[Interview] Jessica Howell: From Atlanta to Udaipur, for a Cause, for a Dream


[Interview] Jessica Howell: From Atlanta to Udaipur, for a Cause, for a Dream

It is a hard hitting fact that most of us try to get ourselves noticed, that we almost forget in doing! The success constricts to fame, money, awards and admiration, which we soon fill our lives with and move on striving for such valedictory benefits.

 
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[Interview] Jessica Howell: From Atlanta to Udaipur, for a Cause, for a Dream

It is a hard hitting fact that most of us try to get ourselves noticed, that we almost forget in doing! The success constricts to fame, money, awards and admiration, which we soon fill our lives with and move on striving for such valedictory benefits.

Only if we pop out of the pervasive bubble can we find the magnitude of what the real dreams are made of and how impactful one’s efforts can become. Although it becomes quite a daunting task to comprehend simple, yet prolific motives that can make a difference, some people go beyond the obvious and endeavor to transform the naked truth of unseen things, people and causes.

Jessica Howell, a volunteer from Atlanta, Georgia has set her eyes and mind to help thousands of impoverished, runaway and orphaned children of Udaipur be provided support and help them establish themselves in the city which is a haven of lakes and palaces and also an open street home to the overlooked and forgotten children.

As a volunteer of ABV, a non-profit organization she is raising money through online donation to help her fulfill her dream. I happened to have a conversation with her. Here are the excerpts of the interview:

Q. Tell us about the cause that you are raising money for online.

This Spring I will take part in a volunteer program through an organization called A Broader View Volunteers (ABV). Their volunteer projects are mainly focused on child/family support, education and community building. My specific initiative will focus on childcare in Udaipur which will entail family outreach and community development.

Q. Why did you choose Udaipur to be the center point?

ABV has programs set up in over 20 countries all over the world. While doing research on an overwhelming amount of organizations, I noticed that so many volunteer efforts lie heavily in Africa or Central and South American countries.

Every effort is worthy, honorable and certainly doing their part to promote change in their prospective corners of this vast world, but when considering poverty on a global scale it’s important to note that no other country on earth has more people living in slum settlements than India.

Polls in recent years show that 1.21 billion people fall below India’s international poverty line, which for families means living off $1.25 a day, according to the Indian Planning Commission. The Rajasthan region remains one of India’s most impoverished areas and it deserves the attention that organizations like ABV brings to it.

Access to education, nutrition and health resources in Rajasthan is much more significantly mediated by gender, caste and class than in other parts of India. Rajasthan has been working hard since the early 2000’s to reduce poverty levels and I’m happy to lend a hand to the future of its children.

[Interview] Jessica Howell: From Atlanta to Udaipur, for a Cause, for a Dream

Q. Is there any organization that you are working for or this is an individual project?

I will be working with A Broader View as mentioned above. They are a non-profit organization that was created in 2007 by Oliver and Sarah Ehlers and are based in Pennsylvania. They currently run 195 programs worldwide.

Q. Do you think your initiative will make a difference?

Absolutely. It really does take a village and you couldn’t convince me otherwise. In some instances that “village” can and should expand beyond your own zip code. It’s important to lend strength to others where it is needed.

Q. Why did you think about raising money through online donation?

The fact that ABV is a non-profit means their volunteers are responsible for all costs associated with the program. This includes the overall program fee, airfare, proper travel documentation, vaccinations, mandatory health and travel insurance. It will be costly, but worth it.

An endeavor such as this isn’t something most people can take on financially, so to stress that this project relies on donations/sponsorship to come into fruition is of the utmost importance. It most certainly does and every little bit helps tremendously!

Q. What has been a motivating factor for you to take up this initiative?

Regardless of my day to day responsibilities (albeit important) while in Udaipur it will be the interpersonal connections with the children that make this entire experience worthwhile. It’s my own childhood experiences with poverty that draws me to this particular cause.

Let it be said first that I am forever grateful to have been born in a country where the life you are born into does not keep you from obtaining a better one and that no matter your given allotment as Americans we all have opportunities for the taking. I come from a large family with incredibly meager means.

During our early years we would cramp 8 people into 2 bedroom apartments, we lived in a pop-up camper once, even an abandoned building that was later condemned. Our poverty came in waves, there were highs and there were lows. At an early age I took to books and art as my transcendence into a better world. I found mentors along the way in many forms. Some were older siblings, some were teachers or neighbors and some were historical leaders that I found through reading.

It’s not important how I found these mentors; it’s that I had them at all. All moments in life however big or small shape us, move us, provide empowerment and eventually have a hand in whom we become. That is my motivation.

Q. How beneficial is this project going to be for children?

Child development along with community outreach is crucial to the long term positive effects that programs like ABV strive for. It’s important to create a safe environment for these kids to escape to; one that provides educational activities for the betterment of all.

There is little opportunity to be had growing up in a slum, but if one person can plant a seed of encouragement, maybe that child holds onto it, grows from it over time and completely changes course. We all deserve a fighting chance.

[Interview] Jessica Howell: From Atlanta to Udaipur, for a Cause, for a Dream

Q. What is the main idea behind the Volunteer Trip to Udaipur?

In short – to strive for the impossible and prove that it’s completely obtainable.

Q. What is the sustainability of such initiatives in the long run?

This is something I struggle with and can’t help but to ask myself on a regular basis. My overly cynical side of the brain reminds me that anything I do will be one drop in an immense bucket. As with anything though, if you don’t try nothing can happen.

So it may be that I am one small drop, but I have to remind myself that I’m surrounded by countless others contributing to that very same bucket. Someone has to lead by example and not just in theory because doing so creates a domino effect which is exactly how these initiatives sustain their purpose in the world.

Q. What will be your future endeavor? 

I’m hoping to figure that out along the way.

Jessica Howell is in need of donation from around the world and we, as people of Udaipur can help her by putting in our efforts. Whether big or small, it doesn’t matter; what matters is that we contributed a drop in the half-filled vessel to make it to brim, so that one day, if we look at a homeless child who once was walking wearing tattered clothes on the street is today, going to school; we know that we have made that difference!

You may contribute in the noble cause by donating on the official website and spread the word as much as you can.

For Udaipur.

The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die.”

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