Category Archives: Our Staff

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Leaping To Mumbai

Even before I knew it was definitely going to happen, I couldn’t resist spilling to everyone who’d listen that I might be moving to Mumbai. Something had been niggling away in my mind for years telling me to make this sort of leap, but why leave so many friends and family behind? Why move hundreds of miles from home and press the reset button after three years of settling in London? I’ve known people who’ve waited, saved up and travelled around India for a couple of months rather than move permanently, and they loved it! Wouldn’t that have been safer? Continue reading Leaping To Mumbai

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Five TED Talks We Love, And Why We Love Them

Since 1984 ‘Technology, Entertainment, Design’ (more commonly known the world over as ‘TED’) have been sharing ‘ideas worth spreading’ relating to all things, from education to business, science to development. In the last 30 years, they’ve shared over 2,400 talks in more than 100 languages which have been viewed 500 million times.

These talks are a regular source of ideas, information and inspiration here in the Reality Group office – here are a few we love, and why we love them. Continue reading Five TED Talks We Love, And Why We Love Them

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Looking Ahead – Our Hopes For 2016

Having ended 2015 with the release of our Annual Report, looking back on a year where we extended our reach to have positively impacted the lives of over 6,000 people in the communities we serve in Dharavi, January now feels a fitting time to look ahead.

 We caught up with a whole host of staff and beneficiaries and asked them all one thing, ‘what are your hopes and dreams for 2016?’.

Here’s what they had to say. Continue reading Looking Ahead – Our Hopes For 2016

Meet Sangeeta

Every year a group of Swedish architecture students comes to Dharavi, Mumbai, to study urban infrastructure. Every year they also spend some time with our projects and volunteer with us. Maja, a student of the group was very impressed by Sangeeta, our soft skill teacher and community health worker. Find out why:

We, a group of architecture students from Sweden, went to Dharavi to study informal settlements in global mega-cities such as Mumbai. We arrived in late October and our main assignment was to try to understand the Networks of NGOs working within Dharavi; How they work, what they do and why they are needed.

At the very beginning of our stay we went on a Reality Tours slum tour to help us familiarise ourselves with the area. It was through this tour that we met Sangeeta who teaches soft skills (part of the Youth Empowerment Program) to local youth and young adults at the Reality Gives community centre.

Sangeeta also works on a program that helps children with poor levels of nutrition run by the Foundation for Mother and Child Health (FMCH), in collaboration with Reality Gives. According to UNICEF, 43% of Indian children below the age of five years are underweight because of chronic mal-nutrition. The nutrition program is a weekly program that takes place every Saturday afternoon at the community centre. Nutritionists from FMCH come to the community centre to hold nutrition clinics and cooking workshops, and to do one-to-one counselling with the mothers.

Sangeeta explained to us that if she informs the mothers on a Monday about a Saturday workshop, no one will come. Instead she tells them about the cooking class the evening before, or even the same day, only a few hours before the class starts. For us, coming from a totally different part of the world where we sometimes plan meetings months in advance, this approach was tough to grasp!

Two of us had the opportunity to walk around the community with Sangeeta to inform the mothers about an upcoming workshop. Sangeeta, always with a smile and confidence, spoke every language needed and found her way through complex networks of narrow alleys, as if she has never done anything else. We visited more than 12 different homes, Sangeeta having a dialogue with all of the mothers and the children, and it always felt like she was very welcome.

Some of the mothers were not able to attend this week’s workshop because of the upcoming Diwali; with all of the cooking, cleaning, etc that had to be done, they simply had too much to do! However, they assured Sangeeta they would attend the next one and in the end, even with Diwali, there was a great turnout.

The nutritionists from FMCH held the class while Sangeeta and another Reality Gives employee, Nazia, helped out with preparing the food and looked after the children so the mothers could concentrate on their learning.

During our stay we spoke to Sangeeta a lot; she is a remarkable woman and she is very giving. We learnt a lot about living in Dharavi, and India, and Sangeeta got to know about our situation in Sweden. We laughed a lot together. While in Mumbai, we also attended the graduation ceremony for the students who had finished their three month ‘Youth Empowerment program’. One of the students, a teenage boy, gave a short speech to thank his teachers. He started by saying, “On the first day here I was so nervous. Then I met Sangeeta, she gave me hope and confidence”. I feel that this sums up Sangeeta perfectly.

Meet Jonny

Today we would like to introduce you to Jonny who just spent three months working with the Reality Gives Community Centre team on project management and curriculum development. He isn’t actually new at Reality Gives. In 2010 he was part of the team that created the Youth Empowerment Program and since then he has been involved with Reality Gives in a variety of ways, his main passion being the curriculum development projects.So Jonny, you’ve been in Mumbai quite a few times now. What do you actually do? Good question! My main remit is to develop the education programs. This involves a bit of trouble-shooting, some training and a lot of resource development. Thanks to my degree in Business and my friendship with Chris (Chris Way, Founder), I also help with a lot of the strategic thinking and looking at the ‘bigger picture’.

“Sounds good, what do you enjoy most? I enjoy it all really. I know the value of having a good ‘sounding-board’ and a second opinion so I’m happy to be able to play that role. I also love teaching teachers and training staff so that they can go forward and do their jobs even better than they already are. My main passion, however, is the curriculum development project. Since I first came here that has been what I have wanted to crack; a set of culturally appropriate, easy to follow materials all taught by confident, well-trained teachers that empower young people to go forward and achieve their goals. What changes have you seen since you started working with Reality Gives in 2010? Loads! I was heavily involved with planning the expansion of Reality Gives, when we started to address more than just ‘classroom’ education, so seeing it in practice now is very exciting. If I think back to when I first arrived and we were just starting to design the Youth Empowerment Program we’ve come such a long way! Seeing all of the different programs in action now is simply excellent and the future potential is incredible. Finally, what’s next for you? I feel that the work I’ve done over the last few months here in Mumbai with Chris, Jyoti (our new Community Centre Manager) and the rest of the Reality Gives team has helped to consolidate our position and has got us ready to move forward. I’ll be heading back to London soon where my plan will be to lock myself away and work at improving the three different components of the Youth Empowerment Program; Computers, Soft Skills and English. I’ll be liaising online a lot with the teachers to get their input and feedback and I’m sure Chris and I will have a few Skype meetings too!