What I have learnt about myself in the last few years.
Lead trainer Saptadeepa Biswas’s transition from a desk to a field job yielded some insights about what really motivates and drives her.
Prior to joining the Head Held High team in 2017, I was working at a BPO setup, managing the travel desk of a company. I have a degree in Tourism Studies from IGNOU and liked the desk job overall but missed moving around and talking to people – something I really cherish as an outgoing and social person. Still, it was great experience. I learnt a lot and honed my communication skills in particular. But when I saw the job posting for a trainer at Head Held High Foundation in early 2017, something about the description called out to me. I applied and got an interview call in April that year. And on May 7, I arrived at the Tumkur Academy for a month long training course that would prepare me for life as an HHH trainer.
My first posting was supposed to be in Muniguda, a rural town in Odisha that is cut off in more ways than one. It’s hard to get most things in Muniguda, with even Maggi noodles – a commodity for most of us – being a scarce item. However, since we couldn’t get the infrastructure set up to start the youth training program in Muniguda, I then moved to Sindri (Jharkhand) and to a centre that was supported by our partner, ACC Trust. After conducting a few batches at that location, I shifted to Mumbai to help run a new initiative supported by Asian Paints. Dubbed ‘Naya Savera’, it was aimed at helping youth in the urban slum communities of Mumbai define their aspirations, develop relevant skills, and set life goals for themselves. We reached more than 700 youth during the two years of this program. It was also while I was in Mumbai that I supported UNICEF in organizing a youth conference at Patuck College prior to the launch of GenU India (aka YuWaah), a platform to engage the youth of India and connect them to aspirational work. From Mumbai, the next stop was Kolkata – my hometown. I am currently the lead trainer for the East cluster and responsible for quality control at all the centres in this part of the country.
Due to the restrictions of the last 1.5 years, I have not been able to travel to these locations as much as I would like to but plan to start doing that more frequently in the months ahead. In the meantime, I am currently busy distributing hygiene kits in and around Kolkata – for residents living in Dankuni, Metiabruz, Khiddirpur and Tangra. There are poor slum communities where residents struggle to make ends meet through jobs as drivers, carpenters and daily wage laborers. But I have seen humanity shining even in these adverse conditions. It was last year during the lockdown when I was distributing dry ration kits in Tangra that I connected with people who have now become friends and part of my volunteer network. Many of them have now joined me to help in the hygiene kit distribution drive. I have been amazed by this part of the whole experience. It’s not always easy to be a field team member in the social sector. We are on our feet a lot and sometimes the targets and goals can be overwhelming. But I have realized that I thrive on the human aspect of this work.
Take these kits that we are now distributing. They are not extraordinary or life changing for those who get them but it shows them that someone cares. Agar ek Vim bar bhi mil jaye toh unke liye yeh kaafi hai (Even if they get a Vim bar, that’s enough for them). At one location, I saw an elderly woman sitting and unable to walk. I went up to her, asked her what her name was and handed a kit to her. She looked up at me with eyes full of gratitude, held my hands and thanked me.
There are moments like this all the time in this job. They recharge me like nothing else I have ever done in the past.
(This blog post was drafted based on a conversation with Saptadeepa)