluate. Each of these terms represents Project RISHI’s methodology for solving health problems in India and were translated as themes for the event to revolve around. During RISE, students had the chance to hear from keynote speakers from the social entrepreneurship and nonprofit sectors, discuss their career opportunities and experiences with NGOs, and learn how to effectively operate and solve social issues. The event served as a hub where aspiring individuals connected with experienced mentors to enhance their knowledge, skills, and approach for structuring such organizations.
In particular, one of the speakers, Cara Esposito, an instructor at our Price School of Public Policy, presented students with her career history and how she became involved with nonprofits. Not only did she give us insight into her own background, but she also connected with people’s professional goals and Project RISHI’s organizational work. Part of the intentions behind hosting RISE was to spark new conversations amongst the student body and within our own membership. From this event, Esposito came on to become our new faculty advisor and is part of leading Project RISHI towards a new direction. Recently, she attended our general monthly meeting, where all members of the organization meet to present their work. Esposito sat with us and shared suggestions on what roles students should tackle, how to change our structure, and how to increase our communal reach to USC with more events like RISE. She has become a valuable asset to Project RISHI and serves as a mentor to the entire organization.
Overall, RISE not only fostered a new line of communication between students and professionals, but it created a small community. We realized that sharing ideas lets us understand how to improve Project RISHI, while also allowing the organization to give back to the USC community. RISE was our chance to go beyond Project RISHI’s traditional objective of impacting India by stepping into the realm of social entrepreneurship. It was an opportunity to re-brand ourselves as an organization, one that now tailors its work to help both Indian villagers and USC students and faculty. We hope to continue hosting RISHI RISE annually and engaging closely with our community to enhance our work as both a local and global organization.