Thursday, February 11, 2016

Meet the 2016 SVYM India GSL Team!

We are pleased to introduce the 2016 India GSL Team.  There are 18 members, our largest group since starting the program in 2011.

Sarah M. GH, Human Ecology '18
Hi! My name is Sarah M. and I’m a sophomore in the College of Human Ecology majoring in Global and Public Health Sciences.  I’m looking forward to participating in the India GSL program and getting the opportunity to work with SVYM and the other students in the program.

This past May, I spent a week in Honduras participating in a medical brigade.  It sparked my desire to get involved in more global learning experiences and solidified my interest in health care inequalities across the world.  Through this program, I’m hoping to learn more about the Indian health care system, the problems it faces, and how those problems are currently being dealt with.  I believe the program will provide an incredible opportunity to put what I’m learning about in class into context.

On campus, I am involved in Professor Loeckenhoff’s Healthy Aging Lab, the Alzheimer’s Help and Awareness Club, and I serve as the Vice President of Philanthropy for Alpha Chi Omega.


Lena R.  GH, Arts & Sciences '17
My name is Lena R. I grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and am now a third year undergraduate at Cornell University. I currently study the impacts of science and technology on society through the lens of public health. I enjoy learning about healthcare around the world, and appreciate this opportunity to learn about how the healthcare systems in India cater to the residents of different communities. In Ithaca, I’ve enjoyed my time as a volunteer at a local acupuncture clinic and hope to deepen my knowledge of alternative forms of medicine. A major goal of mine is to explore how NGO intervention can strengthen the medical assets of indigenous communities, and to one day find my place in the promotion of physical and mental wellbeing. 


Whitney C.  ILR '18
Hi! My name is Whitney C. and I am a sophomore in the ILR School with a minor in business. I am so excited to go to India this summer and work with SVYM. I love to travel and meet new people so I am very grateful for this opportunity. Outside of the classroom, I am involved in ILR’s Student Government Association, serving on the public relations committee, MedLife, Cornell College Democrats, and the Kappa Delta sorority. I hope to pursue a career in consulting with a focus on health policy. I live outside of Boston. I cannot wait to immerse myself in India's rich culture, to experience its customs and cooking, and to meet everyone at SVYM! 



Kristen G. ILR '17
My name is Kristen G. and I am a junior at Cornell University from Atlanta, Georgia. I study in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, holding concentrations in inequality studies, gender studies, and law and society. I am interested in law and public policy, focusing on women's access to education, contraception, and equal opportunities for economic advancement. On Cornell's campus, I serve as the Secretary for The Black Women's Support Network, working with women in the community to foster healthy relationships and lifelong bonds. I also work to combat sexual violence in the Ithaca area, serving as Co-President of the Cornell Every1 Campaign and as a Cornell Social Consultant to integrate safe and respectful social practices into more campus spaces. I am so excited to be going to Mysore, India this summer, and I look forward to all new opportunities and experiences! 


Alex C. ILR '17
I am a junior majoring in Industrial and Labor Relations with minors in law and society and economics. I am a Rawlings Presidential Research Scholar and a former fellow at the Worker Institute. On campus, I currently work with the Labor and Employment Law Program at the ILR extension office in New York City where I analyze Title VII and Americans with Disabilities Act cases and consent decrees. I am the President of Cornell Model Congress, Vice President of Pre-Professional Programming of the Kappa Alpha Pi Pre-law Fraternity, Treasurer of Debate in the Sciences and Health as well as a member of the Cornell Speech and Debate Union and the Roosevelt Institute. I am interested in pursuing a career in law and public policy.


Stacy J. GH, Human Ecology '17
Hi everyone! My name is Stacy J. and I am a junior majoring in Human Biology, Health and Society. I am incredibly excited to spend this summer in India with the rest of the GSL team and am looking forward to learning about Indian culture, healthcare/medicine, and community development. 

In addition to my interest in global health, I am involved in Phi Delta Epsilon International Medical Fraternity and MEDLife, an organization that provides healthcare, education and community development to rural areas of Lima. I am also an undergraduate research assistant in the Lin Lab, a marketing team member for Thread Magazine, and an Ambassador for the College of Human Ecology. My past experiences abroad include volunteering at medical clinics in rural Lima with MEDLife, which has motivated me to continue my experiences abroad and learn about the unique challenges and solutions of these global communities. I am grateful for this opportunity to work with the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement and learn from and become a part of the community in Mysore.


Ijeoma E. GH, Human Ecology '17
Hi, my name is Ijeoma E. and I am from Sacramento, California! I am a junior in the Human Ecology school, studying Human Biology Health and Society, minoring in Global Health and Gerontology. In the future, I plan to attend medical school, specializing in emergency medicine or obstetrics and gynecology. On campus I help spread awareness about diabetes through our Students of Diabetes Awareness club, but outside of school I enjoy hiking, playing soccer, singing and hanging out with family and friends. I am interested in diabetes and HIV/AIDS research, with other interests in prenatal care and the spreading of infectious diseases. I hope to learn more about India as a whole and understand how socioeconomic status, social, political and cultural aspects tie into the healthcare system in India.


Elise B. ILR '18
My name is Elise B. and I was born and raised in San Diego, CA. I am a current a sophomore at Cornell University majoring in Industrial and Labor Relations, minoring in Business and Law and Society. I work on campus as an Externship Coordinator/Peer Advisor in the ILR Office of Career Services. In addition, I am the President of Kappa Kappa Gamma which allows me to stay involved with multiple philanthropic foundations including Reading is Fundamental (RIF). I am also a Cornell Tradition Fellow which is a scholarship program recognizing 4% of Cornell's student body for their work ethic, service background, and academic achievement. In my spare time, I enjoy playing the piano, yoga, traveling and stand up paddle boarding.


Albaro T. ILR '17
Hello, my name is Albaro T. and I am a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations with minors in Inequality Studies and Latino Studies. I am very excited to be part of the 2016 ILR SVYM team! 

Born and raised in Woodside, New York meant that I would always be exposed to a wide range of cultures and traditions. While I have never had the opportunity to travel past the Western Hemisphere, traveling to India this summer means the opportunity to capitalize on two of my greatest passions; service and learning. 

My past experience working for the ILR School as a Worker Institute Research Fellow, as well as my extracurricular activities on campus, have given me the skills that I hope to exercise for the advancement of SVYM's mission.

I look forward to learning a lot, and bringing back a little piece of India with me. 


Deepa S. ILR '18
Hi, I’m Deepa S., a sophomore in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University. My studies are focused on promoting ethical labor practices and development in an international world, with equity and sustainability at the basis of all initiatives. 

I grew up in New York City where I found a strong passion for social justice and human rights. In my travels hope to understand the power of effective development and community organization as well as the systems of economic and social inequality that stand in the way. My education in Industrial and Labor Relations has focused on human rights, migration, labor rights, and international relations. I work with several anti-trafficking and labor rights organization on campus, including Students Against the Sexual Solicitation of Youth and the Cornell Organization for Labor Action, as well as conducting research with the Sustainable Labor Practices in a Global Supply Chain project. 

I am excited to learn about the impacts of SVYM in India and the benefits that community oriented development can bring. My experience with this country starts with my heritage and I hope to connect what I have learned from my family and what I have learned at Cornell through this service-learning experience. I am looking forward to learning more about India’s movement towards equity and social justice!


Ingrid W. GH, Arts & Sciences '18
Hi, my name is Ingrid W. and I am a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences studying Biology and Society with a minor in Global Health. I am extremely excited to travel to India and learn from the staff at Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM) in Mysore, India.

I am originally from Portland, Oregon. In 2014, I decided that Cornell was the best option for me since it has an outstanding biology department and also has many opportunities for international involvement.  

In the past, I went to Mexico and worked with several physicians at an elderly home doing check-ups as well as home visits. Witnessing many individuals dying due to inaccessible healthcare, gave me a strong desire to work with medicine in rural communities. After Cornell, I am going to pursue a nursing degree and eventually become a Nurse Practitioner in order to work in rural communities in India. I have a deep love for this country undoubtedly because of my four adopted siblings from India.

I am so blessed to be a member of this trip to Mysore and will definitely be applying the lessons and life experience I learn to the rest of my time at Cornell.


Birsena A. ILR '18
Hi! My name is Birsena A. and I am a sophomore in the ILR School. I transferred to Cornell University my sophomore year determined to make the most out of every opportunity presented to me during my time at Cornell. Serendipitously, I heard about the GSL program at SVYM on my first day and knew it was an experience I had to participate in.

With my name being Birsena, everyone asks me where I am from. When I respond to the question of where I am from with, “Staten Island, New York,” the follow up question always tends to be, “But where are you really from?” Answering the question of where I am from is difficult seeing I am a mutt, but primarily I am from Macedonia and Albania. I speak Macedonian (and very poor Russian, if we are keeping tabs on languages) and have realized not many people know anything about the culture of Macedonia; from this revelation I have developed a passion for learning more about different cultures. Ultimately, I believe that in India, a country so rich with history and culture, I will be able to learn much more and expand on my passion.

The topic of women’s rights is another subject I am passionate about. On campus, I am involved with various women’s rights clubs and leadership panels regarding women’s rights. I am beyond thrilled to participate on this trip to India and cannot wait to experience the fusion of cultures and skillsets to accomplish meaningful work together with SYVM during my time in India.


Kyonne R. ILR '18
Hello, my name is Kyonne R. and I am a sophomore in the School of Industrial & Labor Relations, concentrating on academic disciplines associated with Education, Policy Analysis, and Inequality Studies. 

Outside of the classroom, I serve as a Resident Advisor for the Latino Living Center, as well as a Publicity Chair for two organizations which provide academic, professional, and social support to students of marginalized backgrounds here at Cornell. 

As I prepare for a career in Education Policy, I am thankful for the opportunities to learn, lead, and serve here at Cornell - all of which will be pivotal in preparing me to serve marginalized student populations both abroad and in our nation's public schools. '

I am excited to travel to India to not only learn more about the challenges faced by educators in rural school settings in Southern India, but to also leverage my skills in order to aid SVYM in its mission to address those challenges. I am truly grateful for such a transformative experience, as I seek to equip myself with the skills necessary to leave this world a more equitable place.


Seth L. ILR '17
Welcome to the 2016 India Global Service Learning Blog! My name is Seth L. and I am a junior in Cornell University's ILR School. First of all, I want to thank all of those – both on- and off-campus – who have made this program a reality. I am extremely excited to play an active role in novel community development initiatives. I will approach this opportunity with an open-minded attitude because I know it will enlarge or change my understanding of our world.

On the hill, I interact with people from diverse backgrounds through several capacities: resident advisor, teaching assistant, research fellow, and lab consultant. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out. I look forward to a productive and rewarding summer experience.


Andrea F. ILR '18
Hello, my name is Andrea F. and I am a transfer sophomore student in the ILR school. I grew up in Long Beach, CA and found myself always involved in community service. I am ecstatic for my participation in the SVYM program in India.  I hope that this opportunity allows me to continue exploring my passion for lending a hand.
While in this program, I would like to further understand the program’s initiatives in hospitals and education. I’d like to contribute my work experience at St. Mary Medical Center. I also worked as a tutor for at risk youth and realized from both jobs the need for development in such institutions. My participation in this program will allow me to not only contribute but also learn through my immersion into a new environment.
On my free time, I participate in the Women’s Resource Center, ILR Sport’s Business Society, and Amnesty International.


Azael P. GH, Arts & Sciences '17
Hi, my name is Azael P. and I am currently a junior at Cornell University. I am majoring in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Along with my major, I am also working towards a minor in Business, Global Health, and East Asian Studies. Going to India through this program has been one of my biggest goals since I have been a freshman here at Cornell and I am very excited that I finally have the opportunity.

Although I have lived most of my life in Los Angeles, I am originally from Mexico and have experienced the very different lifestyles that are present in both societies. Growing up in an immigrant family in a city such as Los Angeles is what sparked in me the passion to learn about, understand, and try and connect the various cultures and societies around the world.  I am currently trying to achieve these goals through the medical route since a main goal that I am considering is attending medical school. However, public and global health and health policy are another great interest of mine in which I can see myself working around.

During my time here at Cornell I have greatly enjoyed becoming involved with a wide range of activities and working in a fast paced environment. I believe that the varieties in my academic pursuits are a representation of this. However, I also enjoy becoming involved in many things outside of academics. I am a part of organizations such as Friends of Farmworkers where we go out into the farms in the surrounding areas and help tutor the immigrant farmers in English, work as a student manager in the Willard Straight Hall Resource Center, and a couple of other activities. I believe, however, that I am attracted to these different environments because it has helped further my love for the differences and similarities among groups of people and further my passion to end up working in a field where I can help facilitate communication and foster mutually beneficial relationships and understanding.


Nayo M. GH, Human Ecology '17
Hello, my name is Nayo M. and I am a junior majoring in Human Biology Health and Society in the college of Human Ecology and minoring in Global Health. On campus I am on the executive board of the Women of Color Coalition. I aspire to contribute to the advancement of women’s health as an OB/GYN and desire to spend some time abroad with Doctors without Borders, the World Health Organization, or the Red Cross.

I am so excited to be a part of the India GSL program this year! I seek to be a global citizen not wanting to be confined or have limited knowledge based on my immediate environs. International activities such as this opportunity to India help to broaden my worldview and allow me to collaborate with others in ways that is both beneficial to others as well as allowing me to grow as an individual. I am looking forward to this new cross-cultural experience as well as enjoying and learning about the amazing sites, architecture, and civilization of Mysore and surrounding communities.


Heather B. GH, CALS '18
Hi, my name is Heather B. and I am a Communication major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. I am excited to have the opportunity to study and work with SVYM in India through the GSL program.

In my major, I will be completing a concentration in Communication for Environment, Science, and Health. I will also be minoring in Global Health and Health Policy. I strive to communicate health-related and scientific information in a way that is clear and accessible to the public. Furthermore, I am interested in learning from and working with professionals in India who communicate and work with each other and the community to resolve health disparities.

At Cornell, I was part of Professor McLeod’s Group Communication research team. I am a member of the Figure Skating Club, Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity, and a Communication Mentor.

I know that this trip to India will be unlike anything I’ve done before and I eagerly look forward to traveling, there, working with SVYM, and growing individually.




Thursday, December 31, 2015

Group photo of the 2015 ILR India GSL team and friends attending wedding in Mysore.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Elyse '17 - Global Health - Diabetes Management at Kenchanahalli



Surrounded on all sides my rolling hills divided into bright patches of farmland, the tranquil setting of Vivekananda Memorial Hospital at Kenchanahalli is truly its own small world. Most of the staff lives on the campus, including three families, giving the hospital a true feeling of community, completely unlike anything that I have ever seen in the USA. All of the doctors who live on the campus are doctors of Ayurvedic medicine—traditional Indian medicine—with visiting allopathic physicians coming every weekday. My project this summer has been to develop patient education material describing the integrated approach of diabetes management using both ayurvedic and allopathic medicine. My project has enabled me to learn about a disease so common in the US, from the perspective of a completely different system. The ayurvedic physicians have taken so much time to explain the system of ayurveda to me, which depends on the balance of three doshas in the body. Several of the doctors here have taken the painstaking effort to translate Sanskrit texts on Mudhameha—or “honey urine”—the ayurvedic analog to diabetes. It has been fascinating to learn the modern problem of diabetes as it fits into a large and ancient body of knowledge. This has provided a striking contrast to the time I have spent shadowing allopathic physicians in the out patient departments at the hospital as they treat diabetic patients. Although the two systems often seem at odds, I have been impressed by the smooth and productive integration at VMH. My own contribution has been to combine instruction for diabetes management from both the Allopathic and Ayurvedic systems into a flashy, engaging Prezi, to catch patient’s attention.

In addition to the time spent on my project, my experience at Kenchanahalli has introduced me to some many other interesting aspects of medicine, health, and India. I have been fortunate enough to shadow OBGYN, orthopedists, ayurvedic, and general physicians in my time at VMH. This has given me a much deeper understanding of the successes and challenges faced in delivering health care to rural and tribal populations. I have also been able to explore my own interest in surgery by observing a hysterectomy at the larger SVYM hospital in Sargur. However, what I truly never expected was the way in which we have been welcomed into the family-like community here at Kenchanahalli. Learning to make chapati and gulab jamun, playing cricket, and even attempting to teach Mansi—the extremely hyper 8-year-old daughter of my mentor—some new English phrases, have been some of the most memorable moments of my time here. 




Thursday, July 23, 2015

Alex '17 and Katherine '16 Global Health - GRAAM


Hello from the GRAAM office!


The Grassroots Research and Advocacy Movement (GRAAM) is a public policy research institute within the SVYM complex. GRAAM’s “commitment to building collaborative learning communities in the pursuit of human development” is driven by empirical evidence and experience in the field. The greatest focus of GRAAM is advocacy through the grassroots perspective for sustainable and real progress.

For our projects, we have been given the enriching experience of interning at the GRAAM office. For the next five weeks, Katherine will be working at the State Training Centre department of GRAAM. STRC is supported by the National Aids Control organization. The role of STRC is to strengthen the capacity of targeted intervention project staff, including peer educators, outreach workers, program managers and counselors, and to undertake operational research.

Katherine will be developing supplementary training manuals for the project staff, and accumulating additional research material to assist with the center’s ongoing research projects. Alexandra, on the other hand, will be focusing on community participation and engagement in health. This intervention strategy motivates the community and its representatives to directly implement, monitor, and evaluate public health services that address self-defined needs. This bottom-up approach empowers the community and indirectly provides an accountability framework ensuring government responsibility. Alexandra will be conducting research that will culminate in a case-study analysis and literature review paper that will assist GRAAM in future health intervention endeavors.

We are very excited to see what our projects have in store for us. We hope that these next few weeks will lead to development, professionally, academically and personally. SVYM has given us incredible opportunities and we are so grateful for this experience. 

All the best,
Alexandra and Katherine
Global Health-GRAAM

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Viveka Tribal Centre for Learning, Katie L. ILR'17

            While it only takes one day to fall in love with the kids and staff in Hosahalli, I have been lucky enough to spend two full weeks here. Since I started working, I have been observing the ins and outs of this school Viveka Tribal Centre for Learning. I have interviewed teachers, eaten alongside the students, toured their dormitories, taken part in their after school activities and sat in on a variety of classes covering multiple subjects, such as Kannada or Science, ranging from 1st to 10th standard (or grade). By the very nature of my project, I get to be a student, a teacher, an administrator, and an outsider. I am observing the school’s routine through these different roles and perspectives. More specifically, my project is a documentation of VTCL through the lens of three separate case studies.
            The first case study looks at the building structure of the school and how it encompasses VTCL’s philosophy. What’s particular about this school is the structure of an open classroom. This classroom has no windows or doors but rather large square openings to alleviate the feeling of constraint that comes from more formal classrooms. The second case study is on the schedule and overall daily routine of the school. I look at the attitude taken by teachers and students towards their class schedule and compare it to its implementation. The third and last case study takes a closer look at the children. Because VTCL prioritizes education for tribal students, this case study assesses the kind of role their specific tribe and background plays into their interactions with each other, if at all.
            My work aside, the kids and staff have made me feel so welcomed. Whether it’s at tea with the teachers or walking to lunch with the kids, everyone is so eager to talk to you. Their friendliness is infectious and you can’t help but feel a warm presence around the school. I have molded into such a comfortable routine that the line between work and play has blurred. I look forward to going to school, playing with the kids and talking to the teachers. As my time here is starting to wind down, it’s getting more and more difficult to ignore that I will have to eventually say goodbye. But while I may only get one month here, Hosahalli will always continue to be my manne, my home.
            While it only takes one day to fall in love with the kids and staff in Hosahalli, I have been lucky enough to spend two full weeks here. Since I started working, I have been observing the ins and outs of this school Viveka Tribal Centre for Learning. I have interviewed teachers, eaten alongside the students, toured their dormitories, taken part in their after school activities and sat in on a variety of classes covering multiple subjects, such as Kannada or Science, ranging from 1st to 10th standard (or grade). By the very nature of my project, I get to be a student, a teacher, an administrator, and an outsider. I am observing the school’s routine through these different roles and perspectives. More specifically, my project is a documentation of VTCL through the lens of three separate case studies.
            The first case study looks at the building structure of the school and how it encompasses VTCL’s philosophy. What’s particular about this school is the structure of an open classroom. This classroom has no windows or doors but rather large square openings to alleviate the feeling of constraint that comes from more formal classrooms. The second case study is on the schedule and overall daily routine of the school. I look at the attitude taken by teachers and students towards their class schedule and compare it to its implementation. The third and last case study takes a closer look at the children. Because VTCL prioritizes education for tribal students, this case study assesses the kind of role their specific tribe and background plays into their interactions with each other, if at all.
My work aside, the kids and staff have made me feel so welcomed. Whether it’s at tea with the teachers or walking to lunch with the kids, everyone is so eager to talk to you. Their friendliness is infectious and you can’t help but feel a warm presence around the school. I have molded into such a comfortable routine that the line between work and play has blurred. I look forward to going to school, playing with the kids and talking to the teachers. As my time here is starting to wind down, it’s getting more and more difficult to ignore that I will have to eventually say goodbye. But while I may only get one month here, Hosahalli will always continue to be my manne, my home.

Open classrooms for 5th – 8th standard students

Whole school gathered for the daily morning prayer before starting classes as a student reads the day’s newspaper in English. Students in “free dress” because it’s a Wednesday.

Rachel and I with a few 10th standard students in front of their classroom

9th standard students taking English outside for the day’s lesson

Aleks walking back from the girls’ dormitory with a few of the girls

A painting done by one of the students Kala, 9th standard. Picture taken by Ravi, 6th standard.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Report from the Hosahalli Resource Centre, Aleksandra ILR'17


The past two weeks at Hosahalli Resource Centre have been enlightening to say the least. The Centre is made up of two schools: Viveka Tribal Centre for Learning (VTCL), which is the primary and high school for tribal children between the ages of five and fifteen, and the Vivekananda Teacher Training Resource Centre (VTTRC), which is a two year college program for future elementary school teachers. 
 So far I have been gathering pictures and information about both schools to update the VTTRC website and create a website for VTCL. During our free time, we interact with the teachers and students and try to push past the limits of our language barriers. The teachers are eager to learn about and compare the American educational system to their own, while the students are curious about our everyday lives, as well as taking as many pictures on our cameras as possible. We have already learned a lot from each other, even through simple exchanges of Kannada or English phrases.
As friendly and welcoming the environment is it has its challenges as well. It is little hard for me to work on a website with no web design background or connectivity to the Internet. I have to force myself to think outside the box, and use the information and resources I have wisely. This is much more easily said than done. Yet with such friendly and appreciative mentors who stress the importance of enjoying our work, it is hard not to do the best job possible. I have already learned much more during my stay in India than I have contributed. This is motivating me to provide the best services I can, regardless of my web development skills, in return for such a welcoming and informative atmosphere. 
At the Backwaters of the Kabini River Reservoir near the Hosahalli Resource Centre

With some of the VTCL students