In the summer of 2016, I had the opportunity to travel to Dolatpura, a small rural farming village in Gujarat, India, to work with local women to build cleaner, more efficient cook stoves. I worked with an NGO there called the Setco Foundation, which seeks to among other things, empower women and provide education/basic health resources to young children around Baroda, India. While I was there, I co-designed with Sumitraben, a local mother and stove builder, to make 4 stove prototypes that would decrease cancerous particulate matter found in smoke. Women in the community used the stoves and determined their shortcomings to adjust each prototype. Ultimately, a final prototype was chosen, and Sumitrben expressed interest in expanding the stove building venture to other homes and villages, so other women might have a better cooking environment. The time I spent learning about and helping the needs of women in Dolatpura embodies the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg, in that the project sought to extend help towards those who need it. Far from a heroic deed, I feel as though the women I worked with taught me more than many of the things I shared with them. Raoul Wallenberg committed his life to improving the world around him, no matter how limited the resources or stringent the parameters. And thus, I hope in part his legacy carries on in my project of trying to reduce the danger and discomfort of something all women in India do for over 6 hours a day.
How Raoul Wallenberg explored the world to gain a better understanding of humanity and positively impact society resonated a lot with my experience with La Matria. In many of the high schools I visited, even though I spoke the same language, there was a huge socio-economic and educational gap. Overcoming this gap and finding a common ground with the students was challenging, but one of the most rewarding aspects of this fellowship.