Culture Shock and Realizations | My Family Travels

Minutes after our family exited the Bombay airport, we were stuck in traffic equivalent to that of the famous 405 freeway in Los Angeles. A frail street girl tapped on our car window, leaving her tiny handprint.  She called out in Hindi: “Sister, sister, please give me money, I’m hungry.”  As I was about to roll down the window, my cousin swiftly took hold of my hand: “Don’t encourage them, Sasha.”  In that moment I realized that our worlds were so far apart, even though we were separated by a single car window.

            After spending a month in India seeing about the plight of so many children living in poverty, I decided to dedicate my time towards children in developing countries.  Over two summers I interned with an organization called Developments In Literacy that establishes schools in rural Pakistan.  At DIL, I was part of a team that created a math computer program for schools in Pakistan.  Math is not my favorite subject.  However, knowing the impact of my work, I was happy to be ‘the high school math expert’ on the DIL team; after all it was just for the summer.  The next summer, I had the opportunity to work with the CEO of DIL preparing a presentation that she delivered across the country educating various donors about DIL.  Through this project, I learned about the social persecution young women face in Pakistan forcing many to not complete their education.  But slowly DIL was making a difference. More women at DIL schools were reaching graduation.  DIL teachers served as role models for these young girls, who also found themselves wanting to become teachers.  It was powerful to see a young person for whom hopes and dreams had become a luxury express a wish for the future; something I have always taken for granted.

            In addition to DIL, I have also been involved with the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF).  I headed their Partnership Walk Youth Portfolio in Los Angeles, which encouraged students to take part in a walk to raise money to help alleviate poverty in developing countries.  This was my outlet for teaching other students about issues in developing countries and sharing the knowledge I gained with DIL.  I liked AKF’s approach of not doling out aid, but rather creating opportunities for sustainable development. Through AKF I met many people: Mayor Antonio Villaragosa, first lady Maria Shriver, and the president of AKF Iqbal Noorali.  I was surprised to hear about their commitments to global development and I was inspired to continue to pursue this part of my life.

I hope to purse a career in the nonprofit sector and in public management.  By aiding youth in developing countries to further their education, one can change the impoverished conditions of many people. And I think that it is up to this generation – my generation – to change the fate of countries in need.  That one trip to India changed my life and opened me up to a whole new perspective.  Developments In Literacy forms the acronym dil, which means heart, and I know where my dil belongs: helping the future generations of developing countries.

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