Willy Oppenheim on International Volunteering and Development

Topic: International Volunteering and Economic Development

Institution: Omprakash, Oxford University

Bio:Willy Oppenheim is a doctoral student in the Education department at Oxford University, and the founder and director of Omprakash. Willy grew up going to school in Connecticut and spending the rest of his time fishing and hiking in the mountains of western Maine. Willy came up with the initial idea for Omprakash after serving as a volunteer English teacher at the Louisiana-Himalaya Association (LHA) in northern India in the autumn of 2004. He then attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, where he completed a self-designed major in religion, education, and anthropology. Undergraduate research included fieldwork-based projects in Tibet and India, and archival projects focused on Brazil and South Africa.  Willy is pursuing a career as an educator and enjoys rock climbing, telemark skiing, playing guitar, and baking bread.   His research concerns the demand for girls’ education in rural Pakistan.

About Omprakash

Omprakash (www.omprakash.org) is a web-based platform that connects grassroots health, education, and environmental projects around the world with volunteers, donors, and classrooms that can learn from and support their work.  The network offers volunteer opportunities at over 150 grassroots social projects in more than 30 countries ranging from Ecuador to Kenya to India and beyond. Unlike most other databases of volunteer opportunities, Omprakash is completely free—no administrative fees whatsoever. Grants are available to help qualified volunteers defray travel expenses.

The organizations represented within the Omprakash network address issues as diverse as deforestation, women’s empowerment, energy shortages, food security, and access to clean drinking water. The core goal of Omprakash is not just to connect volunteers and fundraisers with its grassroots partners, but also to offer these connections as a resource for meaningful research and service-learning projects for middle and high-school students.

Omprakash has evolved in response to the popular model of “voluntourism” in which foreign volunteers visit underprivileged communities for short periods of time and sometimes inadvertently patronize the very people they are trying to serve. A central principle of the Omprakash ethos is that volunteers should humbly attempt to live and serve in the same community for at least a month, and should approach volunteering as an opportunity to learn from and with their host community. To learn more, visit www.omprakash.org today.

Links to Relevant Articles:

The article about the lack of clear relationship between labor opportunities and demand for girls’ education:

Aslam, M. (2009) Education Gender Gaps in Pakistan: Is the Labor Market to Blame?  Economic Development and Cultural Change, 57 (4): 747-784.

A few articles and books that give a taste of the prevailing academic discourses about the benefits of sending more girls to school in the development context:

Aikman, S., and Unterhalter, E., eds. (2005) Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education.  Oxford: Oxfam GB.

Herz, B., and G. Sperling. (2004) What Works in Girls’ Education: Evidence and Policies from the Developing World.  New York: Council on Foreign Relations.

Heward, C., and S. Bunwaree (eds.) (1999) Gender, Education, and Development: Beyond Access to Empowerment. London: Zed Books.

Jeffery, R., and A. Basu. (eds.) (1996) Girls’ Schooling, Women’s Autonomy and Fertility Change in South Asia. New Delhi and Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

Willy’s Top Three:

1. Robert Hass, ‘Praise’

2. Clifford Geertz, ‘The Interpretation of Cultures’

3. Paulo Freire, ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’


Copyright Information:

Intro/Outtro Music: Bolling: Suite For Cello And Jazz Piano Trio – Baroque In Rhythm