Service-Learning in Bangalore, India

Stars and Skies,


India has always been a place of which my heart has longed for. This is not for any generic or close-minded reason either. My passion lies in service across the globe that maintains its alignment with experiential learning. Thus, the number one personal goal in my educational adventure remains to be forever twirling in a constant state of seeking to be humbled by new knowledge of all that I do not know in a diverse, healthfully challenging, and new environment. I do not learn in the comfort of all that I have convinced myself that I understand already. In fact, for myself, this pattern of living becomes nothing more than a mere delusion, wrapped in a blanket of narrow and judgmental relationships with the wider world's perspectives. That all being said, I am going to India. Around December 23rd of this year (date of departure to be decided once I can afford a plane ticket), I will be flying into Bangalore to take part in a Service-Learning/Study Abroad program. My also tentative return date will be around January 27th. This venture is highly related to both my educational and career goals of the future, as well as my far-reaching hopes in affecting positive change in this world we all cherish.

If I could sum the rest of this up in one sentence, catching a gist of what I require and saving you reading this overly-detailed novel, it would be this:
Money is not an issue that I care much about, but it is a reality I am required to accept; and the reality is that it is a very big issue for me, in that I do not have much of it at all.

For the first week, I will be staying with a friend of a friend, and building a relationship with the local Tibetan Women's Association Office, doing self-initiated service work with them and hopefully continuing it through the rest of my time there in India during the times I will spend outside of the classroom. I have been told that they would probably ask me to help teach English to the refugees, particularly the children, that have been exiled for a while and need less immediate care and basic treatment from lower on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and more opportunities for societal upward mobility. Working with such a population runs in the passion that fuels the lifeblood of my Family. To this date though, none of us have had the opportunity to afford actually traveling to the midst of it all to do things such as this, and this is my chance to do just that. This is an absolute dream of mine and, with your gracious help, we will make this happen.

For the next three weeks, I will be enrolled in a Service-Learning project led by Christ University (also the place in which I will be housed for this leg of the journey) with a cohort of 39 other like-minded students from all over the world bringing a multitude of invaluable global perspectives to the table. This will take place from December 31st until January 17th. Along with the Service-Learning class, I will also be enrolled in a class with the title: Social Problems: Women's Issues in Indian Society. In this class, we will take an in-depth approach at researching contemporary political and economic issues in South Asia across a broad spectrum of gender-based focuses. Additionally, during this time, I will still continue freelance work with the Tibetan Women's Association. Also, there will be planned, course-specific field activities, facilitated by the University, that will help us better engage in the material that we will be learning. For those of you that view traveling through the same lens that I do, I can assure you that none of this will be the fabricated, monetization and exploitation of the culture brand of travel either; which I strive to be consistently objectively sensitive to on all possible fronts.

For the final week (January 20th through January 27th), I will be taking part in an optional tour of Southern India. During this segment of the travel experience, those that choose to attend will get to partake in a series of experiential learning opportunities all throughout the entire state of Kerala. Applying the knowledge we had been graced with in the classroom to the privilege of real-world experience with this portion of the trip only costs an extra $525.00 in total and will solidify everything that we had spent thoroughly discussing for the preceding three weeks. Learning hand in hand with the local community, we will do such things as tour tea plantations, explore paddy fields, coconut lagoons, narrow canals, and coir villages to gather more realistic experiences tied to the oppressive facets of the globe we will be continually discussing. I will be returning near the end of the first week of next semester's classes back at Boise State University, but this is of no real issue to me, for the world is our most pure and true classroom.

Personally speaking, there has never been more opportunity for learning than there is encased in the interactions with those from a different culture. The perspectives that I hold become boring and begin to stagnate if they are not introduced to and/or challenged by fresh stimuli and interesting perceptions. If I had wanted to follow a rigid curriculum of being restrung by patterned and generalized lessons, then this would not be of interest to me at all; but I crave the opposite. The natural propellant that crossing cultural boundaries emits is the most motivational fuel that humanity has to offer and I look forward to nothing more. So much so, actually, that my stretched career goal in life is to become a professor abroad. I dream of the days that I will be able to be learning alongside a group of eager students, yet being labeled as the teacher, in towns like Merida, Venezuela, or Winneba, Ghana. In the end, India has come up for me as being the next link in this adventurous and treasured chain; and I look forward to nothing more than being able to take the thoughts of you all with me.

Naturally, I have plans that will transcend the trip's designated finalization. Upon my return, I confidently speculate that I will be bringing back much more than just my person. Aside from a personally revitalized, rejuvenated, and reinvigorated soul, enriched by what I imagine will be lessons unmatched in any other facet of my future life, I pledge to take a piece of the stories exchanged with the people I will be privileged with meeting in India and disburse each of them back in the States as they had been so freely granted unto me. Most importantly, I have already deemed it a necessitated calling to convince others to travel abroad, using the experiences I will acquire in India as one of the most valuable mediums through which to impress the idea. Already, in my less distant international travel endeavors, I have been floored enough times to warrant the heeding of the demand within me to stress the vitally imperative nature of traveling to others. With this trip to India, I poetically fear that the stories could be so grand in stature and so numerous in quantity that they will never be able to be retold perfectly. With that in mind, I have also predetermined that I will need to write, as often and as wholly as is humanly possible, about every minute detail that will cross my path. Writing is a guilty pleasure of mine, and I presently have upwards of 200 pages worth of textual encapsulations of my travels thus far. Accompanied with India, and more emphatically, a service-learning experience therein, I feel as though I will finally have a complete book's worth of writings that I will legitimately be able to pursue asking companies if it is worthy enough for them to publish. I fully accept the farfetched nature of this rather outlandish standing task, but, like I said, the greatest form of motivation comes from travels like these, and I believe this is the next push I require in hopes of delivering the stories I wish to have told.

In addition to speaking with my Parents about what they would be able to donate to the cause, while considering our "small-business owner, then loser-of said small business in the recession" level of lacking financial stability and recent need scale back greatly on living quarters and other arenas of everyday life, I have begun a new and further approach of asking you all for help. This is, of course, a potentially very awkward and uncomfortable thing to do, but I feel that our relationships have a strong enough foundation to where I feel just comfortable enough asking for assistance in this way, only to an extent though. So, I have virtually zero expectations; and I mean that. Subsequently, the writings that I have done in the past have been shared with a growing email list of people (probably and hopefully including a lot of you reading this now) that have expressed interest in hearing about these travel experiences. So far, this has all been done strictly out of a passion for capturing moments within the realm of textual documentation, then relaying those stories unto others that are curious and/or willing enough to sift through them, simply for the sake of including those that have always meant so much to me and have played undeniably paramount roles in this journey of intrinsically developmental life. I also have been applying for outside scholarships left and right and would appreciate even any guidance that any of you may possess as to where I should go to further do so and/or how I should go about it.

Currently, I work at Epi's Basque Restaurant in Meridian two nights per week, dishwashing and bussing, as the Secretary of Academic Affairs on the Executive Council for the Associated Students of Boise State University, occasionally at my Father's shop for his business, Hi-Tech Antifreeze Recycling, and throughout the year with various non-profits (i.e. Idaho Drug Free Youth, Drug-Free Idaho, Christopher Bower L.L.C., the nationally recognized Mayor's Anti-Drug Coalition, Idaho Office of Drug Policy, etc.) facilitating leadership retreats for mainly high school students and empowering our state's youth to live drug-free, while still, and most importantly, highlighting the limitless bounty of natural highs our Earth has to offer from end to end (an optimistic and non-condemning approach in a facet of life that can be so traumatizing to the most undeserving of human beings, a tact I have been learnt is necessary and most effective). On top of this, I am a member of the International Fraternity of Delta Upsilon, through which I have served in a few positions and have attended many leadership events alongside. With further regards to campus life, I am an active member of the Organization of Student Social Workers, the Honors College, the Faculty Senate, the Student Research Initiative Review Committee and Board, the Vice President of the Philosophy Club, and am the LeaderShape Student Coordinator in the Student Involvement and Leadership Center. I have also been a member of the Student Funding Board, a Founder and the Knowledge Chair of the once alive Idaho Drug Free Campus club, the Student Assembly Representative for the School of Social Work, and the Boise State Dance Marathon. Off of campus, I have a two and one half year history volunteering at the Discovery Center of Idaho with over 250 hours of documented service, 75 hours with the Ada County Boys and Girls Club, multiple collaborations, both group and individual, with the Boise Rescue Mission and the International Rescue Committee, I have run an informal recovery program with the adolescent wing of Intermountain Hospital for almost five years now, and am currently putting together a fundraiser/awareness-raising gig in conjunction with the local Gay and Lesbian Community Center. As far as my international resume goes, I partook in the pioneer program of the colloquia research study class on Global Citizenship and Social Responsibility, where we discussed, planned, and implemented a variety of service projects and educational breakout sessions in Northeastern Belize last Spring. More recently, I spent a month traveling across Northern South America, committing random acts of service in 14 cities throughout Venezuela and Colombia. I only state all of this in hopes of expressing my intent as a highly motivated one. Already, I am planning on going back to Belize for this upcoming Spring, which will be another roughly $2,700.00. So, it is crucial that I get a jump on all of this; and, if it plays out to be so, anything more than this seemingly ridiculously high amount of $5,000.00 I am asking for will go straight towards that swiftly approaching return to the Corozal District in Belize to commence finishing what we had begun earlier this year (and hopefully gaining more pen pals consisting of the most inspirational primary school students in the universe).

I will reiterate again, all the while noting that I entirely both accept and recognize that there is real poverty in this pulchritudinous world that has not engulfed me at all (so, all of this is distinctly a massive privilege), that: Money is not an issue that I care much about, but it is a reality I am required to accept; and the reality is that it is a very big issue for me, in that I do not have much of it at all.

In conclusion, it would wholeheartedly be a privilege to have any of your assistance, even if it just be an encouraging written statement or a referral to someone you know know outside of our relationship that would have some input and/or the ability to contribute. I will stop at nothing to go to India. Again, I am not looking for anything in particular, but to show my seriousness, I will be regularly donating my own limited funds to the cause on this page. But, I do need your help and am far from afraid of admitting it, for I take real pride in knowing each of you. Regardless, I will be taking a piece of my shared experiences with every single one of you with me to India, whether you like it or not. Honestly, thank you infinitely for your undying support and for being a part of seeing my vision evolve into a workable and concrete reality. Mentions of all of you will be scattered throughout any publications I may construct in the future as only a corner piece testament of the gratitude I hope to be able to grant every single one of you by more extreme means as well. I love and appreciate you all, and unceasingly pray that it shows.

If there remain any questions whatsoever, about anything, please, do not ever hesitate to contact me: [email redacted]sestate.edu [phone redacted]. Accompanying this, if there is ever anything that I may do to help you, let me know as well. I would love to include all of you on the email list via which I will be keeping everyone posted along the way, too.
Sincerely hoping that nothing is short of perfect in your life,
-Bower.


Post Script:
Below, I have included a rough budget of the expenses that I will be accruing along the way.

Program Fees: $1,980.00
Room and Food: $635.00
Books and Supplies: $75.00
Airfare: $1,900.00
Local Transportation: $100.00
Southern India Venture: $525.00
Miscellaneous Expenses: $350.00 +
TOTAL EXPENSES: $5,565.00 =
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