Our minds circle around the word ‘impact’ from day one, and the first field visit was like a hunt to understand it. Project uP started with six people from our college who were driven by the youthful aspect of change. This team was determined to do something, so we quickly formulated and organised the entire field visit with the minutest of details.
Yashveer and Vardaan hit the field the next day to spend some time in the field and ended up spending the entire night to better understand the problems of slum dwellers. Being there, they realised a very fundamental thing that people living there do not know: that they are suffering. Their understanding of their suffering is too superficial, which is often very difficult for us to gauge and understand, since we are not in their condition.
The next day, however, a bit confused, we went to the field. We were a team of 7-8 people and all that we had planned went down the drain. We realised that things won’t always go as planned.
The essence of the first field visit was that we realised the meaning of true impact. That changed the entire course of Project uP. It led to the revamp of the team, the organisation, everything in the course of the next one and a half year, to the point that the entire team believes in “It’s the heart that matters.”
One thing that we are grateful for is that we were very welcomed in the slums. Because even though they are troubled, they are still warm and happy with whatever little they have. We went there and played with the kids. We couldn’t teach them anything, because the plan that we had couldn’t be executed and we didn’t have anything else.
Vardaan fondly remembers the moment it struck him what impact really means. He said, “When we were leaving the slum after the field visit, there was one kid who said, “You won’t be coming back, right?” A lot of people visit us, but they never come back. I loved playing with you, please come back. And that stuck with me.”
We believe real impact means creating some meaning in the lives of others. It isn’t just about teaching and showing them tangible things. It is a big part of it. But what is more important is creating value of any kind; it could even be memories in the hearts of the people there. Keeping this in mind, we started visiting them over and over. That slum grew so much eventually, they started relying on us to get their ration cards and Aadhar cards made, the kids started recognising us and loved playing with us. Soon after, we started our projects on the field and the story grew.
But the first visit made us realise what impact is. You can’t make an impact by just donating them stuff. The meaning of real impact is generating value, and not transferring goods and services from the privileged to the underprivileged. Towards this end, Project uP has focused on a similar discourse where we are looking at creating value.
Similarly, Project Smile was inspired by this understanding of impact that we had realised. It was about making people smile. Simply, the rules were that when you enter the slum, even though the people there might be suffering and be troubled with all sorts of problems, there should be a smile on their face and hopes in their heart that this will be a good day.
This is not an excuse for us to not add a quantitative or numeric value, but the point is, this impact gives rise to every other factor of impact. And when you understand the actual meaning of impact, these things follow. If you put your heart in it, you will help more kids, have better collaborations, better projects, better ideas.
The essence is to understand why we are doing it and what it actually means to do it. The only reason why we do research is to amplify this value. That’s why there is a great magnitude of research that is happening at uP during the lockdown. To summarise, the first field visit and the learning was “No matter what you do, it is actually the heart that matters.”