Fifteen-year-old Kavin Kathir first became involved with the organization Distressed Children & Infants International a few years ago when he began sponsoring a child abroad.
This past summer, Kathir worked in an orphanage, located in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, that Distressed Children & Infants runs. He tutored more than 30 children, between 11 and 15 years old, in conversational English and reading.
The trip was funded through Cheshire Academy’s Rizzolo-Larson Venture Grant, which is endowed through a gift from a trio of grandparents and parents of Cheshire Academy alumni, and supports students “as they carry out innovative projects of high merit that are unique, exciting and demonstrate outside the box classroom learning,” according to the school.
To receive the grant, Kathir had to first submit a proposal, which was accepted. Another requirement was that he share what he learned through the project with his peers at the Academy. He will do that next month, explained Yvonne Hewu, a language teacher at the school and Kathir’s advisor.
Kathir was familiar with the work done by DCI, which has a local office in Cheshire. He began donating to the organization as a sixth grade student.
Kathir said he contacted Dr. Ehsan Hoque, the local director. Hoque suggested he explore taking a trip to Bangladesh.
He left Connecticut on July 20 and returned on Aug. 10. The trip entailed two flights, roughly 20 hours total.
He explained that, while Dhaka had all of the appearances of a modern city, it also has large pockets of impoverished areas. In the mornings, he worked out of DCI’s office. In the afternoons, he helped out with the organization-run orphanage called Sun Child Home.
“I would help the children with their conversational English, homework, and reading and, after our work was done, we would even play games together — despite any language barrier we had,” Kathir said.
The children with whom Kathir worked — many of them close to his own age — would come to call him “bhaiya.” In their native Bangla language, it means “brother.”
Kathir said he was a little nervous departing the United States and arriving in Bangladesh, but it quickly felt like home after he bonded with the children in the orphanage.
“When I left I was sad to leave them all,” he said. “It was really fun spending time with them. Obviously, I was there to teach them English … They also taught me so much stuff.”
That “stuff” included some words in Bangla, Kathir said.
Kathir, a sophomore, plans to study science after high school and attend medical school, with the eventual goal of becoming a cardiologist.
The Venture Grant wasn’t Kathir’s first award. He came to Cheshire Academy via a scholarship — the Town Scholar Award, which provides a four-year scholarship to town residents. Kathir is also no stranger to rigorous scientific research. When he was an eighth grade student at St. Bridget School, his science fair project titled “Transforming Trash into Treasure: Sustainable Approach to Oil Spill Cleanup” earned 10 awards.
Hewu, Kathir’s advisor, describes him as mature, ambitious and having clear goals.
“He’s very clear about what he’s going to do next,” she said.
Kathir said he plans to volunteer next summer. He said he would like to eventually do more volunteer work abroad.
“If an opportunity arises again, I definitely would like to go,” he said.
Kathir said he would also like to pursue opportunities that allow him to explore his interest in environmental science.
“I want to thank Cheshire Academy for these opportunities,” he said.