Students Participate in Clinton Global Initiative University, Join World Leaders in San Diego

April 15, 2011

Manish Jung Thapa (Making Lives Better, St. John's College), Aditya Mahara (Class of 2012), Sneha Bhandari (Making Lives Better, Westminster College) and Raghebandra KC (Class of 2013)

Manish Jung Thapa (Making Lives Better, St. John's College), Aditya Mahara (Class of 2012), Sneha Bhandari (Making Lives Better, Westminster College) and Raghabendra KC (Class of 2013) at the Clinton Global Initiative University conference held at University of California, San Diego.

Rather than spending their Saturday afternoon lounging by the pool or grabbing frozen yogurt with friends, the members of Making Lives Better spent their weekend interacting with influential people, such as former president Bill Clinton, Drew Barrymore, Sean Penn and Qualcomm’s Chief Executive Officer Paul E. Jacobs.

Joining prominent CEOs, celebrities, philanthropists and social activists, Raghabendra KC (Class of 2013), Aditya Mahara (Class of 2012) and Emily Sessoms (Class of 2013) represented Rollins at the annual Clinton Global Initiative conference in San Diego as a part of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U), which is a forum to engage the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world in global citizenship.

“This conference was a way for us to present our commitments on a global stage,” said KC. “It was a huge networking opportunity for Making Lives Better. We got to meet a lot of students who were just like us—students doing amazing things. It was inspiring.”

At the conference, the three executive board members of Making Lives Better rolled up their sleeves and got to work, attending workshops ranging from how to fundraise properly to how to effectively use social media to promote their cause/organization.

“One thing I took away from the conference was all of the possibilities,” said KC. “There were so many ideas that were shared at this session that could be used at Rollins. I saw a lot of things that Making Lives Better could improve on. It made me want to do more with what we already have, but it also made me realize that if things go right, this organization can do wonders.”

A branch of the Clinton Global Initiative, CGIU asks student leaders to make concrete commitments to solving some of the world’s most pressing problems, including poverty and lack of education, water, maternal care, technology and medical supplies. Each conference participant is charged with the task of adopting a Commitment to Action, which is a specific plan of action that addresses a pressing challenge on their campus, in their community or in a different part of the world.

“Clinton’s idea is to turn ideas into actions—to give students the platform to network and convert their ideas into meaningful projects,” said Mahara.

Although Sessoms, Mahara and KC attended the conference as members of Making Lives Better, they each developed their own specific Commitment to Action, which target different social problems in various parts of the world.

Peter Naster, Emily Sessoms (Class of 2013) and Derick D. Dailey
Emily Sessoms (center), along with fellow CGIU attendees Peter Naster and Derick D. Dailey, takes a break from the CGIU Exchange Fair, where student groups showcased their commitments to other attendees, by the UCSD mascot, a triton.

“Making Lives Better has been associated with Nepal,” said Sessoms. “But our commitments illustrate that it isn’t just focused on Nepal, but it’s about making lives better everywhere.”

Sessoms plans to promote her personal commitment while studying abroad in Brazil next fall.

"My hope is to work with farmers in sustainably increasing their crop yields through permaculture design implementation, giving communities the opportunity to generate electricity through biodigesters and cleaner cooking stoves while addressing issues of waste management," she said.

Mahara, founder of the Making Lives Better chapter at Rollins, plans to expand the organization’s focus in Nepal. During the 2010 summer trip to Nepal, Making Lives Better focused on setting up water purification filters at the Bal Mandir primary schools in the remote village of Doti, as well as in Shridiwa in the city of Kathmandu, while simultaneously collaborating with Sagarmatha Health Foundation to perform health check-ups and distribute medical supplies.

“Something we thought was lacking was the sustainability factor,” said Mahara. “We talked a lot about it and came up with a general theme of sustainable development.”

This summer, the group will shift their focus from distributing supplies to coordinating a temporary surgical camp in Doti where medical professionals from Sagarmatha Health Foundation will treat 50-70 patients in need eye or ear surgery. Making Lives Better will fund this project using the money that the organization raised during the 2010-2011 school year.

Although Making Lives Better will not be distributing water purification filters during this trip to Nepal, KC plans to continue his work with Mission Aqua in the village of Doti as a part of his Commitment to Action.

“In five years time, I want that village to be free of any waterborne diseases,” said KC. “My dream is for each house in the district to have its own water purification system.”

This summer, KC will return to Nepal with Making Lives Better in order to evaluate how the previously installed systems are doing and to brainstorm future expansion. In the future, KC wants Rollins’ Making Lives Better chapter to expand its commitment to Nepal by collaborating with one of the CGIU’s award winners, The School Fund, which supports children in third world countries.

After participating in the Clinton Global Initiative University conference, the group has a renewed sense of passion and vigor regarding their plans to implement change in the world through global citizenship.

“It was amazing to find people that come up with these ideas and are actually bringing them into fruition,” said Sessoms. “The term ‘networking’ sounds so empty. You connect on such a deeper level with people who share your interest and want to do something for other people.”

“If I had to describe the entire experience in one word, it would be inspiring,” said Mahara. “It was amazing to see how simple ideas can be so effective.”

View more photos from the CGIU conference.

By Brittany Fornof (Class of 2011)

Office of Public Relations & Community Affairs
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