Earlier this year, President Obama increased the youth community service requirement to 50 hours annually. It’s no wonder the president wants young people to lend a helping hand. From poverty to recession to war, stories of human suffering dominate the headlines these days. As dancers, we try to make the world a more beautiful place, but with so much heartache out there, it’s easy to get discouraged. Enter Aparna Ghosh, a freshman at the University of Michigan.
Last year, Aparna founded a nonprofit organization called Dance to Empower Stronger Healthcare. The idea was partly inspired by her mom, who immigrated from an Indian village without indoor plumbing or electricity. “Many of her relatives passed away from things that we think of as trivial,” Aparna says. “My grandma had asthma, and she is no longer with us because she couldn’t afford an inhaler.”
Aparna, who has been dancing since age three, started working to raise awareness and money by putting on a show featuring classical Indian dances. She recruited 50 other dancers to perform and to spread the word throughout her hometown of Ann Arbor, MI. During intermission, patrons could read posters about Indian culture and taste Indian dishes.
The production was a hit, raising more than $5,000 for an organization that provides basic healthcare in rural areas of India. When she repeated the show in 2009, she raised another $2,000, this time for SPARSH (which means “touch” in many Indian languages), which funds heart surgeries for children in Calcutta. (She got to visit Calcutta in August to see SPARSH at work.) Her efforts earned her recognition from the prestigious Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program that honors youth for outstanding volunteerism.
Aparna has a message for those of you looking for ways to give back: “You can’t underestimate yourself. If you have a dream, you just have to go out and do it.” For more: dance4desh.webs.com; sparshlife.org —Kristin Lewis
Photos courtesy Aparna Ghosh.