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April 24, 2014
 
 
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Laurier International

Grant helps Master of Social Work student do internship in India

Jul 15/08

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Priya Kaur, Student Abroad Advisor, Laurier International

Laurier Master of Social Work student Alexandra Zalucky will travel to India this fall to coordinate a small-business project for women living in rural villages in Orissa, India.

 While Ms. Zalucky admits to having little business background, she says she was reassured by her Indian counterparts that her social work background will be of greater use than knowledge of business in this project.  "The larger goal of the project is to increase the self-sufficiency of the women and to enhance their organizing skills so that they may be more involved in local governance. So while I was initially concerned about my lack of business knowledge, after learning more about the project, I realize it is more about sharing community development skills such as project management, group decision-making, and effective advocating practices."

It all became possible through a $10,000 grant from the Students for Development Program, a program designed and managed by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, and financially supported by the Canadian International Development Agency. A total of 138 students across Canada are selected every year to participate in these internships. The program is designed to help Canadian students work with partners in the developing world to promote good governance. The program will allow Ms. Zalucky to complete four months of her Masters in Social Work in India.

 While in India, Ms. Zalucky will partner with two locally-based, community development-focused organizations- Gram Vikas and CTx GreEn, who are working together on an alternative energy project from which this new project developed. The alternative energy project involves the conversion of local under-utilized oil seeds into biodiesel for use in pumping water and extending electrification to villages in Orissa. A by-product of the biodiesel process is glycerin, which, combined with medicinal plants and herbs, can be made into a specialty soap. "Traditionally," Ms. Zalucky explains, "local women sell oil seeds, as well as herbs and medicinal plants to middle men at a low price, who in turn sell them to drug companies and to soap manufacturers. This new project enables the local women to utilize the glycerin produced by the biodiesel process to make the soap themselves, and thus gain an income by selling their product in India and potentially elsewhere."

Ms. Zalucky has already begun work on this project by collaborating with skilled craftspeople at The Working Centre in Kitchener to hone a recipe for making glycerin soap from biodiesel by-product. This knowledge will be transferred to women in Orissa through workshops that Ms. Zalucky will deliver. In addition, Ms. Zalucky is currently researching similar self-help groups in India and other developing economies in order to gain more insight into this practice. She will also dedicate some time this summer to learning basic Oriya- the language spoken in Orissa.

Ms. Zalucky is also expecting to grow professionally and personally from the experience. " I am looking forward to working within a different culture. Im sure there will be a great deal we can learn from eachother. I anticipate challenges, but I think that invaluable personal and professional growth comes from such experiences." The internship requirements stipulate that Ms. Zalucky not only participate in international development work, but that she synthesize the practical learning from India with theory when she returns to the classroom.

 

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