Rural Immersion Program for the Students of Science and Engineering (RISE)
As Mahatma Gandhi rightly said, “The soul of India lies in its villages.”
Taking inspiration from the same, The Class of 1992, as a part of their Legacy Project, started a unique two-week immersive cultural experience of life in rural India in May 2019, for the students of IIT Bombay. This program is called RISE- The Rural Immersion program for students of Science and Engineering.
In the words of co-creator and sponsor Ms. Rekha Koita, class of 1992, ‘As a part of our legacy project, the ‘Class of 92 ‘wanted to work on initiatives which would give students a variety of experiences to explore their interests and develop themselves further. We also felt that it would be of value to encourage B. Tech students to gain a better understanding of the problems of rural India and explore the possibility of finding technology-based solutions for the same. With this in mind, we launched a program called RISE (Rural Immersion program for the
Students of Science and Engineering) for IITB UG students. This involves a two-week immersion in a village, staying with a local family, and working with an NGO. The program also supports the students who show an interest and wish to pursue this further in developing solutions to problems that they identify. This program is anchored in the Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (CTARA) at IIT Bombay’.
RISE is open to all undergraduate students of IITB in Year 1, 2, and 3. Selected undergraduate students are placed with a reputed NGO working in the field of rural development. Students get an opportunity to stay in a rural household, thus get a glimpse of the hardships as well as the delights of rural life. They are expected to work with the field workers of the NGO under the guidance of senior staff.
This rural immersion program is conducted twice a year, just after completion of the end semester exams, i.e., once in the first two weeks of May and again at the end of November/early December. In each batch, up to 25 students are selected and placed with the partner NGOs. The RISE program covers expenses for travel and stay. Students submit a report on their stay, their experience, and what they learned in these two weeks on their return.
Those students who are interested can opt for two more weeks of field stay with the NGO. They can also pursue the development of solutions with RuTAG (Rural Technology Action Group), which will be supported by the program.
In the first run of 2019 itself, a total of 46 applications were received out of which 19 students were selected after rigorous interviews. Considering that this was the inaugural batch, NGOs in the vicinity of Mumbai were selected to host the students. Arrangements were made by these NGOs for hosting the students for two weeks in the houses of local villagers.
Detailed instructions were given to the participating students and an orientation session was conducted for them to explain the details of the program. Tips for taking field notes and writing a daily diary were also discussed. Groups of students placed with each NGO were announced.
The students were handed over the kits including a small backpack, cap, and a water bottle with RISE and IITB logo and a notebook and pen. A medical kit with essential medicines and first aid material was given to each of the four groups. A representative of each group was also given travel advance. Train reservations and cab reservations were made for three groups to the nearest major town/city.
A detailed format for the final report was sent to the students to help them collect the information. During the program, the RISE team visited the students at their field locations to ensure that the accommodation and the work arrangements were satisfactory.
A debriefing and feedback session was also held in July. Each group made a short presentation and gave feedback. The design of the program was also modified according to the feedback received.
Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive, and even spiritual satisfaction. The students who went for the RISE program had nothing but praise for the same, and some are still in touch with the families they stayed with, even after a year! Here are some glimpses of the students’ thoughts after the internship program:
“Working with the NGO helped me to understand the culture and tradition of the villagers. I learnt the art of adjustment and the art of connecting with people. I also realized how many of the solutions I had in mind for the various rural problems were not applicable in most of the cases. In the future, I would like to pursue projects that are aimed at the upliftment of rural areas which are related to the problems that I have identified. “
“I lived a lifestyle that I never had in the past, and it was absolutely an eye-opening experience. Living with content using bare minimum resources and luxuries taught me the importance of consuming as much as I need. I got to know the true value of all day to day natural resources which we take for granted. Also, I found the process of Technology Detox in the rural area liberating. I got to know how dependent I am on technology, and I remember thinking that the intern was turning out to be a sort of vacation.”
As we can make out from the above student reviews, RISE was a huge success even in its 1-year run. It could prove to be a life-changing experience for those who are curious to get hands-on experience of how the ‘other’ India lives. The words “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” have never echoed truer and this unique internship program is an excellent example of the same. It not only sensitizes the students but also helps in their all-round development and putting their engineering knowledge to excellent use by solving real-world problems. Through RISE, the students now have an opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the rural developmental process in India.
The RISE coordinating team is as follows:
Ms. Rekha Koita, Alumna Class of 1992
Prof. Anand Rao, Professor, CTARA
Dr. Girija Godbole, Program Coordinator, - Post Doctoral Fellow, CPS
Ms. Vandana Pagare, Administrative support, CPS
Dr. Vidya Subramaniam, Publicity support, - Post Doctoral Fellow, CPS
Ms Namita Sawant, Program Coordinator, PhD student, CTARA
To get involved in any manner with the RISE program or for any other queries, students and alumni can simply drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.