Corporate Social Responsibility

My Induction Training Diary at JSW Foundation Fellowship

With a nervous yet an excited heart, I bid goodbye to my family and hopped on the bus to Pune for my JSW Foundation Fellowship induction training! Clueless about what was yet to come, I had decided that I’d keep myself open to the new experiences waiting for me. Little did I know that the next 15 days would be filled to the brim with a diverse range of learnings, experiences and fun.

Our training venue for the first four days was at YASHADA (Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration, Pune) which is the administrative training base of the Government of Maharashtra. And so, I had carried the presumption that the training would be very formal, but I was pleasantly surprised when the very first activity we did as a group was to play catch-ball! As we had to call out the names of those we wanted to throw the ball to, we quickly got familiarized with each other’s names and so the ice was broken. Then, with pumped-up heartbeats and warmed-up bodies, we gathered in the comfort of a cool room to play what was called the “origin story”. The floor was imagined to be the map of India, and we all sat distributed according to the states we were born in, which stretched from the corners of Rajasthan to Meghalaya and to Karnataka, sharing the origin stories of our lives. By the end of the day, all of the 13 fellows felt a sense of closeness having shared our stories, milestones and dreams with each other.

Early next morning, at 6:30 am (!), we went trekking to Pune’s Paashan hills along with our facilitators- the iVolunteer team. Seeing the monotonous concrete landscape of the city while we trekked in the drizzling rain surrounded by trees and greenery was an experience that struck a chord in our hearts. At that moment, I felt like nature has the power to heal just anything. When we all returned, I’m sure we had left all our worries and anxiety behind.

The following day, we all set off in small groups to the streets of Pune to listen to the stories of ordinary people going about in their daily lives. Equipped with the tool of ‘active listening’, we interacted with various people- from a municipal sweeper, to a small breakfast stall owner, to a vegetable vendor- who were all migrants having come to Pune in their quest for a better life. Their smiles as they talked to us made me realise that happiness can be found anywhere, whether it be in AC rooms or in the crowded slums, as long as we can open our hearts to accepting it.

In the remaining days in Pune, we got to interact with a range of speakers from different sectors and fields. We met Mr. Ayush Prasad, the Pune ZP CEO, who suggested that our role as fellows in bringing about social change should be like that of the powder used in carrom boards- that is, we should play only the role of a catalyst (carrom powder) in helping the players (carrom coins) bring about the change themselves; imposing our idea of development on others only seldom brings real positive change. This insight really stuck with me and I hope to keep it with me every time I’m on the ground thinking of doing something for the people.

We got to talk with Abhishek Ingale, a Young Fellow in Maharashtra, who shared his experience of working on the ground in rural communities. This opened our eyes to the challenges and rewards of working in rural societies. We also got to interact with Mr. Nitesh Bhardwaj, the founder of Adivasi Jan Jagruti, and Mr. Ashok Rathod, the founder of Oscar Foundation, whose background stories and their wonderful work inspired all of us indefinitely, so much so that we keep going back to their stories to understand their learnings and experience. We also got to hear from Retd. IAS officer and present Deputy Director of Yashada, Mr. Mallinath Kalshetti sir who spoke to us on the intersection of Panchayati Raj and SDGs in a very practical manner. Packed with all these fresh perspectives and insights, we got on the bus to our next destination- TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences) in Tuljapur.

A group photo of the fellows with iVolunteer and the TISS team, at TISS- Tuljapur campus

Having bonded well in the past few days, we fellows had no issues in joyously singing and dancing as we passed our time on an otherwise mundane bus journey. Our days at the TISS campus brought us back to our college days and almost disillusioned us into thinking that we were their new batch of students. We had a range of talks and workshops arranged for us, from lectures on rural societies and the concept of development by the professors there, to the training on PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal) tools by the Dean Mr. Ramesh Jare, and an interaction with the SP of Osmanabad, Mr. Atul Kulkarni, who also shares an interest in the development sector. The academic faceted time at the institute gave us time to ponder on the questions of what is development, whose development, etc helping us broaden our understanding of the work that we would be engaging in after the training. The PRA activities that we did in the classroom were fun and we didn’t even realise how much we had learnt until we went off to our 3 days rural stay.

My group was assigned the village of Mardi while the other group was assigned the village of Bendkal, both located in the Lohara taluka of Maharashtra. Joined by a LRP (Local Resource Person) and a village localite, at whose farmhouse we stayed, we began our 3 days stay at the village. Our plan to begin with a ‘mashal pheri’ was swept away when we got to know that all the villagers had been to ‘Balu mama’s stansanga’ that night. The next morning, we began our journey of community interaction and facilitating PRA activities. As we visited schools, houses, the Gram Panchayat office, etc and talked to the villagers with a mixture of Hindi and Marathi, the people began to open up to us. We invited them in the evenings to the community hall, to conduct our PRA activities. The villagers were enthusiastic as they showed up and actively participated in making a map of their village on the floor of the community hall and a resource map of their village on the road using chalk. They told us about their day-to-day lives, the problems that they faced, and the changes they would like to see in their village. Although it was hard initially to communicate with the people, we had warmed up to each other within a span of 3 days. So when the final day came, we felt like the days had passed too soon.

After a PRA activity in Mardi village, Maharashtra

We soon reunited with the other group of fellows and felt an inexplicable sense of happiness of having met our friends after so long, when it was only just 3 days! The busy 3 days had warped our concept of time. We then went to meet the Tahsildar and the BDO (Block Development Officer) of Lohara taluka, who asked us about our experiences and the problems we identified in the villages through the PRA activities. They shared with us their insights on rural development and noted down the problems that we had identified with a plan of doing something about them. This assurance gave us a sense of relief that at least a few problems could be worked on in the near future.

The very next day, we were on our way to Mumbai, the metropolitan ‘city of dreams’- a stark contrast from the sober village we had just stayed in. It was during this very journey that the much-awaited and much-anticipated announcement of our project themes and project locations were made. Eager and anxious, we rejoiced as each fellow got assigned to their theme and location. I was assigned the theme of ‘Integrated Village Development’ and the location of JSW Vijayanagar in Karnataka- an allocation that filled me with pleasant anticipation for what was to come ahead. The long journey didn’t seem so long, as we were all busy calling our families and discussing amongst ourselves about our new locations and themes.

Of our very few days stay in Mumbai, we spent our first day at the JSW Centre- Headquarters where we met with various officers and sector-heads of the JSW Foundation who gave us a very warm welcome. We were also briefed by them about the workings of the foundation. We then had a formal inauguration of the JSW Foundation Fellowship as we were its very first batch. This event was graced by various dignitaries like Ms. Sangita Jindal (the Chairperson of JSW Foundation), Ms. Shaheen Mistri (the Founder of Teach For India) and officials from JSW Foundation and JSW industries. In the evening, we had an informal dinner with the Foundation team where we got to hear stories about the team members and their work. The special day came to an end on a pleasant note when I opened the JSW Foundation Fellowship kit I had received during the inauguration. It held various customised items, but the postcard really caught my eye.

My JSW Foundation Fellowship kit

And very soon, the final day of our training had arrived. We spent the day with our facilitators- the iVolunteer team, reflecting on our journey so far and receiving final insights before we would set off to our project locations. We also had a very deep and meditative journaling session with Ms Nikitha Deshpande who taught us tools and tricks in journaling to help us get the most out of it during our fellowship and even beyond. We were also handed colourful postcards to write back home sweet messages and greetings, which was just one instance of how thoughtful our facilitators were throughout our training period.

With this plethora of learnings and experiences from the induction training, and an even more excited heart, I hopped on the bus to my next destination- JSW Vijayanagar (Toranagallu, Karnataka)!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s