I applied for the AIF Clinton Fellowship after doubting myself to an extent that I was sure I will never get through. It was 1:20 am on 30th June, 2016, when I read the mail which said I have been selected as an AIF fellow. I still remember, I could not sleep that night thinking what if it was a dream and sleeping off might actually mean waking up. Silly! I know but that was exactly how I felt. Professionally, this fellowship is the best as well as most challenging thing that has happened to me till date and on that night I was overwhelmed with the thought of working with these amazing people from my country and abroad.
One of the best parts of this program is that it amalgamates culture, talent and work beautifully. This can be seen and felt in all aspects of this fellowship program. Above all, this fellowship has made me believe that when like-minded individuals come together, change is possible and feasible, despite cultural, geographical or political challenges. I hoped that this fellowship will show me/clarify the path which I would take in future. And from what I learnt from the experiences of ex-Fellows, the Fellowship has the potential to be so much more rather than only focus on the professional or personal development.
I was placed with Salaam Bombay Foundation, an NGO based out of Mumbai. As an organization, Salaam Bombay Foundation engages ‘at risk’ children through in-school leadership programs and after-school sports, arts, media and vocational training academies. These programs build their self-esteem and give them the confidence to stay in school. Throughout my Fellowship experience in Salaam Bombay Foundation, I have worked with the Communications team here. Owing to my video making skills, I started my work here at Salaam Bombay Foundation (SBF) with making videos about the success stories of beneficiaries. Over a period of 10 months, my work at SBF has remained more or less dedicated to the visual medium. I have made videos, assisted on editing, trained and facilitated kids on photography and shot photos for various purposes. My work here was never a project based thing.
Working here has made me more confident about my professional skills. My team members here were extremely supportive. Be it struggling with the local language on the field or navigating through difficult times at office, my team members were always there for me to fall back on. They have taught me the importance of team work and I am glad I made these connects because two of my team members were few of the most professional yet compassionate individuals I have met till now.
They have taught me to be objectively helpful. The experience of working with my team members has definitely put a new perspective in my professional life. Working with them, I realized that your mentor need not be one person. For different situations, different people can be your mentor and that is what I believe is the beauty of professional life.’The art of solving a problem head-on’- The Fellowship taught me a lot of things but professionally, that one quality which I take away from working in SBF will be the way I have learnt to solve problems by approaching it directly.
Although it was only 10 months, I never thought one could learn so much about themselves in such a short period of time. I would want to remember this Fellowship for two of most important lessons of my life- We never stop building relationships no matter the age and we often undermine ourselves when it comes to the capacity to recover from difficult situation.
In the course of this Fellowship, I have seen sunshine and dark days. To be honest, I was never alone no matter how I felt. I have started appreciating human relationships much more now. I never thought I would value new found friendships at this age and point of life. Staying away from family wasn’t a new thing for me but I least expected to find friends who are like family in such a short span of time. A big shoutout to all those from the cohort who were constantly there to support me through thick and thin.
The second as well as the most important realization which came because of this fellowship was that I am stronger than I actually thought myself to be. Whether it was difficult professional times, adjusting in a new city (read big city), ill-health or challenging social relationships, I never knew I could get through them without going through them actually. I found that I need to recognize the resilience I have in me to pull through and finish what I have started-the resilience which makes me a better person and a professional. I cannot thank the fellowship enough for pushing me to those limits to realize my actual self.
It was indeed a peregrination!