December 3 2012
Dr. Balu Visits Cornell University: Cornell Students Share What It Means to be Global Citizens
As students filled Mallott Hall to welcome Dr. R. Balasubramaniam (Dr. Balu), there was a sense of energy, buzz and excitement from the former students who spent the summer working with the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM) as well as the new students who gathered to learn more about the opportunities that SVYM had for them. Before Dr. Balu spoke, a CNN video of him and his organization, SVYM, introduced Dr. Balu’s impressive work over the last two decades. The video highlighted SVYM’s mission as a non-profit organization that helps disenfranchised tribal communities in Southern India through community development services. Dr. Balu founded the organization over 28 years ago, when he was a nineteen year old medical student.
As a former participant of SVYM Simon Boehme, BSILR 2014, had the unique opportunity to work in the Grassroot Research and Advocacy Movement. Boehme’s primary responsibility was to assist in the creation of research tools for implementation in over 200 rural public schools in the Mysore district and write education policy. Boehme says “I quickly learned about the Indian education system, policies, and curriculum. But the most memorable day was visiting four rural public schools. I was able to interact with teachers, principals, students, and community leaders gaining a unique perspective of their challenges and aspirations for the school. It was an incredible opportunity to offer my advice, especially ideas from my ILR experiences, and listen to their concerns.” When Boehme is asked about how SVYM has changed his perception of the global arena, he says “SVYM has opened my eyes to new opportunities for global collaboration. Everyone around the world has something to teach someone else. Organizations such as SVYM, that mobilize people to do goodwill on the ground and inspire others to give back, are making a significant impact in southern India. Giving students the exposure of what SVYM does, not only provides experience in assisting communities in need, but gain inspiration to help in new ways at Cornell and elsewhere…”
Dr. Balu also shared his opinions on how the SVYM program and Cornell students have impacted the organization, he says “Personally I do not see it [SVYM] as a higher education – it is not just a program and not just a passion but all this is much more. You can immediately see the visible benefits from the students; they are engaged, they are working in a durable setting and they understand all of this in an Indian context…” When Dr. Balu is asked about his vision for the world and SVYM, Dr. Balu enthusiastically says “what drives me and the passion is a dream to look at the world with no boundaries – a one world project. I see color, religion, nationality and all these boundaries dissolving. I also see the youth of today taking on leadership positions in an increasingly shrinking world to take humanity to another place…I believe the future of humanity is in the dissolution of boundaries and this lies in the value of being a global citizen.”
As SVYM continues to expand its reach in southern India, Cornell students will continue to play a critical role in its mission. Dr. Balu says “SVYM has a lot of commitment to what it is doing including working at exploring sustainable solutions in the area of human development – whether it is health, education, livelihoods etc. We need to understand that the world’s resources are not going to exist perpetually and we need to be more efficient. In the corporate world, efficiency means more profits but in the not-for-profit world it means using less resources and being more sustainable. We hope that students will understand and appreciate this stuff…I believe SVYM provides this extraordinary platform to students that one needs to goes beyond the norm but it helps create an understanding of the larger social constructs and how we can make our lives more meaningful.”