JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Sravya Ambadipudi is much the typical Johns Creek teenager. A student at Northview High School, she does have one passion that stands out – a desire to help others. It was this passion that inspired her to travel 9,000 miles to a remote village near Hyderabad, India, to help teach the first generation of those villagers how to read.
Sravya also has a sense of adventure that comes out as well.
“I wanted to visit this village to see their lifestyle and to experience it,” Sravya said. “It is a remote village, six hours from Hyderabad’s airport.”
She had heard about this village in an agricultural area where volunteers had recently built its first school.
“There are no doctors, hospitals or schools in the area. You have to travel a long distance to get medical attention,” she said.
Sravya, who wants to become a doctor, came to the village under the auspices of an Indian-American nonprofit volunteer agency V.T. Seva (Volunteering Together for Service).
“Seva is Sanskrit for ‘service.’ I heard about it, and went online to learn more about it,” she said. “In America, we take education for granted. I wanted to see how education changes lives.”
Her father was proud of his daughter for taking this trip over the summer.
“She went alone. We were in contact with her until she reached Hyderabad. Then for two weeks we could not contact her,” he said. “We were worried, but we trusted the organization.”
Sravya said she knows “only a little” about India. She has been in its cities but knew almost nothing about life outside them. That included the food, which was far spicier than anything she was used to.
“I thought my mom’s food was spicy,” she said.
Once she reached the village, she found a world she had not seen before. The first school in the village was already operating and already changing the lives of the people there. Not surprisingly, Sravya was asked to teach English classes at the school.
“VT Seva is a lot like Habitat for Humanity in that it is focused on volunteering and bringing facilities to people that they don’t have and raise the people’s standards of living,” she said.
She was impressed with the students she saw – from ages 3 to 15. They were disciplined and sincere. They truly valued the education they were getting – as did their parents who understood education is a path to a better life.
“You could see how education already has changed their lives in a very positive way,” Sravya said.
Her days started at 4 a.m. At 4:30 was yoga; 5:30-6 prayer; 6-7:30 shower, dress; 7:30 breakfast; 8:15 school begins.
Sravya said she left India after two weeks with a different perspective both of India and America.
“I have a new respect for village people. I saw kids who did not have nearly so much as we do here,” she said. “Yet they were still happy and were not afraid. They work hard and respect each other. I have a new perspective. I am happy with all that I have.”
Sravya wants to become a doctor and return to India every year as a way to give to the community for all of the blessings she has received.
But service is not new to Sravya. She has volunteered at Grady and Emory hospitals and Children’s Healthcare at Satellite Boulevard. She has worked with Habitat for Humanity.
Her voluntarism has also brought Sravya recognition. She has been awarded the Presidential Silver Medal for Volunteering and Education as well as the Congressional Gold Certificate for voluntarism, personal development, exploration and expedition.