Shyam Desai '15

LET'S BE WELL RED

We, Divya Bhatia and Shyam Desai, plan to spend the summer of 2013 eliminating anemia in the state of Gujarat, India through our project "Health Scouts Program in Gujarat: Fighting Anemia through the Indian School System." Our first objective is to select students as Health Scouts from schools in the three major cities of Gujarat - Ahmedabad, Baroda, and Surat - and train them to hold anemia awareness workshops in their own schools. Then, Health Scout teams of each school will together reach out to ten other schools in the community and hold workshops there. Our second objective is to provide an iron-rich snack for school children that contains their required daily value of iron. This snack, produced by the anemia-combatting nonprofit organization Let's Be Well Red (LBWR) and called the GudNeSs bar, will be produced on a large scale and implemented in schools in the three cities to make them available to students on a daily basis. The desired outcomes of the Health Scout program and the GudNeSs bar are to increase awareness about anemia and its preventability, and to ensure that children receive their daily required value of iron to combat the onset of anemia from an early age.  

Personal Statement

I value the ideals and objectives of the Health Scouts Program largely due to the time I have spent in India and the experiences that have resulted from my ventures there. Since childhood, I have visited and resided in my family's home near Surat for extended periods of time, and despite my love for the country, certain aspects of life there startle me. From a young age I have been highly interested in nutrition. I garnered this passion largely because, as a child and up until high school, I was overweight. My subsequent determination to achieve a healthy body sparked my interest in nutritious eating, not only to maintain my weight but also to prevent future diseases and illness - all of which were ideals I took from my schooling in the United States. My family in India, on the other hand, was unfamiliar with the basics of the food pyramid and the essentiality of receiving one's daily vitamins and mineral because this information was never addressed throughout their education. Through my own struggle with nutrition I have come to realize the importance of nutritional education and its positive implications, and am therefore motivated to introduce this information into the Gujarati education system where it is much needed.

 

In addition, being schooled in the United States includes not only classes, homework, and tests, but also a bounty of volunteerism and community involvement, both of which bring about a sense of personal empowerment, capability, and desire to make change. In the traditional schools of India, however, my extended family focused solely on academia and viewed school only as a means to an end - a financially stable job in the future or sometimes marriage into a financially stable family if the student was a girl. This narrow view of education as a stepping-stone from adolescence to a strict career, and especially to marriage, bothered me. When hearing of the Health Scouts Program I saw an opportunity to act on my ambition to help students in India learn the spectacular benefits of investing time, effort, and care into the world around them.  

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