Mercy Jesudass returns to SIS after two years in India

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Mercy Jesudass, high school counselor, returned to SIS this year after working as a volunteer in a human rights organization for a year during her two-year stay in India. The unnamed non-governmental organization aims to combat debt bondage, an illegal arrangement of labor made by rich families in Chennai to exploit and manipulate the poor. Involved in the rehabilitation process of the victims of bonded labor, Ms. Jesudass contributed by setting up rehabilitation programs and giving advice to social workers.

Among the many memories she had in India, the most memorable ones were with children. Ms. Jesudass was once involved in rescuing a family with two boys from a rice mill plantation when, in the rush of packing their belongings, the boys’ mother forgot to pack their toy airplane, disappointing the boys.

“I initially did not understand why the boys were crying since it was just a toy airplane,” Ms. Jesudass said. “However, when I found out that it was because the boys had self-built the remote-controlled plane, I was moved by their intelligence. Despite the lack of proper education, they showed truly amazing qualities of children not necessarily taught within the walls of a classroom.”

Ms. Jesudass’ passion for helping children, however, did not start in India. As a college student majoring in psychology, she decided to apply her knowledge by serving as a counselor at a boarding school in southern California. Back then, little did she know that a mere volunteer work would eventually grow into a lifetime passion for helping children.

The boarding school that she worked at was unusual in its demographic: it was a school designated for Native American children who were taken from their reservations. These children were constantly encouraged to replace their Native American identities with American ones. By offering guidance to these students, Ms. Jesudass came to realize the importance of proper counseling to the troubled minds of youths.

“I noticed that a school can either build a child’s confidence or tear it down—and this school was definitely tearing it down,” Ms. Jesudass said. “From this experience, I learned that my role as a counselor is to help children develop their confidence by realizing and focusing on their strengths.”

Although she was shocked by the school’s treatment of its Native American students, she used this experience to propel herself forward in her counseling career. Seeking to become involved at an international level, she moved to Korea, a country she immediately noticed to be very welcoming and foreigner-friendly. Despite her unfamiliarity with Korean culture, Ms. Jesudass was not shocked by Korean culture and the great amount of academic stress Korean students face.

“No matter what country you are in, you see that students are stressed about things that are out of their control,” Ms. Jesudass said. “My goal is to help students realize that although they may not be able to change an entire society, they have the power to change their own situation by taking care of the immediate actions that lie in front of them.”

After temporarily leaving Korea to work in the aforementioned human rights organization, Ms. Jesudass has returned and plans to work at SIS for at least two more years. However, she does not want to set clear plans for her future, as she wants to keep herself open to unexpected changes. Nevertheless, she is certain that whatever she decides to do, she will always work with children.

Updated Sept. 2, 2014