Two years in the blink of an eye!

Contributed by: Angana Prasad
Dated: 16th October, 2014

 As I look back today, I know I am not the same person anymore. I feel a bit uncomfortable. Maybe this is how it feels like being a grown up… Up till my previous birthday, I always said (and believed) that I stopped growing old after 16. Today suddenly I am a 25 year old who has lived so much and perhaps matured suddenly from 16 to 25. Maybe it was not that sudden… Dunno…

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Journey so far…

My journey with ProjectKHEL has been pretty awesome. Not like everything was all happy happy and perfect- I had my share of frustrations and wanted to go back home for good because I felt I wasn’t able to do justice to my work. I have made mistakes, lots of mistakes and I still make them everyday. I had once ended up shouting at two of my colleagues in the middle of a session, I feel guilty about that till date. I have known what to do and yet missed doing the right thing at the right time and screwed things up. I have messed up so much, have forgotten to pass on information, have been unable to say certain things to certain people, reached late on sessions, got a bit too friendly that the kids took advantage, got a bit too strict, reached home late, sometimes slept a little less and sometimes slept a little extra… But somewhere I guess something was right and that is what has stayed with me in these two years…

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Ek do teen…

In terms of numbers, I have now worked with more than 1700 children through our regular programme and have reached out to over 4000 children through various programmes. Have worked with 6 other colleagues on a full time basis at different points of time and receive more than 20 cards from our children on my birthday each year. The numbers amaze me! We started talking about Child Sexual Abuse in 2012 (even before Aamir Khan highlighted the issue) and I’ve spoken to 3000+ children on this topic alone! I have been a part of something so amazing and so huge but it never felt like ‘itna kuch ho raha hai’.

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Fights with parents…

I always knew from my childhood that I will be a teacher and will help people in need. In college I knew I belonged to the development sector. At ProjectKHEL, my first job, I am teaching children things that they need the most…

It hasn’t been all that smooth though. My parents ‘support’ my work, but they think I can do better – and never fail to let me know that. Maybe I can do better or maybe I am already doing the best by being at ProjectKHEL so I don’t need to get down to the ‘better’… I get my parents’ concern yet we have fought a lot regarding this. This is, in fact, the first and only time that we have argued so much for so long over something – I hate fighting with my parents but I don’t think I regret it in this case, because I know for a fact that this is where I wish to be right now.

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Passion

Growing up with little guidance about matters related to the female body, I was a little obsessed about these topics. Thanks to our founder and the team, today we are successfully running parallel programmes on Child Sexual Abuse, Menstrual Health Management and Teen Talks and I am leading it! The feedback has been very positive and we are receiving more and more requests from other institutes/organizations to conduct the same with their children. So, I guess somewhere we are doing something right. It possibly comes from the fact that I have forever been a very talkative person and I am currently talking to kids about the topics that I have been passionate about.

In the past months I have had discussions with a number of people, about the right way to make effective career choices. My point has always been that- we do what we love and there is no stopping us then. This is precisely the reason why our first criterion for recruitment is a “passionate individual who loves working with children”.

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Team

I am the kind of person for whom the environment and the people around matter a lot. If today I am so happy about being here and am able to do things, it is all because of the kind of people that I have worked with from the very beginning. Son, Franziska, Shweta, Ekta, Pooja, Veena and Chandni were amongst my first colleagues and there has been so much of learning for all of us collectively. Most of us were freshers in the kind of involvement we were having with ProjectKHEL. Not like there were no frustrations against each other, but there was something else that was bigger than all of us and kept us together- the cause. I am sure that as much as I think that I have learnt in my initial days, the others must have had a positive learning experience too. While the old team learnt together, with the new team I am getting the chance to put to test my learnings from the previous year. I am truly grateful how much they bear with me and my mistakes.

Not really to butter him, but I think when we talk about a successful team, it is impossible to keep the leader out of the picture. Without an effective leader, the best of people can’t work as a team and will work as individuals. I feel, and am sure everyone else in the team would agree, that our Founder has been the best boss ever. Yes, he has been mean and made me cry on many an occasion but never has he made me feel worthless. Every lecture in fact ended with how much more he expects out of me. There is so much to thank him for. He has been a friend, a teacher, a mentor, a joker, a motivator and so much more… In every acknowledgment and recognition that he has received for his work, he has never forgotten to give credit to his team. He has dealt with my randomness. He has let my ideas be mine and has let me have the space of doing the things that I am passionate about. I think most importantly, he has shielded us from the unimaginable pressures of being a non-profit start up in such an effective manner that we, the team, get so much space and ownership to do our thing – and do it as if it is our own organization but with none of the pressures that come with entrepreneurship.

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Success

Paulo Coelho says success is all about how peacefully one goes to bed at the end of the day. This statement definitely makes me feel like I am among the few most successful people on earth.

For me, peace is very much related to the returns I am getting from my work.

When a random beneficiary comes and cries her heart out to me while sharing a very personal problem that she hasn’t spoken to anyone else about, her trust in me becomes my peace. When a random lady at a UNICEF conference talks about how awesome a particular ngo working against CSA has been, and ProjectKHEL happens to be that ngo, her appreciation of our work becomes my peace. When a beneficiary who hasn’t been getting out of bed because of high fever attends a session only because I have come there after a very long time, her love becomes my peace.

Just couple of weeks back I overheard a couple of girls say “…jab ye wali didi bolti hain toh sunne ka man karta hai…” I guess this line sums up my achievement in two years.

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Closing lines…

When I came here we had only 3 partners, today we have 14 and we have worked with 19. On my first day, my first session was at Ehsaas and my second was with 200 underprivileged girls on Safe Hand Washing. Now, I am doing sessions on CSA with 3200 girls. Tomorrow I will be conducting another session with 500 – 700 parents on how to deal with and to talk about Csa to their children. When we started, ProjectKHEL was all about Sports and Life Skills Education. Today we have parallel programs on MHM, Csa and Puberty. ProjectKHEL is growing. I am growing. I am ProjectKHEL and ProjectKHEL is me… (sounds cool na :-)