My Story: Aaliza Naseem, SHEPA Varanasi
Ever since I was a child, I had been interested in social causes. My mother and I would take old clothing or food to the slum areas to distribute, and I learned how important this was. However, as I grew older, my hesitation and shyness stopped me from going out in the community to do social work. I could barely speak in my own classroom or at a party!
I was intrigued by a LEAD orientation at my college because it spoke about developing your own personality and self-improvement, all while contributing to society. This is exactly what I felt I needed.The first thing I did when I joined LEAD I took part in an old clothing distribution group project, however, I learned quickly that this was not the same as donating our family’s old clothing to the slums with my mother. I had to interact with the public, asking for donations of old clothing and trying to convince them. I also learned to work in a team; we struggled with coordination and timing, but after pushing through, we worked effectively and efficiently as a team and it was a successful project. I learned something very important: you need a team to succeed.
By volunteering in the projects of others, I have been able to contribute to more causes and build my skills more. two of my favorite projects to help with were providing protective plastic to roadside vendors for increasing hygiene and installing dustbins in the community.
My main project as a part of LEAD has been adopting an orphanage in Ramnagar. I have focused almost all my efforts on that one orphanage for over 6 months already, doing many projects with them and benefiting them. Since it is my local orphanage, I saw the terrible conditions of the children there and noticed how dependent all the children were. I wanted to make their lives better and give them a brighter future. While it was difficult to convince the orphanage owners to trust me and my team, we proved ourselves by working, at first, in front of them so they could see our project and our good intentions. This is also where being part of the LEAD organization helped because it built our credibility.
So far, I have donated hygiene products, done learning and science workshops and creativity sessions, and celebrated several festivals with the orphan children. However, in this project, I have, over time, built a team of 9 LEAD students who work in my project. This is my first real leadership role, and while I was initially nervous, I have learned to become a more confident leader and increased my communication skills. I speak personally to each team member, making sure I understand what they want and how they want to help. Next, for the orphanage project, I hope to build connections between the orphanage and the local shopkeepers and have the orphans make paper bags to sell to the shops. This would allow the orphans to make a small income, and because I hope to set up bank accounts for each one, this would help them gain more independence over time.
When I was promoted to Master LEADer, the first in Uttar Pradesh, I was so excited to share. I have seen the changes in myself that LEAD has helped to cause, and my parents are also so proud. I am able to express myself!