Our Response to COVID-19

From Odisha to the United Nations

Vidya and other students at the UNAI Conference
Vidya (center) and other students at the UNAI-START Conference

“Dear Vidya Nair, we are delighted that you will be joining us at the United Nations in New York, Wednesday, July 8th, 2015 for the UNAI-START/Amrita University Conference on Technology for Sustainable Development.” As a young professional trying to curb my way into the world of development work, being selected to attend was a dream come true. Not only would UN representatives be present but also the exciting work that I participated in at first-hand during my internship at AMMACHI Labs at Amrita University would be discussed.

In August 2014, I packed my bags and headed to India to spend the year as a Live In Labs Intern at Amrita University’s AMMACHI Labs. My time abroad would prove to be the best decision I ever made to gain field work experience and network with experts in sustainable development. Upon arrival, I was paired up with AMMACHI Labs’ newest initiative: Women’s Empowerment Sanitation, or WE: Sanitation. This project was launched in the fall to teach rural women in remote villages in India the skills and competencies required to build toilets and end the risks of open defecation for themselves and their families. My work took me to the northeast state of Odisha where I lived and worked closely with the women of Bhoi Sahi. I learned quickly that in order to sustain any sort of initiatives a number of key players had to be on board. Steering the program forward was Director of AMMACHI Labs, Professor Rao R. Bhavani. She ensured her team was equipped with the necessary subject matter experts to execute and deliver the initiative on a wider scale.

Villagers in Odisha received hands on training for toilet building.
Villagers in Odisha received hands on training for toilet building.

As with any UN project, sustainable development goals or SDGs are essential for further growth and expansion. With WE: Sanitation delivery and scale are a priority where education, community and livelihoods are interconnected and interdependent. In my opinion, without considering a holistic approach to development numerous challenges are bound to arise. However, if thought and consideration is given to multiple factors and analyzing the potential risks, the reward is bound to be greater. To date, AMMACHI Labs’ WE: Sanitation has become a massive campaign all over India and has impacted several villages and communities.

Dr. Silvia Hostettler, Professor at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and Dr. Kenneth Salisbury from Stanford University joined Professor Rao R. Bhavani at the conference on Monday July 8th, 2015. The panel discussed the technology and educational approach that AMMACHI Labs deploys as not only being innovative but leading India and the world to a healthier population. AMMACHI Labs’ efforts focus on women empowerment as this leads to greater empowerment for society; by touching the lives of children and the elderly, it tackles the three most disadvantaged and pivotal populations in the developing world. It was amazing to listen to the discussion by the experts as their work was very well aligned with the revised 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs) and international standards. By working on AMMACHI Labs’ offerings of skill and life enrichment training, I experienced the development community’s best practices as a development practitioner myself! What a rewarding opportunity to attend the conference and an even greater one to be working with an organization that continually delivers initiatives that directly impact people’s lives.

-Vidya Nair: Master of Development Candidate, University of Waterloo, Canada

For more information about Live-in-Labs and volunteering in a village click here.