Emma Jones ’12 Helps Orphan Girls in India Discover the Healing Power of the Pen

Emma Jones is helping orphan girls in a small village north of Mumbai gain control of their lives by putting pen to paper. Read her story here, the first in a series of stories profiling CMC students and their summer internships.

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Name: Emma Jones

Majors: Psychology and economics

Summer Internship: From June through August, implementing a narrative therapy program in Amcha Ghar, a home and school now serving about 260 destitute girls in the village of Uttan, in the West Bhayander part of Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.

Future Ambitions: “As of now, I don’t know what I plan on doing after graduation from CMC,” Emma says. “I’m only halfway done with college, but I’m hoping that this summer will help me figure out what things I do and do not like.”

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CMC: Tell us about the girls you help

Emma: There are about 35 girls, with the youngest being 4 years old, all the way up through the age of 21. Almost all of the girls are orphans who have lost both of their parents; a few have one parent who cannot provide for them anymore.

CMC: What is a “narrative program,” exactly?

Emma: What I am doing is having the girls write books. Each girl writes her own book about her life, the first half being things that have happened to her so far (both positive and negative events should be included), while the second half of the book is what they imagine their futures to resemble.
The second half of the book is important because it will discuss their goals and the people they wish to become, and once they have stated their goals, I sit down with them to help find some way to make those goals tangible. I am using a narrative approach, because it focuses on externalizing the problems the girls face. I am living in the home with them, so my internship is a lot more than just having them create the books. I am also helping teach in the Amcha Ghar School.

CMC: How are the girls doing right now How do they like the program

Emma: I was absolutely shocked at the high spirits of all of the girls in the program. They seem to be having such a good time together. I never see them fighting or looking down, which is surprising not only because there are so many of them, but also given their circumstances. Some of the older ones have expressed that once they go to University they create alternate identities, and they don’t tell people that they are orphans because in India that is frowned upon much more than it would be in the U.S. But the younger girls seem to really be enjoying themselves; they love the founder and foundress, who they call “mom and dad.”

CMC: Amidst the hope that you and others bring, the girls’ “story” seems, well, so heartbreaking

Emma: Their stories are all so heartbreaking. They have no parents anymore and must have faith that Amcha Ghar will give them a brighter future.

CMC: How did you line up your internship?

Emma: I had started my internship search during winter break and spent a lot of time on Web sites in different places in Asia, in hopes of getting a McKenna International grant. One of the reasons I wanted to do this was because I thought it to be a great replacement for studying abroad, one in which I could learn much more hands-on material. I had lots of help from friends who have already done this kind of internship through McKenna International, so their guidance definitely helped me. I found the Amcha Ghar School Web site and became interested in their goals for the children, because it is much more than just a home for girls. There is a lot that goes into the future of the children in the home. I e-mailed the foundress and she responded promptly, saying I could do my internship with them.

CMC: What do you hope to gain with the internship?

Emma: I think I can gain (and already have) so much insight into so many different areas. I still don’t know exactly what I want to do with my life, so trying things out and experiencing them firsthand is the best way to find out if this is something I want to continue with. I have never been to a foreign country like this before, or for this length of time, so there have been a lot of cultural adjustments to make. But I’ve only been here a short time and already I have learned so much about Indian culture, how children and orphans are treated and regarded, the types of leadership used in their programs, and how they interact with each other and with foreigners such as myself.
Most of all, I hope that what I will gain is the rewarding feeling of knowing I may have made even a small difference in the lives of these girls. I hope that from writing these books they can learn the value of dedication (a good skill to have for any profession they might choose), have the ability to express themselves in a positive way, and learn more about and appreciate writing.

CMC: Have any skills you learned at CMC been instrumental in helping you with the work?

Emma: Most of them seem to come back to leadership. I have found that you just have to be confident with whatever it is you are trying to do, especially in a country like this, where the girls here have such high confidence in my ability to do things, even though they barely know me yet.
Being a student at CMC has provided me with the skills to have a positive outlook on situations. Even when I was sick and dehydrated from being in such a different climate, I was able to think about how valuable and positive my time here is to not only the girls here, but to myself. I would also like to point out that the last two years I’ve roomed in North Quad with no air conditioning was probably another skill that semi-prepared me for this experience … although when I return to this fall I am sure it will seem much easier compared to the heat here!

CMC: What’s the biggest truth or amazing epiphany you’ve gleaned so far from working with the girls at Amcha Ghar?

Emma: I’ve learned that no matter how prepared you think you are for something like this, it will never be exactly what you expect, so I guess I would say the ability to adapt and be flexible is super important.