Zahra Bhaiwala

Zahra Bhaiwala ’10 found happiness this summer in an unlikely place. Bhaiwala received the Richard J. Phelps summer award, given to a Phillips Academy student for community service, and used the grant to travel to the slums of Mumbai, India. She worked through Akshanka, a Non-Governmental Organization that provides education to children in the slums. Her position was based in Mumbai, India. Bhaiwala wanted to go to India and improve the lives of the children living in the slums after attending the Niswarth community service trip in the summer of 2008. Bhaiwala taught manners, etiquette and hygiene to the children in the slums. A large focus of her lessons this summer revolved around educating the children about swine flu precautions. In the afternoons, Bhaiwala taught fifth and sixth graders in the organization’s after-school program. She developed close relationships with her students. On her last day of teaching, she took two boys to see her grandparents’ apartment, a completely different world compared to the boys’ seven by seven foot clay house. Bhaiwala argued with the guards for 10 minutes before they allowed the boys into the apartment. The boys stopped in the doorway, too afraid to go inside and stunned by the size of the kitchen. Bhaiwala said that she learned as much from the children as they learned from her Upon arriving in Mumbai, Bhaiwala immediately started work with Akshanka and went to the slums every morning from 6 to 8 a.m. Bhaiwala spent a considerable amount of time in the slums, a part of Mumbai not many people get to see. “People would just invite me in,” said Bhaiwala. “It was really nice to see how hospitable everyone was.” During the day, while the children were at school, Bhaiwala worked on her own project from the Akshanka headquarters. Bhaiwala talked to several members of the community for her project. “I asked myself, ‘what are the practical ways you can do charitable work and also help the economy?’” said Bhaiwala. “It makes more sense to help both ways.” Bhaiwala talked to the financial minister, the governor of the province and several senior administrators at Akshanka. Bhaiwala plans to apply the lessons she learned in Bombay to her all of her relationships. “The students were willing to open up to me, and in turn, I could open up to them,” she said. “Wherever I work next, I’m going to try and apply the same attitude, the same principles.