Mumbai, 2nd April, 2018: Indian-born Griffith University lecturer Dr Dhara Shah helped designed a new community internship program to take students to her hometown to help improve the lives of local slum dwellers living in poverty.
The Griffith Business School lecturer was part of a team that designed the pilot program that saw 11 students travel to Maharashtra state in western India for three weeks in January 2017.
While there, the students worked with one urban slum area in the business capital, Mumbai, in an effort to help that community by providing guidance and education through an information event to raise awareness around the importance of water quality and hygiene.
Bachelor of Science student Jack Gray says an information event held for Mumbai’s Mankhurd slum dwellers on Republic Day (26 January) was co-sponsored by Hindusthan Microfinance, a financial service for low-income earners.
“The event provided useful information for households about hygiene, water sanitation and general health practices through the use of interactive props designed by us,” says Jack.
“We also helped try to persuade locals to purchase water filters as a safe practice.
“It was such an experience visiting and experiencing another culture -- it definitely goes to show what we take for granted here in Australia. But it also gave me hope to see organisations trying to make the situation better for people.”
Dr Shah says the experience is very close to her heart, having grown up in India and moving to Australia 17 years ago. She was one of the original delegates who went to India to design the course.
“When we were designing the course I discovered a lot of things that I never imagined could exist where I grew up,” she says.
“There are two sides to the city, namely the slums and the middle-to-high income earners. There is a big gap in socioeconomic environments and when I was growing up there, we would often pass through the slums without noticing them.”
“When I visited the slums for the first time, I never imagined that it could be a part of India. You see it on TV, but you don’t think it’s real. It was important for me that I now have the ability to help people in those communities, who don’t have the same access as others.”
The Griffith University community internship program, funded by the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan, aims to create globally responsible leaders.
Dr Shah says that when the students began their research, they found that a high percentage of illnesses in both urban and rural slum areas develop from water-borne diseases. This is mainly related to lack of awareness and education, which explains the focus on water quality education.
Bachelor of Biomedical Science student Emily Donly says that, as a group, the students felt that water filtration education was an issue they could address in a short time frame and hopefully make a difference.
“Hopefully we made a difference to the individuals we spoke to. It’s part of a long term goal to help people access clean water,” she says.