As part of the ThomsonReuters Community Service team, I have been fortunate to be a part of several projects.The first project for this year that I’ll be a part of is organized by an well-networked NGO called Unnati(An SGBS trust initiative). First of it’s kind that I’m being a part of, Unnati enables and empowers underprivileged students in a competitive world.
Meeting the director of the NGO was a wonderful experience. Unnati identifies between 100 and 200 students who are socially and economically underprivileged. Nearly all of the students that are selected to study here are from family below the poverty level. Apart from having no knowledge of English and very limited chances of a gainful employment in a fast paced job market, these students aren’t much different from you and me. They are ambitious (one student graduating out of the seventy day course aspired to be a Managing Director of a Hotel one day), they have the same fear of the stage, and will face the same challenges that you and I will face. But just because they live in a shanty house or in a village or slum, we are biased against them. The eight year old not for profit NGO, depends on 90 other NGOs and many of it’s alumni for its students – from 18 to 40 year olds. Costs are met by generous donors like Google et al
Costs are met by generous donors like Google et al. Once at the Centre, they go through a thorough screening process that separates the truly deserving from the ‘just lazy’. There after they go through a seventy day vocational training and personality development course that is structured and tutored by professionals who volunteer their time and effort. Students are taught vocational training (like guest care, tailoring, industrial painting, security, paramedics, and retail sales and marketing) in state of the art class rooms that are donated by companies like Philips, and the Infosys Foundation.. Of course like any other organisation, Unnati goes through the pangs of attrition too. But what surprised me is how attrition tapered off after just 10 days of class. The students apparently are convinced about the effect that Unnati has on them in a week! At the seventieth day we see how such a structured environment, that places emphasis on underprivileged individuals getting the right kind of vocational training that equips them for the modern workforce, achieves when nearly all the students graduate, with a job. Many of the students earn between Rs 3000 to Rs 9000 as their first salaries! Today, sitting among the students at their valediction ceremony, I could feel the excitement, the enthusiasm and the confidence that all of these students possess. The students performed skits on money management, etiquette and life skills. It’s hard to imagine how any organization can transform a person from being underprivileged to being part of a highly trained modern workforce. But watching the students graduate with pride and honor, I know Unnati has done the impossible. From a lump of clay to a beautiful piece of art. Amidst all the anarchy and chaos in our society, Unnati comes out as a beacon of hope. The hope that not all is wrong in the world today.
Navin Samuel Mathew