What are the right answers?
At the end of week 8 our team had the first formal meeting with Sampark, the non profit that turned Rachel and Sukyong away. Rebecca and I attended a meeting with Prameela, a project manager at Sampark within the worker's resource centre program. It was in a very personal office space in a nice neighborhood. Prameela told us about her work with migrant construction workers and how else the non profit worked to aid these migrant workers. Once explaining to Prameela that our project included being a social enterprise a rant ensued about how she believes that social enterprises should not exist. She was firm in the mindset that there should be enterprises and there should be non-profits, and that meddling with social good in a business should never be done and that she had proven it to herself. This became quite the conversation as we explained that creating a social enterprise is an inevitable part of our project, and then she was willing to give advice. Prameela gave me hope that our idea would be used if it came into fruition, and that she said if we did it in the non profit world that she would have no problem getting funding for us, but that we would need to give at least 2 years into it.
By week 9 I was feeling bummed that it took us so late into the program to create a relationship with Sampark, we sat in on another meeting last week, and I couldn’t help but think how our project may have been different if we had this resource starting from week 4.
This last Sunday our team had an opportunity to go along with Sampark on a field visit to a labor colony where they were giving a lesson on financial literacy to the migrant construction workers. I was very nervous going out to this visit by myself as I was the only one of my group to do so. This was probably the most impactful experience that I have had so far in this program. I helped hold up posters for Harish, who was giving the lesson about why the workers should set up bank accounts and the financial security that comes along with it. He cleared up misconceptions about banks and ATMs, and why saving cash is not a better option. The workers brought their families to the talk and their children were all playing in the background. After the lesson was over all of the workers were intrigued by me being there and all began introducing me to their wives and children through a language barrier of Hindi to English. I was invited to eat lunch with more than half of the families, but Harish said we had to return to the office to help some of the workers apply for labor cards, and this is when I would be able to conduct interviews with the help of his translation. I had never felt more kindness and willingness to help than from these people living in the labor colony. All these people with so little were still willing to give up their only day off and invite me to eat with them and help me with interviews.
Seeing these highly vulnerable, disadvantaged people acting so gracious and being so happy with their families made me feel very guilty. How is there any room for me to act ungracious and not be happy when I have so much privilege and opportunity? I have practically unlimited opportunities and access to an extremely comfortable life, yet there are many times that I can be unhelpful to others and feel unsatisfied about my situation. The only way I know how to combat this is to acknowledge my privilege and opportunity.
I have been pondering what is the best and most impactful way to use my platform to help others who don't have privilege and opportunities. Is it working on a social enterprise? Is it working for a non-profit? Is it working the highest paying job I can get and donating money? This question may be the biggest question I leave the program with, as I don’t know if there is a right answer.