• WLP

WLP 2021 Week 5: Endless Possibility

Updated: Jul 27


Every week in WLP immerses me into possibility, and this week was no different. Seeing myself in the faces around me provides an incredibly grounding experience. After previous experiences in the public sector, I was left with a set of preconceived notions on what my professional life would look like—alien to my upbringing, distinct from parental desires, and largely remote from my identity. Yet, WLP has shown me facets of this field which have defied my expectations. I have witnessed the values inherent to my identity translated into service by others who share in my experience. To see and to be seen are indescribable feelings.


Monday began with work at the USAID’s Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance. I continued reading into disaster risk finance for a long-term project at my placement. I am incredibly excited to be at the forefront of a conversation that was a hot topic issue for the G7 summit and the United Nations. Disaster risk finance held a direct link to a larger conversation about climate risk finance. The day ended with a civil rights panel, featuring the incredibly accomplished Anurima Bhargava and Monika Varma. This panel ended up being my favorite panel of the program so far. I listened intently to Anurima’s story, as she described growing up in the South side of Chicago in a predominantly Black community. As an individual who grew up in a low-income community ravaged by institutional racism and the opioid epidemic, I asked her about growing up in a similar environment. I questioned if she ever felt trapped by that environment and what it was like fighting institutional barriers that one has lived through. Asking that question felt like laying myself bare to the world; generally, people from my town don’t end up in places like D.C. Insecurities rooted in imposter syndrome and the feeling of being undeserving of such opportunities were voiced and out. Yet, Anurima’s answer provided me with a sense of comfort I likened to home.


“Being in D.C., I lost the local in me. I lost what that desperation feels like. The commonness of grief, of loss. But, fighting for things that don’t come as easily to us has been where I can find the greatest sense of purpose in the world.”


When I think about Anurima’s answer, I realize the value my set of experiences hold. This idea is what I hope to move forward with: to fight for my beliefs with the same sense of ferocity I persevered through desperate times with. It was only through WLP that I realized the power I hold. I am thankful to be exposed to an intersectional set of experiences within the South Asian diaspora.


Later this week, we had a panel discussion featuring Ronnie Chatterji and Satyam Khanna. As a student fascinated by economic policy, I feel I gained insight into differentiating post-grad options. Whether that be a PhD, law school, or pursuing employment opportunities, recognizing this vast array of options helped soften my fear of uncertainty.


Lastly, our week ended with the State Department panel. We discussed the realities of multilateralism and partnership-building in the field of diplomacy. As someone who is interested in international development, I enjoyed hearing Merium delve into her experiences. Merium, who once worked in international development, described her interest in diplomacy, how the government generally sets policy, and development moves within this framework. Thus, I was exposed to another aspect in which I can effect change in the development sphere.


As the week has wrapped up, I find myself incredibly appreciative for all that WLP has left me with. To understand that Public Service is a field as complex as the intersectionalities in the South Asian experience has left me confident that I will find where I belong, professionally and personally.


Ruchita Coomar