Project RISHI, which stands for Rural India Social and Health Improvement, is a nationwide non-profit organization. Every chapter focuses on a different rural village in India and helps residents fulfill a basic need.
“I have a lot of family in India; my grandparents are all from rural villages, so I’ve seen the conditions that people are in,” Sajala Shukla , said a third year student. “You want to give back, but you don’t want to go in and be like, ‘I’m going to do this for this village’ without assessing what their needs are and not really having sustainability.”
The group is currently working in the Mulshi district of Pune, Maharashtra and partnering with Rachana, another group doing work in rural education and health improvement. Together, the organizations have picked out five high schools in the area and during Project RISHI’s trip to India last summer, group members talked with girls between the ages of 11 and 14 about staying in school and basic health needs.
Project RISHI plans to work in Puna for three to four years before allowing the project to become more community-based.
“This project that we’ve developed, we’re turning it over to the community,” Shukla said. “The schools, the doctors … they’re going to have access to all these resources.”
The other CIO benefitting from the event, Asha for Education, aims to increase literacy within India, especially among young girls. In past years, funds from the dinner have been split between this organization and fees to sponsor a child in India throughout primary school. However, with the emergence of Project RISHI, HSC decided to dedicate half the proceeds to a new cause.
Both Barot and Shukla said their organizations are open to anyone who feels like giving back to the community — regardless of background.
Experiences such as these have inspired Shukla and other members to expand the organization and continue giving back. In the group’s most recent fundraiser, the Ganhdi Benefit Dinner, members raised over $1,000. The event, put on by the Hindu Student Council (HSC), benefitted Project RISHI and Asha for Education and attracted over 220 students and faculty members.
“A lot of the people in these organizations aren’t even from India, but they’re giving back because of the idea of service,” Barot said. “At the end of the day, the bigger picture is no matter where you’re giving back, you’re giving back.”
In the next year, Project RISHI is planning on co-hosting a fall event with a fraternity and returning to India with an even larger group of students.