By Susan White
Second-year MSW student Darshan Mundada is passionately committed to international social work and empowering other young people to improve human rights for all. Such dedication is one of the main reasons why Mundada, a Rotary World Peace Fellow from India, never hesitates to pursue opportunities to learn from world leaders and why the 26-year-old often spends his semester breaks abroad.
Last summer, Mundada joined hundreds of other college students, including a handful from UNC, to complete an internship with Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Microfinance guru and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus founded Grameen, which provides the poor with microfinance loans to fund entrepreneurial endeavors so that individuals can lift themselves from poverty.
During his time with Grameen, Mundada learned how microfinancing functions on a broad scale – the Bank now serves more than 7 million poor families. Since it’s founding in 1976, Grameen has exploded into an institutional family of companies, including one offering affordable health care and another developing renewable energy technologies.
Mundada also received an insider’s view of the microfinance world with visits to other agencies in Bangladesh, including BRAC, one of the world’s largest nongovernment organizations, and Uddipan, a grassroots nonprofit. Like Grameen, both agencies focus on empowering women through educational, financial and other social development services so that they can build independent, sustainable lives for their families.
“It was a great learning experience,” Mundada said.
After several weeks with Grameen, Mundada spent the remaining half of his summer vacation in an internship with the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), Tibet’s government in exile in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh state. The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, established the CTA in 1959.
For Mundada, the experience was a chance to observe a government under a man he has admired since youth. Mundada, who met the Dalai Lama in 1996, still draws much of his inspiration from the exiled leader. Their chance meeting years ago encouraged Mundada to form the Friends’ Society – a community service, social awareness and eco-conservation organization in India.
During his internship, Mundada observed each of the Central Tibetan Administration’s departments, including health, education, and information and international relations. “I learned about how policies are formed and how to get the support of the people,” he explained. “I also learned how nonprofits and governments can function together.”
He was most inspired, he said, in seeing that the government’s employees are “not just there for the money.”
“They are there because they share a passion for their country and want it to be free,” he said.
Mundada, who graduates this year, plans to return to India, where he intends to help further develop the country’s nonprofit sector.
“The work in India is important as the nonprofit sector is currently disorganized, and there is a lot of overlap in services and a replication of models consuming multiple resources,” Mundada said. “It is necessary to create a network that will enable organizations to share resources … and a support network for budding entrepreneurs.”