Age: 31
Home Town: Williamsville, Illinois
Education: B.A. in Global Studies (Developing States), North Central College
Specific Field Interests: Sustainable Development, Human Rights, Livelihood
Placement: Ecowrap in Jaipur, Rajasthan
Area of Focus: Livelihoods, Waste Management

Fellowship Project: Empower women in rural villages by coming alongside them to secure a sustainable means of livelihood through micro-enterprise opportunities in up-cycling. Help communities consider the economic value of waste.

Highlights: Erin graduated from North Central College in Naperville, Illinois with a degree in Global Studies (Developing States) and a minor in Leadership. She has done graduate coursework in World Arts where she explored how local traditional art forms can be used to meet a community’s goals. She spent the past 8 years learning with and from Indian communities both in the U.S. and in India where she has grown as a storyteller, as a harmonium player, and as a student of Hindi and Hindu culture. While navigating the beauty and complexity of culture in India, staying there during COVID-19, she co-founded a collaborative learning program in the U.S. for learners from different religio-cultural communities to learn with and from one another. She loves how collaborative learning requires working together with others who have much different perspectives and experiences than her own. Her role as Learner Engagement Designer focused on making online co-learning opportunities more impactful and holistic. After returning to the U.S., she was deeply stirred by the plight of Afghan refugees when Kabul fell and decided that she wanted to be directly involved in the refugee response. She found that her experience adapting to a culture radically different from her own in South Asia fostered empathy and acutely informed her understanding of some of the challenges faced by those striving to adjust and become self-sufficient in a cross-cultural environment. She used this understanding to influence her work alongside U.S. Mission Operation Allies Welcome where she facilitated Afghan guest teacher workshops and taught English to newly arrived Afghan refugees. Erin focused on developing curriculum to help allies foster confidence, creativity, self-expression, and resilience during their transition to the United States. Working in this context rekindled her passion for development work and for helping women secure a means of livelihood, which ultimately lead her to pursue this fellowship opportunity with AIF. She is honored to be selected as an AIF Banyan Impact Fellow and is excited to see her background as a creative, as a facilitator, and as a co-learner, intersect with India’s Development sector.

Posts by erinburneson


Basic Steps for Starting a Women’s Livelihood Project

When I was initially handed the task of leading a women’s livelihood project in rural […]


Starting a Startup in India’s Social Development Sector

With a background in working alongside NGOs, and having co-founded a non-for-profit company myself, I […]


Leading Through Servanthood in India’s Development Sector

When I first arrived at my host organization to work on my fellowship project, I […]


Creating a Dump-Free India: one start-up’s model for cleaner cities

Ecowrap is an IOT (Internet of Things) and SaaS-based (Software-as-a-Service) one-stop solution for waste segregation, […]


Cultivating Cultural Humility in an Indian Context

I will be the first to say that cultivating cultural humility is not easy, especially […]

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