From Engineering To Educating Underprivileged Children: One Man’s Inspiring Journey

India fellow logoEditor’s Note: This post is a part of a campaign by The India Fellow program on Youth Ki Awaaz. India Fellows spend 13 months working at the grassroots level to bring about real on-ground change. They are also mentored to be socially conscious leaders and contribute to the development of the country. Apply here to be a part of the change.

By Anupama Pain:

At 26, Prashant Sharma has added a list of impressive achievements to his kitty. Currently, he is working to set-up a learning centre for underprivileged children at the IGNOU campus. For the past year, he has been working with the Delhi chapter of Agastya International Foundation – a renowned nonprofit working towards improving the condition of primary education across India. A fairly new initiative, the Delhi chapter needed complete setting up and operationalising, requiring constant energy and enthusiasm. And that’s where Prashant and his team came in.

The team began its work from scratch, with the setting up of a learning centre, promoting a fun and interesting method to teach concepts of Math and Science to children. They also had on their agenda monitoring 20-odd instructors from different public schools in Delhi, which was no easy feat. Many would find this a soul-crushing and stressful occupation, but not Prashant. It was his dream role- the more challenging it was, the more competitive and motivated he got.

Prashant’s journey to his current position was no easy one, however. He has certainly had his share of rough times and it’s a testament to his indomitable spirit to spring back.

Prashant’s work at Agastya International Foundation

Born and brought up in Jamshedpur, Prashant completed his graduation in aerospace engineering from Jain University Bangalore with flying colours. Good grades got him thus far, but what made him stand out was that he was truly interested in learning about what he did.

Aerospace engineering was only one of his interests, and his need to venture out to fresh terrain at the age of 22, was strong. Generally considered a doer, rather than a thinker, Prashant took up a couple of internships to figure out where he wanted to go next. One project was in engineering, his core study field, while the other was with the Children’s Movement For Civic Awareness (an active citizenship forum in Bangalore). When he found that the latter attracted him a lot more than the former, he decided to take it up and exploring the development space became his new obsession. So much so, that it was the reason why he applied to the India Fellow Social Leadership program.

Prashant joined the fellowship at a time when it was still running in bootstrap mode, and therefore, pursuing it had its share of risks. Undeterred, he took up the challenge with every bit of required zeal.

As part of the fellowship, he was placed with Chaitanya – one of the founding partners of the fellowship, and one of the leading community-based micro-finance institutes in Maharashtra. Given that this was a place where every individual gets to learn by doing, the project was a fit with Prashant’s interests and he began his assignment with gusto, operationalising the agri value chain for marginal women farmers, by providing forward market linkages. The pilot project was a year long one and Prashant’s experience during the first six months was as enriching and educational as he could wish for.

In the 6th month however, Prashant met with a car accident. Having been driving the vehicle in question, the fact that he and his co-passengers suffered injuries left a deep impact on him, and it took him a considerable while to recover. During his recovery phase, the requirements of the projects were steep, and his lack of prior work experience was finally catching up with him.

But it’s worthwhile to remember that perseverance often rescues us when the all else fails. Prashant stuck around, and it paid off. The second half of his fellowship was slow, but it also offered him maximum learning, both professionally, as well as personally.

Prashant volunteering during his Fellowship

During the final month of the fellowship, he even took up a small volunteering assignment. As part of this, he put the lessons he’d collected over his year of fellowship to use and helped a small organization in Ladakh (called People’s Action Group For Inclusion & Rights – PAGIR) sell their handmade products in Delhi retail. The products were crafted by differently-abled artisans and the project worked decently, restoring Prashant’s lost confidence, enabling him to complete the fellowship successfully.

Today, following other enriching experiences, Prashant has settled into yet another impactful and exciting journey with Agastya. When one visits the mobile learning centre that he and his team have been building, one cannot help but be impressed. With a world of possibilities ahead, Prashant constantly looks to the future with optimism, because to date, he stands by his mantra of learning something from whatever life teaches you, truly setting him apart from the herd. And that is the core ingredient for a changemaker!

Read more about his experiences here.

Just like Prashant, you too can do your bit to give back to society and solve one of our most pressing problems. Apply to be an India Fellow today, and get ready for an unforgettable experience!

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