Field Stories

UoC - Field Stories

The journey was surely exciting and had some memorable experiences. Here are a few of them. 

UoC Experiences

Chirag – An intern to a community entrepreneur

Chirag likes to call himself a community entrepreneur. He is open-minded and doesn’t let barriers or perceptions impact his vision. Chirag is a student pursuing his engineering from BMS College, Bengaluru and equally inclined in social space.

Chirag joined UoC, School of Agriculture and Rural Development where one of his tasks was to mobilize women artisans, train them on fashionable artisanal products and connect them directly to market. On his journey, he met more than 300 women entrepreneurs who were struggling to make ends meet. He discovered that the prices of the products that were sold in local malls or in the western markets are far higher than what the artisans were getting. 

This moved him, and he set a mission for himself. He went beyond his semester holidays, continued his college along with the project, built a diverse team, partnered with many artisans groups and buyers to bridge the gap. He conducted training workshops as a part of the project.

Most interestingly, there was a corporate event where he booked a stall for the most promising artisans where they could showcase their talent and sell directly to consumers. At the last moment, due to some challenges, the artisans couldn’t make it to the event. Chirag, like a superhero, booked a vehicle and brought all products to the stall and sold on behalf of artisans. Further, he wanted to ensure that his buyers should know where the money is going. So, he worked towards digitizing the bank account of artisan groups so that customers could pay directly to beneficiary’s account.

Today, Chirag believes he can bring sustainable change through the power of young people. He has now built a team of like-minded people and calls them, “Team Hasiru”. Team Hasiru is now a partner in all UoC endeavors that engage volunteers in the space of Wildlife Conservation, Education, Farmers & Artisans empowerment.

Team Hasiru, Wildlife SOS and UoC are now collaborating to onboard volunteers for rescuing bears and rehabilitating them in National Parks all over India. Team Hasiru, and UoC are also collaborating to reach out to 25 new schools and conduct Active Citizenship and Leadership Programs.

Naveen was the Chairman of Students’ Council, IISc for two consecutive terms, heading 4500+ students and a Ph.D. scholar at Indian Institute of Science (IISc). He is leading the journey to establish ‘Youth Parliament to India’ movement.

In the first cohort of Creative Leadership Program by UoC, Naveen came in as a friend of a participant and later got involved. Soon, he got hooked on to the program as he learned unique ways of institutionalizing change in a large and complex nation like ours.  

With his colleagues at students council, Vivek and Tarun, the team joined hands with waste workers around the IISc Campus and ensured that all the waste was recycled at the Dry Waste Collection Centers. This helped many waste workers get livelihood opportunities and right wage for their work.

Today, he is a Lok-Sabha Research Fellow at the Parliament of India. He is the Ambassador for Winter Youth Assembly, 2018 at the United Nations. His area of interests includes sustainable development, scientific approach to solving societal problems, empowering youth for political participation.

Also facilitating student social responsibility activities like notebook drive, Idea conclave, taking the joy of science to rural India, wherein science education is made more effective to government schools and rural areas through experiments and live examples.

UoC Experiences

Reshma – Enriching the Right to Education at Grassroots Level 

The Right to Education (RTE) Act envisages parent participation in school governance through elected bodies at the school level called the School Management Committees (SMCs). Citizen involvement through SMCs can help improve the quality of inputs, processes and even outcomes in schools.

Reshma’s daughter is in 8th grade in a Government school in Delhi. Reshma actively participates in SMC meetings and assists authorities in building a better learning environment for her daughter. She is trained by UoC and partner organization, Saajha, on how to meaningfully participate in meetings, create action plans and keep herself updated through an app developed by UoC team.

Reshma has now volunteered to train other parents in neighboring schools on how to build a School Development Plan.

In collaboration with Delhi Government, Directorate of Education, Saajha, UoC enables parents’ participation in School Development Plan across Delhi. The movement is now catching on in pockets of other states like Jharkhand, Karnataka, and Rajasthan. More than 16,000 parents actively contribute with their time and intellect in schools of their children.

UoC Experiences

Prashanth – A full-time volunteer and a full-time corporate employee

Meet Prashanth, a senior employee at Mindtree. He learned about UoC’s project of connecting artisans to consumers via one of email threads in his organization sent by the CSR team. He signed up in the second cohort of volunteers for the program and worked dedicatedly for 3 months. 

His hometown being Mysore, one of India’s biggest hub of artisans and known for exporting quality products, he was aware of the conditions of artisans and also saw this as an opportunity to contribute back to his hometown. 

During his induction days, he discovered that there is so much more he didn’t know about the lives of artisans. He found that many artisans were underpaid and many others have been duped by the middlemen and weren’t paid at all. He spent time with 100+ Self Help Groups and understood the business of creative toy making, idol making, and paper bags. He also found that there is a lot of talent in Mysuru artisans that the World needs to know. 

Prashanth gathered 500+ women artisans for a training program that was co-hosted by Stree Shakti Sangha and UoC. Together with the partners, he educated the women about emerging products in the market and changing needs of consumers. He discovered that women are experts in their own products and made them train each other on products like hand-made jewelry, soaps, etc. One of the women now also manages the retail outlet in Mindtree Ltd. that sells these products.

As he has moved on to the US, he continues to purchase from artisans and farmer friends he made in the project and connects them to his colleagues in the US. His kitchen shelves have produce from farmers and his house is home to many artisan products made by the same women.

When asked, he says, the project has given him immense learning on building leadership capabilities at his work, empathy, and the ability to manage complex problems. He is leader of UoC, New Jersey Chapter discovering and solving local community challenges with his colleagues who all proudly wear UoC t-shirts on weekends.

UoC Experiences

Smitha – Took the first step and the friendly neighborhood followed 

Meet Smitha, once a neighborhood volunteer but now a known social campaigner in Basavanagudi, Bengaluru. Smitha was like many other women in her community who cared about the neighborhood but couldn’t act towards it or gather consensus about starting a waste segregation drive. She saw garbage spots at the street corners and approached UoC to start a volunteering drive.

Interestingly, she didn’t expect college students of corporate volunteers to drive an awareness campaign in her neighborhood. She wanted to take the mantle in her hands and drive change. In about a month, in collaboration with Hasiru Dala, CCRA, I Got Garbage, and Basavanagudi Residents Welfare Association, she managed to recruit a team of volunteers comprising of retired residents, young citizens and other women who underwent a structured training program with UoC. UoC also developed a mobile application to support their effort that allowed them to start a campaign, register all houses (waste generators) to waste workers who could then make a living out of clean, segregated dry waste.

Soon after, a UoC’s institutional partner, Christ University joined her endeavors and took the initiative of ‘Donate Dry Waste’ to 11 different neighborhoods, including localities in Bangalore, such as Banashankari, BTM, Shivajinagar and more.

Today, other familiar calls pushes her to get up and walk the street. A lively sight welcomes her as women, men and children from the neighboring houses come to join her initiatives. She is a confident, independent community entrepreneur besides being a mother and wife.

It has inspired a feeling of community and commitment in the neighborhood, and inspired many other women to take lead in a cause of their choice.