Empowering Dreams: M. Raisha Fathima Banu's Journey with Child and Youth Development Foundation in Tamil Nadu
M. Raisha Fathima Banu, Class of 2016, shares her experience of starting the Child and Youth Development Foundation, creating a hub where children and youth from rural communities can get opportunities to flourish and develop themselves in Tamil Nadu.
I grew up around poverty, lack of skill-based learning and exposure resulting in limited opportunities. Growing up was hard, and after considerable difficulty, I managed to start pursuing my mission—to help support such children and help them overcome socio-economic barriers.
My Foundation focuses on procuring organically-grown ingredients for the manufacturing of research and development-based food products, which can counteract micronutrient deficiency in growing children. I Involve poor and destitute women in the process of value addition, have established a platform for organically grown food produces to promote the concept of Agri-preneurship. I also implement CSR projects in the space of malnutrition eradication, and skill development for rural children and youth.
In working with vulnerable women, I interacted with Mrs Kosala, 46 years old, who only completed her primary education and was working in beedi making and agriculture. She lost her son in 2009 and husband in 2013, leaving her as the breadwinner. She worked for four years rolling beedis and had to go as she developed a chronic allergy. Post which, she managed to run her household doing ad-hoc work. I helped her secure a job through the Foundation that brings in regular income using her traditional winnowing skill. The monthly income has relieved her of constant stress, enabled her to buy necessary good and items to help her daughter overcome anaemia.
During our conversation, she mentioned, “Earlier I had to travel far and wide to earn money but could never imagine that one day, I will find a secure source of income in my neighbourhood. The job has helped me pay off my debts and helped me regain my self-confidence.”
“I salute the determination and the dedication of social entrepreneurs. Their sense of responsibility towards the community is commendable. Most of these entrepreneurs are very much driven by the passion and motive of the change that they want to drive but lag the skills to make it happen as a social enterprise. I see SSE India bridging that gap. As part of the program, I was privileged to be the mentor to Raisha Dawood during first batch of SSE India. Raisha is a fighter. She is driven by the goal to eradicate the mal-nutrition for the children in her community. It was my best 8-10 hrs. that I spent with her during the period of 9 months as her mentor. While performing the role of a mentor, I realized that it was me at the receiving end. I learned the new definitions of what is called “fighting the odds”, perseverance and passion. My feelings are very well explained in the poem written by my son, Spandan. I am very grateful to SSE India for providing this opportunity to me.” – Mukesh Deshpande, Mentor
Sat on the chair old and rusty, recalling the memory of my mentor.
Now, it was my turn.
Walked into the room, with the book and pen.
Anticipated her thoughts as she anticipated mine.
Welcomed her warmly and confidently as I knew I could shape this young mind.
For time unknown we walked and talked and for time unknown we learned and taught.
Thought I that I was teaching but .. I was learning.
Then knew I the meaning of Mentor
A mentor is who you learn from not the one who teaches you.
Had she the keys to my lock and I the keys to her.
At the end startled was I, knowing the thin line between a mentor and a mentee.
- by Spandan Deshpande