Pushing Far Beyond That Zone
Out of their comfort zones, students help make a difference in India
by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
Class of 2015 members (from left) Paige Kopp, Graye Robinson, Sarah Rutkowski and Emma Sander volunteered in India this summer.
One alumna’s passion became a once-in-a-lifetime experience
for students this summer, when four members of the class of 2015 flew to India to work with some of the region’s most desperately
They volunteered through Communities Rising (CR), an NGO founded
five years ago by Betsy McCoy ’77 that provides after-school programs and summer camps for children in rural India. Working side-by-side with fellow volunteer camp counselors from the U.S. and India, the students soon learned what it's like to live on the fringes of Indian society--and what can be done to help.
The trip was instigated last spring by McCoy’s niece, Graye Robinson ’15, who decided that, after years of thinking about it, she would finally join her aunt in India this summer. As she shared her plans, fellow classmates Paige Kopp, Sarah Rutkowski and Emma Sander offered to pitch in, and the group flew to India in May.
According to Rutkowski, the most wrenching—and, ultimately, satisfying—aspect of the trip was the opportunity to get to know their young charges. The children were Dalits, born into the lowest rung of the Indian caste system. For the majority, the summer camp marked their first experiences outside of their small, rural villages, where resources and prospects are few. "Every boy and girl we met had a different story—often, a painful story," Rutkowski says.
The Dickinsonians helped lead courses in English
language, socialization skills, swimming, arts and crafts, computer literacy, robotics and dance. Along the way, they helped prepare village children for
success in higher education and beyond, in part by introducing them to new skills and in part simply by acting as near-peer
role models who could help the children envision a wider world of opportunity.
“Many of us were far out of our comfort zones, but the people we met, and
the experiences we had were incredible," Robinson says. "We all agreed that the challenges we
faced brought us closer together.”
Learn more about Betsy McCoy '77 and Communities Rising.