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Stanford undergraduate students gain vital experience working in Indian non-profits

In summer 2019, four Stanford undergraduate students worked with local non-profit organizations in India through King Center-supported programs.

In summer 2019, four Stanford undergraduate students worked with local non-profit organizations in India through King Center-supported programs.

Hubli, Karnataka

Amita Gondi and Stone Yang worked at the Deshpande Foundation in Hubli, Karnataka, over 250 miles northwest of Bangalore.

amita gondi
Amita Gondi

Since 1996, The Deshpande Foundation supports sustainable, scalable social and economic solutions for poverty alleviation through innovation and entrepreneurship in the United States, Canada, and India. A key tenant of the foundation is to equip children and adults with skills for a better livelihood and employability. In rural villages in India, the foundation hosts its Skill in Village Program, an after school, English-learning program for students in grades six to nine. 

Gondi and Yang developed an impact assessment to determine the effectiveness of the Skill in Village program in classrooms throughout the township. The assessment provides a cost-benefit analysis that helps inform decisions to scale the program to surrounding villages.

stone yang
Stone Yang

“I got to immerse myself in the non-profit sector which enabled me to look beyond everything I’ve read about rural India,” said Gondi. “The sheer simplicity of the town we lived in allowed me to push beyond my comfort zone.”

As part of the assessment, Gondi and Yang interviewed village stakeholders including teachers, English students, and program managers. From the interviews, a clearer picture started to develop about the current state of the program and its successes and pain points. Gondi and Yang then compared materials from their interviews with existing literature on education assessment, impact measurement, and cost-benefit analyses produced by the Indian government and international developmental agencies. The result of their work a custom set of metrics and monitoring surveys for the foundation, which included workable spreadsheets, guidelines, and presentations.

Powai, Mumbai

MakerGhat is a non-profit foundation started by Azra Ismail, a PhD student from Georgia Institute of Technology, and Aditya Vishwanath, a 2018-2019 Knight-Hennessey Scholar and PhD student in Stanford’s Department of Education. MakerGhat’s objective is to nurture creativity, curiosity, and community among youth from underserved and under resourced communities in Mumbai. MakerGhat provides youth of all ages access to a staffed makerspace (or workshop) where students, hobbyists, and professionals can utilize design thinking and engage with cutting-edge hardware and software across diverse engineering and emerging technology domains.

riya verma
Riya Verma

Supported by the King Center, two Stanford undergraduates, Riya Verma and Celine Wang, worked at MakerGhat in summer 2019. Mentored by John Hennessy, professor of electrical engineering and chair of Alphabet Inc., Verma and Wang led individual research projects with youth that included conducting a needs assessment survey with local stakeholders. Verma and Wang helped launch maker prototypes for technological interventions and developed a proof of concept of the final intervention. One such project was to redesign the rickshaw, the common three-wheeled passenger cart used in India for transportation. Currently the rickshaw is primarily designed for one or two people in dry weather. Verma and Wang looked at how considering different factors such as mothers and parents (with babies), flooding, and monsoon weather would affect a redesign of the rickshaw.

celine wang
Celine Wang

“We came up with some really fabulous drawings and ideas,” saw Wang. “Everyone seemed to have a great time learning about design thinking and how to empathize with a larger audience. I would say the workshop was a success, and I was able to witness students’ growth and development in thinking creatively and outside the box.”

“Throughout the experience, I was humbled by the amazing creativity and dedication of the MakerGhat team,” shared Verma.