The Foundation for Sustainable Development held an informal reception June 12 for Udaipur program director Roma Bhardwaj on her first visit to the U.S. The 34 year-old Udaipur native is responsible for matching American and Indian interns with grassroots sustainability programs of their interest, and met many of them for the first time over samosas at the Bay Area reception.
One of the main ways FSD supports underserved communities is by placing interns — who are students and recent college graduates — in areas around the world for nine to 52 weeks to address health, social, environmental, and economic issues.
“It’s a great experience, I have learned so much with so many interns, meeting with new people,” she told India-West. “Every intern comes with their own new expertise.”
Past projects in Udaipur include placing smokeless stoves in villages to alleviate health problems caused by regular stoves, and restoring vegetation and jobs to a village by building a nursery.
“If my community in India is benefiting from all the program elements, then it’s really rewarding for me, gives me peace of mind,” Bhardwaj said. “I’ve worked at the grassroots for several years, and I’m seeing now how we can directly help the community.”
Before joining FSD, Bhardwaj was a coordinator for the NGO “Seva Mandir,” which helped empower women who had been abused or needed reproductive healthcare.
Bhardwaj worked for Seva Mandir for seven years and holds a master’s degree in human resources, which she acknowledged is different from the Indian “norm.”
“Really working with those people who are underprivileged…rather than just working somewhere they don’t really need the help,” she said. “At the end of the day, you feel satisfied.”