Three years ago, Samyak Chakrabarty (erstwhile chief youth marketeer at DDB Mudra, an advertising agency, and founder of Social Quotient, a social enterprise), partnered with a Marathi medium school in Dharavi. “During my interaction with the students, I realised that the state’s restricted vernacular curriculum didn’t expose students to current issues, and did very little to shape their personality. The situation was worse in meagerly funded slum schools,” says Chakrabarty.
This experience spurred him to start The Green Batti Project, a one-on-one mentoring programme where young professionals turn mentors to children from under-resourced communities. In its first cycle — held in October 2014 — 500 mentor-mentee pairs were formed across 36 schools in the city. The second phase, kickstarting this August, aims to increase the number to 1,000 children. All it requires from working professionals, is two hours a week for 12 weeks (with an extra four weeks buffer for missed sessions). “I want to transform the mindset that charity is a one-way street or that money is the best way to make a difference. We are expanding to Ahmedabad, Bangalore and New Delhi this year,” says Chakrabarty.
The mentors guide the children on essential life skills, such as how to communicate better, teach them to dance, play board games, watch videos or show them how to operate a computer, among other activities. “The Green Batti Project is an attempt to provide children with a friend, a constructive critic and a positive adult role model through whom they can gain insights into a world outside their own. What began as an experiment with 30 mentors has now grown to 500 pairs, making us India’s largest one-on-one mentoring program,” shares co-founder Aakansha Kedia, who also has a background in advertising. “The role of the volunteer is more of a friend and a guide rather than a counsellor or a tuition teacher. It is about building an organic, fun bond between two individuals,” she adds.
The programme is conducted in partnership with the United Nations, Teach For India, Mumbai Smiles and Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
A mentee learns how to work on a laptop
Scheduling of sessions is left to the mentor and the children. The pairs are formed on the basis of gender and location (your mentee will be 8km to 15km away from you). Security is ensured through a meeting management system where mentors have to ‘check in’ and ‘check out’ when they pick up or drop off their mentee. Also the places of meeting are pre-determined. The venues are pre-authorised places including coffee shops like Café Coffee Day and Starbucks, in and around the schools.
If you are unsure of what to teach, an interactive curriculum of 12 activities is provided. The children (in the age group of 11 to 15) are from 50 schools across the city, from Govandi to Juhu and Worli. As part of the programme, Mentor Masterclasses are held as well, which have featured talks by RBI Governor Dr Raghuram Rajan and training from the faculty of Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
“This year, financial literacy has been added to the curriculum. We want to instil in them, the basic habit of saving money and managing finances from a young age. This year, we plan to have more mentor masterclasses, excursions and industrial visits as well,” sums up Kedia.
Mentors with their students
>> The Green Batti Project’s mentoring programme will be held from August to November (16 weeks). Visit thegreenbattiproject.in to apply.
* You will have to fill up a form and appear for a Skype interview.
* Call: 9967011715 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Birthday celebration for a student
(The writer tweets as @SomaRKDas )