Last week, I saw something wonderful happen when a few of us, bloggers, from our writing group got together to campaign for a Sewing Circle fundraiser for the Delhi-based Project WHY. It was heartening to see the amazing response that flowed in through the various channels to help ProjectWHY garner the much-needed support they needed to stay afloat, proving once again that when the universe conspires to keep our faith in humanity alive, every little step takes us nearer to our goals, no matter how insignificant they may appear to be at the time.
That is precisely the reason why I feel happy to share the story of Tejomay with you, today. This story has a special place in my heart because it is the brainchild of Aparna, a very good friend of mine who I met almost eight years ago. She was one of the moms that I used to often bump into, every time we’d go to pick up our boys from school. Over the years, I got to know her better and found a wonderful person in her who was always very kind, gentle and empathetic. No wonder then, when I first heard about her amazing work and the nonprofit that she had set up, I was not surprised.
So, how did it all begin?
Aparna embarked on a momentous journey almost ten years ago, when she relocated to Bangalore with her husband and two children, after a successful stint as a Software Engineer in the US. Being the daughter of socially active parents, who were supporters of many social initiatives for the underprivileged, she had already been introduced to social work from her early years. So, when she aspired to get into the driver’s seat in order to bring in social change within the community at large, ‘Tejomay’ (which means ‘to brighten’) was born.
In the initial years, Tejomay mainly catered to value-education for children. Gradually, these included children from the underprivileged sections of society who needed help in academics, something that Tejomay continues even today, through its’ after-school programs for children who are between 5 to 12 years old.
But, the decision to incorporate adult literacy classes started when one day her maid expressed a desire to learn the 3Rs. This got Aparna thinking and eventually, became the inspiration for the adult education classes where the focus was on imparting basic literacy skills. For the young girls and women who worked as housemaids, this was a perfect opportunity to improve their job prospects and soon they joined in.
Gradually, Aparna’s offerings extended to including life-skills, soft skills, self-development and health-care workshops in her literacy classes. Her bespoke training programmes focused on teaching these women to operate bank accounts, learn to use computers, improve their communication skills, learn conversational English and build their self-confidence. Literacy skills had paved the way towards financial independence. The self-development programmes made them feel empowered to not just manage their own lives but also that of their children. The circle of influence for them was just beginning to grow.
As Tejomay’s reach spread far and wide within the city, many came forward to appreciate Aparna for her hard work. Occasionally, though, there were a few dejections, which often nudged Aparna to seek the advice of her parents since they too had faced similar challenges in their path many years ago. Aparna believes her strength comes from her dad’s words that have always stayed with her— “Neki kar, dariya mein daal.” (Which roughly translates to— Do good work, but do not expect anything in return.)
Today, Tejomay has a team of 21 mentors across three chapters in Bangalore and their reach has been growing at an impressive pace. Sceptics, naysayers and critics abound the path that she treads on, but Aparna continues her work as a catalyst for change. In a world of glib talkers and publicity-seekers who only provide lip-service in creating that much-needed impact in society, it is heartening to see Aparna and her team working tirelessly, undeterred by the odds, propelled solely by their conviction that one can only rise by lifting others.
If you would like to know more about Tejomay and connect with Aparna, please follow their Facebook Page. From time to time, Tejomay reaches out for supporters who can assist them through volunteering, organising fundraising activities, donating money and spreading awareness. We wish them the very best of efforts for all their future projects.
One step at a time is all that it takes to make the difference!
This post has been written for the We Are the World Blogfest, a monthly event created by Damyanti Biswas and Belinda Witzenhausen to showcase heartwarming stories of hope and light of real-life heroes from around the world, that show love, humanity and brotherhood in a world filled with negativity and hatred otherwise.
The hosts for this month are Damyanti Biswas, Eric Lahti , Inderpreet Uppal, Peter Nena and Shilpa Garg. Don’t forget to check out their WATWB posts and those of other WATWB participants to get inspired and feel a surge of positivity rise within you. It would be wonderful if you join in by sharing stories that you may have come across—particularly those that help spread hope and positivity.
Until next time, let us aim to stay hopeful and remain positive! 🙂