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SevaYatra - Experience

India’s Development Sector: Macro Perspectives and Innovative Strategies



SevaYatra-Northwestern University-Udaipur School of Social Work Seminar

July 17-18, 2010

A crowd of 70 people gathered to discuss innovative approaches to social development in India, enjoying stimulating conversation and excellent food.  SevaYatra organized a two-day, academic seminar for Northwestern University’s Global Engagement Summer Institute (GESI) students in Udaipur, Rajasthan.  The seminar was hosted by the Udaipur School of Social Work and was attended by GESI students, second-year MSW students from the Udaipur School of Social Work, and social sector experts from locations as wide as New York to Mumbai to Delhi. 


The initial purpose of the seminar was to provide an academic “mid-point retreat” for the Northwestern GESI students who were engaged in two-month community development projects in Udaipur.  GESI and Northwestern wanted to provide a broader context for the students’ fieldwork after they had been in India for a few weeks and still had a good length of time remaining in their projects.  As a collaboration with the Udaipur School of Social Work developed, it was decided that second-year master of social work students from Udaipur would also participate in the seminar.  This cross-cultural and peer to peer learning became one of the highlights of the seminar.  As one GESI student shared, “It was great meeting Indian students around our age and also hearing and learning about NGO theory from an Indian perspective after discussing it so much from an American perspective of developmental economics in Chicago.”


The seminar featured speakers from organizations such as YES! Bank and Aajeevika Bureau, as well as a number of distinguished academicians. Themes discussed included topics like migration, education, microfinance, and ethics. 


Below, please enjoy a brief snapshot into participant take-aways from the seminar;


  • It was great to hear young people present their organizations and achievements.
  • I realized the difficulties of communicating about social and NGO work across a language barrier, but I also realized the richness now of hearing the views of people with the same passions from an entirely different culture.
  • First time I got chance to speak my thought in front of social experts.
  • First time I did interact in English.
  • It was informative, educative learning and most important for me it was source of improve myself.
  • The lecture about corporate responsibility was really eye opening- seeing a real life example of how the morals and principles that I value in development work can be incorporated into other sectors.
  • I learned a lot of really thought-provoking material about Gandhi that I would like to explore further.
  • I removed my hesitation completely and did healthy conversation with everyone.
  • All the resource person was very talented and a lot of new information was received by their lecture such as microfinance, livelihood, right to information and also a chance to learn many new energetic games.

Overtown Youth Center and Infosys SevaYatra

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SGS Leadership team hosts CSR event at Miami

Eighteen members from the SGS leadership team recently spent three hours at the OverTown Youth Center interacting with under-privileged children at an education summer camp…

Recently, when the SGS leadership team was finalizing the agenda for a Business Planning session offsite, on a trial basis they decided to make Corporate Social Responsibility a part of  it.

So 18 members from the SGS Leadership team spent three hours at the OverTown Youth Center recently, interacting with under-privileged children at an education summer camp located in Miami. The neighborhood where the center is located is considered to be among the poorest (with the highest incidences of crime and drug use). Typically, only one out of 12 children at OverTown is able to make it through high school.

The center ( helps keep the children out of harm’s way through the year, by running a school for them. During the summer holidays the center is converted into a summer camp, where educational sessions (focused on Math and Science) are conducted by qualified teachers. 


They encourage visits from employees working at global firms, as it would provide children and instructors with insights and exposure about the external world. After an hour-long tour of the facility, the SGS team spent two hours more interacting with the children from second grade to eighth grade.

Some of the activities in which the team participated include:

·                 Helping children with their Math and reading skills.

·                 Held sessions on Cultures of the World in each class, answering queries on a variety of topics.

·                 Conducted sessions on career opportunities with students in higher classes.

·                 Interacted with children in the playground and for a photo opportunity.


This was followed by a session spent in introspection and reflection, by the SGS team.  Feedback from the SGS leaders who attended the event was positive. It was heartening to hear about the many success stories at the center and the achievements of children. The team felt good at having touched the lives of children and for having helped them understand the importance of education, hard work and perseverance, while helping expanding their world vision and interest in travelling the world. 

“It may have been only three hours, but it is very likely that a few lives (at Infosys and Overtown) were impacted following this visit.  The SGS leadership team will try and incorporate a CSR activity in all future leadership offsites,” said Suketu Patel, Unit Head, SGS.



Spencer Stuart and Sujaya Foundation Service Project

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13 youth, ranging in age from 18 to 21 who are enrolled in the Sujaya intensive spoken English program, spent three hours at Spencer Stuart's corporate office in Nariman Point. The curriculum of the program was managed by breaking the group into three and circulated them through stations lead by employees of Spencer Stuart, to practice their spoken English through discussing career and life goals, debating current topics and asking questions and learning about the office’s work. Interview tips were also offered to the group. The SevaYatra reflection session ended the day.
The conversations were lively, and the English practice they provided valuable. The majority of the staff participated, which allowed for a lot of individual attention for each participant. This was demographically the oldest group of students the program engaged, which also added to the richness of their engagement. One had the sense that they wanted to be there asking questions, in addition to appreciating the newness of the environment.

For Spencer stuart employees this was a unique way to give back to a group of individuals who were ready and eager to learn and for whom this process of service engagement was very valuable.

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