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Guest Post: Shital Shah on InSPIRE in India

March 10, 2009

Shital Shah is a part of the InSPIRE team. She also serves as a Managing Editor for ThinkChange India, a blog tracking social innovation and social entrepreneurship in India, and is an alumna of the Indicorps fellowship.  We are pleased to welcome her as a guest blogger for SAPP:

A sanitation rally in a Gujarati village. The manual labor of building toilets in a slum area. Speaking to residents of half-destroyed settlements on the banks of the Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh. Attending a meeting of a people’s movement that advocates for tribal rights. A heated debate on development with Delhi youth at the beautiful Lodhi Gardens. Reconnecting with nature while hiking in the mountains near Kempty.

Through InSPIRE, these experiences all happened within a span of five weeks last summer. InSPIRE, which stands for “India Service Program Inspiring Reflective Exploration,” offers an opportunity for South Asian Americans to explore, understand, and serve India. The non-partisan, non-religious immersion program was founded by Raj Kanani and Asha Patel, and is now in its third year. I co-coordinated the five week College program last year in India and strongly believe in its capacity to act as an intensive and transformative experience for South Asians.

This year, InSPIRE is expanding and adding on new programs. In addition to InSPIRE College, there is also InSPIRE Young Professional (two weeks, for those who are 25 and older) and InSPIRE Family (for South Asian American families interested in serving and exploring together). I am co-coordinating InSPIRE Young Professional this summer, and am excited as we put together an itinerary of service activities, discussions, speakers, and interaction with NGOs focusing on water, microfinance, and more.

Moreover, this year we decided to align the participant fee with the spirit of the program: we’re encouraging Young Professionals to experiment with the idea of a “gift economy.” InSPIRE is offering the trip to the worldwide South Asian diaspora community, and instead of charging a fee, we are allowing that community to sustain the program with their own gifts. There is a video explaining this concept and a cost breakdown on our site showing what it takes to break even and keep the program running, and participants can decide what the experience is personally worth.

Even while you read this – perhaps during your 9-5 grind or from the comforts of your home – consider InSPIRE as an opportunity to break away and do something different. A chance to explore a country you may know only through sheltered visits, or that perhaps you’ve never had a chance to see even though a part of your identity is tied to it. Beyond understanding India better, InSPIRE is also a chance to explore yourself and your relationship with the world around you with a group of people that will simultaneously support you while pushing you to greater heights.

How does InSPIRE fit into the larger picture of philanthropy? A large portion of the South Asian American community is extremely successful and accomplished – something that we can all be proud of. Philanthropy is one way of giving back this wealth, whether in our local neighborhoods here or in our heritage communities abroad, but firsthand experience of the issues involved can help ensure that philanthropic intentions reach their full potential through meaningful engagement and well-informed action.

InSPIRE is an opportunity to go beyond reading or discussing philanthropy and to start taking actionable steps to see what is really happening on the ground. From my own experience, the returns are far greater than the risk. Applications for InSPIRE Young Professional are due on March 30, 2009. Are you ready to become InSPIREd?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 11, 2009 4:08 am

    Thanks for sharing this information with us. I got the email from Dina Shah. Congratulations to Shital for her wonderful experience in India. India Development Coalition has been trying to Inform, Inspire, and Involve Indian Americans for the last 5 years to serve the masses by learning, sharing, giving, and volunteering. We organize meetings, seminars in US and India and support our members through our network of NPOs and NGOs. I think we should explore possibility of working together to alleviate poverty and mitigate climate change as it adversely affects the poor most. I encourage you to visit our website and let us know if you will like to work with us.

  2. asridhar permalink*
    March 11, 2009 1:33 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Mohan! We’ll add you to our Organizations page right away. SAPP is trying to be a vehicle for encouraging philanthropy, volunteering, and board service among South Asians across North America, and it looks like your group is a great example of the power of this kind of effort. For now, SAPP is focused on connecting donors with each other, with NGOs to support, and with resources to help make their decisions. I think there is definitely room for collaboration in the future – thank you and keep in touch!


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