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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