Faith Foundation is led by a team of five full-time youth leaders, including the four co-founders and one volunteer. Maniung Niangti, 27 years, has done a Bachelors in Hospital Management and a Masters in Social Work from the Bosco Institute in Jorhat. After graduating she worked as a counselor with an NGO providing substance abuse rehabilitation services and later at Nazareth Hospital in Shillong, counselling patients on HIV/AIDS.
Maniung and her three friends, Darhmingliani Hlonceu, Barida Laloo and including co-anchor Shannon Dona Massar, started Faith Foundation in January 2013. Faith Foundation addresses issues of human trafficking, child abuse, HIV/AIDS, and substance abuse. The Foundation has also started a counselling centre for female alcoholics/addicts and children of alcoholic/addicts (co-dependent) using the 12-Step program.
Though Maniung entered into this journey at a later stage than the other Changeloomers, she has had refreshing opportunities to meet with many Changelooms peers in recent months. Through conversations and peer visits she has learned that many of them “are facing the same challenges and it’s been very motivating to share with them and learn”. In having met with and learned from current Changeloomers Mimi, Donbok, and Shyam, and Changelooms alumni Hejong, Maniung finds much encouragement to strive and to move forward.
In early April, Maniung traveled to Delhi from her home and work in the Northeast region, to attend Pravah’s Ocean in a Drop (OID), which is a learning voyage that seeks to build capacities of facilitators, educators, HR/training professionals and individuals working with youth. “It was a very overwhelming experience”, she shares, remembering it fondly. “Even though our organization is always conducting and designing programs, and feel pretty confident in doing so, we were completely unaware about certain ground rules”. Through the OID, Maniung was challenged about her work, and about how her team can organize things and conduct their workshops – “such important things”. On her return to Meghalaya, she has already begun implementing these changes. “Most of what I’m doing is counseling,” Maniung shares. “I’m able to implement this [learning] with the clients – especially in designing a workshop and in getting the attention of the participants”.
This has been a major theme in the Faith Foundation journey – identifying those in need and engaging them in relevant programs. In 2013, Faith Foundation, identified a few girls from different communities and have been conducting different programs with them. Since March 2014, they have been running a weekly Life Skills program for the girls, along with different activities and games. Currently the girls are undergoing a music workshop conducted by the students of the Arts and Music Department of the Martin Luther University in Shillong.
Maniung recalls a few stories of the girls…
Foremost, she shares about a youth who initially came to Faith Foundation a year ago, dealing with substance abuse. “She came in with a lot of emotional baggage”. Now with the assistance of Faith Foundation, the 12-Step program and the Alcoholics Anonymous fellowship she is sober and doing well in her daily personal, family and work life.
Another successful journey of the Faith Foundation is of two sisters from the slums area who were at risk of being trafficked. The organization was able to assist and help the two sisters and rehabilitate them in a safe and family-like children’s home.
Even with girls who attend the weekly life skills program there has been a great change and growth in them compared to last year when they first came to the organization for a quilt-making workshop. Last year the girls were very shy and would not share much, but now these girls are coming forward and sharing their problems and difficulties. They are more confident, their personal hygiene has improved, and they have been able to raise their voice when needed in order to defend themselves.
Stories like these, and the wonderful team at Faith Foundation, drive Maniung to continue investing in her own learning and the capacity of the Faith Foundation. Maniung notes that the Changelooms program has been, “a great journey for what [they’ve] learned and for the exposures…”.
Maniung is hopeful, committed, and excels in her work – while also taking her challenges in stride. “It’s okay to make mistakes and it’s okay to not know everything, and I don’t have to please everyone all the time and sacrifice my needs and my dreams”. Maniung’s future plan is to start a complete in-house rehabilitation centre for female alcoholics and addicts.