“They Left a Mark on Me”, Says Our Intern
Siddharth Pai, a 12 standard student of the National Public School, Indiranagar, Bangalore, interned with us and here’s what he has to say about his Buzz experience.
I interned with Buzz for four weeks – from the 8th of April to the 3rd of May, 2019. On my first day, Buzz’s Chief Changemaker Uthara Narayanan explained the workings of the organisation. She told me that they had identified four main challenges faced by rural women on their journey to self-reliance: financial mismanagement, lack of business acumen, little to no self-confidence and limited access to resources. She introduced me to a program known as Buzz Self Shakti, where trainers go to villages and introduce these women to concepts of savings, financial planning, networking, business skills and personal development through activities like role-playing, stories and games.
After this discussion, I decided that I wanted to develop a financial literacy syllabus for children, to provide them with financial basics. I believe that any changes to improve the quality of rural life must begin at the absolute base of the system – the children, as this is the next generation of businessmen, farmers and merchants in these villages. Creating a financial literacy framework for children posed its own challenges – identifying what concepts are required for children, choosing appropriate mechanisms to put this across to children, simplifying the content for easy understanding, while not moving away from the importance of the topic.
On the 25th of April, I visited a few villages near the town of Madhugiri, about 3 hours away from Bangalore. The main intended purpose of the visit was to observe the training mechanisms adopted by Buzz. I came back from the visit with a host of other observations as well, some of which was highly surprising. Conversing with these women, most of whom have never seen a large city before, introduced a completely new perspective in my mind. Their problems seemed much more than a few words listed on a document by some researcher. They were real humans, trying to ensure a better standard of life via Buzz’s training. This visit corrected some gross misconceptions I previously had about rural India.
I learned that the main reason for poverty is not insufficient income, but a lack of knowledge of the importance of savings and the different routes for saving and investment of excess income. They lived paycheck to paycheck, spending their excesses on new clothes or “investing” it in a chit fund – a type of rotating savings and credit association system practiced in India which entails high risks and low returns. I saw women of all ages – from teens who were worrying about their end-semester exams to grey-haired women who were chastising their grand-children – all united by the excitement of taking their first steps towards being self-reliant members of society. I saw vivid role-plays, with characters ranging from uninterested shopkeepers to savvy consumers, all were portrayed with enthusiasm and a smile. In spite of my limited knowledge of Kannada, I could keep track of what was happening easily, due to the energetic trainer, Manjunath, who took the pains to explain everything to me.
Working with Buzz taught me a lot. Being a very grassroots-heavy organisation, the majority of their employees work in the field, supervised by a minimal support structure, which does all the heavy lifting. I learned about the dynamics of working in a small organisation, where people often reach across the boundaries of their roles to offer their help wherever needed. The resilience and determination of these individuals left a mark on me, their motivation to better the world helping them overcome whatever was in their way. Overall, this was one of the best ways that I could spend a month of my free time.