Serving as a Medium

“We must credit the good we do to the hidden foundation of good, and be grateful to serve as its medium”

- Always We Begin Again

Our group has been busy the last few weeks.  We came to the Gandhi’s ashram in Wardha and hit the ground running.

We have been working with the Bajaj Foundation, an organization that does a variety of community development projects in the district of Wardha.  Among many others, the foundation works on biogas plants, water resource development, irrigation, horticulture, organic farming, alternative income sources like grocery stores, and support groups for women.  They are community-driven, needs-based and have a fantastic network of staff and volunteers wherever they are working.

We started our first week here doing various site visits to get a sense of what kind of work the foundation does.  Then, we split up to focus on different areas in order to help the foundation document their projects for their upcoming annual review.  That documentation is also part of a larger effort to create a portal - a website with information on projects, a forum for discussion and data available for analysis - to connect the Bajaj Foundation and those affected by its community involvement with Carnegie Mellon faculty and students.  The aim of the website would be to create a space where the two groups could interact and learn from each other.

I ended up in the group focusing on biogas and alternative income projects. Before we went on targeted site visits to get more information and good case studies for their annual review, which we are helping to write, we sat down with the staff experts in both areas. I knew that the staff involved with these projects knew their stuff, but I was still blown away by the depth of knowledge they displayed.

I came here wondering what exactly I could do for this community in Wardha and the people at the foundation.  Where was my utility in all of this?  I’m not an engineer, so I cannot offer advice on how to construct wells and biogas plants more effectively.  I’m not proficient in coding and software, so I cannot build the website that will bridge the foundation and Carnegie Mellon.

I can, however, carefully and deliberately help plant seeds for the future.  If all goes as planned, the relationship with the Bajaj Foundation will be an ongoing one for Carnegie Mellon and students will follow in my footsteps in coming years.  By listening intently, always being curious and asking questions I can help understand how others might find a place of impact in the continuing relationship between an Indian foundation and an American university.

That is my utility.  It is a recognition of my limits, which has required me to check my ego at the door, but it is also an understanding of the strength in my developing ability to communicate stories and ideas.  This process of finding my utility here ran parallel to the my thinking on the non-possession of good.  As soon as I internalized that the good we do is a communal effort, I was able to see my small part in the larger picture.  If I can end each day knowing I served the medium of good, I can be proud of the work I am doing.