April 29, 2021

I am delighted to start this blog. I will use this blog to make periodic updates about my Davis project, Hungarian Romani Youth Empowerment through Sport, which will be implemented at the Dr. Ambedkar High School in Miskolc, Hungary, this summer.

Just a brief note about me: I am Sarath Pillai, a PhD Candidate in the History Department at the University of Chicago. I am a one-time resident of International House and a five-time awardee of the Ralph Nicholas Fellowship. I was born and raised in Kerala, India, and did most of my higher studies in Delhi before coming to the US in 2013. I hold degrees in history, law, and archival studies. My PhD thesis examines the rise and fall of federalist ideas in interwar and postwar South Asia, in which constitutionalists like B. R. Ambedkar played a crucial role.

The Ambedkar School is the premier educational institution for underprivileged Romani youth in Hungary, helping them finish high school and make them qualified for higher education or gainful employment. The main thrust of our project will be the overall development of school facilities. We have identified four important areas: redesign and renovation of school spaces, building a new volleyball court, a basketball court, and a community garden.

As we begin this project, I want to thank all the partners and collaborators who helped me make a successful Davis grant application. First, Roy Kimmey, PhD Candidate in History at UChicago and a student of Hungarian and Romani history, has been working on this project as much as I am. While it is too early to thank him, I want to put on record all the advice and help he gave me while I prepared the application and thank him for facilitating conversations with people on the ground. Second, Nóra Tyeklár, our point person at the school and the Director of Martin Luther King Dormitory, has been unceasing in her cooperation and enthusiasm. She helped us identify the priorities for the school and propose a project that will address their immediate needs. We are also extremely delighted to have the support of the founders of the school, János Orsós and Tibor Derdák as well as Roland Imre, financial officer of the school. All of them have been extremely forthcoming with the implementation of this project. KulturAktív, an organization with proven expertise in building spaces that are interactive and sensitive to the needs of students, had collaborated with us at the conception of this project and will continue to work with us to implement this project. We are grateful for their ongoing support and investment in this project.

Last but not least, Denise Jorgens, Deb Jasinski, and Hannah Barton have been extremely helpful in not only preparing the application, but also for offering to work with us closely in the coming weeks to complete this project and for offering their unstinted support, both material and non-material.

In the next blog, we will give you more details about the school, its mission, and our intended project! In the meantime, enjoy these pictures and videos that Nora and Tibor sent me on the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanthi (April 14 marks the birthday of B. R. Ambedkar) celebrations at the school held in conjunction with the Indian Embassy in Budapest.

Stay tuned for more!

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