Periclean Scholars enact change in India, promote global engagement

JamkhedSometimes, a simple e-mail is enough to make a difference around the world. For Thomas Arcaro, that e-mail was in his spam folder, and it almost never saw the light of day.

A professor of sociology at Elon University, Arcaro is also the director of Project Pericles on Elon’s campus, each year taking a new class of Periclean Scholars under his wing. Averaging about 30 students per class, the Periclean Scholars are a group of passionate Elon students who are dedicated to enacting global change and becoming engaged with the world around them. Each class spends three years working on a group project, which often takes students to different countries in the hopes of fostering positive relationships and making a difference.

And this summer, the Periclean Scholars found tangible success: “Health for All,” a 50-minute documentary about health access in India, created by the Periclean Class of 2012, played a large role in the development and construction of the Izmir Training Center, a health care training facility established in Jamkhed, India in August.

But when Turkish officials contacted Arcaro in the fall of 2012, looking to collaborate with the Periclean Scholars on their mission for Indian health access, Arcaro almost didn’t see the message at all.

“At first, the email message went into my spam box,” he said. “The only other person whose name was associated with the project was [Class of 2012 scholar] Jack Dodson. And he said, ‘Take a look at this, it may have gotten into your spam box,’ and it had. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. This was one of those situations where a lot of money was mentioned and a big idea was mentioned, and I thought, ‘Well, that’s way too good to be true.'”

The big idea in question was proposed by officials in Izmir, Turkey, who were also interested in the topic of Indian health access. In fact, it was their theme for a bid to the Bureau of International Exhibitions, an intergovernmental organization that oversees world and international expos. Turkish officials were looking to host the 2020 World Expo in their country, and wanted to use footage from the Periclean Scholars’ documentary in a presentation to the bureau.

Click here for a Storify account of how the Class of 2012 enacted change with its documentary on health access in India.

Soon after Turkish officials got in touch with Arcaro, the Periclean Scholars partnered with the Comprehensive Rural Health Project (CRHP), which works closely with poverty-stricken communities in rural India, particularly Jamkhed. When Izmir’s bid committee offered to make a $100,000 donation to the CRHP, it allowed for the Izmir Training Center to be created.

“One thing led to another, and now, less than a year later, this magnificent new building has been built,” Arcaro said. “It’s just amazing. The clinic that has been built now has funds for staffing and long-term upkeep.”

The training facility features two large classrooms, a residential suite with a living and dining room, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. An official dedication was made Aug. 27.

See a timeline of “Health for All” production here.

Facing challenges

But for the Periclean Scholars, the opening of the Izmir Training Center isn’t just an ordinary milestone. Rather, it’s the culmination of three years’ hard work, including the actual filming and editing of the “Health for All” documentary.

“Having a pretty small team was a big challenge,” said Jack Dodson, who directed the film. Although the entire Periclean class agreed to film a documentary for their group project, only a handful of those students actually traveled to India to participate in the filmmaking process. And for full-time college students, that was no easy task.

“We had five projects at any given time while we were there,” Dodson said. “Balancing all of those things and trying to actually make a film that’s long-form and deals with incredibly strong stories was tough.”

But despite its challenges, Dodson said the film’s positive effect has been very rewarding.

“Our main goal was to get the information out there,” he said. “We didn’t even imagine that anything like the training center would happen. We were hoping some people might want to join, and we were hoping to create a campaign. It was infinitely more impacting than anything we thought.”

The final edit of the documentary has yet to officially premiere. Only part of the film was used in Izmir’s bid committee presentation, and an excerpt was screened at a global conference in Paris, which Dodson and Arcaro attended in November 2012.

Still, though it is not yet complete, Dodson said the filmmaking experience he gained through the Periclean Scholars program has helped him greatly in post-grad life.

“I work at a production company. I made two documentaries for Periclean, and without those, I would have no idea what I’m doing here,” he said.

Looking ahead

The first Periclean Scholars class was formed in the spring of 2003, when the first group of scholars were sophomores at Elon. Today, the Class of 2017 is being recruited, and they are the 11th class of Periclean Scholars.

Arcaro said he believes the program has been so successful because it works in tandem with Elon’s mission statement.

“We are trying to create global citizens with an understanding of their responsibility for the common good,” he said. “And that’s what Periclean Scholars does. It represents a global outreach, an academic outreach and a service outreach all in one.”

Since its inception, the Periclean Scholars program has taken students to Ghana, Haiti and other countries in need. Instead of traveling to new countries each year, though, the program will now be returning to countries previously visited by past scholars, in order to further make an impact on those regions.

“One of the first mantras that we’ve chanted with Periclean Scholars was sustainability, sustainability, sustainability,” Arcaro said. “The class being recruited now is going back to Namibia, which was the country of focus of the very first class. The idea is to not expand the footprint to more countries, but to revisit countries in the interest of sustainability.”

For a ThingLink image of where the Periclean Scholars classes have traveled, click here.

Regardless of the countries one might visit, Dodson said the Periclean Scholars program has the potential to change one’s overall perception of the world.

“It’s affected what books I read, what publications I read, what I’m interested in. The whole thing is a very impacting thing. It’s kind of shaped everything for me, professionally and socially,” Dodson said.

And for Arcaro, there are few things more rewarding than watching a successful collaborative effort between students, including those who made “Health for All” a reality.

“The Periclean Scholars classes are amazing cohorts of students. None of the Pericleans would say that this was their project. It was the class’s project and the class’s initiative,” he said. “That’s what I think is beautiful about this program. People find out that with a team of people all working together, they can accomplish extraordinary things.”

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One thought on “Periclean Scholars enact change in India, promote global engagement

  1. Rebecca, you have a nice story and idea here. Good start to the piece, too. Adds a small does of suspense. You do a thorough reporting job here. For something this long, I’d like to hear from someone other than Arcaro and Dodson, but overall, good stuff. As for the look of the post, you need more visuals. You have one photo at the top but nothing else the rest of the way. Consider screen grabbing stuff or finding photos. We need something to break up the text. I like the idea behind the ThingLink. But if you’re going to use that tool, make sure you take advantage of its power. Include visuals and/or videos in the hotspots. If you’re only going to use it to pinpoint the locations, you probably don’t need ThingLink. The timeline looks good. Nice work with that. I’m not sure if the Storify is offering anything different from what your story does. If you curated coverage of the opening of the center, that could’ve worked. I also noticed the Storify included a clip from the documentary. You could’ve embedded that into your post here, as well. And remember to embed links in your posts. But overall, you’re thinking well and clearly about multimedia packages, so good work there. You can find your grade on Moodle.

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