Monday, November 30

Mentor. Guide. Leader - Gulafsha Khan's story

Gulafsha Khan - Teacher, Magic Bus

Not far from the historic city of the erstwhile Mughal Rulers, Delhi, is the large settlement colony of Bhalswa. In stark contrast to the grandeur of the capital city, Bhalswa can best be described as Delhi’s largest dumping ground. It is difficult to conceive that the shantytown is home to thousands of families who were evicted from slums in Delhi and resettled near a landfill site. It is even harder to believe that a young girl could rise like a phoenix from under the pervasive haze of the putrid and toxic methane gas.

Gulafsha Khan was a young girl when her family was forced to move to Bhalswa. “We lived in a slum in Nizammudin in South Delhi with access to clean water and electricity. We were horrified when we got to Bhalswa. The area was a desolate jungle swarming with snakes. People were so despondent that they wanted to run away. When the settlers began digging the earth to stand their shelters, they found countless bones. It was a creepy place”, recalls Gulafsha. Her five siblings and parents struggled to make ends meet then and it is not very different now. Most of the community’s population is well below the poverty line. Men and women work as daily wage workers at construction sites while some women find employment as maids in more affluent areas nearby.

Over time, the settlement degenerated into a slum while the peripheral area developed with the setting up of two primary schools and one secondary school. Gulafsha and her five siblings found their way to school while living in a one-room slum with their parents.

In 2011, Gulafsha heard about the NGO Magic Bus from her friends. She went to meet its volunteers, Santosh and Mahadev, and learned that Magic Bus worked to drive change in the areas of education, health and hygiene and reproductive health. 

Gulafsha says, “I signed up for the Community Youth Leader (CYL) Programme. After my six day training, I had to make a group of 25 kids and teach through play. I approached several parents to permit their children to join the activities in a nearby park. Many declined for safety reasons. I had to build their trust in me over time to prove to them that I was a responsible girl.” The volunteers at Magic Bus recognized Gulafsha’s enthusiasm and extraordinary mentoring skills and awarded her CYL of the month. They consistently encouraged her to pursue her education while gently cajoling her parents to agree.

Subsequently, Gulafsha also received other essential training such as computer literacy skills and functional English, as part of the Magic Bus Livelihoods Programme.

“It has not been easy for me to step out to work. My community has constantly taunted my parents for letting me work and in turn my parents have often pressured me to abandon social work.

When I am with my group of children I feel like a child again. In the time I spend with them, I forget my worries about the present and the future entirely.”

Gulafsha with the children of Magic Bus 

Gulafsha realized that her parents could not afford her college education so she began giving home tuitions to middle-school children. “I now pay my college fee from my earnings”, says Gulafsha. “I want to study further to qualify for a teacher’s job.”

Guafsha, 19, wants to live life on her own terms and she does today.

(Source: Women of Pure Wonder, published by Roli Books.)

Monday, November 9

Finding a way out of poverty: Keerthi's story

"It is the happiest moment of my life", says 21-year-old Keerthi on getting a job as a Customer Sales Specialist with Eureka Forbes.

“I don’t know if I could be happier. I believe this is the best thing that has happened to me in the last 21 years”, says Keerthi, his excitement seeping through his otherwise calm voice.

In June this year, Keerthi was hired as Customer Sales Specialist in Eureka Forbes at Mysore city, Karnataka. He gets a salary of 4000 per month and incentives for every sale that he makes. 

For Keerthi's family, his job is their only hope to break out of poverty.  
On asking if he is satisfied with the remuneration, Keerthi explains “Our family has seen some tough days since my father passed away 15 years ago. My mother toiled day and night to make ends meet. She works as a coolie in a local sabzi mandi earning just 3000 per month. I would have dropped out long ago had not a government scholarship funded my education from tenth onwards. I was in desperate need for a job. I had to earn and help share the burden in the family. This job engages me for just three hours leaving the rest of the day to help in household chores and improving my own skills. And, the salary is a huge help for my family. Last month, I took home 15,800 for selling 6 vacuum cleaners. For the first time in years, my family could at least afford the basic necessities. It is definitely a beginning”.

After his father's death, Keerthi's mother took up a labourer's job in the local vegetable market. She had a monthly income of Rs. 3000.

“Such opportunities are hard to come by especially for people as poor as us”, says Keerthi.
The Magic Bus Livelihoods Programme provides suitable employment opportunities to underprivileged youth like Keerthi to help them break out of poverty.
Keerthi was a part of the third batch of young people in Magic Bus’ Livelihood Programme in Mysore city. The programme helps in building the capacities of underprivileged youth so that they set realistic aspirations for themselves, inculcate employable skills, and get access to gainful employment.

When Magic Bus Youth Mentor Deepu came to our house and informed us of the Livelihoods Programme, I was drawn towards it. I had graduated last year and was desperately looking for a job. I asked around in my community and heard favourable responses about the programme. A friend of mine in the community had got a job within months of joining the Livelihood Programme”, Keerthi explains.

Keerthi with his trainer at the Magic Bus Livelihoods Centre
After joining the programme, he was taken through a Comprehensive Need Assessment followed by a Personal Development Plan. It was a blueprint of his strength, weaknesses, aptitude and attitude. He also went through a process of training on using computers, managing his finances, spoken English language, and business entrepreneurship. The last is a compulsory skill set giving young minds a direction to become entrepreneurs themselves.

Keerthi’s strength and interest was towards managing interactions with customers. He was advised to focus on marketing and sales oriented job. When the Eureka Forbes opportunity came along, we asked Keerthi to go for the interviews. “It was my first interview. Naturally, I was nervous. But, months of grooming and practice at the Livelihoods Centre had its benefits”, he says.

Keerthi is considered a conscientious and hardworking employee at Eureka Forbes. 
Keerth’s performance at Eureka Forbes is being lauded by his team manager there. He is seen as a valuable member, capable of taking up new challenges, and comfortable with the customers.

For Keerthi, this is a step forward in the right direction. “Some more years down the line, I want to start my own agency”, he signs off.

Keerthi aspires to start his own agency 
Want to help more Keerthi's find their calling and way out of poverty? Donate.