My role as a developer consultant at Thoughtworks gives me a great way to address the first two pillars. For the third pillar, every Thoughtworker is expected to embark on a personal journey to become a compassionate global citizen.
And so, alongside my passion for programming languages and computers, I am extremely passionate about exploring different places, cultures, customs, languages and learning other human beings’ perspective on living life. I must admit though that this passion does take a backseat in the day-to-day of a consultant’s life. Fortunately at Thoughtworks, there are always opportunities to pursue such paths.
At Thoughtworks Gurgaon we have a voluntary group called Meeth, whose members work with NGOs on their weekends. As part of their work, they play with underprivileged kids, listen to their stories and try to be a part of their life by helping them look beyond their daily routine. Working as part of Meeth gave me an opportunity to work with these children and make a difference for some lives. Life as a consultant shouldn’t just be about pillar one and two!
In July 2014, I moved to Pune for an assignment and that has taken me away from Meeth temporarily.
In an office meeting, Pankaj Kanchankar, a Business Analyst at Thoughtworks, told us about an initiative called Gyan-Setu in Pune. It is a volunteering program working towards capability building of children in the remote areas of underdeveloped states in India. In fact, Pankaj’s experience as a volunteer trainer and coordinator with Gyan-Setu has been a big part of his personal journey at Thoughtworks.
In November I spent some time with Gyan-Setu in Pune at the Educational Activity Research Center (EARC). EARC is a unit of Jnana Prabodhini, a multi-faceted voluntary organization working in the fields of education, research, health and rural development.
This year-long activity is an entirely volunteer driven initiative. It involves identifying volunteers, coordinating with various organizations in the remote regions, finding schools that need help, training volunteers and ensuring a safe and fruitful experience for everyone.
Pankaj introduced me to Dr. Ravindra Apte who is a retired Chief Scientist at BARC. Like Pankaj, Dr Apte too is a volunteer trainer and part of the content writing team. They train volunteers to explain science concepts using toys. A lot of the teaching toys are based on materials from the Arvind Gupta Toys project. These volunteers often travel rural and underserved parts of India to bring the joy of science to school children.
As part of the training program, Pankaj and other coordinators facilitate sessions and conduct workshops for volunteers to instill a confidence in them to coach others. Volunteers have an opportunity to practice what they have learned at a school near their city before they travel to rural India to teach children there.
I had the opportunity to meet some college students who had registered to visit Arunachal Pradesh to teach village kids.
As they described their previous trip, it was apparent that the travel, the volunteering experience and interacting with a new set of cultures, customs and perspectives, enriched these students thoroughly. Interacting with all these people has encouraged me to take the next step on my personal journey. I intend to embark on a teaching expedition like this so I can not only travel to a new place, but also work with a team of people to help underprivileged kids understand the magic of science.
One of the cool things about Thoughtworks’ pillar three mission is the personal growth it offers. Our mantra of “solidarity over charity” is one that encourages many Thoughtworkers to drive their personal journeys through action. While I assume that traveling to pristine, rural India will be fun in its own way, I hope it’ll also open my eyes to the perspectives of the powerless, invisible and the oppressed. I look forward to the rest of this journey.
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.