Tag: Social Responsibility

Swechha

After thinking, discussing, deliberating for almost two years over the fact that I should somehow contribute to the society by joining some NGO, I took the first step today and visited the Malviya Nagar office of Swechha. I and 6 of my colleagues were hosted there by Amrita Anand, who has been associated with Sweccha for more than an year now. I and the 4 of us were grouped for this sessions by Abhinandan, who had participated in the recent Flash Mob for Please Mend the Gap, which is an initiative for promoting gender equality in public space.

Amrita took us through the history of Swechha, the different programs it runs, the partnerships and related things in quite detail. We signed up a one pager form for one of their intiatives, Pagdandi, a volunteer based program to supplement education in children from marginalized society (resettlement and slum colonies).

Amrita then asked us to join for an evening session, where the children from nearby Jagdamba camp, were going to be told about “Right to Information” and then was to be play-acted. This was to be followed by a Karate class by one of the volunteers. We reached the park and there were around 40-50 kids and 5 volunteers. We were told that some of the kids have gone back to their villages so the number was expected to be around 50.

The Children were first told about Right to Information What it is, how and where to use it, why is it needed. They were then split in small groups of 5 each and all volunteers were assigned a group. Some of the groups were more than 5 too. The volunteers were asked to think of situations where the children could use the RTI, and then the same had to enacted. We sat with the kids and then thought of situations, roles and then practiced. After that, they were supposed to enact their acts before all groups, but time did not permit every group to do so. I reckon that they are supposed to perform at a festival next week (as far as I remember).

The Karate class followed that, and we witnessed that too. Half way in that, we left.

What I observed during all this is – the string sense of determination you need to be part of such activities. Believe me, children can be very very tough to manage. You can’t a group of 40-50 odd kids to listen to you, to maintain decorum. Never, period. I noticed that the volunteers (who have been part of this from long) had a lot of determination and cool. It’s not that I felt loosing my cool, but I felt loosing my determination in keeping the kids at one place, in asking to sit, in trying to have their attention and a lot more. At a time, I felt that I don’t have that much determination to be able to conduct such workshops/activities. May be all of the current volunteers started like me, but I don’t know that as of this moment.

Another interesting thing and a really good thing, was seeing how much determined Amrita was towards this cause and her job. She was speaking back at the office how she and others at her office are going to try to go to each household in Jagdamba camp, and check that they are accounting for all children there. When we were going to the park, where the activities were supposed to take place, I noticed that at two instances she stopped the car, when she spotted some kids, whom she knew, and where from the camp. Now that is what is called honest determination towards your duty. Not boasting her in any ways, but seriously hats off Amrita for the great work you’re doing. Keep it up! I’ll try to help in any possible way I can.

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An initiative worth mentioning

I am quite a frequent customer at Costa’s Coffee, esp of the store in the Great India place, Noida. Some time back, I noticed that they have hired some employees who cannot speak (as in speech impaired). I personally appreciated the initiative and gesture of people at Costa’s India after seeing that. I thought at that moment, that I should write about it so that more and more people know about this.

There must be many such organizations in India who promote and facilitate employment for physically challenged people, but this was the first case I ever witnessed in India. This means a lot to the people who took pains to override the physical limitations and trained themselves to try to be at par with everyone else. We must have read or heard about such facilitation, watched movies and then appreciated and/or where touched by specific instances, but little gets done in the real world to promote employment for speech and hearing impaired people in the regular sector.

Last Saturday, I was with Sharad at Costa’s again and decided to talk to one of the store managers. We were sipping our iced coffee and keeping a watchful eye at the proceedings in the store. I noticed the two employees leaving the store, who had served me before and who were speech impaired. After some time, when the store was a lil easy on customer inflow, I raised my hand for the manager. When he came, he was for sure waiting for me to complain about something. It was evident from his watchful face and his denial to my offer of pulling a chair and sitting down. I told him that we are regular customers and we noted that they have employed some speech impaired (and probably hearing impaired) people. He came at ease and answered in affirmative.

Ankur: So, tell me about this initiative, is it specific to this particular location or is it all-stores wide?

Naresh: This has been launched by our franchise, which operates all Costa’s locations.

Ankur: That is Devyani International, right?

Naresh: Yes!

Ankur: So, how did this start?

Naresh: Not sure, maybe someone pressed the franchise to employ them

Ankur: No, it cannot be like that. I think may be someone in the management, felt a need for getting involved in such an initiative by promoting and facilitating employment for speech and hearing impaired people.

Naresh: Yes, may be something like that happened.

Ankur: So, is there any number specified for every store?

Naresh: Yes, every store has to have at least 2 employees

Ankur: I just saw them leaving the store. Was it the end for their shift?

Naresh: No, they have went to another location of ours, which is in Spice Mall, Sec 25

Ankur: Oh ok!

Naresh: We have been trained in basics of sign language so we can communicate easily with them

Ankur: Has it been any difficult for you or others?

Naresh: No, we have had no issues. And they are very good workers. One of them, Mohit, is very good at his work. It’s good that they got a chance to work here. These jobs do not demand someone who can speak. We can get our work done without speaking. Maybe in sales, they cannot be of value, but here they sure can do what is needed out of their job

Ankur: Yes, I agree with you.

Ankur: So, is there any other location around here where you have other such workers?

Naresh: Yes, we have a store in Green Park, Delhi. That store has all employees who are speech impaired. The store manager there is Devashish, who knows sign language, and he is the one who trained us in that.

Ankur: That’s good.

After this conversation, I thanked him and he left. Sharad wanted to leave for Green Park to check out that store. I was being lazy and decided against that.

I really hope that more and more companies/store owners come forward and open avenues for employment, where ever possible, for physically challenged people.