Club works with villages in India to develop sustainable solutions

By Jacqueline Lopez-Crisp

Project Rural India Social and Health Improvement is a nonprofit humanitarian club at Cal Poly Pomona. The organization promotes sustainable growth and development of rural Indian villages by addressing disparities.

Project RISHI has five values that it applies to club efforts.

“The first value is the humanitarian aspect of Project RISHI,” said third-year biology student and Project RISHI President Pooja Kumar. “The second value is that we want to make sure that general members are getting something out of Project RISHI, so we want to help their career and resume.

“The third value is 100 percent hands-on, so we have the motto of ‘from classroom to village.’ We come up with projects and we come up with solutions in classrooms at Cal Poly that we hope to later implement in the village.

“The fourth is fun and community, so we try to regularly have socials and gatherings and food sales to involve the general members. Lastly is travel to India.”

Last summer, Kumar and two other members of Project RISHI traveled to India to survey the villages, look at disparities and identify what village to adopt for CPP’s chapter.

They found three other villages and chose to adopt them. They were able to identify significant disparities, such as health or education, in these villages and begin to figure out sustainable solutions.

“It was bittersweet,” said Kumar. “Obviously, we were very happy that we found a village, but at the same time, seeing those conditions were very eye opening.”

According to Kumar, one of the more rewarding experiences of the trip was working with people of similar age.

“We met so many girls that were only a few years younger than us,” said Kumar. “They were already working in the fields, and they didn’t even think about going to college. A rewarding part was seeing the conditions. They were so willing to be open to us and be willing to our solutions.”

Project RISHI makes the club as hands-on as possible. The organization wants members to make an impact, even if it is from a classroom on a college campus.

“You can make an impact from thousands of miles away,” said Kumar. “You can be in a classroom at your school for an hour on a Tuesday, and you can still make an impact. You don’t have to go to India; you don’t have to see these people first hand to actually realize what they’re going through.”

The organization has been on CPP’s campus for about one year. After their visit to India and adoption of three villages, they are now an official chapter.

“There is no other Cal State chapter Project RISHI, so we are actually the first Cal State,” said fourth-year biology student and Co-Director of Initiatives Nour Baba. “We wanted to bring it to the Cal State [universities].”

According to Baba, the organization has plans on heading back to India this summer.

“We are going to India this summer, so our goal is to have something to implement there before we go,” said Baba. “We already went last summer and took some surveys, so hopefully this time we can go back with some projects.”

Baba added that the short-term goal of the organization is to have new members join the club. As of now, the club has nearly 15 general members and nine executive board members.

“This club is different from all the other ones,” said fifth-year biology student and Director of Internal Development Michelle Mendizabal. “It’s really interactive and hands-on. You feel like you’re really helping out somebody else even though you’re like worlds apart.”

While their anticipated trip is months away, Project RISHI already has an agenda lined up.

“For our general meetings, we plan to have speakers come,” said Mendizabal. “We want to have them educate us more, so that when we start having our brainstorming on how we are going to help the villages, we can actually help them.”

The Project RISHI club is planning to have either laser tag or rollerskating socials to help its members get to know one another. Along with the socials, Project RISHI is also planning fundraisers. The club held a Buffalo Wild Wings fundraiser on Thursday with a percentage of profits going towards the club.

Project RISHI has weekly meetings on Tuesdays during U-Hour in Building 163, room 1004.

RISHI

Courtesy CPP Project RISHI

RISHI

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