Austin Cope '15, Jagori Grameen team members, and local civic leaders from villages around the Kangra District and Waste Warriors Dharamshala pose for a group photo after a community litter cleanup in February 2020.
"So, where is my village? It is anywhere I find a tight-knit community of people that live around each other and lovingly get into each other's business. For now, that's here in Sidhbari and Rakkar, and with my fellow team members at Jagori."
— Jenna Lindeke, Fellow to Jagori Grameen 2009-2011
The two-year Shansi Fellowship to Jagori Grameen is an opportunity for a motivated and independent Oberlin graduate to work with a dynamic nongovernmental organization (NGO) dedicated to improving the lives of women and farmers in local communities in north India. Shansi Fellows gain valuable first-hand experience in social development work in India while immersing themselves in the language and culture of the region.
Jagori Rural Charitable Trust (“Jagori Grameen”) is located in Rakkar, a village in the foothills of the Himalayas near Dharamsala in the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. On the grounds of Jagori Grameen, red brick office buildings and guesthouses frame an experimental garden, one example of Jagori's mission to increase community engagement in sustainable, organic agriculture and environmental stability. Outside Jagori, a local school, a health clinic, and nearby Tibetan monasteries offer Fellows opportunities to learn about the diverse communities in the area, while the natural beauty of the area presents chances for trekking and climbing.
About Jagori Grameen
Jagori Grameen is an Indian non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to building a just and equitable society through grassroots activities that address discrimination and access to justice for women and children. They promote sustainable agriculture by local farmers, and mobilize youth to engage in community development by building leadership and technical skills. Jagori works closely with all sorts of community members, from government administrators to "barefoot lawyers" who travel to villages offering their services. Jagori seeks to encourage and strengthen the voice of women and girls, fight domestic violence, and ensure their rights to life and public safety. To learn more about Jagori Grameen, visit www.jagorigrameen.org.
Oberlin Shansi and Jagori Grameen established this partnership in 2008. Shansi Fellows at Jagori start off by learning first-hand about the organization and its various initiatives, getting to know the dedicated staff and the communities they serve, and then working with these teams and the Jagori leadership to identify a substantive role with at least one of the programs. At first, you may work on Jagori’s communications and outreach by being involved with the organization’s newsletter. Once you understand the organization’s priorities and approach to work, your contribution may take the form of supporting community activism efforts, working with youth education programs, reporting on legal awareness activities, or helping with outreach on agricultural education. You may also be involved in grant writing, website management, and translation work. Although Jagori is not a school, you may also be asked to teach English at one of the local Knowledge Centers. In the past, Fellows have taught community theater workshops, volunteered at a nearby health clinic, or coached a group of girls learning to play volleyball.
What does a strong candidate for the Fellowship to Jagori look like?
This Fellowship is ideal for independent, self-motivated, and patient individuals capable of creatively responding to challenging conditions. It is a unique opportunity to spend two years working inside a leading Indian NGO, and will be rewarding to people interested in NGO work, social justice, human rights, public health, community activism, environmental sustainability and organic farming, among many other issues. The Fellows work in a small mountain village, and must be open-minded and respectful of local norms and customs.
While past Fellows to Jagori may have had experience in grassroots organizing, or Indian music and culture, there is no one required profile. Shansi looks for people who are passionate about intercultural learning and sharing, and who are flexible in unexpected situations. The path from a Fellowship in India can be varied, with recent Fellows pursuing medical degrees, graduate education in International Relations, and careers in international development.
The Fellows at Jagori Grameen are trained in Hindi at a language school in India for 8 weeks prior to starting their Fellowship in September.
Initially, Jagori Grameen will provide the Shansi Fellow with an apartment in a guesthouse of the NGO. However, the Fellow is expected to find an apartment outside of the NGO within a few weeks. Shansi will provide reimbursement for the rent of this unit and Internet service, but will not be responsible for providing funds for utilities or phone.
As a non-governmental organization, Jagori Grameen does not follow the academic calendar, and thus there are no established long vacation breaks. Shansi Fellows have traditionally negotiated vacation leave that fits within the terms and obligations of their work, and the goals established when they arrive. This has traditionally allowed for opportunities for leave and travel.