A True Homecoming
Jim Coe ‘98, former India Fellow, had a remarkable return visit to India recently. He realized again the challenges and rewards inherent in the Alma India Program.
Jason Fletcher ‘98 and his wife Elizabeth Schwalm ‘98 (center) and Jim Coe ‘98 and his wife Julie ‘98 (right) returned to India last August. They visited with Mr. and Mrs. K. C. Cherian (left). Mr. Cherian serves as host and on-sight coordinator of the Alma India Program while Mrs. Cherian provides warm hospitality and serves as “mother” to Alma students.
“At the end of the day, the India Fellowship requires a person who is willing to live in the tension of two cultures on a daily basis,” says Coe. “The program is a test of fortitude and an opportunity for intense self-examination. Ideally, each student should come home with more questions than answers and a heart yearning for justice in the world.”
The Alma India Program is a study abroad venture that combines service and traditional work. Based in Ayroor, Kerala, in southern India, students work at the Mathen Mappilai Memorial (MMM) School and study with faculty from Mahatma Gandhi University. The Fellows live in a village that is steeped in ancient heritage and family ties. Students also experience great religious diversity and tolerance.
Coe and Jason Fischer ‘99, also a former India Fellow, recently returned to India with their wives in August 2005.
“Our return to the village was a true homecoming,” says Coe. “We were welcomed like old friends and treated like dignitaries.” A major transformation he noticed in the program since 1998 was the relationship established through Mahatma Gandhi University. Students are now able to study through the university rather than only teach at the MMM school, like Coe and Fischer.
Even though the program was challenging, Coe took the opportunity to learn and grow from the experience. He is thankful to have been a part of the program and hopes other students will take the wonderful opportunity as well.
Coe advises future participants in the program to stay open to change because even though growth can be awkward and painful at times, “it is worth it in the end.”
— Renee Pietila '08