SU Alum Catalyst for Change in Jaipur

-Gracie Kim, BA '14

When I saw poverty abroad firsthand, I immediately decided to pursue a career in international development. I graduated SU with a degree in Inter-national Relations with a concentration in Intercultural Communications and a South Asian Studies minor. Currently, I work for Jaipur Community Aware-ness Program (JCAP), a non-governmental organization (NGO) that specializes in slum education in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Since early 2013, JCAP has been running a Hindi and English literacy program in a slum called Panipech. Approximately 20 girls, from the ages of three to seventeen years old, attend JCAP’s literacy program each week. JCAP’s teaching methods consist of tactile activities and various non-traditional approaches to education. There are also plans to expand JCAP’s curriculum to include healthcare for mothers and other topics such as his-tory and science in 2016.Gracie, left, with Anima Martins, founder of JCAP

The most striking aspect during my employment with JCAP to date has been how vital it is to earn the trust of the community for any development work to be effective. In other words, working to develop a community entails fostering relationships first. My education in South Asian Studies did much more than equipping me with just the obvious basics for slum work in North India, through learning Indian history and Hindi, as well as being familiarized to Indian culture inside and outside the classroom. My classes were imbued with critical analysis, and emphasized the complexities and diversity found in Indian society, politics, and history. These concepts are equally as essential but less understood and practiced in regards to social work in India. Often times, sweeping generalizations are the norm. Learning about both types of fundamentals allowed for a smooth transition to working at JCAP—I taught Hindi right away, knew what was culturally appropriate, understood the historical backgrounds and that any attempts at social work in India needed to be nuanced. While being part of JCAP has been a whirlwind of lessons in its own right, South Asian Studies at SU definitely helped prepare me for the journey.