A step forward in our action is ten steps ahead in our dreams and just a start for reality. The prestigious American India Foundation Fellowship turned into reality from dreams with beginning of this winter. To kick-start this fellowship journey, there followed a virtual orientation process. This was unexpected, unique and breaking the shackles of the pandemic situation with warmth in the cold winter by the care of Clinton Fellowship Program Team (CFP team), bonds of association with 11 members in our cohort family and the moment of togetherness. This is a story of starting my American India Foundation William J Clinton Fellowship for Service in India with a virtual orientation in November.
Searching for Possibilities
The journey begins with the background of planning to shift to my host organization location (Hazaribag) to start my virtual fellowship orientation. This was for the reason that my home location doesn’t allowed me with the consistent network condition to effectively attend virtual meets and sometimes internet server stops working. To address this, and for active participation, I put forward my concern to change my location with CFP team. The CFP team was kind and sympathetic towards me and few rounds of discussion, planning and search for possibilities happened with host organisation mentor and AIF’s safety and security partners. Followed by a COVID test, I cleared the procedures with taking all safety, health measures and following proper travel norms.
The Safe Travel
Just before a day to start with my AIF Fellowship virtual orientation, I travelled down to Hazaribag in six hours. A green, beautiful city with plenty of forests, hills, lakes and peace welcomed me with its gift from nature and the coldness of winter. Reaching there, I shifted to a new flat, which was seen and adjusted by my host organisation. Then cleaning of my room, unpacking my stuffs and putting my bed followed to start my mandatory two-week home quarantine as a precautionary measure. After a while of staying in my balcony with a beautiful view of trees all around, I could feel the freshness of the place. With this positive vibe of new place, I enjoyed the evening and rested after my dinner.
The Orientation Begins
The day one of home quarantine and AIF Fellowship virtual orientation has come with a kind and fresh morning. Though it was virtual but, in a while, it will show effects that it was not so virtual for me with its developments. For now, it was a new place after a travel, new journey with new faces was beginning. We were welcomed by the senior AIF leadership team, board members and our CFP team.
The CFP team introduce us (11 fellows) with the values and beliefs of American India Foundation, its journey in India and the purpose of building a lasting bridge between the United States and India. Leaders from various teams at AIF came and made me go through their journey and explaining the works of AIF in various verticals of Education, Public Health, Livelihood and Leadership. It was both exciting and deeply insightful to match our interests, queries and to know more from serval project happening on ground. The teams at operations namely Human resources, Finance, Communication, Strategic partnerships and Learning Evaluation & impact took me through their works and how I can contact and associate them for various support in the coming days.
In between this informative session by speakers within the organization, there were plenty of engaging and team bonding activities with our cohort of 11 fellows. Everyone actively participated in activities with their ideas, views and creativity. I got the chance of few round of discussions with my mentor Swapan Manna, from my host organization. This happened either with open- ended time to start conversation and or in a case I and my mentor were given few questions to discuss upon with our views. This helped me to understand him and later talk to him on various aspects.
Few guests, partners and alumni members also came in to take few supportive sessions to build us for the fellowship opportunities. Few things that helped me a lot in learning included the Monitoring & Evaluation session, videography & Film- making, conducting research study, doing more with social media, writing workshop and many other expert talks sessions. We got an assignment to bring together as a team our values and join hands to collectively follow the days to come. With deep thoughts, I had the awareness of my beliefs and values of Integrity, self- accountability and compassion. With consideration of the pandemic situation, we added our values with the composition of the new normalcy of masks registering a point to highlight. The message was clear that we stand united in this unprecedented time, being physically away, but holding together.
With this whole pool of learnings and moments, I was also going through drastic changes around me and inside me. I was alone in my new flat home quarantined and managed myself, my stuff, foods and logistics. I cooked for myself after a long interval and enjoyed self- made cuisines in the breaks. This brought into more of self- awareness, unlocking the hidden potentials, time management, and most importantly self- care. I can say that this virtual orientation at a new location had made me stronger by each day with many emotional journey.
Moment of Togetherness
Into our last day of virtual orientation on 10th of November, we came in together in traditional and enjoyed the evening with moments of celebrations to start our new chapters of fellowship. The CFP team had really designed, organized and conducted an amazing package of sessions, that makes it much more than just a virtual orientation. For this reason, I call this as not so virtual orientation.
Starting the Project
Post the orientation process, I joined Srijan Foundation (my host organisation) for project learning, planning and developing. Here I will develop strategic initiatives to inform women farmers about various models and practices of organic farming. With purpose to increase production and ensure household-level food and nutrition security through better income and livelihood opportunities. Also, will support the project in ensuring outreach, visibility and scaling.
Every step brings a whole new path for a new journey towards SELF. And the journey of a new chapter has just begun.