During the Summer of 2011, I participated in the Global Engagement Studies Institute (GESI), a Group Engage partnership model between the Foundation for Sustainable Development and Northwestern University. GESI is a unique credit-bearing program that combines intensive asset-based community development coursework with 8-10 weeks of team-based asset-based fieldwork with one of FSD’s community partners in Bolivia, India, Nicaragua and Uganda. As a FSD/GESI intern, I spent the summer at one of Udaipur’s oldest and largest NGOs, Seva Mandir. While Seva Mandir’s commitment to “democratic and participatory development” manifests in myriad program areas including education, women’s empowerment, youth development and social enterprise, I worked in Seva Mandir’s health department. Specifically, my GESI team of three worked alongside Seva Mandir’s Community Care Center (CCC), a HIV/AIDS clinic providing clinical and counseling support to local patients.
During my 10 weeks, I had the privilege of first, interviewing clinic patients to better understand their individual and collective barriers to access, regimented care, and stable health, and second, collaborating with Seva Mandir staff to develop and pilot test a small-scale two-part programmatic response consisting of a patient-driven pillbox/chart system and new education materials for clinicians. While parts of our project inevitably failed, my time with Seva Mandir taught me that equally important to the goals of development are the methods by which they are realized – that the process matters. Through the GESI program, the Foundation for Sustainable Development and Northwestern University opened my eyes to the value, intention and necessity of asset-based community development and ignited a life-long commitment to thoughtful international development work.