Hi Meghna, getting started, could you tell us a little about yourself.
I work as a Program Manager for ‘Centre for Investment Education and Learning’, an e-learning solutions company for banking and financial sectors. I am also professional dancer, trained in contemporary dance techniques. In Bhumi, my role is that of a Project Coordinator for the team in Pune.
What prompted you to get into serving the community through teaching kids? Have you been associated with any such organisations before?
I love being with children Ever since I was 15, I have wanted to help those in need of education. What better way than being with children who really need you?
I was in college when I first volunteered with ‘Akanksha’, and thus began my association with serving the community through teaching. Post Akanksha, I also volunteered with ‘Teach India’ for a brief period, where we provided supplementary education in schools for underprivileged children.
Tell us the story of how you helped introduce Bhumi in Pune.
It all started with Vaishnavi Srinivasan (Bangalore) sending me a message on Facebook through a mutual friend. Coincidentally I was looking to volunteer with an NGO, so I jumped at the opportunity. A meeting with Vijay Anand and Anirudh Venkat helped us understand Bhumi and the projects undertaken by Bhumi.
Thus, in November 2011, we began a month-long hunt for appropriate centres and volunteers. It was a challenging task, but soon we came across centres in need of educational help but without any from other NGOs working extensively in Pune. One such centre was “Eklavya” – A centre for the children of sex workers in Pune. I had worked with this centre earlier for a community dance- theatre project. Here, we started the ‘Little Einsteins’ Project in January 2012. This was followed by our very first orientation in Pune in Feb 2012 which got us quite a good response.
How has the experience been so far?
I would say it has been nothing less than awesome! All thanks to a wonderful core team – Richa, Swades, Kapil and Bhushan. It has been a team effort since day one, and the consistent effort from them has helped in doing the good work. Vijay has been a mentor to all of us, and we would be really lost without his guidance.
Since Eklavya has children from varied age groups, it has also been a creatively enriching experience for all of us, as we are constantly looking for new methods, activities and techniques to keep up with the energy levels of the children.
Any plans for Bhumi Pune in the coming year?
Oh yes! We will be starting the Kanini project from the next academic year – June 2012. We are currently in the process of finalising the centre for the same. We will also be starting Little Einsteins projects in two other centres – Eklavya’s second centre which works for the rehabilitation of street children and Suryoday Aids Foundation, a centre for children who are HIV +ve. Both these centres have children who struggle with the very basics of education, so we will be constantly working hard to make the syllabus interactive as well as volunteer-friendly.
Could you narrate one unforgettable incident in your Bhumi experience so far?
There have been many unforgettable incidents…the one closest to my heart, though, is of a kid named Ganesh. Ganesh is a very hyper-active kid who loses interest in studying very quickly and frequently. He can never sit in one place for more than 5 minutes. To channelize his interest, we introduced a clay activity, where the kids had to create numbers by using different colours of clay. , For the first time, Ganesh sat in one place for more than an hour to create the numbers. It was really nice to see him trying to figure out numbers on his own and feeling proud when he did it right. This encouraged us to introduce more such activities. Today, I can proudly say that Ganesh has completed an Little Einsteins worksheet successfully, which would have been an impossible task for him a few weeks back!
How has life changed since joining Bhumi? How does this experience of working with kids affect you?
Working with Bhumi has given a whole new dimension to my life. It has given me the hope to believe that it is possible to bring a change in the society through a small contribution. Hard work, passion and honesty are the only things that one requires. Working with the kids has made me very patient. It has given a boost to my creativity as I am constantly engaged in trying to create new things for the kids or improvising on our techniques of teaching and presenting. In short, Bhumi keeps me on my toes all the time
Apart from work and Bhumi, what are your other interests?
Dancing! It keeps me sane. I also love travelling to new places and meet new people.
Your message to fellow volunteers!
Be passionate and honest about whatever you do. All other things will just fall into place.