this got REAL

Updated: Mar 12, 2019

|Author: Amber|

It’s funny, earlier this week I was trying to act as a mediator for a group conflict that came up amongst a couple of students. I was explaining to someone how I saw the GCIL program as more of a learning experience than anything else, emphasizing that the goal was not to be the most successful business person ever but rather to have many different experiences and grow from challenges faced throughout the duration of this program. I was saying that the setting in which we were working, the close quarters we live in, and the continual shuffle of the same people day and night could cause some unrest that one could otherwise escape back home—that the feeling of Groundhog’s Day was hard to escape and was the reason for a lot of social tension we were experiencing. I said that people can tend to get caught up in their own stream of consciousness and believe so strongly in their own methods, processes and perspectives that they would lose sight of this overall goal of learning and criticize someone of an opposite working style. As students from all different backgrounds and experiences, we are not meant to have all the answers nor are expected to be the most efficient, nor empathetic. We are all still learning, and a healthy learning environment must be rooted in common values and the support of our peers.

I said this earlier in the week, relieved with my own insight, thinking what a profound statement I had just made, only to be greeting with quite the opposite belief the following day. On this day, my teammates and I could collectively agree that “this just got real”. By “real” we meant that this program had become not just an exercise of design thinking anymore, but a project that had real relationships with real people talking about real business. Although we were not exactly solving a grand challenge like we were pitched back in 2018 at an info session, we were having serious conversations about continuing our project and making further promises that we would see this out.

This is the second year Hasiru Dala has had student interns from the GCIL program. Last years’ team created Hasiru Mane—a pilot project aimed at improving living conditions for waste pickers. Once my team formed last quarter and was given this knowledge, we knew the stakes were high to deliver on this years’ program—already building the pressure for our team of complete strangers. Slightly frantic and concerned with whether we could create an impact as significant as Hasiru Mane, our team began our internship with little to no idea how we could build off of Hasiru Mane’s work. After about two weeks, we realized that we did not have the technical expertise to improve the structural integrity of a house nor facilitate a community workshop to alleviate social indecision and decided to focus more on our deliverables with Hasiru Dala. We were creating a best practices manual on Dry Waste Collection Centers, going into the field every day for three weeks interviewing operators and taking inventory of the current building infrastructure. During these visits, we just found problem after problem—no facilities, no payment, no space, and with no time for any of them.

It wasn’t until our last visit to a DWCC in Ward 112 that we met Krishna: Krishna is the operator for this collection center, having grown up as a waste picker on the street, he has over 20 years of experience in this industry at the young age of 31. Krishna is unlike other operators we have met—he does more than just talk about his passions but acts on them too. He has created an app called Waste Samaritan for his ward that helps track the segregation of waste and educates residents on how to properly sort their waste. He is also in the process of starting an NGO with a few of his colleagues in the Bangalorian solid waste industry.

Krishna has made everything REAL. He is the champion for our start-up project, Hasiru Batte. He has made our success all the more necessary with every interaction we have with him. To let him down now would not only destroy any trust Krishna has left with people who want to “help” him but would also leave our team with an immense feeling of guilt, disgusted about our unfulfilled false promises we have left behind in Bangalore.

How I wish we could stay longer to see everything carried out in person…but there is no time to waste on these useless thoughts any longer—the only thing we can do is utilize the rest of our time here effectively and efficiently. Who needs sleep anyways?

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