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Paolo at SAI’s immersion program, summer 2013.

Congratulations to Paolo Singer HC ’14, who was named a Rhodes Scholar and will study at Oxford University next fall. Paolo is a two-time recipient of SAI grants. Paolo spent the summer of 2013 in India completing research for his senior thesis ‘The viability of post-industrial IT Economies in developing countries.’  During this summer, he participated in the SAI Immersion Program, which offered grant recipients the opportunity to get an in-depth look into organizations and NGOs in and around Delhi.

Paolo was also awarded a SAI Internship grant Ujjivan Financial Services in 2011 in Bangalore, India.The following is an account of his experience:

“I step off the 25-hour, 3rd class train journey from Mumbai to Bangalore. I depart with the Indian bunkmates I’ve spent the last day and stumble down the stairs. My head is spinning from food-poisoned roti I ate the night before and the fun side effects that ensued. It’s 8:00am and I have one hour before my first day at work with Ujjivan. Driving past swirls of congested traffic, cows, rickshaws, street stalls, pedestrians, and young children running on the roads, I am introduced to the sensorial overload, the daily power struggle, and crowded niches of Bangalore, from the inside of my first (and last) four-wheeled taxi of my summer abroad in India. I spent the next month and a half of my summer in Bangalore working for Ujjivan Financial Services, a national microfinance institution, and Parinaam Foundation, a non-profit sister company with programs for the ultra-poor. My goals going into the summer were to understand the scalability of new microfinance models that did not require financial group guarantees; to understand how society and culture influence the effectiveness of micro-loans; and how micro-loans can help people living specifically in urban slums. After meeting with all the directors of the company and the CEO, Samit Ghosh, I was encouraged to focus on a project I found interesting within the company and to make a final presentation at the end of my internship with recommendations for improving the profitability and social impact of the company. Through this internship I learned the power one idea can have in affecting change for millions, and the importance of sustainability and its incredible limitations to create meaningful impact. I learned from leaders in poor communities who have built small businesses off extremely limited capital; from the stories of hope, failure, and success of the street children, their mothers, the tea waiters in the office, the loan officers and their secretaries, the managers and their families. And, last but not least, I learned how to love being a vegetarian and find spiritual happiness in the midst of a functioning chaos.”

Paolo told the Crimson that he plans to pursue a master’s degree in economics for development and urban geography, with a focus on strategies that can confront youth poverty in the US and internationally. The Rhodes Scholarship began in 1904 and covers all costs for two or three years of study at Oxford University. Winners are selected on the basis of high academic achievement, personal integrity, leadership potential, and physical vigor, among other attributes. Five other Harvard undergraduates were selected, out of 32 American students, which makes Harvard the most represented school in the program this year.