Ajay Ravichandran wrote -
My name is Ajay Ravichandran, and I have a cause worth fighting for. When I first set foot on the dusty roads of the South Indian village of Siruvani, I had no idea how drastically different this trip would be compared to my past trips to India. Until then, I did not know much about the nature of life outside of my extended family there. I was on a service journey, visiting various villages to offer our assistance to the impoverished. After seeing the villagers of Siruvani for the first time, my core was shaken. Alcoholism and drug addiction were prevalent among the males, and these expensive habits led to a lack of food and consequent malnutrition in their families. The women were stifled by the patriarchal pressures, not knowing how to combat that issue. Even personal hygiene was a foreign concept to all, especially the children, who didn't even know how to use a toothbrush. Despite being in a country with such a vibrant and beautiful culture, the tragic situation in the village prevented its people from truly enjoying life because survival was their only worry. The saddest realization I came to was that most of these problems could have been prevented if they had the right knowledge. With effective empowerment (as opposed to handouts), many of these individuals had the capability to lift themselves out of this situation.
Enter CORD: the Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development (CORD), a non-profit organization dedicated "to facilitating integrated, sustainable social help programs in local communities and in the Indian subcontinent through processes of self-empowerment and enrichment." A branch of Chinmaya Mission, a spiritual organization founded upon the teachings of Hindu scriptures, they developed "a goal to work comprehensively for the betterment of all strata of society". What truly struck me about CORD was the commitment solely to improving lives without imposing any spiritual or religious pressures, even despite being a branch of a Hindu spiritual organization. All they wanted to do was give individuals the tools they need to lift themselves by their own bootstraps.
During our volunteer work, the embodiment of this noble mission manifested in Dr. Meera Krishna, a practicing physician and the director of CORD Siruvani. Under her supervision, our team administered basic medical checkups, counseled the men on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, encouraged trading such negative habits for healthier lifestyle choices, and taught proper hygiene to the children. Moreover, we witnessed Dr. Meera offering tips to the women on empowering themselves so they would not feel helpless. We went so far as to put on a cultural showcase of music and dance for the villagers, so that they could get a taste of what else life had to offer them if they took the first steps toward healthier living. To this day, participating in the empowerment of these individuals is still one of the most gratifying experiences I've ever had. Since then, I've taken part in a number of fundraisers for CORD Siruvani, which have recently culminated in the construction of a CORD building in Siruvani, which will serve as a potent resource for the villagers.
So what does running have anything to do with this? Well, I plan to run 1500 miles from July 2015 to July 2016 to raise funds for CORD USA. Their mission statement is as follows: "we are committed to helping improve the economy and quality of life in less fortunate in America, India and Sri Lanka in a sustainable way. Through our programs, we touch the needy in many ways with 0 overhead. That means every dollar you donate goes to the needy!" I want to continue to help CORD in any way I can, and I feel this is best achieved through a personal running campaign. I am confident this will be effective in improving health and wellness on three different levels - personally, in the community, and globally.
Personally, I have struggled with my weight almost all of my life. It's ironic how those who have the means to be healthy find ways to mess that up for themselves with poor diet and exercise habits, exacerbating any existing issues that may already complicate perfectly healthy living. My health is in my hands, and it's time for me to take charge. On a higher level, the discipline of exercise is one that is spiritual for me - it not only offers an opportunity for reflection during the run, but I truly believe a healthy body begets a healthy mind and therefore a healthy spirit. Personal wellness!
This supports the next level: community wellness. I am an aspiring physician about to embark on my four year journey through medical school, with the current intention of becoming a primary care physician. While my specialty preference may change during school, I still know that I can make a greater difference in the community I am serving in if I am healthy first. I can't possibly tell someone else to get healthy and exercise more if I don't even represent that ideal myself!
Finally, global wellness. This is where the fundraising part comes in - CORD is committed to empowering impoverished individuals on a global scale, with projects India, Sri Lanka, and the USA. I wouldn't be surprised if this expanded to more areas of the world as the organization grows. For every mile I run, I hope to raise $10, thus setting my fundraising goal at $15,000 over the course of a year. If I can do this for CORD, they can have the means to make a difference on a global scale. Because it is a non-profit volunteer organization, every single dollar goes towards their cause. The key point there is VOLUNTEER, even moreso than non-profit! Everyone who works for CORD does so just to make a difference, and to me, that is absolutely beautiful.
I hope you will donate to my cause to improve health and wellness on personal, community, and global levels. Every single dollar I raise will go to CORD! Please consider offering your support - you have a whole year to do so ;)