Creating Hope with The Power of Knowledge

This blog contains information pertinent to Lora Chowdhury - her work with children abroad and other community service activities.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Discover UT

Things have been piecing together so wonderfully for Discover UT. Our tagline is "Endless Possibilities" and there truly are endless possibilities for all these kids. I am so blessed and delighted to have so many dedicated volunteers and especially my committee leads for working so diligently. They are truly the meat and potatoes of the project. I want to also give a big shout out and thank you to Raven for being such an amazing graphic designer for the event. I am excited for our T-shirts to come in from Empire soon. (If you are unfamiliar with Discover UT - read my last post!)

In other service news, I am having to sadly give my Learn To Be tutoring slot to another tutor since I will be starting my LSAT classes next Tuesday. I have been currently tutoring Justin from California and he is just the brightest 6th grader ever! I'm going to miss him but I know Valeria will took good care of him in my absence.

"The Learn To Be Foundation is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that operates solely on donations from individuals, businesses, and foundations. It was organized exclusively for educational purposes on the principle of using the World Wide Web as a medium for people of all ages to grasp their educational potential. The Foundation’s hope is to foster and cultivate free online tutoring services that are driven by a community of users dedicated to teaching and mentoring those in need.
The backbone of the Foundation’s website includes tutoring sessions that occur online with the tutor and the student communicating via audio and a virtual whiteboard to create a seamless transition from one-on-one in-person tutoring to one-on-one online tutoring. Today, there are over one hundred Learn To Be Certified Tutors helping students across the country.
Learn To Be works with schools and organizations to provide tutoring to students in Grades K-8 in the following subjects:
  • Math
  • Science
  • Language Arts
The Foundation also operates student organizations at universities and colleges to further its mission of providing free online tutoring and academic resources to underserved communities. The primary goal of these student organizations is to recruit and foster a college student-based tutor community and to explore and establish partnerships with underserved schools and organizations in the surrounding campus community."

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Guess Who's Back, Back Again!?

So it has definitely been almost a year since I have posted on my blog. With upper-division college course work, law school preparation, and a plethora of other activities, I put writing about my passions and community work on the back burner for a little while. Well guess what . . . IT'S COMING BACK! YAYYYY!!!! 

Although I am not a current titleholder, I hold worldwide service very dear to my heart and continue to work daily to positively impact as many people's lives as possible. A couple posts ago I wrote about participating in Project 2012. Well this year I also had the pleasure of returning as a team lead to project 2013 in the same Dove Springs neighborhood which lies a few miles southeast of the University of Texas campus (if you are unfamiliar with project, scroll down my page and read the post from last year). This time around I volunteered at the Community Fair held at the local Middle School. It was an entire day (literally ENTIRE DAY, I was there from 5am-6pm!) filled with meeting amazing community members, teachers, and even students. I was extremely touched by the close knit community and their efforts to help raise their underrepresented school district to the top. Community members, parents, and students informed me how they have never had a college event at their schools. Inspired and motivated by these children's curiosity and eagerness to attend college and reach beyond expectations, myself along with a couple other students have decided to put on a Discover UT event for this school district. It will function as a mini Explore UT with representatives from each college and major sharing their major and passion through small activities and demonstrations. The main goal is to give students in this neighborhood direct exposure to college students from a variety of backgrounds as they "discover" the world of college through cool projects, games, and activities.

This was such a spontaneous idea of mine and it has been the most amazing feeling to watch everything fall into place with so many enthusiastic UT students and Austin community members on board to help as much as they can. I am extremely lucky to co-team with the brothers of Zeta Psi and Beta Chi. I am so appreciative in all their fundraising and publicity efforts. I had the pleasure of meeting with a few community members this morning including the Social Worker and Parent Support Specialist who works in Austin ISD, Jose Carrasco. The students are getting pumped about getting to hang out with college students and tinker with cool projects pertaining to a multitude of future options for them. 

The event is planned for April 27, 2013 from 10am-1pm. If you are interested in contributing in any way (time, ideas, donations, etc) Please contact me at 

University of Texas has a famous quote of "What Starts Here Changes the World" - We are taking strides to change the world starting right here in our very own Austin community. 

Stay tuned for more details on the event along with other updates!

PS. I wish I had pictures from this year's Community Fair so I apologize for the lack of visuals on this post. Promise future ones will have some!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Year to Remember

Wow! I cannot believe that a year flew by so quickly and my reign as Miss Teen Texas International 2011 is now over. I am so proud of each and every contestant and the new Miss Teen Texas, Briana - I know you are going to do amazing things with this title! You are  now empowered with a crown and sash to spread your message and impact millions of people around the world. You are in store for a ride of a lifetime so as a Texas Longhorn I want you to buckle up and grab life by the horns!

As for me, my journey does not end here. I am eager to continue doing what I am passionate about - creating hope with the power of knowledge. I am currently working extensively on fundraising plans for the grand Distressed Children and Infants International annual Iftar Fundraiser in July. Keep your eyes peeled for more information! In addition to my summer internship and classes, I am eagerly planning my next trip to Bangladesh in December for the International Child Rights and Sights Convention.

I had an amazing year and I am so thankful and grateful for everyone and everything in my life. With the help of a few special people, I hope to change the lives of millions of children worldwide by sending them to school. My website is currently  under renovation but keep your eyes open for a new and improved beautiful site to be up soon!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Looking Glass Perspective

It was so exciting to be reunited with my International pageant family on March 2-4 for the Miss and Mrs Oklahoma International pageant. The Oklahoma pageant was very eventful as I got to share the entire weekend with by beautiful and wonderful sister queen, Kelli, Miss Texas International. Saturday started off a bit frazzled as we had some wardrobe malfunctions before the interviews. However, after much triumph we finally resolved the problem with our innovative and cunning methods.
Despite the minor infliction, Saturday afternoon was personally my favorite part of competition, judges’ interview. Sitting in the room as the Judges’ assistant definitely brought an entirely new perspective on the interview phase. I had never realized how long the interview truly is. I love to talk and the interview process always flew by in a blink of an eye. But on the bright side it was nice to listen in on some of the amazing things that the contestants are doing in their communities. I really love how the international system fosters and encourages community involvement. Community service is where I find my tranquility and I am so honored to share my passions with so many distinguished women across the world.

 Sunday afternoon, I was pleased to assist briefly in the rehearsals. Alyssa Perez does a phenomenal job leading these ladies and it was exciting to be working with her again but on the other side this time; Alyssa also ran the stage production for my Texas pageant when I won. Sunday evening came quickly and I was glad that I did not have the tough job the judge’s did that night. The ladies glowed on stage and I loved being in the audience, only imagining the tension and excitement going on backstage. The amazing and talented, Ms. Valerie Hayes hosted the event and the night quickly ended with two beautiful and phenomenal queens ready and eager to represent Oklahoma and the International system worldwide. 


Another phenomenal young lady I was blessed to meet in my pageant career is Hoang-Kim Cung. Kim’s community involvement, extensive work with Veteran’s, dedication to academia, and vogue fashion sense all make her a role model to everyone. Kim is Miss Texas Collegiate and we met two summers ago in Dallas! Now that we share our UT pride together in Austin, our friendship has definitely blossomed. It was so exciting watching Kim grace the stage as she represented our beautiful state at the Miss High School and Collegiate America pageant March 10. Right in our home state, the pageant was held at the Lila Cockrell Theater in San Antonio. It was definitely nostalgic being in the same theater on the same weekend I was crowned Miss Teen Texas International, exactly a year ago. Although the weather was far from perfect and I had to battle walking half a mile in my heels and through pouring rain, it was well worth it! Kim’s beauty, grace, and intelligence made her a hard-hitting competitor in the Top 15 on finals night. She finished in the top 3 and made the Lonestar State PROUD. I am so blessed and honored to know such extraordinary young ladies who impact so many people on a daily basis. Keep up the great work, Kim! 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

An Active Austinite!

I love showing my UT Longhorn Pride by participating in projects around campus with my fellow longhorns! As a first year college student, it is definitely an exciting experience being able to extend a helping hand to my Austin community!

My buddy Arianne and I have had a marvelous year so far! I was excited to visit her first thing when I returned to Austin from my trip to Bangladesh. She was absolutely taken aback by the souvenir purse I brought back for her (she loves loves loves to dress up)! Valentine’s Day quickly came and I was more than excited to have Arianne as my Valentine this year. Decorating cookies and singing karaoke was a great way to kick off the spirit of love! We had to celebrate even MORE so we went on a “romantic” dinner to a beautiful BURGER STAND. I love burgers and so does Arianne. It was a new experience for both of us and we loved sitting outdoors eating our burgers, milkshakes, and delicious fries! As her Valentine of course I had to give her a little gift. Along with the cliché chocolates, I gave Arianne a cute piggy bank with the words “dream and love” painted on them. We talked about how she can feed her piggy to make him happy and when he is all full we can go on more fun adventures. Arianne loved the idea and I am excited to see where our savings take us! Valentine’s Day passed and before we knew it, it was time for Mardi Gras! Arianne and I attended the Best Buddies Mardi Gras party and we had a marvelous time decorating masks, chatting, and most of all getting down on the dance floor. I definitely learned some new dance moves that day! I am so thrilled to be a part of Best Buddies and I now have a lifetime friend. I am eager to see what adventures the rest of the year has in store for us!

Last Friday February 24, I attended a benefit concert for the UT chapter of China Care. Sitting in the audience and watching all the local university talent groups perform ranging from bhangra dance to west campus orchestra; it was definitely an entertaining night.
“The China Care Foundation is dedicated to saving the lives of medically fragile orphaned children in China. Founded in 2000 by a determined teenager, China Care is also committed to empowering young people to use their abilities and creativity to help improve the lives of children in need.”
Children are definitely my weakness and after breaking into tears watching the China Care documentary, I was so honored to be in attendance at this benefit to help raise funds for a young girl’s surgery in China. I am so grateful that I am able to impact children across the world, even in the most menial ways.

Project is University of Texas’ LARGEST day of service. This year, Project 2012 had over 2,100 volunteers and definitely made an impact in the surrounding Austin area.
The Project is a premier service event at The University of Texas at Austin, designed by students to benefit the many Austin neighborhoods surrounding the campus.

 Started by students who wanted to make a lasting community impact, the Project has partnered with Keep Austin Beautiful since 1999.  Students, faculty, and staff come together for one day, dedicating their time and expertise to complete a variety of community beautification projects. Headquartered at a local elementary school or community center, jobs are spread throughout one neighborhood and include painting, landscaping, trash pick-up, constructing playground equipment, and other general projects specific to the site.

As a team-lead I was in charge of beautifying the neighborhood entrance to the Onion Creek Plantation. After all an entrance is the first impression of the neighborhood and residents want it to be warm and welcoming. My small yet efficient team created a flower bed at the entrance of the neighborhood. It was definitely an experience to remember as we had to dig up the grassy area, map out a garden then go about actually planting the Lantanas. But in the end, the transformation into a warm and beautiful entrance reflected our hard work. After my team was done at the Onion Creek Plantation, I joined my beautiful friend Kim, Miss Texas Collegiate, at the River City Youth Foundation building. Not only were we gardening there but we painted the entire building, inside and out! Kim and I specifically took charge of one of the bathrooms and completely turned it around from a bright green color to a nicer neutral white. We had to get down and dirty for this job as we painted every square inch in that bathroom (even behind the toilet)! I was covered in head to toe in paint and other volunteers jokingly asked, “Did you use your hair as a makeshift paintbrush?” Although I did not, I still bear remnants of Project 2012 in my hair, shoes, pants, and most of all in my heart. I was overjoyed with excitement and pride to see how much our contributions truly affected the Austin community. Residents came out and opened their homes to us! They welcomed us with hospitality tables with snacks and drinks and constantly throughout the day we received numerous “thank yous” and friendly honks and waves. Working in this community I could not understand why everyone has such a bad perception of the area. The neighbors know each other and greet others as they drive by. It is a safe place for children to play outside as the entire block knows one another. Honestly, I felt like a part of a family and the Dove Springs and Onion Creek Plantation represent the true epitome of a “community”.  I am so glad I got the experience to work with Project 2012 and I am excited to continue working with this community with Project in years to come.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sisterbration's Little Red Dress Party

Did you wear red last Friday February 3? 

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women affecting one out of every three women. This staggering statistic equates to nearly 500,000 women each year -- more than the next six causes of death combined. 


 I had a blast putting on my red dress and pumps and joining my beautiful International sister queens for Sisterbration’s Little Red Dress Event benefiting the Girls Have Heart program and Raising Awareness about Heart Disease, the #1 Killer of Women in the nation. The night was filled with laughs, smiles, and appreciation of a healthy heart. We danced the night away to Salsa and Merengue, laughed until our stomachs hurt in the photo booth and loved seeing the red pumps exhibit. With a hectic schedule, it is often hard to reunite with your girlfriends and enjoy the finer things in life, like a good laugh, awesome friends, and simply being healthy. This event was exceptionally amazing because it is one of the rare occasions that my sister queens, Kelli, Angelique and I all come together!

Proceeds from The Little Red Dress Party were used to fund community-wide blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, heart disease risk assessments and educational materials for women and girls. Through these activities we can help women realize it's never too early to take steps to prevent and control risk factors. Heart disease is preventable and education is the key to helping prevent this terrible disease.

 It was a night to remember as we came together for heart disease!

Love your heart <3

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Trip Across the World

All my future U.T. LONGHORNS!!!
Happy New Year! I definitely ended my year with a “bang” with my trip to Bangladesh. My 3 week visit was extremely eventful as I was reunited with many family members from across the world for my cousin, Munia’s, wedding! On top of being a “chief bridesmaid” for my cousin, I was thrilled to visit the DCI orphanage in Mohummadpur, Bangladesh. On my previous visit to Bangladesh, shortly after my crowning in spring, the orphanage fully supported 12 young girls whose ages range from about 5-10. Upon my recent arrival I was overtaken with joy to see many recognizable smiling faces along with 6 new ones! 

Always love leaving a great message in the guest book!
The 18 young girls attend school regularly, attend dance and voice lessons, play outdoors, and practice religion. This visit was exceptionally special because I was also joined by my older sister, Lira, who is a 3rd year medical student. The moment I swept through the door with her, we were encircled by such beautiful and elated young girls, all tugging on my arms shouting “Lora Apu, Lora Apu!” (Apu is a term often used to refer to elder sisters as a sign of respect) I don’t know if I was more excited that the girls remembered who I am, or that they were so well-mannered, well-groomed, intelligent, and

Throughout my entire visit, I never witnessed a girl without a smile on her face. It brought me so much happiness to learn about each and every young lady, and their intelligence and manners that definitely reflected. Every single girl could have a conversation with me in English: telling me how old she is, her name, and even miscellaneous things like her favorite animal! I am a true believer in the fact that you always learn something new; they even taught me some Bengali nursery rhymes! In response to this, we all sat in a circle as I taught them the “itsy bitsy spider”,
which was one of my favorites while I was growing up. I admit that I began tearing up as the girls repeated my hand motions and phrases so immaculately.

Talking to the girls is my favorite part of every visit!

Although my time with the girls was limited, we did get to go on a little adventure. The road we were walking on was broken so we had to cross a major body of water, full of sewer water, using merely an unstable plank of wood. As we carefully helped each other cross, the girls were excited to talk to me on the walk back to the orphanage building from their picnic. I was so proud to see that the library I started in March 2011 through my scholarship program, Learning Creates Futures, is still up and flourishing more than ever!

The girls and I love to take walks around Bangladesh
At the end of my visit, the girls enjoyed cutting the chocolate cake that, I so proudly decorated myself from a hut on the streets of Bangladesh. As I was leaving one of the girls, Shilpi, held my hand and pointed to herself then me and said “you, me, sisters”. At that point I could not hold my tears in. Overwhelmed with emotions, I grabbed her and all the girls and squeezed them as tight as I could. I left that evening promising to return in August 2012. I am already anxiously counting down the days until I will be reunited with my girls as an executive youth leader for the annual Convention for Child Rights and Sight in Bangladesh.