Jab we Met: Project Rang De Lives’ first Field Visit
Payoshni Saraf, Rang De Social InvestorProject Rang De Lives became Rang De’s youngest social investors in September 2013 and went on their first Field visit this month with their teacher Payoshni Saraf. The class spent the day interacting with Rang De borrowers and our field partner Parvati Swayamrojgar; asking questions about entrepreneurship and business and also had a little surprise for everybody! Here’s an account of their First Field Visit.
Tiffins after tiffins were stuffed in school bags. Notepads, pens. Lots of Questions. Today was the day! We were going to see if all that sacrifice was worth it? Was it worth forgoing that new glow pen or Lay’s new flavor? Did our Rs.1/- per day really helped anyone? Did those people even exist?
4th October 2013. 9.30 AM. We left from our tiny school in Warje and headed to Ghorpadi, where Rang De’s field partner Parvati Swayamrojgar Sanstha had their office .We were to meet ‘The’ borrowers today. All those faces that we had seen on Didi’s computer screen till now.We were to come face to face with them and swap stories. Today was the day!
We reached singing songs and p\laying ‘I spy’ to our destination at sharp 11.00 a.m. After keeping our bags at the office we set out to start the exciting meetings that lay ahead. Our first destination was the little Grocery shop of Lata Anthoni. With the biggest smile she welcomed us home and told us how she started her business. The Father in the Chruch guided her, she shared. Not to open a shop which sold tobacco, but a shop where kids could come and buy. So, with the money that we lent her, Lata Aunty stocked her shop with Candies and Stationery items and now the shop is busy with customers our size who come from nearby schools.We gifted her a hand made and hand painted wooden ‘Money Box’ for her shop. After posing for a picture with her, we were on our way.
Our next stop was tailor Shobha Travar. We asked her business expansion plans and were delighted to know that she intended to now become a saree seller. What a cool idea to get cheaper sarees from Madras and sell them here in Pune ! We told her so and also gifted her with a handmade paper roll box to store her threads and needles in.
Shobha aunty then guided us to Gajanan Uncle’s home, who was the Barber saloon owner in whom we had invested Rs.200/-. Gajanan Band has been running his Barber shop since the last 18 odd years and had learnt the art from his father. Now only the art of taming the mane, Gajanan uncle was very good in thermocol decorations and he was kind enough to show us some samples of his work. Each piece was bright and beautiful. We were very impressed.Thankfully , we had an equally bright and beautiful panting to gift him.
The sun was mercilessly that day, but how could stop ? A short bus ride away was our next destination, Sitabai Gaikwad’s house. Stern looking Sitabai actually had the widest smile we have seen in a while and shared with us how she runs her business and the stock she keeps and maintains. She also asked us about Rang De and our project and why we were doing what we were doing and was impressed when we gifted her 50 paper bags we had made for her to hand out her wares in to her customers. She posed with our entire group for the picture right infront of her home.
Maya Dhobhale’s house was a short walk away from the main road but you could identify it from a distance because of the delicious smells wafting out. And why not, afterall she runs a tiffin service. We reached in time to catch Maya aunty taking a break from her Chapati making and we squealed in delight when she told us she could do atleast 200 per day on our own. Wow ! Maya aunty was an inspiring person. She gave us so many tips about being an entrepreneur. She told us how only a will and passion is required to build a person, how no work is big or small and every business is equally valuable. She also advised us on how to run a business ethically, how never to cheat and pay taxes. Her talk really set us thinking. Inspired and by now a little tired, we were on our way back to Parvati Swayamrojgar Sanstha’s office. But not before we gifted May aunty a really cool money box, shaped in the shape of a Tiffin.
After lunch we were to attend their Orientation Program where they would get new aspiring borrowers who would be updated on the microfinance model that Rang De & their Field Partner’s operated on. Once in office, we attacked our tiffin boxes. A little post lunch masti later, Didi sat us down to think about how our day was spent and what were we thinking, we learnt from these people. Each one of us had to share it out with the class.By then, it was almost 2.30 and the Orientation Meeting started. Around 8-9 women had gathered who were seeking loans for either their businesses or education of their kids and it was interesting to see Parvati’s representatives patiently explain the entire model to them and answer questions.
Filled to the brim with information and inspiration, it was time for us to leave. We thanked Parvati’s staff members for giving us their time and gifted them keychains that we had made for them as a token of our appreciation and love.
The bus made its way back slowly through the traffic and there was a quiet and peaceful expression on everyone’s face. I guess everyone was thinking exactly what I was thinking: IT INDEED WAS WORTH IT!