CR provides out of school programming for students from underserved, rural villages in south India.  We teach classes in English, math, Tamil, computer education, art, music, and dance for over 1600 students. Our innovative On Target curriculum is designed to close the gap between our students’ learning levels and grade levels. Our Resilience Initiative teaches our students various problem solving and decision-making strategies they can use to address the challenge of living in severe poverty. Read more about our programs.



TMS Team and Anilady Students

For the past five years a focal point of The Modern Story Fellowship experience has been the weeklong workshops that we conduct with Communities Rising in rural Tamil Nadu. Every September or October we work with children of a variety of ages in the villages surrounding Villapuram (near Pondicherry) and come together for several days to produce a film about their communities. Additionally, we live and work with Communities Rising staff, who help to keep up comfortable, feed us, and also act as helpers and translators in our classroom. We all really enjoyed our time at Communities Rising, with the students and also with the staff. Here are some of our personal experiences from our journey to Tamil Nadu! From: Dara


TMS Fellow Dara Denney helps the Vikravandy students with their video,


Coming to Communities Rising, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. After our bus being postponed due to bunds and riots in Tamil Nadu, I was more than a little nervous. Not just nervous about getting there, nervous about connecting with two new groups of students, of teaching them in one week to do what I had been working with students in Hyderabad on for months. I was nervous about finding out where we’d be staying and who we’d be staying with. Sitting on the curb at five in the morning, after our bus from Cochin dropped us off in what felt like the middle of nowhere, my nerves reached their peak. But soon, a group from Communities Rising came to pick us up, placed some beautiful flower garlands around our necks, and initiated the feeling of welcoming that would dispel my nervousness for the remainder of the week. As we drove to the CR center, watching the sunrise and listening to Tamil music, my nerves gave way to a feeling of comfort. I was so impressed with every aspect of the CR experience. From adding time for afternoon naps to our schedule, to stocking the kitchen with chicken nuggets and chocolate chip cookie mix, to providing translation help in the classroom, and even treating us to pizza in Pondicherry, the staff did a wonderful job making us feel very well taken care of. And the students, with their instant acceptance of the TMS fellows, their quick grasp on the camera equipment and editing software, and their eagerness to share what characterizes their villages, made the experience truly feel like a success. I’m so excited to share the videos the students of Anilady and Vikrivandi produced, and to see what great work the CR/TMS partnership produces in the future.

From: Rachel


TMS Fellow Rachel Jones with CR student.

A 40 minute drive through the idyllic Tamil Nadu countryside (a pastoral dream of coconut trees and cows, set to the tune of Mario’s favorite Tamil pop oldies) led us to the first of our schools, Anilady, and set off a whirlwind week of brainstorming, filming, production, and editing. Though Communities Rising seemed to be a very different experience from our usual schools in urban Hyderabad, immediately the staff and extended friends/family of CR, and fantastic students set us at ease. Anilady was quick to brainstorm both things they were proud of and things they wanted to improve in their village, and we were able to start filming on the second day– an impressive feat for students just learning to conceptualize making a film. At Vikravandi, the wide range of students’ ages posed a bit of a challenge but also an opportunity to find a way to bring out every filmmaker’s talents. We decided on a film that showcased the flora and fauna of their beautiful surroundings, and allowed us to document neighborhood safaris (an activity I would highly recommend to those at home). After a week, I was so impressed at what the students from both schools were able to produce. As a teacher, it really taught me that sometimes the best method is just to dive in and worry about the details later–hands on learning is key. I also will never forget the little moments of downtime with the kids, where they shared a bit of their culture with us through mehendi, bike rides, making pongle, and plenty of dance movies. I’m so grateful to all the staff at Communities Rising for being incredibly hospitable and generous with their lovely (bright pink) home, and all the students at Anilady and Vikravandi for their enthusiasm and smiles, even on a school break. It was a week I won’t forget.
From: Karis


TMS Fellows Karis Hustad and Nandini Chandrasekaran working with Vikravandy students.

During our incredible week with Communities Rising, I found myself reflecting on what made our experience so unique and what had prepared students to jump right into their video projects. From many thoughts, two recurring themes include:

Access to a safe space
Our time in Anilady and Vikravandy got me thinking about how important it is for children to have access to safe spaces for creative play and engagement with others, the kind that stimulates learning, collaboration, and self-confidence. Of course, many children will find and create these settings for themselves, but a community center provides an alternate space, outside of the home and school, that brings resources into the area where they live – whether it is through technology, teachers that offer new skills, CR staff who serve as role models, or fostering new friendships. A testament to the importance of the community center in the children’s lives, I think, is that so many showed up for class despite it being their week off from school!


Nandini Chandrasekaran working with Vikravandy students.

Access to technology
At both centers, I was surprised to walk in and find students already on the computers, working on Photoshop projects (at Anilady) or on Microsoft Paint (at Vikravandy). It was a contrast to go from urban schools, where many of our students have limited and highly regulated access to the few working computers available in their labs, to arrive in a rural area with well-equipped labs, where students seemed very comfortable using different programs. At Anilady, I noticed a couple of students had small chits of paper, where they had written down basic steps for functions like saving a document, which they referred to when in doubt. I was especially impressed by how quickly students grasped the basics of using Wondershare, a video editing software. Clearly regular and open access to functioning equipment, paired with excellent computer teachers and a decent student-computer ratio, all made a difference in what students were able to learn and achieve in such a short time.
Ultimately, I was struck by how well the children worked together, even in mixed groups of boys and girls; by the boldness of some of the younger children, especially young girls, in sharing their ideas; and students’ commitment to their projects, particularly the zeal with which they searched for the right props, costumes, and locations to showcase their communities. CR’s programming and resources, as well as the familial environment that it creates, played a large part in setting the conditions for our projects to be successful in this way. A big, heartfelt thank you to everyone involved in shaping this wonderful experience!
From: Nandini



By Jake Houle, American University ’15


My life will never be the same after my time in India. After being home from India for a few months now, not a single day goes by when I don’t think back to it. I think of the plane ride, the airport, the food, the heat, the traffic, the landscape, the music but above all, the people.


The Ganesh Temple in Pondicherry


What impacted me the most from the entirety of my journey to India was the love and warmth of the people I met there. Right when we stepped outside of the airport terminal, I was greeted and embraced by group of Indians and welcomed with great enthusiasm. This type of greeting was more than enough for me to forget the seemingly endless 19-hour flight I had just completed. From that moment until my journey ended in India, I experienced that same level of kindness, warmth, and above all love from my new Indian friends.


Arun, Selvadurai and Jake in Mahabalipuram


During my time there, I worked with Communities Rising a nonprofit organization that runs after school programs in rural villages in south India. I traveled with a small group of college students from American University as part of their Alt Break program. The highlight of our trip was working as counselors at the annual residential summer camp hosted by CR. This is the 4th consecutive year that American University students have traveled to India to work to volunteer at the summer camp.




There, we worked along side 30 Indian camp counselors-mostly college and high school students who have been volunteering at the camp since it first started 4 years ago. Camp activities included arts and crafts, performing arts, Lego robotics and photography and  lots in between.

Jake and fellow counselors Viki and Prince


Having been a competitive swimmer in the past, I was lucky enough to work at the pool where we introduced 180 local Indian children to the wild, fun, and at first, scary world of swimming! The challenge of the 110 degree heat, language barrier and the sometimes-overwhelming excitement of the kids just melted away when I saw how brightly they smiled as I held them while they experienced swimming for the very first time. It was truly amazing how even with no verbal exchange, there was such a great sense of trust and understanding between the campers and me. When lessons were over, the English-speaking Indian senior counselors and junior counselors were just as eager to learn how to do the different formal strokes in swimming. They were so impressed by the butterfly stroke in particular, that by the end of the week I felt as if my arms would fall off!


Swim Lessons


This was just one small experience that I had while in India. Every day, was a completely new adventure for me and the other American University students whether we were shopping in Pondicherry, swimming in the ocean at Mahabalipuram or exploring the nearby town of Vikravandy.


The Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram


Now that I have arrived back home and am getting back to my routine, I carry with me the experiences from that trip and the lessons learned from it. I walked with the people through their daily routine and exchanged ideas about life, love, politics, religion, and family. I find myself constantly referencing these exchanges in my conversations about such topics here at home.


Liza and Jake Enjoying a Photo Shoot


My experience taught me that there is not substitute for experiencing India and it’s people and culture first hand. My work with CR allowed me to gain a broader perspective and to grow as a political science major. It is one thing to sit in a classroom and learn about how other countries, but it an entirely different thing to actually go and experience living and working side by side with the people who live there. This experience has impacted the way I view politics not only around the world, but here in the United States too.


Mealtime at Camp


I hope to return back to India one day, and reconnect with the many people I met and with whom I developed friendships. I want to go back to do more work with Communities Rising, but I also want to go back to learn more about India, and how it is meeting the challenges it faces in today’s global economy.


Temple Shop in Pondi


I have no doubt that this trip had a greater impact on me than I did on the Indian counselors and campers with whom I worked. I have a new appreciation of not only India and its people, but of my responsibility to the global community. At this point in my life, I don’t know how I’ll meet that responsibility but I do know that it is something that is now an important part of my life and my future.


Last Day of Camp


09.14.14 —


2014 CR Staff Retreat

CR staff traveled to the south Indian hill station of Yercaud for their first professional development retreat. The retreat kicked off  2 new CR educational initiatives.  Teachers were introduced to On Target, an innovative  program designed to close the gap between students’ learning and grade levels in English, Tamil and Math. They also were introduced to CR’s Resilience Initiative a program that teaches mindfulness, social decision making and problem solving skills. Both programs are now being incorporated into CR’s after school curriculum.

03.09.14 —

All in A Day’s Work for CR Intern Colin Powers

Colin and the hostel boys

CR Intern Colin Powers starts his day by teaching English and math to 50 4th and 5th graders. In the afternoon, he shifts to CR’s after school program and teaches English to a group of middle school students from two nearby schools. He ends his day by teaching math and English to a group of boys who live in a nearby hostel. Teaching this last group is definitely an exercise in “blended learning.” The boys range in age from 7-17. Some know a little English and basic math, others are still learning their numbers and letters. Colin takes it all in stride. When it all gets too overwhelming-he turns to soccer! Colin is a returning CR volunteer. In 2012, he  joined a group of volunteers from Camp Hill Sr. High School (Camp Hill, PA) and worked through one of the worst cyclones in south India’s history. Undeterred by his cyclone experience, Colin signed on to spend part of his gap year between high school and college interning for CR. He begins his freshman year at Bennington College in August.

Mario Cassion Anand
Indian Counselor
2012/2013 Summer Camp

“I am a part of all that I met in my life.”
It is with immense pleasure and with whole hearted gratitude that I am expressing my experience here with Communities Rising. CR is really a great opportunity for the kids of my district and a very good pathway for a beautiful and bright future for India. CR has given me a great privilege to be an Indian counselor and to be a part of summer camp. “Education is the only way to emancipate the world” – a philosophy which was rightly chosen by CR.  It is by God’s grace they chose Tamil Nadu and are working for the betterment of the students in our district. CR has given its best in the way of teaching the kids swimming, robotics, photography, arts crafts, drama.  All the activities which we taught at camp are a great track for their life and educational. I can assure you as a teacher, that the impact of the summer camp is shown clearly in their academics in school. I want to thank the Communities Rising organization for the good work it has done. Wishing you all success CR and great years ahead!

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