Painting the young minds journey at Saath

Chapter 0: The Past Baggage of Pain & Commitment

It was the summer of 2017, and I was on the verge of completing my second year of Mass Communication at the Central University of Jharkhand. My friends, peers, and all other university students were in search of internships. Then internships were not so popular in the professional world and were just becoming mandatory in some courses. I too was searching for some easy internship options, just to complete my academic compulsion. I landed up in a political party media cell of the Jharkhand state unit. The start was great, with meetings with senior political leaders and party members. But this was their first experience of hosting interns, and the leadership was not much ready for this. Cut short, my first internship (professional experience) was a proven mistake, had no significant outcomes, very little learning, and bitter experiences. This was an intrinsic pain and a thought was there, if I ever had a chance, I will make such opportunities meaningful for others. 

Chapter 1: With great power comes great responsibility

Today when I am completing my 4 years of experience working in the social sector, I am blessed that I could get ample opportunities to work with young minds. In the last two months, I have been working closely with 20 university students to host their internship experiences. Initially, in mid-May, I was responding to a few calls and E-mails from universities for internships, clueless about what was next. Later, as part of the Research, Documentation, and Communication team at Saath, I was given the chance to start leading the intern and volunteer engagement. Although I have been working with youths since my Gandhi Fellowship days, hosting an internship was something new, rewarding, and with greater responsibility. Usually, the first internship holds great value for students as it is the first professional and practical implications of what they have been learning so far. It is the time when the reality of society hits them. Now here my intrinsic pain and self-commitment got switched on.

A resonating quote with the thoughts of the author. Pic credits: Blissquote

Chapter 2: Knowing the game, the biggest strategy of a player

Starting off with something new has been always a blend of research, discussions, and structuring of the process for me. This helps me to answer the basic 5Ws and 1H formula (Why, What, When, Who, Where, and How) for myself. After scanning the earlier internship process happening at Saath, I began my plans. I had discussed them with Kruti, the Livelihoods Program Director, and Chinmayaiben, Urban Program Director for more clarity. They were kind enough to support me with their ideas & experiences, in the initial process of strategizing the engagement of the youth with Saath. We are presently running more than 22 urban development programs at Saath under varied sectors of Education, Health & Sanitation, Livelihoods, and Urban Governance. And I wanted to ensure our interns & volunteers get to know about all the programs, get matched with an individual Saath program, and their interest incites ideas that they can work to implement during their engagements. My focus was to make sure that they get organized processes, regular field visits, immersing with program teams & communities, diverse learnings, and continuous refection follows to unlearn.

Chapter 3: The onboarding of possibilities

The time of the year when colleges & academic institutions are giving summer breaks and students are supposed to do internships & volunteering with organisation started in May. Some university students, placement representatives, and professors started enquiring about internship opportunities at Saath. I took their queries, explained them the process, checked the students profiles, and confirmed the internship engagements. The process was made to be smooth, simple, and structured to easily onboard young minds. Next was to plan a short induction for interns at Saath.

Saath Jaipur interns having discussion with Beautypreneur to know her journey.

Chapter 4: Inciting the spirit of Saath

I strongly feel that the working of Saath is very grounded with empathy, bottom-up approach, focused in empowering vulnerable communities and encourages maximum community ownership. This needs to reach to the interns with the same intensity to getting them started with their engagements. To ensure this a induction was provided to interns with introductory sessions, engaging in self-exercises, and orientation to Saath and its work through presentation. I still remember the questions, concerns, and assumptions made by the interns on their first day. One of the concern raised was that if they will be able to get the proper exposure to learn and practice their ideas, to which I just told them to trust the process. The curiosity of young minds is such pure and inspires to keep doing doing the work that I do. 

The young minds absorbing the works being implemented by Saath programs, during their induction.

Followed by this a 3-day visit was arranged to varied Saath programs running through different centres. I coordinated with all the program teams to finalise the exposure visits. In a tightly packed 3-days exposure visits, the interns were able to tour Mehnat Manzil, Urmila centre, Child-Friendly Spaces, Balghars, STEM centre, and many others. Thereafter they reflected on their learnings and thoughts about the induction experiences and shared their interests for working with Saath program. Considering their interests and skills, I matched them with different Saath programs and shared the overview of working & learning journey. 

A visit to Mehnat Manzil to experience the odd struggles of informal sector workers and migrants.

Chapter 5: Spread colours to paint growth journey

With the mantra of enjoying confusions, raising questions, and cherishing moments & feelings, the interns started engagements with Saath programs. Initial week was given to understand the program and meet team members & communities. Few confusions, concerns, and random ideas were coming from interns to me. With the support and supervision of program team, we were able to cater them. 

Interns having discussions with Non-Traditional Livelihoods program team.

At times it was getting difficult to keep proper track, following-up and having discussions with teams and interns on daily basis to make it mutual gains, as I was involved in other priorities too. Also, more interns were joining in different days alongside, and had to be followed with all necessities for an effective engagements. But setting the internship deliverables and other structuring the process helped alot to deal with this. To support them in daily journaling, a daily note making format was shared to reflect their emotions, learnings, stories, activities, and allies. In between we had a few sessions in our Headoffice to brainstorm on a few campaign ideas, reflecting on the journey, planning the coming weeks. This helped the interns to express themselves, keep their journey tracks, exchange ideas, and manage emotions.

Saath intern learners immersing with children at Balghar centre in Vatva.

Chapter 6: Adding borders and glitters to the journey painting

The last few days were kept for consolidation of interns journey, sharing their experiences in blogs, reflecting on gains & glows. Great works that they have done through their field visits, ideas implementation, and discussions was something coming as a reward to me. The colours of happiness and proud feeling surfaced the glitters of the painting, making it shine a bit differently. A few sharing and consolidation meetings happened to hear the interns, and certifications followed. This happened to be the closure of their internship journey and a new beginning of journey to see the world differently with the new lens that they found themselves.

Orientation sessions for interns organized by the team Research, Documentation, and Communication at Saath.

Chapter 7: The colourful painting coming your way

The journey has been equally rewarding for me, our program teams, and community members. For me I was able to connect with 9 college teams, work with more than 20 young minds, co-create some lovely works, design the processes, and much more. The unconditional support from my team members and guidance from Rajendra sir, Founder of Saath made this journey more exploratory and ease. 

The culture of defining the goal and letting the person decide their way to get over there is something very intrinsic at Saath. Once I was given the responsibility to lead the interns & volunteer engagements, I was given the full space and support to do it my way. Working with people, process and purpose is something that has keeps me inspired to work in the social sector.

Saath interns engaging with children during their exposure visit to centres.

“A step forward in your action, is ten steps ahead in your dreams, and just a start for reality.”

~the Young Tale (Shashi Kumar)

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