Alternative Winter Break- India – by Fiahna Cabana, MPA ‘17
In between balancing two-part time jobs, getting involved in student organizations, and of course, football season—my first semester of grad school was more than I had bargained for. But nonetheless, the best decision I’ve made at this point in my career.
Prior coming into grad school I was concerned with not only how will I get involved at the Price School, but how can I also participate in the greater USC community. This led me to an opportunity through the Alternative Break (AB) program at the Center for Service Programs (under Campus Activities). This is a unique opportunity for students, staff, and faculty to engage in service learning and volunteerism in communities outside of the Los Angeles area.
This past winter break trip to India was in partnership with the NGO, Adventures and Volunteering in India (AVI), which has designed an international volunteer program to support educational initiatives in Sikar, Rajasthan, India. The three-week program gave me the opportunity to live with a local family along with other USC affiliates (4 grad students, 15 undergrad students, and 1 staff advisor). As a group we participated in cultural immersion activities, community building, and most importantly educational initiatives for the local schools.
One of the major problems in the school community where we had volunteered was the lack of role models since these kids were the first in their families to go to school. In addition attendance in school it is not required by the government and the children are from the lowest group in the caste system.
To help inspire learning and aspire for change, we designed a community art project that consisted of portraits of civil rights pioneers and education leaders (approved by the organization’s director) with the kids’ own handprints.
The experience was unforgettable, and I highly encourage both undergrad and grad students to take up the opportunity, especially if you don’t get the chance to participate in one of the International Labs.
Fiahna Cabana, MPA ‘17