Ruhi Kanwar is part of Stanford’s Class of 2021, majoring in Computational Biology with a minor in Female, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. She spent her summer after sophomore year at Aarti for Girls. 

My summer at Aarti for Girls was truly a roller coaster of an experience. From the moment of driving through the Chennai streets upon landing in India to meeting the students at Aarti School in Kadapa – it was a whirlwind of challenge, gratification, and adjustment. Aarti for Girls has a village which houses 120 orphan girls and a school that provides an education for over 550+ impoverished children (the girls included). 

Along with me and the other two Stanford interns, there are two German interns, an intern form Virginia tech, an intern from Oregon State, an intern from Santa Clara, and two high school interns. Five interns lived in one guesthouse, three in another, and two in our supervisor – Sandhayama’s house. Having a large group came with both its benefits and obstacles; however, we worked to establish our respective projects, provide support to each other, and serve as a team to best help Aarti. All of the interns worked at school from 8 am to 4:30 pm from Monday to Saturday, followed by dinner and continued discussion till around 10 pm at Sandhaymma’s house. On Sundays we visited the Aarti village from around 6-10 pm to spend time with the girls.

The school has two large buildings and goes from preschool to twelfth grade with two classes of each batch – A standard and B standard (slower for students who do not have a strong school background). While the students were in class, the interns and school administrators worked in the two office rooms. We interacted with all of the students during lunch and the two break times they received. I connected to hundreds of students, forming bonds that brought me to tears on my departure. 

During my time at Aarti, the projects that I undertook were creating a biology lab for the school, helping set up a computer literacy and programming curriculum, creating videos and presentations on Aarti for grants such as GiveIndia and various leaders in the district, redesigning the website, and working with Abhaya, the women’s advocacy platform. I also set up first aid kits in the school and provided basic first aid training to the staff. As a trained Bhartnatyam dancer (Indian classical dance) I was also able to have fun with the girls on weekends, training and preparing them for an upcoming performance. All of the interns also joined together to develop trust and nurture workshops for the students.

I have very wholeheartedly loved my time at Aarti.  I cannot deny the happiness that comes with realizing the gravity and pure beauty this journey has had. My heart is so completely full. I could not have been more thankful to have come to india. My time was truly something I will never forget. I had a completely life-changing experience. There are very few who are fortunate enough to have times that touch their soul and I was blessed enough to be able to have this – which undeniably has. The girls I met – their love and our bond will forever stay. The friendships I had with my fellow interns, rooted in common unfamiliarity, struggle, but also joy – that shares understanding we can glean from no other. The lessons and things I bared witness to that have ignited an insatiable passion for change. I am just grateful in this moment. So utterly grateful to have experienced what I did.

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