Our debut interview of the Soul and Substance series with one of our STeP heroes, Akash Rathor garnered a lot of attention and engagement. Taking a step further, we want to share the stories of other stakeholders who make the journeys of transformation possible on the ground. The lives transformed need mention of those who are intimately part of implementing the life-cycle approach.
Furthermore, these interviews offer a unique opportunity for our donors and stakeholders to connect with the individuals, teams and communities they are supporting. By sharing these powerful narratives, we bridge the gap between the impact made and the individuals who made it possible.
Here is the story of Madhu Verma, centre coordinator of Smile Foundation’s Mission Education(ME) programme, located at Shri Ram J.J.Colony, Dhaula Kuan, New Delhi in her own words.
1. Madhu, you have been an inspiration for the women of your community, Could you tell us about your journey at the education center? How did you join the programme?
Fifteen years ago, I joined this centre as a teacher. It was a turn of events that led me to this incredible opportunity. A dear friend of mine informed me about the programme, and as luck would have it, the education center was conveniently located close to my house. At that time, I had just graduated from Delhi University and was contemplating my next steps.
I initially joined the center for a temporary period of two months, unaware of the profound impact it would have on my life. Little did I know that my encounter with these children and the noble cause behind the education programme would ignite a deep passion within me. The more time I spent with the children, the more I realized the transformative power of education in their lives.
2. What challenges did you encounter while working in this urban village setting, and how did you overcome them?
When I joined the community, there was a lack of awareness about the importance of education, and parents were not sending their children to school. I took it upon myself to spread awareness and disseminate information about the benefits of education to each household in the community, which consisted of over 500 families.
I went door-to-door and engaged with parents, explaining the value of education and addressing their concerns and doubts. Initially, it was difficult to gain their trust but I worked tirelessly to build relationships and establish a sense of partnership with the parents, emphasizing the long-term benefits that education could bring to their children’s lives. And the next 15 years went by like a flash and I am still nowhere done with this place.
3. Since you have been a part of this cause for over 15 years, your roles and responsibilities have certainly evolved. Could you tell us more about your professional journey?
Since 2007, I have been actively involved in the overall development of the community, one of my key responsibilities in the early years was to survey the community and assess the educational needs and challenges. I have taught a diverse group of 100 students at the education center. Alongside my community outreach efforts, I also played a significant role in counseling both parents and children.
I recognized the importance of addressing the emotional and social aspects that impacted a child’s ability to learn. I have also collaborated with other teachers and staff to develop curriculum plans, monitor student progress, and organize extracurricular activities. It has been a fulfilling journey, and I am dedicated to continuing my efforts in making a positive impact in the lives of these children and their families.
4. How has Smile Foundation helped you in your journey?
Under the guidance of some incredible mentors from Smile Foundation, I have learned that understanding the family background of a child is crucial to understand the challenges they may be facing. Now, I have made it a point to meet the families of our students, follow up on their progress, and spend time getting to know them. This has allowed me to gain deeper insights into the issues affecting the children and provide appropriate support.
Another valuable aspect of the ME programme is the provision of quarterly teacher training sessions. These trainings focus on various topics including child psychology, equipping us with the knowledge and skills to better understand and address the behavioral and emotional needs of our students. One session, in particular, taught us how to engage students in learning through fun and playful activities, making the learning process more enjoyable and effective.
5. That sounds great, is there any particular incident that made you realize the importance of these training sessions?
Yes, I once noticed a girl who exhibited withdrawn behavior, constant fatigue, and an inability to complete her homework. As I had learned from the training sessions, I decided to follow up with her family.
It was then that I discovered she was burdened with excessive responsibilities both at home and in her academic pursuits. I advised her family to reduce her tuition load and prioritize giving her time for herself. Since implementing this change, I have witnessed a remarkable transformation in her. She has started making friends, and her academic performance has also improved.
6. Your journey is commendable, we would like to know what keeps you going? What is your motivation to come here every day?
Oh, my children are my motivation (laughs with joy). The achievements of my students, Aakash and Vikas, fill me with immense pride and joy. I taught them for 12 years and it’s amazing to see them grow. Aakash now owns his own tuition center and Vikas is an animation artist. I remember the days when Vikas would come to class with his sketchbook, brimming with creativity.
Then there are Nisha and Amit whom I taught for nearly 10 years, and they have recently secured jobs in prestigious positions. Nisha landed a job at the UK Embassy, and Amit joined the Swiss Embassy. Knowing that I played a part in shaping their educational journeys and witnessing them achieve such remarkable milestones fills my heart with an indescribable sense of fulfillment and moments like these make every challenge, every late-night preparation, and every ounce of effort worth it.
7. Great! We got to know a lot about your professional life, are you comfortable sharing something about your family? What has been their role in your journey?
Yes, ofcourse. Though my husband and I don’t have children of our own, this education center has filled that void in my life. It has become my extended family, and the children I work with have become a source of immense joy and fulfillment. My family, including my husband and in-laws, take immense pride in the work I do.
They understand the impact it has on the lives of these children and the community as a whole. It’s truly heartwarming to come back home after a long day at the center and share stories with my family. Their understanding and appreciation for the work I do make me feel truly blessed.
8. Thank you for sharing your journey, Is there anything else you would like to share or future goals and aspirations in terms of this centre.
Looking ahead, one of my dreams is to have a bigger space that can accommodate more students. Currently, we have 100 students, but my heart aches when I have to say “No” to parents who come to me, desperately seeking admission for their children. It’s a tough decision to make and therefore by expanding our center to accommodate 200 students, we can make a small difference and give more children the opportunity to receive the education they deserve.
I also aspire to establish a separate counseling section within the center. Recognizing the importance of addressing the emotional and psychological needs of our students, I believe that having a dedicated space for counseling will greatly benefit them.
We are Grateful
If someone stays back at a place for more than 15 years, they most probably have built something of great value and importance to them. As Madhu looks forward to impacting many more lives in the future, we would like to take a long moment to salute her spirit and her commitment to affecting positive changes in the lives of JJ Colony’s children and their families.
You too can change the lives of these children by volunteering or by making a donation here that will support the education of these children.