In Conversation With Vallari Shrivastava
Gandhi Fellowship has inspired me not just to dream but also to scale that dream. It has taught me to face the conflict and discord that exists in the system and still have the desire to work through harmony. It has inspired me to be patient, humble, curious and persistent. One such system that I am working on is designing an entrepreneurship cell for school students, where, at a nascent stage they learn to be job creators and not job seekers.
The 20 minutes of reflection every day that I started practising during my fellowship still helps me plan my day better. When I propose and design a new program in the Essar Foundation, I am well aware of the ground reality. This has come from the grass-root exposure that the fellowship gave me by making us live in slums. I have learnt to look at challenges from various perspectives and then arrive at solutions. My colleagues are taken aback when I am ever-ready to live in villages overnight just to create a bond and understand the need of my audience. But having gone through the slum immersion and seen the practical benefits of having to live with the person for whom you are designing the curriculum, I feel that this is a necessity.
As my interest in design thinking grew, I moved from KEF and worked with Design for Change (DFC) and later with The Teacher Foundation. I am currently working with Essar Foundation (CSR arm of Essar Group) who believe in people at the core, progress towards aspirations, power of synergy and passion with compassion.
While training teachers and headmasters and redesigning classroom processes have become second nature to me, what gives me immense joy is when I stretch myself to give more to the people I work with. In one such instance, I converted my weekend baking hobby into a full-fledged business model in villages around Surat by training women to bake and sell cookies and cupcakes. These women inspired me. They were quick and fearless to learn everything, and their joy in what they were doing was evident as they sang while they baked, making me believe that we were doing something right. They are on their path of opening a bakery soon in Surat.
I am in the process of creating an interactive space in the mountains. This would be a platform to bring together children and change-makers to find their voice, purpose, and encourage each other to contribute more. I hope to knit together a community of brave changemakers who are able to empathize with children that will be directly impacted by these changes.
In a few villages in Surat, I have initiated community libraries for self-learning. With new technology replacing forms of learning, this is something that needs to be scaled across India. My vision is that through my initiatives, I hope to expand my outreach to 1 million lives.
Do you wish to become a changemaker to create impact and transformation? Apply for the Gandhi Fellowship today: http://gandhifellowship.org/
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