Working on co-​​op to teach poor teenage stu­dents in Ban­ga­lore, India, has inspired Krupa Asher to explore non­profit man­age­ment and pursue a master’s degree in social entre­pre­neur­ship upon her grad­u­a­tion this spring.

The expe­ri­ence helped me clear my mind a little bit about where I see myself in the future,” said Asher, who is pur­suing a dual major in inter­na­tional affairs and human ser­vices. “I arrived at North­eastern unde­cided on what I wanted to study, but even after deciding on a major, I was still unsure of which direc­tion I wanted to take it in. This co-​​op helped me figure that out.”

Asher con­nected with Northeastern’s stu­dent group Social Change through Peace Games (SCPG) to get the co-​​op with the Parikrma Humanity Foun­da­tion, a non­profit orga­ni­za­tion that edu­cates chil­dren in India’s poverty-​​stricken urban areas. SCPG teams with campus orga­ni­za­tions, local schools and global NGO’s on ini­tia­tives aimed at erad­i­cating youth violence.

Together with North­eastern alumnus and peace games founder Alex Alvanos, Asher devel­oped a school cur­riculum approved by the Parikrma Humanity Foundation’s CEO. Alvanos, AS’08, had devel­oped a sim­ilar cur­riculum before embarking to Pales­tine two years ago to serve under­priv­i­leged youth.

From July through December of 2009, Asher worked with a group of 20 stu­dents at one of the Parikrma Humanity Foundation’s four cen­ters in Ban­ga­lore on projects ranging from cleaning up their com­mu­ni­ties to trans­forming their atti­tudes toward school and home life.

Many of the teens’ homes—made of metal, wood and straw—are sur­rounded by raw sewage, said Asher, and stu­dents had to be taught to clean up after them­selves. “You walk out the door and there’s your garbage pile,” Asher said of many of her stu­dents’ living con­di­tions. “Because they see it at home, they think they can throw papers on the ground instead of in the trash can.”

For one project, a team of five stu­dents hoped to address their community’s over­abun­dance of trash by cre­ating “garbage col­lec­tion and sep­a­ra­tion” boxes for recy­clables and food scraps. Stu­dents said placing col­lec­tion bins throughout the school would encourage their peers to clean up after themselves.

On Sat­ur­days, they played trivia and handed out prizes to those who remem­bered the most about clean­li­ness, and their markedly improved habits inspired them to come up with an idea for cre­ating hand­bags out of recy­clable materials.

Another project addressed the impor­tance of respect—in the class­room and at home. Mem­bers of Asher’s class agreed that appointing a class­room leader would make sure stu­dents treated their classmates—and school property—with respect. Older stu­dents, they envi­sioned, would pre­pare their younger peers for the school years ahead by edu­cating them about the respon­si­bil­i­ties of fifth-​​, sixth-​​, seventh-​​, and eighth-​​graders.

Asher also showed her class the film, “Invis­ible Chil­dren,” a doc­u­men­tary chron­i­cling the lives of chil­dren at war for Uganda’s Lord’s Resis­tance Army. She led field­trips to NGO’s in the area, including a hostel for young women who were vic­tims of domestic vio­lence or who worked as child laborers.

Lessons learned extended beyond the school walls, Asher said. Her stu­dents’ mothers told Asher their kids were helping to cook and clean up, “things they didn’t do before,” she said.

For Asher, a big change begins with a small step—even if it’s picking up a candy wrapper from the floor. After six months, her stu­dents were more aware of how global issues impact their lives. “They’re now able to act on prob­lems they see around them,” she said.

Since returning to North­eastern, Asher has kept in touch with people at the school, and she could see her­self returning to Ban­ga­lore after she graduates.

The co-​​op “really helped me figure out what I want to be,” she said. “I’m really lucky North­eastern sup­ported me (she received grants totaling $2,250 to help her fund the trip). I think inter­na­tional co-​​op is some­thing every stu­dent should experience.”