This is the story of 23-year-old Manjula Balakrishnan from Chennai.
When she was just 10 years old, her father, then working as a building contractor at a daily wage of 100 rupees a day, suffered from an attack of paralysis that rendered him unfit to continue with his work. The family had already been feeling the pressures of low income that barely sustained their daily expenses, but this sudden loss of income hit them even harder as affording bare necessities was impossible without a steady income.
These circumstances forced Manjula's mother to start working as a housemaid, with she joining her mother on weekends and holidays to earn some extra income. Even then, there were times when their combined efforts fell short of providing them with sufficient money, and they often had to rely on financial support from their relatives. At times, the mother would bring leftover food from her employers to feed her family. Paying the house rent was another expense the family had to bear, which added to the financial pressure.
Despite all odds, Manjula did well in her state board exams by securing 86% in Class 12, making her family proud and surprising many.
Her good score ensured that she got admission in a government college in Chennai, but the additional cost of the college tuition fees stared Manjula in her face. This forced her and her mother to work for longer periods, taking up more jobs so that the fee could be paid.
After three more years of hardship and juggling between studies and helping her mother in her work, Manjula finally had a college degree. But soon, Manjula found that having a degree was not enough to get a job. Of the many interviews that she attended, her lack of good communication skills and presentation skills led to a series of rejections from various companies.
That's when a friend asked her to join the ICICI Academy for Skills (where she herself was studying), an academy that offered free-skill training to the underprivileged youth and made them employable. Manjula applied and got selected, and joined the Chennai centre of the academy to pursue a three-month course in Office Administration.
At the academy, Manjula learned different aspects of Office Administration such as office communication and etiquette, accounts, computer operation, etc. and also received training in presentation skills. All the training was imparted not just theoretically but also from a practical perspective. Discussions and role-plays were an integral part of the pedagogy and gave her a first-hand experience of practical problems and their solutions.
The faculty continuously encouraged her to ask questions and gave her the confidence to handle real-life situations on her own. Further, regular home assignments given by the faculty encouraged Manjula to gather more information on her own using reference books and the internet. The time spent at the academy also helped Manjula inculcate good habits such as setting personal goals, planning her activities and scheduling her tasks based on priorities.
These additional skills proved helpful when Manjula appeared for her first interview after completing the course. She could answer all the questions asked in the interview confidently and finally succeeded in getting her first corporate job.
Today, Manjula works at Dell BPO as a Senior Operations Associate (Healthcare) and earns a good salary. Her family's standard of living has improved and their continuous financial crunch has abated. Manjula is now helping her family build a new home for themselves!
From being a part-time housemaid to becoming the primary breadwinner for her family, Manjula is a shining example of how strong will coupled with right support and guidance can help the youth realize their true potential. Her story is also a heartening reminder of the adage that no dream is impossible if we really put our heart and soul into achieving it.
If you know any underprivileged youth like Manjula who have potential and desire but do not have the right skills or support to get a better livelihood, simply log in to giftalivelihood.com and refer them to the ICICI Academy for Skills for free-skill-based training. The Academy offers exclusive centers or women which are managed and run by dedicated faculty comprising only women. With 22 centers and 13 courses, the candidates have a lot to choose from. This free training, an initiative by ICICI Foundation, is imparted to youth below the age of 30 with household income of around 1.5 lakh per annum.
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Published Date: Mar 08, 2016 10:43 am | Updated Date: Mar 08, 2016 10:43 am