The Pravah workshops helped me discover my leadership style. As a facilitator, I learned to not push, which is otherwise my tendency. The activities conducted by Kamini helped me realize the importance of not getting frustrated when ideas don’t work well, and that I should be willing to leave it at that instead of pushing it further. From the outset we were told this is a mentee-driven project, so my job as a mentor has been one of a facilitator. Of the two mentees assigned to me, one lost interest. Instead of persisting beyond a point, I realised the value in letting go of what is not working, and instead, focus on what is growing organically. My second mentee, Avinash, wanted to work on a project aimed to develop scientific temperament in the minds of school children. For this we followed a process driven approach, which was an important learning outcome from my participation in the International Visitors Leadership Program on Disaster Management in 2013. The I Have a Dream program further enabled me to transpose this knowledge within the context of mentorship.
From day one we developed month-wise targets and were focused on execution. These were further sliced into weekly goals starting from research leading to the final presentation. While the research stage was relatively simple, execution was fraught with several challenges. After agreeing to let Avinash present his ideas, his school changed their mind. With only two to three weeks left for the final presentation, we started looking at other options such as night schools, special schools. With a defined curriculum and other restrictions, most schools were hesitant to permit something radical like this. As a mentor, I helped him make alternative plans, the importance of which I learned while attending an exchange program on disaster management policies and practices by U.S. Department of State. This moment during our journey required me to keep my mentee motivated while looking at other possibilities and resources within my grasp. I spoke to a trustee of one school where Avinash eventually presented his ideas through an interactive session. The students loved him and the school has asked him to conduct more sessions.
To know when to push and when to let him on his own was about striking a fine balance. When we started, Avinash was shy and unwilling to take risks. I noticed a significant change—today, he is more willing to communicate, talk about his success as well as failure, fears as well as hopes. Upon completion of the program we are still in touch, but it is not as regular. However, I am there whenever he needs me for my ideas, contacts, or just mentoring sessions. Looking back, this program has helped me come out of my own shell. I was not actively involved in any community based activity before, upon completion of the workshop I along with some associates started an NGO—Voice for Justice—in the field of training and developing awareness regarding injustice in society especially towards women, and the available remedial action. My only concern is not being in touch with the content of our training during the workshop. While it was useful and motivating, one tends to forget the learning if not practiced actively.
Nitin Sawant is currently working as Deputy Manager at the Mumbai International Airport Pvt. Ltd. He participated in the International Visitor Leadership Program in 2013. He mentored Avinash Shripal Maurya and Yaser Ahmed through the I Have a Dream leadership and mentoring program for International Exchange Alumni.