“My experience at the Academy was very significant as it made me realise that I am interested in working with social issues and helping communities,” reflects Khushboo Khoja, a 2016 graduate from the Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad.
Her passion for helping others, which was sparked through service learning initiatives she participated in at the Academy, is something Khushboo has taken with her to university. She is currently enrolled in the Faculty of Social Science at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, and recently completed her first year of post-secondary education.
As a recipient of a tuition waiver through the Aga Khan Academies–Ontario tuition waiver programme, Khushboo is thankful for the opportunity to attend a university in Canada: “When I found out that I got the scholarship, it was a very grateful moment because it would change my whole life. The fact that I am able to get an education of this kind in Canada helps me build my future and enhances my entire quality of life.”
During her time at the Aga Khan Academy, Khushboo was able to help others improve their quality of life by volunteering at a government school for four years teaching English and math: “I always looked forward to finishing class and going there because those girls were so inspiring. Most of the girls didn’t come from as privileged backgrounds and didn’t have everything they needed, but were so happy and always so motivated and satisfied with everything they had.”
Khushboo continued this work through a summer internship in a village in India, where she learned more about the importance of education and awareness regarding sanitation and immunisation: “While engaging with the community of the village and learning about their health and hygienic needs, we conducted school plays to spread awareness about the importance of healthy alcohol-free and tobacco-free lives. The special bond that I built with the people of the village motivates and inspires me to keep learning from the diverse communities I am surrounded with and making significant contributions in whatever ways I can. I am glad to have been opened to a new perspective in which a place does not necessarily have to be changed but has to first be accepted and appreciated.”
Khushboo attributes her ability to take her classroom learning and put it into practice to her time at the Academy: “I feel like my experience at the Academy allowed me to perceive in a more holistic and practical way. The experience was not just about what we were reading in books or learning, but also about incorporating values and ethics in our daily lives and applying our knowledge to better ourselves and the community. The integrated learning experience helped me learn how to learn, which I now carry with me wherever I go and whenever I am learning.”
During her short time in Canada, Khushboo has already begun making a difference in the community around her. Her volunteer activities include helping at the Merrymount Family Support and Crisis Centre, where she assists with counselling parents and children who are in crisis and/or experiencing times of transition. She was also elected to the executive team for the Ismaili Students Association as the ‘frosh representative’ where she has the opportunity to organise educational and social events for the members of the association: “I am the representative for the first-year students. I enjoy meeting new people from different cultures yet from the same community - the beautiful blend makes me appreciate the pluralistic atmosphere that’s created.”
She has also successfully applied for a leadership position on campus as a residence advisor where one of her primary roles will be to foster a community atmosphere in the residence. When not busy studying or volunteering, Khushboo also plays indoor soccer on the intramural team at Western.
One of Khushboo’s passions is working with women and children, promoting health and education. For Khushboo, going back to India and continuing this work is incredibly important: “I want to bring awareness and enrich the accessibility of resources. Sometimes it’s not about changing things but rather bringing a new perspective to people that may help them. Depending on the context, approaches to the occurring difficulties of people have to be altered, with broadening horizons.”