The economic liberalization of India, along with significant social development in Kerala, have led to an increasing number of qualified, yet unemployed youth in the state. This competitive environment has been particularly difficult for youth from lower castes, as they are affected by discrimination that limits their access to private sector work opportunities. Although the government has implemented a caste reservation system, where government jobs are reserved for lower castes, these jobs are themselves stigmatized and offer limited prospects.

In response to these challenges, the Government of Kerala developed the Centre for Research and Education for Social Transformation (CREST) as an autonomous organization in 2008. CREST is situated in the city of Calicut, also known as Kozhikode, which is the third largest city in Kerala. As stated on its website, CREST’s “mission is to help the marginalized and the underprivileged gain confidence, build competence and achieve excellence in all spheres of human endeavour, for their social, cultural and economic development through education, training, research, and consulting” (CREST, 2015).

During the summer of 2015, we, six undergraduate anthropology students, went to Kerala to intern at CREST’s Post Graduate Certificate Course for Professional development. Each course runs for five months and caters for between 30­40 students from SC (Scheduled Castes), and ST (Scheduled Tribes) communities. Students who attend the program already have at least an undergraduate degree, yet seek additional skills and personal development in order to enter the competitive job market or an institution of higher education. The goal of the course is for students to become more confident speaking in English and engaging with others, especially in a professional setting. Besides partaking in activities alongside the students, we spent time teaching lessons and engaging students outside of CREST’s formal curriculum. However, we are all confident that this was a dialogical exchange, where we learned just as much about the students as they learned from us.

Sara, Shannon, Sydney, and Sam spent eight weeks in Kerala from April to June, working with the 23rd batch of students, along with CREST’s program for younger boys in 8th to 10th standard. Alison and Alice arrived after, spending eight weeks in Kerala from June to August with the 24th batch.

We are extremely grateful for the incredible friendships we built while at CREST, and for the opportunity to engage with the students on such a thoughtful and personal level.

Sydney, Shannon, Sara, and Sam, Alice & Alison