From the Fellows: Charumathi Badrinath '20

Reflections from Community Engagement Fellows

The Edward E. Ford Foundation Community Engagement Fellowship Program at Rye Country Day School enables RCDS Upper School students to partner with a community organization to develop and implement innovative, sustainable projects that address the needs of the organization. Learn more about the program and meet current and past fellows here.

In this Q&A series entitled "From the Fellows," 2019 E. E. Ford Fellows share their reflections on their community engagement experience.

Charumathi Badrinath '20 and Sebastian Lee '20 are partnering with Our New Way Garden in White Plains to update the organization's website, build a new online volunteer management system, and help repair garden infrastructure. We recently caught up with Charumathi to learn a little more about her project.

What is your Community Engagement Project?

During my time as an E. E. Ford fellow, I have worked closely with Our New Way Garden's founder and president Ms. Amy Benerofe to revamp the organization's website and redesign their logo. In addition, I will be creating a promotional video for the organization's newly created YouTube channel.

What has been your favorite part of the experience so far?

My favorite part of the experience has been learning more about my partner organization through creating their website and logo. In order to create a product that portrays Our New Way Garden the way they want to be portrayed, I first needed to understand (through multiple phone calls with my community partner and some research of my own) why they exist and what message they are trying to send to the world. As my project progressed, this understanding became deeper and deeper, and I was better able to produce web pages and logo pieces that captured the essence of the organization.

What advice do you have for peers who are interested in community engagement and public purpose?

The best piece of advice I have received regarding community engagement and public purpose that I would give to like-minded peers is to put the organization's needs before your desires. A common example of this, cited by Ms. Drago during training, is that organizations can receive endless amounts of donations that they can't use. While the donor has a sense of satisfaction for having donated, their contributions don't align with the organization's needs, and they are less helpful than intended.

This advice came in handy when I redesigned the ONWG logo. Although I was happy with my initial design, I needed to add many modifications over the span of almost 10 hours before it aligned with what the organization's needs and vision.

Do you have any additional comments or anecdotes you'd like to share?

This is an excerpt from one of my weekly reflections about working in the garden at Reach Academy, a school for mentally disabled children from low-income backgrounds:

I was touched by how much the administrators at Reach Academy cared for their students. One teacher, knowing that many of the students come from deeply impoverished families, has a "store" of used clothing and goods that she allows her students to "purchase" from with the points they receive for being good participants in the classroom. I was also moved by the love that Ms. Benerofe (my community partner at ONWG) showers on the students that come to her gardens. She is always extremely patient and never lets her smile leave her face regardless of how demanding the students are being. In addition, she crafted hand-picked bouquets to award to some of this year's graduates.