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Lydia Tomkiw MIA ’15

Lydia Tomkiw MIA ’15

Hometown: Fair Oaks, California

Before SIPA: Worked as a journalist in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Washington, D.C., with a focus on international affairs

Career Goals: Continue working in international media and focus on press freedom worldwide

For the girls

For our workshop project, we worked for the Study Hall Education Foundation (SHEF), an education NGO based in Lucknow, India. We did a program evaluation of SHEF’s girls empowerment curriculum that is being used in 100 government-run, all-girls boarding schools for grades 6 to 8. For both our January and March team trips, we traveled across the northern state of Uttar Pradesh visiting schools, interviewing students and teachers, and conducting surveys and focus groups. This photo was taken at the end of a school visit where we sat together on the patio and had some fun. Teammate Veronica (pictured) said that the best rewards of working in the field are these moments when we find inspiration in the stories behind these smiles.

Rural school

To visit many of the schools we had to drive two to three hours from larger cities. Many of the schools are remote, and the students come from villages both near and far to study.

Singing in Rampur

A group of students sang songs for us that they learned from the SHEF empowerment curriculum. We always let students ask us questions, too. “What do you study?” and “Are you married?” were favorites.

Colorful Delhi

Before heading to Lucknow, we spent two days exploring Delhi. We spotted this colorful building after enjoying a delicious Indian dinner in the hip Hauz Khas Village area.

Drama workshop

Students at a school in the Mirzapur area performed a drama about the importance of educating girls. These students have won awards for their acting, and it was moving to experience.

Jama Masjid

One of our first stops while visiting Delhi was the Jama Masjid. We put on cover-ups and explored the area within the courtyard.

Vegetable vendor

While looking for one school, we hit a bit of traffic and I snapped this shot of a vendor taking in the traffic by his stall.

Lucky monkey

Throughout our trip we spotted monkeys. This one got lucky and had a tourist offer up an orange.

Dinner time

The staff at SHEF made sure we got to sample all kinds of different foods while in India. Pictured is a vegetarian dinner special with aloo gobi, dal, and other delicious offerings.

Candlelight interview

On our last school visit in Lucknow, the power went out. The teachers and students are used to this and quickly lit candles.

On the Ganges

While visiting Mirzapur, we had to the opportunity to see the famous ghat structures on the Ganges River. We also spotted dolphins in the Ganges while the sun was setting and the fog rolled in.

Night market delicacies

After a long day of work in Lucknow, we decided to prepare an Indian/Chinese/Japanese fusion dinner. We stopped by a very busy street market to get fresh vegetables.

Afternoon at the Prerna School

We conducted a group survey at the Prerna School, which was the first school to adopt a girls’ empowerment program. It now serves as a model for 100 public schools in Uttar Pradesh.

Focus group in the playroom

The playroom in this school had Taj Mahal art, cricket bats, a harmonium, a tabla and a dholak. The girls filled the room with conversation during our focus group.

Student newspaper

At a school in the Lucknow area, a teacher showed off her students’ newspaper and their arts and crafts creations.

Outdoor interviews

The students told me about what they are learning in school and what they want to be when they grow up. Teachers, doctors, and police officers are popular professional choices.