“It’s so easy for humanitarian workers to label historically marginalized people as victims,” says Nandini Kochar, a junior at NYU Abu Dhabi. “But it’s important to have a holistic understanding of the people you work with. And it’s key to not think of them as the victim just because things have not gone well for them.”
Merging Humanitarian Work with Storytelling
Nandini first gained experience working with underprivileged populations in Botswana, where she grew up. There, she founded a nonprofit group that provides support for HIV/AIDS patients, rape survivors, orphans, and children living in poverty. And in addition to her passion for humanitarian work, she also has a deep love for storytelling. Because of these dual passions, Nandini decided to double-major in Social Research and Public Policy and Film and New Media at NYU Abu Dhabi. “I’m interested in how media can be a form of advocacy,” she says.
“Helping people tell their own stories can bring to light what’s happening to them.”
A Semester in Prague
Nandini put her interest in advocacy into practice during a sophomore semester abroad at NYU Prague. While there, she interned at Romea, an organization that works closely with the Romani, an Indo-Aryan ethnic group who lives all over Europe and have been traditionally marginalized and referred to as “gypsies.” Nandini, who was born in India, immediately saw the similarities between her culture and that of the Romani. “They have Indian origins, and we have many similarities in language and culture,” she says. “It was wonderful seeing how, despite all our differences, we somehow have a common ground.”
Telling the Romani Story
Nandini came to NYU Prague to take advantage of its 35 mm Visual Storytelling program. The program is a collaboration between NYU Tisch and Prague’s prestigious Film and Television School of the Academy of Performing Arts. Because she worked with the Romani people as part of her internship, Nandini decided to tell their story through film. “The high school girls I met there were no different from us,” she says. “They had similar interests and were super cool.” That project resulted in a short fictional film that brought to life the stories of the people she met. “These are extremely talented people,” she says.