Name: Sneha Sambandam
From: Valencia, CA
Grade: High School Senior
School: Academy of the Canyons Middle College High School
FORWARD SCHOLARSHIP ESSAY 2016
| A New Medium for Volunteerism
Short Description | Volunteering isn’t always mission trips and hospital
assistance. Volunteering manifests in various forms: that’s where its
beauty lies. It can even morph into the thing you love doing most.
For me, it was Bharatanatyam.
Putting her children before all else, my grandmother believed doctor visits
for herself were unnecessary and expensive; thus, her ovarian cancer
was left undetected. She was sixty. I was six—only six—when she
passed away from something we could’ve treated earlier on had money
not been an issue in India.
I know that it’ll be years before I finish medical school; years
before I travel back to places like India and provide medical care
for people like Grandma, but the lack of affordable health care
should not have to result in such sacrifice. Unsure of where my
future will take me, I decided to take initiative with what I’m
privileged with now:
Bharatanatyam, or Indian classical dance. Upon discovering the
non-profit, Doctors Without Borders, in 2014, I began organizing a
charity performance titled Udantya—which translates to “living
beyond limits”—set for June 18, 2016. However, in the middle of
March, misunderstandings between my partner, our mentor and me led me
to want to step out of my own performance. It felt as if everything
was falling apart. Regardless, I held my breath, pushed through and
discovered that a simple fix to misunderstandings like these is
communication. Communication is key. Understanding that being clear
and frank with my needs and progress was probably one of the most
important lessons I will take away from this project. For this
epiphany, I have to thank the prospect of helping others: the
recurring motivation that kept me afloat during the
I hope the donations we accumulate will prevent others from emulating
the same painful look I remember seeing on my grandmother’s face.
From this performance, not only will I be able to contribute to an
organization that I aspire to be a part of someday, but I am also
able to inspire today. As I have also recruited younger dancers, I
have the privilege of demonstrating to them that Indian classical
dance is such a divine medium on which one can take initiative upon.
They can make a difference using Bharatanatyam, for it is not merely
just an art form. Despite the behind the scenes work like flyer
design, sponsorship recruitments and overall planning, every weekend
in the midst of grueling 5-hour dance rehearsals, I get to show them
the power they can cultivate from dance, the power in the alliance of
art and activism. Just the “you are my role model, Sneha. I hope I
can dance like you one day” statement I get from the dancers is all
the satisfaction I need for a lifetime.
Working with my skills to help those I can now, I hope that every beat and
hand gesture I choreograph is another move towards slowly
providing health care and medical access to the impoverished—all
in honor of Grandma. Forward-looking—to me—is the innovation we
pursue for the betterment of this world. Although I know I won’t be
making a global impact, at least I know that I will change a small
part of it, for someone.