As my internship with Ekal Vidyalaya comes to a close, there's just enough time for one more walk through the sweeping gardens, fields, and farms of Karanjo.
I would like to wholeheartedly thank the people in Karanjo for their warmth, kindness, and understanding. These people supported me, encouraged, and believed in me throughout the internship. Thanks to them, I was able to pursue my projects and explore what it's like to work for an NGO.
After saying goodbye to our friends in Karanjo, I travelled back to Ranchi, where I got to visit the local headquarters of Ekal Vidyalaya. There, I met Mr. Lalanji, the visionary and one of the driving forces behind the GRC.
I had the opportunity to make a presentation about my trip to some of the office employees, including Mr. Lalanji. After detailing what I had done with my research, Mr. Lalanji asked me if I had any advice as to how to improve the vision of Ekal Vidyalaya.
My answer was my powerful takeaway from the past week: empower youth leaders.
Because my experiences working with the local 8th grade students had convinced me that across the world, youth are full of ideas, passion, and purpose, and they're the most valuable resource that our communities have to offer. It's important to develop and empower youth leaders, not only for their sakes, but for the sakes of generations to come.
Based on the powerful language study I had conducted with the kids, I recommended implementing a school newspaper or service club so that the students could continue voicing their opinions and speaking out in their communities.
In Karanjo, I've traveled over two hundred miles, met over fifty students, and lived in one little village. Without meaning to, I've fallen in love. The local enthusiasm for learning, changing, and development has sparked something within me. Because within those students, I often recognize myself.
I'm also often reminded of the reason why I started Artsy Hearts and got involved wit Ekal Vidyalaya in the first place. By giving back to my roots, I hoped that I could make a difference across two cultures. I hoped that I could use my love of art to empower a new generation of young leaders.
My favorite Artsy Hearts project is a self-portrait we worked on last year. We were doing a workshop inspired by the painting Two Fridas, which depicts Frida Kahlo’s Mexican and European selves, joined by heartstrings. The painting reminded me of my own dual heritage, and I encouraged the artists to consider their own Indian-American identities when they painted their portraits. The depth of the girls’ artwork surprised and touched me-- they painted about their grandparents, their hometowns, their dreams. In that moment, I had no doubt that together, we could change the world.
I had that same moment of wonder here in Jharkhand, when I asked the kids to write about what mattered to them. And then to speak about it. And then to paint about it. We're all full of plans and ideas. These mountains are bursting to the seams.
Ultimately, what I’ve learned is simple: it’s important to find strength in your community— and when you have a passion, run with it. But beyond that, a little inspiration goes a long way. I was inspired by the Ekal children, and I am fortunate to have been able to spread that inspiration through powerful self-expression, connecting two groups of children— separated only by opportunity— with dreams to make a difference.