Says Meenakshi Gairola, founder of United Efforts

“WHAT will I be when I grow up?”​ is a common question in the mind of most schoolchildren. In the minds of aspiring adolescents in government schools across India it is an even more burning question – and one that United Efforts is trying to answer by providing exposure and guidance to high school students.

The NGO is working to ensure adolescents from economically weaker sections of the society can leverage their education and fulfill their dreams with the belief that irrespective of the socio economic situation, every child has potential and nurturing it can lead us to a developed India.

Currently their modules include insights into a number of career possibilities for high school children – including those in the Armed Forces, the automobile, sports and hospitality industries, the education sector, social work, and healthcare to name a few.

Meenakshi Gairola, founded the organisation when she could not ignore the statement of a 13-year-old who said: “I don’t have a future!” She believes in the potential of every child – irrespective of their socio-economic background – and that it is our responsibility to harness it.

In our quick catch-up series Lead Read, we asked her a few questions to understand not just the social work she does but the social worker herself:

Q. What is the most heart-touching thing that has happened to you through your NGO?

When a parent appreciated the work we do and shared his inability to guide his own children. 

Everyday students heave a sigh of relief when they see our counsellors entering their schools. We also have our headmasters and teachers commending the information we are sharing with the students.

It was a first when a parent recognised that and gave words to the work we do.

Q. When would you say that you have accomplished what you set out to do? As in what goal would you have to get to?

Only when career exposure and guidance is adopted across the country and is available as a service to students from the economically weaker section of the society.

Also when career exposure and guidance are seen not in a prescriptive format but credible empowerment of students. Building the capacity of students to make informed decisions for their future is the need of the hour.

Q. What 3 things help you stay active and motivated?

  1. The dreams and potential of our students
  1. Their amazing resilience of students to come to school despite the many hardships they face everyday at home.
  1. The amazing people who believe in us and support us wholeheartedly

Q. If your friends would nominate you for an award, what would it be for?

“Never give up” Award. “Mother of 2 crore High School students” Award.

Q. If life had not led you into starting United Efforts, what would you rather have done?   

I would have been working in a nonprofit organization happily drawing a salary for the work I do and going on earned vacation.

Q. What have you learned about yourself ever since you started your NGO?

For some strange reason I feel responsible for the 2 crore high school students out there from the economically weaker section of society.

For some reason, I will not be happy if just 100 or 200 students take charge of their future. Yes that is a start. But I want for ALL the high school students to take charge and make a future for themselves. I don’t think I would define this as SCALE but more as a BASIC NEED every student deserves despite the birth lottery they did not win.

Q. You have been forced to eat only four things for the rest of your life. Which four items would you choose?

  1. Rice noodles or sevai in Tamil
  2. Fruit juices
  3. Murukku or chakli 🙂
  4. Curd

Interviewed by Abhishek Pde

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