Volunteer Den – Shachi Bheda

Shachi has been a Bhumian, as well as a Teach for India  (TFI) fellow. At Bhumi she has been awarded the Bhumi EARTH award in 2016 and 2018. Read further to learn more about her experiences at both Bhumi, as well as TFI.

Tell us a little about yourself! 

I was born and brought up in Ahmedabad. I finished my post graduation in Pharmaceutical sciences from Mumbai. Post that, I took up a job as an Analyst with Indegene Pvt. Ltd. in Bangalore and worked there for almost two years before switching to Teach for India.

How did volunteering with Bhumi happen?

Volunteering with Bhumi happened when I was studying my masters in Mumbai. That’s when I became a part of Bhumi, Mumbai chapter in 2014. It wasn’t accidental landing with Bhumi. I would rather say it was a conscious choice I made since I was always inclined towards the social sector volunteering; and when I moved to Mumbai, I looked for some of the NGOs offering weekend volunteering opportunities and that’s when I came across Bhumi and registered and the process followed.

How did the TFI fellowship happen? Was there a trigger?

Trigger, yes! Absolutely. I would say volunteering with Bhumi’s Mumbai chapter for about 2 years and post that moving to Bangalore and continuing with the similar role again for around a year and a half in Bangalore was something that triggered me to take up Teach for India. The story that lead me to TFI wasn’t about getting bored with the monotonous corporate life but it was rather, about choosing what interested me more and at that point in time I felt TFI was the calling and hence applied for the fellowship. Also, I believe education is the key to a lot of social issues we currently face in the society and hence, working on this gap of ed equity is something we need to be aware of and work towards.

How did the volunteering experience at Bhumi help you stand out as a TFI fellow?

Volunteering with Bhumi was just the first spark to set things on fire to eventually make me apply for the fellowship itself. Considering, I barely got an opportunity for in-class volunteering with Bhumi since I was in the HR role right from starting weeks and continued with the same in Bangalore as well, I was a little skeptical about how teaching was going to work since I hadn’t trained myself well in that area. However, being in the HR role helped me gain better exposure to building relationships, being empathetic towards individuals, putting myself in someone else’s shoes (here volunteers), looking at the bigger picture and the list goes on. This experience has also helped me leverage these developed skills since,, in the fellowship one of the critical aspects is building relationships and investing in various stakeholders like kids, parents, community, staff members etc.

Share an interesting experience each at Bhumi & the TFI fellowship.

Interesting experience at Bhumi:

The first Joy to the World with one of the centers in Mumbai was a very emotionally interesting experience with Bhumi. There was this whole aura of celebration when the kids received the gifts that they had asked for. Skate boards, cars, sports shoes and other essentials that we can think of as 8-13 years old. Amidst all the wonderful, dream gifts that kids ask for which the corporates fulfill as part of the wish week, there was this one child who just sat in the corner holding the gift close to him. I walked to him and asked why he was not playing with the gift he asked for and he showed me his gift. To my surprise it was an idol of Jesus. I asked why he didn’t ask for any gifts that the other kids wished for and his reply got me in tears. This is what the 10 year old said, “I miss my family and I know that God is most important because he will keep my family safe. So when I go back home, I will give this to my mother and God will protect my family”

Interesting experience at TFI:

Out of ample number of experiences I am currently a part of, there is one I would like to share which personally was my trouble understanding why am I doing the what of am I doing.

So there is always this question that comes as to why TFI is in the metro cities or already developing cities while the actual need is in the rural and village localities. This also was the question that I had in my institute training which made me almost give up on the fellowship because I felt I just had no need to be out there in those spaces. But then, one of my family members pushed me to think – even though these low income schools are in a better scenario than their predecessors, have they really inculcated the values and quality of education that students at other private schools are learning? That’s when I realised after coming to the school in the cities as well, that may be financially they are getting stable, but when it comes to character building, education, exposure, discipline, the condition is no different than in any metro cities. So this is for sure something to think about.

What change did these experiences bring in your life? How has Bhumi / TFI altered you, personally?

Its been 6 months for me now with TFI and I can talk for hours about the changes these experiences have brought in me. To mention some of them, TFI being a very structured organisation, has helped me understand how important certain structures are to build a foundation onto. TFI has helped provide me ample spaces to experiment, pause, reflect, look back, work on areas of development and then again kick start with a new plan. As an individual, it has helped me become more accepting and empathetic. It has helped me develop lot of skills like articulation, planning, multitasking, importance of vision and big goals, deal with kids in the manner they understand and lot more. Overall, I am growing everyday with the experiences and spaces I am being part of.

Any specific, special moment with kids or volunteers you would like to share with us?

I would like to share an instance with one of the kids in my class. She was a new student and unlike other students, who had been part of TFI intervention for two years before I joined the fellowship, she was completely new to the concept of English medium in her 4th grade. She barely could read any words or pronounce any words. She wouldn’t understand a word I said in class, but would be attentive, neverthelss. She always had the spark of learning something and so, I started taking extra classes for her where we started with basic phonic sounds. She would happily come the next day saying she remembers all the sounds and slowly we started reading 3-5 letter words. One day after a month of remedial classes, I walked into class and she walks to me and tells me, “Didi, I can read most of the words written on the reward chart that you have stuck in the class.” and when she read those 5 lines to me, we both had that feeling of pure happiness.

A message to every Bhumi volunteer:

I always loved the Bhumi quote we use on our Bhumi t-shirts

“Volunteers are paid in six figures S-M-I-L-E-S”

Do things that you love, don’t be afraid to get into those things thinking of the consequences before even getting into one. Feel it, experience it and then reach a conclusion whether it was worthy or not. It is okay to fail but it is not okay to not try. Like the old saying, “Try, try till you succeed” I would just like to modify a bit, “Try, try till you succeed but every time, try something different”. You are all already doing a fabulous task by being present for your lovely bunch of kids. Can we think more consciously about how this noble choice is touching the lives of these young minds and how you and they grow together every weekend that you are spending with them? Happy volunteering.

Applications are now open for The Teach for India Fellowship 2019 Cohort!

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