Local university student sacrifices work and play for rickshaws and saris.

A university student has swapped her winter coat for a sari to research water filtration and the preservation of energy in the isolated village of Marenhalli in Bangalore.

After being given the opportunity to teach in Mumbai, India last year, Western Sydney University student MacKenzie Edgington became one of 100 university students to travel to India and work under the guidance of social enterprise 40K Globe.

40K Globe develops social impact projects that target high-risk areas in the rural villages on the outskirts of Bangalore. For MacKenzie and her team, water and energy were the areas that needed to be researched and resolved in Marenhalli.

“Our goal was to go into these villages and create an ongoing relationship with the local community and create projects that will become sustainable and self-sufficient for the locals,” said Ms Edgington. “We focused on water and energy. By interviewing the local community we were able to come up with ideas to create products that are sustainable and cheap for the locals to buy and use.”

Working conditions were not what the students had predicted. Fellow teammate Charlotte Murdoch said that it was her most challenging but rewarding experience to date.

“Living and working in such an unpredictable environment was eye-opening,” said Ms Murdoch. “These conditions forced our team to quickly develop our problem-solving skills and abilities to overcome challenges like cultural and language barriers, time constraints and logistical difficulties.”

Throughout their time in Marehalli, the team had doubts the projects would not be a success.

“We found that it was hard for locals to trust the products we were selling,” said Ms Edgington. “Another company not associated with 40K last year sold solar panels kits to the locals that broke months later. As a result, the locals became hostile and reluctant to buy our products.”

Western Sydney University has commended the team’s efforts as social workers, and has offered MacKenzie a position to continue her social justice work in South Africa next year.