Hello, 2018! Though we’re thrilled to starting the new year on a positive note, we have to admit that turning the page on 2017 leaves us with mixed emotions.
Though it often felt like the world was going crazy around us – Team KYS spent our first year as a full-time team working hard, trying new things, failing often, but constantly learning and reinventing. It’s been a wild ride!
To begin with, we discovered that instead of competing, we should be collaborating. This lesson really stuck with us throughout the year, and has helped us achieve so much! We realised and accepted that we can’t accomplish everything – but we can definitely lend a hand to those who could. Collaborating has helped us form a strong network of connections, which stretch across the world. We have really come to appreciate how these strong bonds created purely through kindness and service have brightened our lives.
It is collective wisdom that is going to change the world, one small step at a time.
This year has seen us transform from entrepreneurs to ‘heartpreneurs’ in a very real way. When we began this journey, we had a lot of questions. We constantly asked ourselves if we were doing enough; if we had taken on more than we could handle; and if our ideas and dreams were sustainable. Big questions!
Beyond All Doubt
However, we’ve begun to realise that uncertainty has its place in the world, and we will probably never have all the answers! But when it comes to our core values – Team KYS has no doubts. We are focused on making a difference in whatever way we can.
As Mother Teresa famously said, “We can do no great things – only small things with great love.”
This phrase has reverberated with us throughout our journey and has only become more relevant with time. Whatever decisions we have made, we have tried to make them in a mindful and truthful way. We may have stumbled and lost out on some so-called game changing opportunities, but we also have the satisfaction of knowing that we stayed true to our ethics and beliefs. That in its own way is priceless.
The Volunesia Family
Over the course of the year, we have built a beautiful, thriving community around our favourite ‘hands’ activity – Volunesia. We began hosting the event at Cubbon Park – and had no idea how these tiny seeds we had sown would blossom. Our first event began with a few good friends and some special strangers. Volunesia is virtually unrecognisable now! We have since moved the event to the Brindavan Tent School, where the kids have benefited greatly from interacting with adults who care about their well being in an all-new way.
Today, our Volunesia community is a strong one, and the kids are all the better for it. We can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store for our expanding family – after all, to coin Jaideep’s favourite phrase,
It’s all about Ubuntu – We are what we are because of what you are.
The Right Kind Of Experiments
This year, we started working with the Brindavan Tent School, an underfunded branch of a government school in Vignan Nagar, Bangalore. When we first visited the school, we were taken aback at how little there was to work with. The children couldn’t read, the school didn’t have proper flooring – they didn’t even have a qualified teacher at helm. Sarala ma’am, the dedicated lady who had been running the school for a decade, was at her wits end.
Admittedly, we were initially worried that we had bitten off more than we could chew. We had only worked with older kids at that point – and we were scared of failing. But we also knew that not trying at all would be a different and more decisive form of failure. So our work with the BTS began. It has been a truly wonderful chapter in our story. The kids are like sponges! They not only absorb everything we teach them, but now it often feels like they’re leading us! Big thanks to Akanksha and her team at Tarkeybein for sharing their fantastic syllabus with us. It has revolutionised our classrooms. Additionally, the generous support of Meghshala has made learning incredibly interactive and fun.
Volunteerism saved the day when our KYS family and the Bangalore Seva Cafe family teamed up to revamp the school. Finally the external matched the internal! Much like the kids – the school finally had the TLC (Tender Loving Care) it deserved. Soon after, the kids had their first airport visit and their first hotel visit, thanks to some amazing folks who helped us grow wings on our children and teach them to dream high and fly!
Being The Change
Our experiences at Paranga Vidya Kendra were affirmative ones. Interacting with the older kids has been a boon in so many ways.
Not only do we get to engage with keen young minds, but it has been a beautiful thing to watch them expand their horizons and contemplate their futures.
One of our amazing volunteers loved her experience with the Paranga kids so much that she crowdfunded all-new sports equipment for them to play with last year. Their excitement and gratitude has carried us through this year as well! We also worked with the kids on a Design For Change project, which culminated in a lovely video, which bagged our kids a spot on the top 100 DFC list worldwide. We were (and still are) unbelievably proud!
Passion To Profession
After refining our Mentor India syllabus, and getting some experience working with children from rural and underprivileged backgrounds, we realised that there was a real disconnect between who the kids saw as their ‘role models’ and what they actually ended up pursuing. Many of the children we interacted with had no concept of the possibilities open to them. They would want to be accountants but would call Sachin Tendulkar their role model. We knew we had to create something to bridge that gap. That’s how P2P or Passion to Profession was born. A simple, easy-to-use tool, P2P helps students assess what their areas of interest are, and provides them with career options that align with them. Each career is illustrated with an educational roadmap, and real life role model stories to motivate them.
We launched the alpha version of the program at the Manipal Seva Mela and had a lovely time interacting with the socially conscious students at the event. We were completely unprepared for the warm reception we received and it was so inspiring for us! It really made us feel like our work had potential and meaning. Plus, we got to actually meet and spend time with our stellar interns!
An Inclusive Step Forward
Jaideep has been heavily involved in organising the India Inclusion Summit for the last five years, and though Pranita and I have supported him as much as possible – we hadn’t really gone behind the scenes until this year.
We had the privilege of helping out at the IIS Friend Raising dinner and made some truly heartfelt connections along the way.
We also had the chance to chat with many changemakers in the inclusion space, and thoroughly enjoyed sharing their stories with our readers. Every year we look forward to IIS simply because we get to meet such wonderful people. So, it was such a joy to actually contribute this year. A big thank you to the IIS team for indulging us!
Closing The Year With Some Cheer!
November and December were eventful months for us! Not only was Jaideep recognized as an ‘unsung hero’ for his work, but we were selected as TFIx candidates! The new year is already brimming with potential! We can’t wait to see what emerges from the experience.
We also had the chance to play host to Nipun Bhai when he made his annual India visit. We had such an amazing day listening to him speak, and absorbing his gentle wisdom. It was such a special experience to round off an already incredible year!
The Power Of Storytelling
If we’ve learned one thing this year, it’s that storytelling continues to be an essential part of our process. Not only do we benefit from interacting with these ‘stars’ but we love knowing that we are spreading awareness about real role models – people who have dedicated their lives to excelling in their chosen fields. They may not be literal rockstars but they are definitely celebrities in our eyes!
We want to thank each and every one of our interviewees for trusting us, and allowing us to share their thought provoking stories. We love having the opportunity to instigate change through the most powerful of mediums – words and actions.
But more than anything, we would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has ‘laddered’ us this year. We have taken big strides this year purely because of the love and support we have received. From donations to small kindnesses – we are so aware that KnowYourStar would not have survived (let alone thrived) without the awe-inspiring connections that surround us. We’ve always said that love is our true currency, and we continue to be amazed by how rich we are! It’s the kind of wealth that we can’t wait to pass on, and we hope that 2018 is filled with more such riches.
THANK YOU, and Happy New Year!
Enjoyed reading about this? Then you might like to read Jaideep 2.0 : Acknowledging The Strong Hive We Have Co-Created This Year