Working in the thriving non-profit culture in Bangalore, and particularly with Dream A Dream’s co-founder, director, and Ashoka fellow, Vishal Talreja, I began to think about social entrepreneurs and what makes them do what they do. What drives their minds to think innovatively about social change? Why do they continue to do the work that they do?
For some, answers may be clearer. George Abraham, who visited Dream A Dream during our internship, founded Score and helped organize cricket for the visually impaired. Score is a non-profit that works with the visually impaired to understand opportunities. The organization promotes the idea that blindness is not the problem, the mindset is. George is visually impaired and told us that he wanted to play cricket as a young boy. George’s drive comes from his own challenges in life. He advocates what he believes because of his story.
Then I think of my own experience at Dream A Dream. We visited our first Dream A Dream program three weeks into our internship. We were piloting our qualitative focus group at a soccer program. Constance and Prachi went to observe our pilot, while Chris and I stayed to help with Dream Soccer. We were not expecting to play soccer that day and thus were not dressed properly – Chris in pants, dressy shoes, and a collared shirt, myself in a kurta and sandals. Despite being unprepared, we adapted and joined in the warm up activities. I had always thought that what we were doing at Dream A Dream was significant but after spending the afternoon with the kids playing soccer, I realized the true importance of our work. The kids were breaking social and gender barriers, having fun, learning soccer, and developing life skills (Dream A Dream’s goal).
Going back to the Dream A Dream office the next day, I stopped to look at the posters of pictures in the entrance way. The pictures were full of children in the many Dream programs. One picture was of a field hockey team. Standing behind the kids was Vishal. Even though he mostly works in the office, he takes time to play with kids in the Dream program. Vishal has so much motivation and passion for his work – it’s clear when you meet him, I wonder if his interactions with kids drove him to start Dream A Dream and continue to work so hard for the organization.
After my 6 week adventure in India – 5 weeks in Bangalore, and another week in Calcutta and Delhi, I spent three and a half weeks in Ghana. I work on the Akaa Project there, a non-profit organization that works with a community to create opportunity in the Eastern Region. I’m only in Ghana for about three weeks each year, but when there I try to spend as much time as possible with the kids and people in the community. These small interactions drive me to work hard for them all year, to think differently, and to make a difference.
Every once in a while, I think it’s important to stop and experience what you are working for. It might give you more insight or it could just brighten your day. For me these interactions have driven my passion and continue to drive my desire to be a social entrepreneur.