Towards the end of her junior year (11th grade), Richa Gupta, the editor-in-chief of Moledro, interviewed Dream a Dream (a Bangalore-based NGO she is currently interning with). Read the interview below! :
Richa: Could you please tell us about your organisation, what you do, and how you’ve impacted the Indian society?
Anish: The 21st century is witnessing rapid, monumental changes. Adversity in a child’s life and the frantic pace of social change leads to many unforeseen challenges a youngster has to face – abuse, violence, neglect, rejection, skill gaps, and many more.
Dream a Dream empowers young people from vulnerable, underprivileged backgrounds to overcome adversity and flourish in a fast changing world, using a creative life skills approach. Through our interventions, which include After School Life Skills Program, Teacher Development Program, Career Connect and Volunteer Engagement, we have so far impacted the lives of 2,00,000 young people.
In the last year alone 5528 young people enrolled in the After School Life Skills program, 455 teachers completed all 4 modules of the Teacher Development Program, and 5027 youngsters were engaged in Career Awareness and Skill Development Programs.
Richa: What do you believe is the most important issue facing the Indian youth, and how would you seek to address it?
Anish: Half of India's youth are deprived of their fundamental right to education. So what happens to children who drop out or do not continue their education? They either stay at home or join the unorganized labour markets—and forever lose the opportunity to build their livelihoods, careers and quality of life. In addition, the world is growing and developing at a rapid pace. The 21st century brings with it new social, economic, and environmental challenges; hence, the next generation needs to be equipped with the confidence and skills to effectively tackle them.
At Dream a Dream, we believe that the 21st century provides young people with an excellent opportunity to leap into the future, in spite of not having access to an education. Indeed, young people who can adapt to this new, fast-changing world will be equipped to think creatively, manage conflict, respond with empathy, work in teams, and take initiative.
Richa: What do you believe is the importance of empowering the youth of vulnerable backgrounds?
Anish: Children and youngsters from vulnerable backgrounds are borne out of adversity. Adversity affects their ability to effectively engage with the world, make healthy life choices, and to be successful. We believe that life skills are what will empower the youth from underprivileged backgrounds to stand up straight and defeat this challenge. When children develop the ability to take initiative, solve problems, overcome difficulties, manage conflict, interact with each other and comprehend instructions, they are ultimately able to overcome adversity and build resilience.
Richa: Your foundation also has a Career Connect Program. However, there are still many youngsters, especially girls, who are discouraged from pursuing a career and earning for themselves. How would you respond to such backward mentalities?
Anish: While there are definitely instances of girls being discouraged from pursuing a career of their choice, we also have numerous examples of girls overcoming obstacles and pursuing their dreams against all odds. Take Padma, for example—who dropped out of the Industrial Training Institute to pursue her passion for dance. She enrolled in a year-long scholarship program with Lourd Vijay Dance School, and is today a successful dance teacher.
Dream a Dream works at providing the right kind of opportunities and skills, wherein children are empowered to make informed choices themselves. That is how we believe in empowering the youngsters of today, especially girls.
Richa: Your organisation employs a vast number of volunteers. How do you believe working for Dream a Dream benefits them?
Anish: Volunteers are a key part of our work and growth. Our Volunteer Engagement Program brings together a community of individuals from corporations and colleges—each driven by a passion to help stimulate social change. These volunteers engage with our mission, and deepen the impact of our work. Volunteers are encouraged to participate in experiential, life skills programs, to join our regular life skills programs, to go for outdoor experiential camps, to become a mentor, to run fundraising campaigns, and to make donations.
In the last year alone 155 individual volunteers clocked 12,254 hours of volunteering work, and 1,033 corporate volunteers clocked 3,065 hours.
The benefits of the Volunteer Engagement program are mutual—for volunteers take back with them the rich and fulfilling experiences of working for a cause. For Dream a Dream, the skills and expertise each volunteer brings in enrich our own efforts.
Richa: When your organisation was founded, the founder undoubtedly had a vision of Indian society in mind. What was this vision, and to what extent has it been fulfilled?
Anish: Dream a Dream was founded by 12 young individuals fresh out of college, poised to step into the corporate world. Without a background in the social sector, they relied on their personal experiences and their inherent urge to give back to society. Vishal Talreja, the co-founder of Dream a Dream, identified the key areas that needed to be addressed; firstly—empowering the youth from vulnerable backgrounds, by providing them with access to equal opportunities. However, empowering these youngsters is just one side of the coin; sensitising the community we inhabit is the flip side.
Helping the community understand the challenges faced by these young individuals from vulnerable backgrounds will help integrate them into mainstream society. Since its inception in 1999, Dream a Dream has worked with 10,000 young people from 40 partner NGOs, trained over 1200 educators, impacted over 1,00,000 children and young people, and sensitized over 2500 volunteers through our unique Life Skills Development model. Today, Dream a Dream works on a strong collaborative approach with local charities, volunteers, expert consultants, and a host of national and international strategic partners—to help sensitize our community, while simultaneously providing our young people with better access to different opportunities.