Zenith Lairikyengbam

Married and divorced at a young age, and a single mother, I was working part-time while struggling to complete my education. At this juncture applying for the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP) exchange program was a big risk. The application fees of rupees ten thousand was my savings of seven months. Not making into the program meant losing all this money at a time when even ten rupees had great value for me. Luckily for me, the risk paid off and I got a scholarship which was one of the first few steps towards fulfilling my career aspirations. As a CCIP alumna, I was further invited to participate in the I Have a Dream program in 2015.

The I Have a Dream program came at a time when I needed it the most. Through various exercises, I was able to bring forth my dream, and accomplish it with help from my mentor. I look back at my workshop experience with great fondness, whether it was facilitators like Sandeep who made business facts seem like fun or Purva whose presence and words gave courage. She let me cry, hugged me, and constantly reminded me of my strengths and capabilities. Purva’s assurances, “We are here for you Zenith, to take you out from fear and problems in life,” gave me strength and hope, and encouraged me to come out of my shell.

As an outcome of the program, I started my own organization, Next Generation Technotine, with the mission to make Manipur an unemployment-free state. My initial plan was to provide livelihood options for 100-200 people. Before participating in this program my project was just an idea on paper; this program propelled me into action and also helped me realize it. Through the program I was made to know myself, what I could do, and how could I make my presence felt. Initially, I had various inhibitions. Given my testing past, I found it hard to interact with people in general and men in particular, and I thought I could never get myself to trust a man again. This also changed.

My mentor, Amit Patro, supported me during the formation of the company and through all the ups and downs of running an organization. It was not a hierarchical relationship; in the beginning I had my fears, but he would reach out and ask me to express myself, he has been like a brother, a friend and a counselor. Through my interactions with him, my apprehensions faded. He is a good human being, who took care of my project more than I had expected him to. His support has been immense and he has been there whenever I needed him. We continue to remain in touch and I reach out to him as and when I feel the need to. I have also found friends like Dipanjana and Angie, the Alumni Affairs Coordinators, Amit, my mentor, Sandeep and Purva, the facilitators from Pravah. And especially Purva who has been my best friend-cum-sister. All of them continue to inspire me and, with their support, I believe I can do it all. There is nothing that hasn’t worked so far.

This is just the beginning for me; I am focused on taking this forward. I know I am not perfect, but have enough understanding and knowledge. I am becoming more professional and focused on my goal. I am confident about what I am doing and where I am going. Through this program, not only have I been able to build my company and a career but also found people who are happy to see me succeed. I am now able to face people with full confidence, no longer afraid of taking risks or of being alone. It has been like getting a totally new life.

Zenith is a social entrepreneur and serves as a Director at Next Generation Technotine. She participated in the USG-sponsored Community College Initiative Program during 2013-14. She was mentored by Amit Patro through the USG-sponsored I Have a Dream leadership and mentoring program for International Exchange Alumni.

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