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Ronald Porter
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Service Learning

Service Learning

Rajasthan: Winter Term 08


View photos from Rajasthan

During January 2008, thirteen students, 2 professors and their daughter traveled with me to the State of Rajasthan in India to volunteer alongside the small NGO "Koshish – An Attempt" based in Mumbai. Led by my friend Vikram Mehta, the members of this organization assisted us by planning the work ahead, buying all necessary materials, and providing essential translations during our three weeks in India.

Eckerd students paid their own way and contributed to the buying of materials necessary for the building of cement block houses and in-ground cisterns (wells). As opposed to my hometown Mumbai, the weather in Rajasthan was fairly cool but there was plenty of sweating, specially when mixing cement, raising walls, digging wells or fetching water from far away places.

Working alongside local laborers was an amazing experience. Communication was difficult of course, but after a few days we all knew how to say "brick", "water", "cement" in the local Rajasthani language.

The small village of Ghoniya where we built the houses and wells is located on the edge of the Thar desert and approximately 20 miles from the border with Pakistan. The community had selected the nature of the relief effort. During the rainy season, the mud home they usually construct gets destroyed. As opposed to these traditional mud homes which last for about 2-3 years the 6 brick homes we built will last a lifetime, according to the villager. They also face the problem of storing water during the rest of the year. In order to solve this problem, we built 3 wells which were relatively closer to the community houses than the ones they presently have.

Finally, excellent food, great tea, fabulous music, unforgettable landscapes and cultural experiences made this service trip even more worthwhile than I had imagined. It was a great cultural exchange experience, with the Eckerd Students and the villagers learning from each other. I am proud to have taken Eckerd students back to my home country and to have made a difference for a few people in the world. This trip will be a memory we will all cherish forever.

Priyanka Makkar '09

View photos from Rajasthan

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