Change Looms Learning and Leadership Journey (Changelooms) supports young people who have started and are running their own independent social initiatives. It provides skill and capacity building, mentoring support, financial support and networking opportunities. The 2013-2014 Changelooms journey has included cross-border peer visits for all participants. Cross-border engagement aims to address three issues that affect Indian youth: communalism, personal awareness, and social development. In India especially, communalism can be defined as “allegiance to one’s own ethnic group rather than to the wider society.” Thus, as the Changelooms participants engage in cross border peer visits, they intentionally engage with youth from different communities, experiences and identities, for both learning and action. Here is an excerpt of Amreen Ahmed’s (of Pravah Jaipur Inititiatve) reflection on her visit to see Sandeep Mehto, of the organization Bharat Calling, in Itarsi.
“If you really want to make the best of your time, invest in building authentic relationships…trust me it will create wonders.”
The journey started with long waits and disappointment created by the railway department. Not a single train was on time that day – 2nd March. I was feeling exhausted and thinking what a bad start to my peer visit, but everything changed as soon as I reach Itarsi.
During this visit, I came across and met a new Sandeep, a person who appreciates and acknowledges the support given by his family while he was deciding to start something of his own – Bharat Calling. The uniqueness, which overwhelmed me, was the value system of the family that says 1) there is a joy in sharing and eating together, 2) problems are part of life and 3) acknowledgement strengthens relationships.
My most overwhelming moment was in hearing that Sandeep’s challenges as a young person and how he managed by himself. When I asked his bhaiya about the pressures of getting a job and work, he responded, “If we had just listened to the people around us, we would have been different people; Sandeep might not have started Bharat Calling”. The best part of these conversations was seeing the complete acceptance about what Sandeep is doing.
But apart from being an entrepreneur, he is also a son, a brother and a friend. He actively takes part in important decisions of his family. And being a decision maker at Bharat Calling, he understands the importance of an effective decision. He loves to hang out with his cousins, in what they call “the experiment space“, which is a space where they generally sit together to crack jokes, and to discuss work, family & career.
One cousin of Sandeep is right now doing a distance-learning course form TISS and also working in Bharat Calling. He shared that he enjoys working with Sandeep, and he is enjoying learning from the mistakes he himself makes. “We are able to work together effectively because we carry a strong relationship which allows us to discuss all the challenges and struggles while working with each other.”
The best part was, after I returned to Jaipur, I got a message from Sandeep saying that the conversation I had with his team did wonders, and they are more energized and ready to work with full ownership. While Sandeep was sharing all these things, I realized maybe this is the real objective of a peer visit. Isn’t it amazing how two unknown people, who don’t even know each other one 9 months back, are now trying to support each other, listening to each other and suggesting creative ideas to deal with real life challenges?
Loads of love,