The Incredible Transformation Of Hemanna

In 2007, Hemanna was working as a security guard and office help at Samuha, a Karnataka-based NGO, when the Head Held High Foundation approached his director. They were recruiting candidates for the very first batch of their transformation program to be held in Bangalore. Hemanna liked what he heard, especially regarding the job opportunities that he was likely to have, following the training. The Director encouraged him to join but it was not an easy decision still. It meant forgoing his monthly salary of Rs 1500 for six months and he wasn’t sure if he was in a position to do that. He was sending most of the money home to his mother in Koppal at the time and so he first had to get her blessings for the move.

Hemanna’s story began in Chilakamukhi Taluk of Koppal District. He was the youngest in a large family of eight children. His parents were farmers and had a few acres available for cultivation. Hemanna himself dropped out of school after Grade 1, following a traumatic experience with a teacher who regularly subjected him to beatings.

When his father became ill one day, 7 year old Hemanna stepped in to help with grazing buffaloes in the fields nearby. His father passed away soon after but, in his last days, made his son promise to continue taking care of the buffaloes even after he was gone.

It was a promise that Hemmana kept for the next five years. When he dreamt about his future, it always involved grazing buffaloes and cows and working on the land. It was difficult work and, on good days, he made less than 40 rupees a day. But he didn’t know what else he could be doing. They were a large family; his mother needed their support; he had to contribute as best he could.

When the chance to join Samuha at their Hosur Cross office in Irkalgadda came his way, Hemmana took it and, over the next few years, became the go-to person for all kinds of tasks and errands. He cleaned the office, took care of the landscaping, learnt how to make tea to suit a number of individual tastes, and did other odd jobs around the place, including cleaning toilets. He would have liked to have learnt more about the work that Samuha did but didn’t know how to communicate this. He also felt insecure about the fact that he could only speak Kannada, and not even a few words of English.

 

Eventually, Hemanna signed up for the Head Held High program and joined nine other individuals in an Indiranagar location where, over the next few months, they delved into exercises in speaking, writing and various other assignments designed to boost their communication skills as well as their confidence levels.

 

If there is any validation needed for the program, the trajectory that Hemanna’s story then took provides this. After completing the training, he and his fellow trainees joined an HDFC insurance unit in data entry roles. They worked to improve their speed, going from completing 75 forms in one day to wrapping up 15 forms in ten minutes!! Following this, he worked with Head Held High to start and run a rural BPO type setup near his village to handle data entry requirements for clients. When security concerns eventually forced them to shut down the unit, Hemanna went back to Samuha for a job.

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It was now 2012 and the Hemanna who now showed up at Samuha was a very different person. He had always been a motivated and eager learner but now he had the self-confidence to seek out new challenges and assignments. And he could speak fluent English.

 

The next few years were packed with personal growth and learning. He started out in data entry, entering field data for Samuha’s water projects in villages and also learning a lot about the intricacies of rainwater harvesting. He soon knew the standard dimensions of Trench-cum-Bunds (20’x5’x2′) and the harvesting potential of a few of these TcBs spread across an acre of land. He also worked as a driver and guide, taking visitors from other countries to various field locations and giving them details about the projects.

 

Somewhere, along the way, he also picked up video editing and photography skills. It was almost as if the mental barrier that had been holding him back so far had completely disintegrated. On the personal front also, there was positive change. He got married in 2014 and is now a father of three – two boys and a girl.

In 2019, Hemanna came back into the Head Held High fold, joining the team at the Tumkur Transformation Academy as a mobilizer and administrative staff member. He now wants to convince more young people to sign up for the program that he credits with giving him a second shot at life. He thinks of the Head Held High team as his second large family. “Coming back here,” he says, “has been like coming back home.”