New Beginnings…

Contributed by: Sanjay Mucharla
Dated: 1st June, 2015

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” ― Henry Ford

blog1Learning is a never ending process, and it is what keeps me going.

Here are a few things I’ve learnt or reinforced for myself in the last two months at Project KHEL:

Education is the most powerful tool that can change the world.

As clichéd as it might sound, education is what is going to change this world for the better. In the last one month alone, I have worked with children from shelter homes, village schools, slums, and underprivileged backgrounds and this experience has made me realize how differently children are raised and how education can fill in the gaps to complete a child’s life and prepare them for  the future. If every child is given equal opportunities, I can imagine what an amazing place this world will be. More educated individuals = More people who can fix problems.
Education is important. Period.

We all need to be more empathetic.

A kid during an activity that I was moderating said that he had made some mistake at school a while ago. He immediately realized that he was wrong, but his classmates and teachers still remember that incident, and keep pulling him down reminding him of the mistake he committed months ago. He said, “I want to change, but people around me don’t give me the opportunity.” We all can do better. Let that kid speak out. Let’s hear him out. Let’s give him a second chance!

Attitude is everything.

I had zero experience working with kids, and in the nonprofit world until a month ago. I moved to Lucknow because I deeply cared about what Project KHEL is working on. I neither have the skills, nor the talent to succeed. All I have is the right attitude, and a belief that skills, and talent will be taken care of if I stick to my attitude to constantly learn and to be honest, passionate, and humble. I’d like to say that my plan has been working pretty well, and I will continue following the same.

Being crazy (in a good way) is the way to be.

A few weeks ago, I was at a school with my co-worker, Angana Prasad, to attend a meeting. That was the day when the earthquake hit Nepal and north-east India. We were on the second floor of the building that was shaking. The entire building was evacuated and everyone was standing in an open space. Both of us found a corner to sit at, and were waiting for the situation to come back to normal. And I realized in a minute that I was being extremely unproductive, because I found Angana, in that chaotic situation, writing down some ideas and preparing a plan in her notebook for some event that was going to happen soon. In the last 2 years of working at Project KHEL, she had learned to utilize such “in-between” times. Such are the crazy people I work with!

Passion can solve a lot of problems.

I met a bunch of our kids from a school we work with in the outskirts of Lucknow, who love playing volleyball. They usually played during our sessions with them. But they wanted more, and wanted to get better at it. So they got together, worked in the fields, got paid for it, then put their money together to buy 2 new volleyballs. This one incident taught me something very important. If you really badly want something, you will dare to be crazy enough to get it. Doesn’t matter how small or how massive a problem is, it can be solved if you committed enough. As the boss-founder-mentor, Akshai Abraham says to the team, “Project KHEL might be 2%, 10%, or 50% of your life, but if you give your 100% within that commitment, we can do wonders.”

All you need at the workplace is a super-passionate team.

Nothing else matters. Oh yes, and bean bags. Lots of them.

On a serious note, I come from workplaces where I’d sometimes find a card placed in the micro-kitchen that read, “Sorry! As organic bananas are not available, we have non-organic ones today. We regret the inconvenience”. I’ve learnt that although perks make a small difference in improving your comfort at the workplace, none of these matter in the bigger picture. To give you an example, in my initial few weeks when there were power cuts at our office, my team worked on things that do not require the internet. When work matters the most, you become ruthless.

Don’t just be thankful for what you have.

The next time you say to yourself “I’m really thankful for the wonderful life I have”, don’t stop there. Please continue and say, “And now that my life is sorted, I’m going to do something meaningful that will have an impact on others’ lives”. Problems are not going to be fixed on their own. If that’s the case, or if you believe that there is someone ‘up’ there who is very powerful who is going to take care of things, a 10 year old girl would have been stopped from getting married, a 13 year old boy wouldn’t have had to quit school to support his family financially by working 10 hours a day to earn Rs. 2500 (US $40) per month, and a group of small kids wouldn’t be spending hours on streets and in garbage collecting plastic water bottles to sell them to survive in a slum. All of these examples are based on my experience in the last one month alone. This world has the potential to be a much better place, but it is not going to happen unless we decide to do something about. Look around. Find a problem that you deeply care about. Go fix it.

Life doesn’t always happen as you plan it out in your head. There have been hurdles, and I’m sure there are more waiting for me, but I’m happy with the decisions I’ve made that have brought me to where I am right now. And reading this list makes me believe that I’m heading in the right direction.

I try. There are times when I win, and there are times when I lose. No matter what the result is, I will try harder the next time to be better.