HAIS students travel halfway around the world to give back

For many students, spring break usually means vacation on the beach, a road trip across the country, or simply rest and relaxation at home. But students from the Houston Academy for International Studies spent their time away from school performing hands-on service learning projects in another country.

Twelve students and two teacher chaperones participated in the Rekha & Sudhir Puranik Foundation’s Impact India program. The program is based at the Puranik Foundation’s Vision International Learning Center, a rural English school that serves more than 80 impoverished primary and secondary students from villages around Pune, India.

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“Impact India is designed to teach students about India’s rich history and culture, and give them insight into how different cultures address social and political challenges,” said Rekha & Sudhir Puranik Foundation Executive Director Revati Puranik. “The school and the foundation are fully sustainable without electricity and running water, an ideal environment for students to participate in service-learning activities focused on alternative energy, agriculture, and education.”

The students taught English to their Indian counterparts and performed agricultural tasks alongside villagers. They also learned and celebrated several festivals highlighting India’s culture and traditions, and developed an artistic showcase with the Indian students that featured both American and Indian culture.

“I came to HAIS for opportunities like this,” said junior Nora Berry. “I chose to participate in this trip to see the world and do something meaningful with my spring break.”

Students also got an opportunity to explore issues related to development, the environment, poverty, and social inequity from a unique vantage point and return home with a more nuanced understanding of the world.

“This trip was a life-changing experience that opened up my mind to questions about who I am and what I can do to impact the world,” added fellow HAIS junior Ashley Olvera.

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