Here’s everything you need to know about ‘You N Society’:
At the end of my last blog post, I promised to return with something special, something that I haven’t done before. Since the foundation of THE SAYAN ROY BLOG, I have always tried to justify the tagline of the website “Anything about Everything”. However, there always had been a wish to do more with this platform. Last month, I got the chance to interview Ms. Priyanka Mandal, the founder of You N Society – a Non-Profit Organization that focuses on building skills of the underprivileged, or the low-income group of the society, to increase their employability. The best thing about this initiative is that they target an entire community instead of involving only the kids or women.
While there are a number of other NGOs and NPOs working together for a similar cause, You N Society (or UNS, in short) easily stands out from the rest. This is because of two reasons – One, other organizations mainly focus on the education of the underprivileged and two, the education provided follows a strict curriculum. This means that these organizations provide selective support in most aspects. UNS, on the other hand, believes that education is not sufficient because without certain skills, finding employment is still a big hurdle for these people. The primary reason UNS came into existence was to provide continuous support to people until they are employed and start living a better life. I first thought of writing this post like the way I usually do. But then, I gave it a second thought and decided to keep it as an interview, to make it more interactive. Truth be told, I never expected someone so young to dedicate the rest of her life to a noble cause like UNS. Her dedication was visible in her words and I would just keep them the way they were.
Q. I have seen people getting involved in NGOs mostly in the second half of their lives. What made you start in the very first?
Priyanka: I am quite a simple person who believes that anybody can bring change. I have seen real live examples of grit, determination and right mentoring, end poverty in just one generation. And I believe that you have to work towards impacting/enhancing others’ lives to make yours valuable. Maybe this is the reason I utilized my opportunity to bring smiles to more than one or two faces.
Q. Were you associated with any organizations like UNS before? If yes, can you name some?
Priyanka: I had worked with MAD in third year as an English volunteer. After I joined work, I was in search of an organization with which I could have flexible timing. Started working with Team Everest in Aug 2015. I, along with 6 of my closest friends, conducted Everest Talent Search Competitions in 7 local govt schools. But all of us felt that we needed to solve the long-term problem of poor living conditions and lack of skill, which gave birth to UNS (You N Society).
Q. When did UNS start and the motto behind this whole initiative?
Priyanka: UNS started in December 2015 and the motto was to ameliorate the living conditions of the very low-income group of people by building essential skills.
Q. Your present strength (in terms of both students and volunteers)?
Priyanka: Presently we have about 40 students in total and have an average attendance of 25+ in the classes we conduct. Speaking of volunteers, we have 21 onsite-volunteers who interact directly with the children and 7 offsite-volunteers who work online from different locations. The offsite-volunteers help us by making the worksheets for the children and by responsibly handling our Facebook page. However, these numbers aren’t fixed and we keep on growing, every single day.
Q. Speaking of classes, what are the ones you have at UNS?
Priyanka: So, our experiences in the last two years have helped us refine our approach which suits sustainable growth and hence, UNS now has a three-pronged solution for the long-term holistic progress of the community. The programs are divided into three wings:
- Create (Entrepreneurship)
- Teach (Education)
- Bridge (Vocational Training)
Our flagship program, Craft A Future under the Create wing, started a year ago and is now making budding artists and entrepreneurs out of the community youth. Under this program, kids of all ages make hand-made crafts which are late sold and the revenue is distributed amongst the kids. It teaches them the sense of creativity and also puts the seeds of entrepreneurship.
UNS has freshly started a new flavour of crafts making, Craft A Community, in which UNS employs experts and trains the young adults to create hand-made jewellery. The idea is that these young adults would teach the women in their communities and these women will teach other people and so on and so forth making them self-sustainable.
Teach is the initial vertical which revolves around coaching the children in conversational English and computer adequacy while complementing their academic disciplines.
Bridge is aimed to connect the children with other entities like public and private institutions, government and non-government organisations to provide them with the opportunity to get vocational training. Bridge is not in operation yet, and we need people, volunteers to help us work in that wing.
Q. Other than conducting these programs, are there any events organized by team UNS?
Priyanka: Oh, yes! We conduct health camps for the children and their family because most of them are unaware of its importance and usually don’t visit a doctor. To add to that, we often take the children to the local fair because ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’. Last year, we even distributed umbrellas among the children as attending classes during the monsoon was becoming a hardship for them. A colleague from NRI Fintech distributed essential stationery among the children in 2017. NRI Fintech also organized a Secret Santa Cloth distribution which the kids loved very much. We take the kids to the Craft A Future sale events so as to make them interact with others.
Q. Last but not the least, what are your future plans for UNS?
Priyanka: UNS would ideally want to collaborate with institutions which provide vocational training and with companies which need skilled professionals. We want to expand both in West Bengal and other states. We shall soon be working with the communities near Ultadanga Station and would like to take our solution to as many people, who can benefit from it, as possible. UNS aspires of building a sustainable setup where the community is skilled and able enough to continue teaching the younger ones even without the aid of an external stimuli.
And that’s how evening came down to our conversation and the informal interview met its end. Later, I corresponded with her over e-mails on how someone would be able to contribute to UNS. If you share a similar view as of You N Society and are ready to be a part of this noble initiative, don’t hesitate even twice to join it. After all, a small step you take could bring happiness to the lives of many. You can contribute to the initiative of You N Society in the following ways:
- Volunteer Onsite – Be a volunteer or contribute as a manager
- Teach – Teach Conversational English & Computer course to children from Class – II to College Graduates
- Create – Make crafts with the children every weekend. Craft Skill is a plus but not essential at all (If the children can make, you will be able to make those easily).
- Bridge – Help UNS collaborate with Institutes & companies which offer vocational training courses
- Volunteer Offsite – Online Work from home
- Help UNS build their website
- Write for UNS – Create a blog for UNS and write for them (your words of their events, growth, ideas, experiences, etc.)
- Social Media -Manage different social media handles for UNS– create content, post and engage people
- Create content – Make worksheets/choose videos for the English & Computer Classes
- Create short movies for UNS – Write your script/Use their scripts to make socially-aware movies
- Help them build a book of different employment options including mainstream and offbeat options
- Fund Raisers – Raise funds for UNS
- Work on creating different ideas of fund-raising and go ahead with them
- Approach your company or CSR events
- Identify/Create other podiums/platforms to sell our crafts
- Start a new Center or let UNS know of areas, places, villages, and towns where there are communities which can benefit from their work
- Organize events – Help UNS organize one-day events such as health camps/fun events in your own community halls etc.
- Use your social media space (WhatsApp status, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) to share about UNS and its events
- Buy crafts from UNS
- Collaborate with UNS on the Craft a Future program – Make crafts in your free time and on sale (on their platforms or elsewhere), give a percentage to UNS
- Fund the children taught by UNS
- Fund a program of UNS
- Fund an event organized by UNS
- Donate once/monthly/quarterly/yearly
- Help UNS as a lawyer/CA in our legal/auditory work
Your contribution won’t be limited to these 10 ways. Rather, you can help UNS in every possible form you can think of. It’s just about how personally you take up the issue that many children don’t even get a bit of the blessed upbringing you cherished in your childhood. But does it make them any less special? Not at all! These blessed souls only need someone beside them, holding their hands and making them believe that there’s still magic all around.
That’s all for today. If you want to be a part of UNS or want to contribute to their cause in some form, comment on this post or ping them on their Official Facebook page. Like and share this post because every small effort counts. Lastly, I would like to thank my viewers as THE SAYAN ROY BLOG recently crossed 5000 unique blog views.
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Free-spirited. Loves to trek, travel, cycle, walk, scribe and sketch.
A good listener working towards building lasting habits in life.
Generally says yes to new things. Very fond of kids as they give her a lot of energy.