Faith OBrian, ’15, was matched with a hands-on project in India through MISTI's MIT-India Program. She shared her story about teaching engineering and soccer skills to girls in a rural village while volunteering at a youth empowerment program called Yuwa. Faith, who is a premedical student, also spent four weeks at the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad shadowing ophthalmologists and optometrists and working on a medical device. Here’s her story.
I spent my first five weeks in India at Yuwa, a youth empowerment program for girls, teaching hands-on engineering classes, helping coach a soccer team that traveled to the United States for the USA Cup, and filling in as an English teacher.
My time at Yuwa House in the rural village of Hutup in the state of Jharkhand was eye-opening. Jharkhand has a 66% literacy rate and 40% of people living below the poverty line. Our house was fortunate enough to have running water, but almost all of the Yuwa girls’ homes did not. The village does have electricity, but it was typically out for several hours each day. Water conservation also kicked in during power outages – we had a water pump that ran on electricity, so I got pretty good at taking efficient bucket showers! Overall, the experience reminded me of how privileged we are here in the U.S.
The Yuwa girls have so little, but they are extremely creative and do the best they can with what they do have. They are incredibly engaged, energetic, and eager to learn. During summer school, the girls would sit for hours, reading and writing book reports (in English!), going to English class, working on math problems, taking classes through Khan Academy, and coming to our engineering class. The hands-on learning at Yuwa was a great change for these girls. They soaked in every bit of it!
The academics at Yuwa are complemented by athletics. On the soccer field, my fellow coach (and MIT student) Victoria Gregory, ’17, and I were able to share some of the things we’ve learned over the years from the great coaches we have both had. We focused on topics that would prepare the girls for playing on the big fields at the USA Cup. The girls were eager to learn, and we had a great deal of fun.
LVPEI (L.V. Prasad Eye Institute)
For my last four weeks in India, I was at LVPEI, an eye hospital in Hyderabad, which is located in south-central India. I shadowed a number of ophthalmologists, optometrists, and other medical professionals in adult and pediatric outpatient care, low vision, surgery, and children’s rehabilitation. The experience provided me with a great opportunity to see a different medical field and afforded me my first experience viewing a surgery.
During my time at LVPEI, I also participated in a workshop called Engineering the Eye, sponsored by the MIT Media Lab. The workshop attracted around 100 college engineering students from across India. I was with a group working on a device to better quantify visual field in infants.
Overall, my experiences this summer at Yuwa and LVPEI were fun, eye opening, and incredibly rewarding. From gaining exposure to ophthalmology to having to adjust quickly to life in a village to collaborating with a team on a medical device, I developed a number of skills during my time in India that will help me as I prepare to enter the medical field.