Halfway around the world

Wong Yat-hei

American teenager gives up college to work as a volunteer to help India's underprivileged

Wong Yat-hei |

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Everybody can make a difference if they want - this is what Jodi Sagorin, a 19-year-old from California, US, strongly believes in. She gave up the chance to attend New York University to work as a volunteer in the poverty-stricken, rural areas of India.

Inspired by stories of people making changes around the world, Jodi decided she wanted to do her part as well. Her goal was clear - to volunteer for a year to learn about and stop world poverty.

Last month, Jodi packed her bag and headed to Uttar Pradesh - a state in the northern part of India - to work as an intern for Drishtee.

Drishtee is an organisation that works for the economic and social development of the needy in India.

Jodi described her trip to India as "it's just one of those things - it was meant to be". She says she chose to go to India because she is in love with the culture, the food and the way of life. But more importantly, the wide gap between the rich and the poor makes her determined to help rural villagers become self-sufficient.

Jodi will spend seven months in India to help develop programmes on microfinance, entrepreneurship, health care and women's rights. She had always wanted to travel the world and make a difference even when others said it wouldn't be possible. India has everything she's interested in.

It was a big decision - Jodi was a little insecure before the trip and she struggled. She was worried that she might be robbed or kidnapped. She also feared that she could not deliver what the organisation needed.

In the end, her worries were overcome by her excitement and enthusiasm.

"I am so lucky. I have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity ahead of me. I'm proving to myself I can be courageous and follow my dreams. I've studied, I've read, I've researched, and I'm enthusiastic. Bring it on - I'll do my best," she says.

Her first day in India came as a shock. She was taken aback by the heavy pollution, the busy traffic and the extreme poverty. But she became more confident after meeting with staff from Drishtee.

"I am so excited to be [in India], to learn and to grow. I'm so lucky to be working and living in such an incredible place," she says.

Her parents were in a dilemma as they were worried about their daughter's safety but at the same time proud that she's taking up the challenge.

"We're really proud of her for wanting to do this. We're a little concerned about a 19-year old girl going out there by herself and hope she'll be safe," her father, Mike Sagorin, says.

Her mother describes her as an unbelievable human being.

"She really wants to make a difference," she says.

Jodi will be writing about her experiences for Young Post over the next few months