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An AmeriCorps Alums’ Profound Impact in India

June 1, 2012

Happy International Volunteer Week! Today marks the first day of the celebration and AmeriCorps Alums would like to recognize all of our Alums who have served overseas, both before and after their time in AmeriCorps. Alums, like Ryan Sarafolean, who’ve committed to serving around the globe, continue to model the spirit of service that we celebrate of our community.

To spotlight an Alum who’s making international impact, we had an interview with Vandana Goyal, who had served with Citizen Schools in Massachusetts. She currently serves as CEO of The Akanksha Foundation in India.  Akanksha runs over 40 after-school centers as well as 9 schools serving over 4,000 children from the slum communities of Mumbai and Pune, seeking to pioneer the charter school movement in India and transform the quality of education available to children from low-income communities across the country.

Her service and involvement with Akansha is inspiring and we’re glad to be sharing her story.

  • Why did you serve in AmeriCorps?

I served in AmeriCorps because I felt I had a set of skills to offer the world, a passion for education as well as a belief that everyone deserves a fair shot to make it in life.  For me, education has always had the potential to be the great equalizer.  I love my country and the ideals that is was founded upon and believe that we can continue to build a place that embodies those values with the greatest of integrity through our individual actions.

  • Tell us more about Akanksha foundation and how you got involved.

Akanksha was founded in 1991 by an 18 year old girl named Shaheen Mistri, who in 2008 transitioned out of Akanksha to serve as the founding CEO of Teach for India.  I moved to Mumbai in 2006 to do similar work as to what I was doing in Citizen Schools and learn how to work in different systems to have the greatest impact.  I became very engaged in Akanksha’s work and felt acutely the great inequities in India’s education system and decided to stay on and try to help build the organization’s capacity to do more.

In 2007, the idea for pioneering the charter school movement in India evolved from Akanksha’s initial beginnings running after school centers, and the potential impact a school can have on children’s lives excited me enough to stay on. When Shaheen transitioned out of Akanksha, I took on the role of CEO just over a year later.

  • What does social entrepreneurship mean to you?

Social entrepreneurship means that we apply innovation to the most pressing social issues facing our society and world, and take the initiative to build sustainable organizations that can have a lasting impact on changing the nature of the world that we live in and improving the quality of life for all of its people.

  • What does a Lifetime of Service mean to you?

I do not think of what I do as service.  I think of what I do as a passion and a privilege.  To envision a world that looks dramatically different and better than what it does today, and be empowered to play some small role in realizing that vision, is a unique and special experience that has changed my life maybe more than it has changed others.

  • How do you think AmeriCorps prepared you for where you’re at today?

It taught me to be mission-driven, to be resilient, resourceful, and patient.  It taught me humility and the power of love and compassion.  It taught me that change is possible and that individual actions can collectively make this world a better place, and showed me countless examples of that every day.

  • What’s one word that sums up your AmeriCorps experience? Profound
Have you served internationally before or after your AmeriCorps term? Let us know in the comments below!

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