This marks our last Mewat Mondays column this summer. In the previous issues, we covered various SRF Foundation initiatives and the impact they’ve achieved. For our final issue, we thought it only fitting to focus on the unsung heroes who help to develop and bring these initiatives to fruition – the SRF Foundation team. From programme coordinators to field staff, meet the 12 people who work together to improve the quality of education and vocational training in India, building a better society for tomorrow.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this column as much as we’ve had producing it! Please be sure to look forward to another exciting series in summer 2014.
Heading the IBM KidSmart and Udaan programmes, Mr. A.Rakesh is one of the longest-serving SRF Foundation staff, having joined in 2009. The 34-year-old Hyderabad-Andhra Pradesh native is proud to have been part of the evident progress SRFF has achieved in transforming education in Mewat these past four years – building school infrastructure, cultivating innovative programmes to add value to schools, enhancing the leadership of headmasters and village Sarpanches, strengthening relations between the school and community, as well as increasing school enrolment and retention rates.
Mr. Rakesh has always been drawn to working in the non-profit sector, telling us, “I always have passion, and work with the mission to achieve something through my skills and knowledge which can impact many lives.” Testament to this is his rich 15 years’ experience working for NGOs such as Byrraju Foundation, helping to establish model schools integrating both technology and non-technology components, and being instrumental in the achievement of the Best Innovative Education Programme award.
Today, Mr. Rakesh’s efforts to make a difference in education continue via the Udaan residential learning programme, which gives out-of-school girls the opportunity to complete primary-level schooling and further their studies, and the IBM KidSmart programme, which provides state-of-the-art computer-aided and integrated learning to underprivileged children. Under his coordination, the IBM KidSmart programme has not only expanded from 18 KidSmart centres in Mewat in 2010, to 48 centres across five states (Haryana, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh), but was also awarded the 2011-2012 Businessworld FICCI CSR Award for Exemplary Innovation Promoting CSR.
What Mr. Rakesh appreciates about his job is the opportunity to exercise his creativity and be a role model, sharing skills and best practices derived from his personal experience. At the same time, he has also learnt much about leadership skills here, and hopes that in five years time, he would have the capability to manage a whole institution on his own. In his spare time, Mr. Rakesh enjoys watching action movies and listening to music.
Heading the Mewat Rural Vocational Programme, Mr. Praveen Karn was motivated to join SRF Foundation in 2012 due to its position as a thematic catalyst in education. An MBA in Rural Development from XISS with more than 7 years of valuable experience in the development arena, the passionate 32-year-old Ranchi native is proud to be contributing to the people in Mewat, by building their capabilities for sustainable livelihoods and empowering them to lead better lives.
In the past year, Mr. Karn has helped to develop various initiatives aimed at providing the youths of Mewat with opportunities to learn new skills and enhance their employability. These include the Basic Electrician Training Programme, a collaboration with Schneider Electric India to arm youths with electrician skills; the Teach India Spoken English Training Programme, a partnership with the Times of India to equip youths with the spoken English skills valued in the retail and hospitality industries; the Smart Quality Checker Programme, a collaboration with the Apparel Training & Design Centre to train youths in apparel stitching, designing and quality check skills. Mr. Karn shares that the most memorable moment for him was completing the job placement of more than 100 youths in Mewat. Now, he is also working on Project Rahat, an initiative producing low-cost sanitary napkins. He tells us, “It is an initiative by the women, for the women and to the women. Through this initiative, we would like to ensure improved health and sustained livelihood for the empowerment of women”.
An aspiring entrepreneur, Mr. Karn hopes to move into development consultancy in the next five years. In his spare time, he plays cricket and writes poems. An interesting and little-known fact about Mr. Karn: he has represented his district in cricket with the famous Mahendra Singh Dhoni!
“Ma’am, Ek din main appke jaisa bada adhikari banunga, aur gadi me ghoomunga” (“Ma’am, One day I’ll be an officer like you and move around in a big car”), said a little boy from Mehrola School once. It was on her very first field visit to Mewat, and the Headmaster of Mehrola school called for a student to get a glass of water for her. Out of the corner of her eye she could see how the boy immediately ran to get it, and how deliberately and rigorously he was washing the glass to be served. He would later return with the glass of water and say those impactful words to her. That was Ms. Neeti Tyagi’s first and most memorable experience with the children of Mewat, for whom she now carries out MREP initiatives with the hope of improving the quality of education – and with that, their futures.
A teacher herself, Ms. Tyagi used to be an educator of Physics and Chemistry to higher classes in Bluebells School International, East of Kailash, Delhi. With years of teaching under her belt, she better understands the challenges, motivation and can share the joy fellow teachers in Mewat would go through. While Ms. Tyagi did not always foresee herself working with an NGO, her interest in projects committed to improving society began to develop after graduating from college. She was drawn to SRFF after understanding that they operated through multiple interventions and involved numerous stakeholders when executing a project and joined the Foundation without hesitation. And no doubt, Ms. Tyagi would be a valuable addition, since what she loves about a job is overcoming the challenges with each run of a project.
An outgoing personality, Ms. Tyagi was always out playing in the gully somewhere in her childhood, knowing how to have the fun a child should have. She definitely has not left that in her past – with her passion for dance, she’d dance anywhere, at any time, in any situation. Recognise the face! And be sure to ask her to show you some moves when you meet her.
With a lifelong passion for reaching out to disadvantaged children unable to go to school, Ms. Richa Agarwal chose to join SRF Foundation in 2012 as she was inspired to do something for the underprivileged children of Mewat. As a resource person for the Reinventing Education (RE) teacher training programme, Ms. Agarwal coordinates SRFF’s efforts in Mewat, ensuring the appropriate deployment of resources. She also works on Parvaaz, the monthly Hindi newsletter about SRFF initiatives targeted at the Mewat community. Ms. Agarwal shares that in her stint thus far, she has seen definite growth in the Mewat education scene; as RE continues equipping even more Mewat teachers with innovative pedagogies and enhanced classroom skills, she is confident that the programme will inspire even greater change in the coming years. Born and bred in Uttarakhand, Ms. Agarwal is an avid traveller who enjoys painting and drawing.
Senior Finance Manager
One of the most seasoned SRF Foundation staff, Mr. Vijay Gupta has been with the Foundation for 6 years thus far. As Manager, he handles SRFF’s finances and liaison with the government. The 52-year-old from New Delhi shares that besides the challenges and flexibility at SRF Foundation, he also appreciates the encouraging work environment here, “People are good all around and ready to help whenever required.” In his time here, the manager has learnt how to collaborate with others and tackle obstacles in challenging conditions. Mr. Gupta enjoys helping the needy, and his hobbies are watching movies, visiting new places and playing chess. Five years down the road, he hopes to be running his own business.
In charge of Accounts and Finance, Mr. Bata Krushna Routray has been with SRF Foundation for the last 1 year and 3 months. He shares with us that his most memorable moment with SRFF is the Protsahan Awards Ceremony, where he was recognized as the Champion Program Support. The meticulous accountant takes every job as a challenge and an opportunity to perform better, telling us “I should not give up without trying”. During his free time, he enjoys watching movies and is an ardent fan of the iconic Rajani Kant. Five years down the road, he hopes to expand his profile and handle greater responsibilities within the Accounts department.
Officer – Admin & HR
Responsible for HR and Admin, Mr. Raj Singh has been with SRF Foundation for the past 3 years. He tells us that the most memorable moment here so far has been travelling to Pachmarhi with the rest of the SRFF team. When asked what he enjoys most about his job, the 36-year-old Aurangabad-Bihar native shares, “When we do the work with responsibility, accountability, honesty, sincerity, it is really an enjoyment. So I enjoy everything I do in my job.” In five years, he envisions himself tapping on his acquired knowledge and experience to make a significant contribution to SRFF. Mr. Singh enjoys travelling and his favourite actor is Dharmendra.
In charge of communications, Mr. Rajul Dube was motivated to join SRF Foundation by his interest in learning and writing about the impact of CSR on human lives and India at large. Despite being just nine months into the job, the jocular 27-year-old from Lucknow tells us he has already learnt an immense amount – besides skills related to communications, team management and projection, he has also acquired valuable qualities like steadfastness and sensitivity. Most memorable for Mr. Dube thus far was the achievement of writing, editing and releasing SRF Foundation’s Annual Report 2012-2013, a first in his career. Five years down the road, Mr. Dube hopes to be steadier in his communications career, and to be writing a book on his grandfather.
Mr. Naveen Lathar may well be the youngest staff on the SRFF team, coming onboard just 4 months ago, but he already has too many memorable moments to name just one, telling us about the opening of water tap facilities in schools and his experience organising a volleyball tournament for rural youth in Mewat. Discovering new possibilities for the development of Mewat is what fuels his passion in working with SRFF. So, despite having his childhood dream of becoming a software engineer not yet been fulfilled, Mr. Lathar looks to the future – where he hopes to have a well-established job with a senior post, not forgetting the beautiful home he will have with his loving wife. Naveen keeps up with the latest trends in both music and fashion. But don’t let that fool you; listing ‘loves my family’ as something interesting about himself, the 23-year-old knows where his priorities lie.
Mr. Kamaleshwer Mishra has been with SRF Foundation since December 2010, working closely with the schools and villagers in Mewat for the IBM KidSmart and Udaan Programmes. The 39-year-old U.P. native tells us, “During my previous job, I became very attached to the people of Mewat and working with SRFF gave me an opportunity to be amongst the same people again”. Mr. Mishra shares that his most memorable moment on the job is the visit by IBM representatives to the Mehrola Village, voicing, “It was the first time that there was a visit made to the village and all the villagers and committee members were thoroughly thrilled”. He adds that he is proud to be part of the noble act of providing female students the opportunity to study and upgrade themselves through the Udaan programme. Mr. Mishra enjoys watching cricket in his spare time and his favourite cricketer is Sourav Ganguly.
Ms. Nisha Juneja has been working with SRF Foundation for the last 3 years. With 10 years of prior work experience under her belt, the 36-year-old from Sohna tells us, “SRF Foundation is steadily moving towards its goal of education. Being able to change the live of a single child is already a huge accomplishment for me”. She shares her most memorable moment as being the completion of the first ever Jashn-e-Taleem which was in 2011, a Summer Camp for children, saying, “It was a new experience with lots of effort and sweat which paid off”. Ms. Juneja adds that multi-tasking is one of the skills she picked in this job. During her spare time, she enjoys driving and listening to Bollywood music.
Vocational Skills Coordinator
Despite being one of the newest employees, having spent only 8 months in the foundation thus far, Ms. Roshani Khan is highly motivated to reach out and make a difference in the lives of the people in the Mewat district. Prior to working with SRFF, she was with an NGO working towards children’s education. The jovial Lucknow native is now working on the MRVP initiatives and enjoys every aspect of her job. She says, “I see each day as a challenge and I am constantly finding ways to improve myself”. When asked about what has been her most memorable experience to date, Ms. Khan says the interactions with the children always remain unforgettable for her. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to music and taking pictures.