#Profile 1- Arpan: An NGO Defining Change

When it comes to profiles and interviews, I enjoy it to the core. So, without dilly-dallying much, I present to you through this blog post, an NGO named Arpan founded by two very close friends of mine- Sneha Thakur and Zeba Rizvi (hereafter, referred to as ST and ZR). You can read more about the NGO and these two lovely ladies on Arpan's website - arpanorganization.org(the link to which I couldn't manage to post in the blog, as the blogger was just not accepting it :-( )

I came up with this blog post mainly to present to you all the next event being organised by Arpan on August 2nd, at Kunzum Cafe, Hauz Khas Village in New Delhi. For details about what the event is about, here goes the poster-

I spoke to these two ladies about their journey till now with their own venture. In this first profile/interview post of Indelible Musings, Zeba and Sneha open up about the birth of this idea, the obstacles they encountered, those very special moments that they witnessed everyday and their points to ponder about before getting into an NGO world. For more, Read on :-)

Thus was born- Arpan…

(ZR and ST): The idea of Arpan came about on 7th January 2011, when we were onboard Duronto Express from Chennai to Delhi. We had just finished our winter internship as M A Previous year students and the train was running 11 hours late; which gave us good enough time to brainstorm. During our internship, we had conducted a series of workshops with children of Government Shelter homes in Chennai, on the issues of Child Abuse. It was then that we came across children from disadvantaged backgrounds who had effectively made use of innovative communication tools. We were amazed seeing the extent of mobilization, empowerment and awareness that they had achieved.

Until now, we had been involved in traditional models of social work practices. We had started a community-based project already where we were providing free of cost tuitions to children of urban slum community. Simultaneously we were also involved, in our respective fields of AIDS protection and care and old age rehabilitation.

On that train, the morning we woke up, we decided that we needed to expand our work, experiment with different tools of rehabilitation, innovate new models, and dive into alternate method of learning. We put together all the expectations that we had from the new model of learning and came to a conclusion that present model of Arpan, where we use performing and visual arts as a medium of rehabilitation is what we were looking for and should get on with it as soon as we deboard in Delhi.

More than own Venture, Arpan was a Dream

(ZR): I like to call it my own ‘Adventure’ rather than venture and more than being ‘work’ it is my dream. I started my own project to realize the dream of providing Life skills, positive role models and innovative play activities to each child, irrespective of his/her family’s socio-economic standing. I could get this by being involved with any other organization as well but the freedom to design and execute the project as I had visualized it in my dream would have been possible only if I initiated my own project. For this reason, I decided to go ahead with my own adventure. Of course, there is risk involved but I did not mind to take it and work on my passion.

How To Start- A big Question Mark

(ZR and ST): The biggest issue that we have encountered would be bureaucracy in getting an organization started- it isn’t as easy as it seems when handling the legal and financial aspects of an organization. It doesn’t always work in your favor if you don’t know the right people at the right places or are not ready to shell out some money to get your work done faster. Sadly that is the case everywhere- If you operate by a strict code of conduct then things do work out slower, but then slow and steady wins the race. Then it is tough to get support from the government as a new organization. To establish credibility as a new team is also one of the challenges that we face every day.

Networking and building a partnership: Most Challenging Task

(ZR): In the social sector, government is undeniably the most stable source of support but it is tough to get into the network and form a sustainable partnership with different government houses. The information about different projects is available online but the criteria require a certain level of standing on part of the organizations. It surely isn’t a child’s play so I would advise other social entrepreneurs to keep all book records and documentation in place if they plan to carry on an initiative in the long run.

Another challenge for us is streamlining the financial happenings of an organization. That is not something one is taught as a social science student and on top of that your dyscalculia isn’t of much help here.

Journey Till Now…

(ZR and ST): The journey has been the most memorable one for all of us. We have grown as individuals, learnt valuable lessons on the way and have had the fulfillment of pursuing our passion. At the same time, it hasn’t been a smooth sail through-out.

We are operating in three different fields as of now and covering more than 500 children. Our beneficiaries include children with special needs, children in the slums and also the upper middle class children where we implement ‘greening’ initiatives. Work has been going fairly excellent with little bit hiccups here and there; which are a part of any work. Our peer organizations have extended tremendous support to us and we have been successful in tapping a stable source of volunteers. I would say, where we lack, is the business aspect of our work. As a new organization with not that many big names associated with us- we do have trouble gathering support from the government, CSR and individual donors.

But on any given day there is more of good than things to complain about.

Each Day a Special Moment

(ZR and ST): Not any one moment but there are many. The simple moments of our everyday sessions when children ask us to stay back longer, when they prepare a skit or puppet show on their own, when they interpret a story in their own unique way, when they speak up loud while performing. Everything is special at work.

The Work is Intoxicating

(ZR and ST): The energy at work is actually intoxicating. When we are at work there is so much happening- with children running around and performing that we need to keep our energies extra high to match up with the children. Then being around the children and gradually watch them bloom into more patient, responsible, confident individuals is the biggest motivation.

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