Mundra Travels to India Durring Sabbatical to Teach and Serve World Community

For Rajesh Mundra, Instructor in Biology, “Non Sibi” is a way of life. During his sabbatical in India last year, Mundra organized community service programs for students, volunteered in remote villages and started a national conference for teachers. “We say that we include youth from every quarter at Phillips Academy. And one quarter of the world’s youth live in India,” said Mundra. “Discovering that fact was mind-blowing, and the scope of what needs to be done there really lit my fire. Realizing that one in four kids in the world lived in India really made me think about how I could use my skills and resources to help,” he continued. After learning about the state of education in India, Mundra started the InspirEd Conference, a national conference to focus on innovation in the classroom. With the support of the American School in Bombay, the Asia Society, Teach for India and Akanksha, a non-governmental organization, Mundra brought together 300 teachers from across India. “I’d heard a lot of stories of individual teachers or schools doing tremendous work in the face of great challenges so I thought it’d be interesting to get all of these people together and start a professional development network of teachers,” said Mundra. “It was great, we set up a website, which brought together a lot of teachers and raised a good sum of money for different organizations,” he continued. Mundra primarily served as a visiting faculty member at the American School in Bombay. He instructed second and third graders, as well as International Baccalaureate level biology classes and arranged trips to different public-service initiatives. “[The American School in Bombay] mainly is the expat community in Mumbai and they recognized that they were living a very comfortable life, very high-society [Bombay]. They also recognized that this dynamic, great city was around them and they didn’t know how to access it without feeling overwhelmed,” said Mundra. “They thought that I could help connecting the parents, the teachers, the students, into projects within [Bombay] that would be helpful for them to learn about the community and allow the community to access the resources of the American School,” he continued. Mundra directed the Justice Project, which partnered students from the American School in Bombay studying issues of injustice with social entrepreneurs and innovators who work to solve social issues. The social entrepreneurs worked on different issues such as child abuse and child labor. For the Justice Project, the students shadowed the social entrepreneurs. The students volunteered in the communities in which the entrepreneurs worked. Mundra said, “The Justice Project was a great thing, it was helpful to the people running the projects to have students come and help them. And, It was also great for students to learn about justice issues in the real context.” Mundra also volunteered in a project with the organization Operation Smile, which performs cleft lip and palate surgeries for children around the world. Mundra traveled to a rural city called Guati, located between Bangladesh and Bhutan, to help its people. “The past few years I’d been taking students and faculty with me to India…India is important to me with my own heritage and culture, so I really wanted to spend a year there,” he said. While in India, Mundra also attended the TEDIndia conference, a conference organized to bring together change-makers and innovators from around India. He appreciated learning about initiatives and projects that were being developed to help different sectors of public service, such as education and healthcare. He enjoyed the opportunity allow to pursue things that appealed to him both professionally and personally during his sabbatical. Mundra studied Hindi, one of India’s most spoken languages. He also enjoyed traveling with his family during his sabbatical. Mundra traveled to Delhi, Jaipur and the Himalayas while living in India. Mundra’s sabbatical reminded him of how important it is for education to be relevant and engaging. He said, “I was really fascinated with the diversity of India… I realized it is also a great time to be [there].” “Economically, the country is on the rise. Socially, systems are being put into place, there’s new leadership that’s emerging at all levels…The scale of what’s being done in India is pretty amazing,” he continued. Now back at Andover, Mundra hopes to share his experience with members of the community. He mentioned that he hopes the administration reinstates the Niswarth program. The Niswarth program took Phillips Academy students to Bombay for a service-learning trip. “I would love to take Phillips Academy students and faculty to Bombay. There are many schools that are waiting to collaborate with us, [for instance] the Cathedral School in Bombay, and the American School in Bombay want to host us,” said Mundra. “There are also several organizations that I’ve been developing ties with, there are alumni there who’d love to help,” he continued.