Going Global… ETASHA Launches US Chapter

I’m writing to share this GREAT article on ETASHA in the publication India-West, a prestigious weekly newspaper with a readership of 2 million aimed at Indians in the US .
ETASHA President Meenakshi Nayar talks about  ETASHA’s beginning, the launch of our US Chapter, a recent success story and discusses the possibility of a partnership with Home of Hope. Along with a very sweet picture of Meenakshi there is also a larger picture of our work mobilising young people in the Madan Khadar community.
The full article and photos is below – you can also read the story on line at http://www.indiawest.com/readmore.aspx?id=2732&Sid=1
Delhi Vocational Training Org. Set to Launch US Chapter
By SUNITA SOHRABJI
indiawest.com December 16, 2010 02:49:00 PM
MILPITAS, Calif. – Five years ago, human resources manager Meenakshi Nayar accidentally walked into a slum in New Delhi. 

Though Nayar lives in Delhi, she said she had never before experienced the harsh reality of slum-dwellers’ lives. “I had no experience working with people at that end of the spectrum,” Nayar told India-West on a recent visit to the U.S.

The revelatory journey inspired Nayar to found the Etasha Society in 2006, which provides vocational training, career guidance and employment to India’s disadvantaged youth, who may have talent and ambition but lack the means to move beyond the slums.

Four years later, Etasha is preparing to launch its first U.S. chapter — based here in the Silicon Valley — by February 2011.

“I started with a vague, broad idea,” said Nayar, adding that her background in human resources gave her an insider’s knowledge of what Indian companies require of their workforce. Etasha volunteers also surveyed low-income youth to find out what kinds of work they would like to train for.

Etasha offers several training modules in customer service, computerized accounting, data entry, and office support, which includes course work in Microsoft office programs. Each of the modules is taught for 13 weeks, six hours a day, for a total of 230 hours, either on site for corporate partners, or at one of two career development centers in Delhi.

Etasha has also partnered with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to bring its training programs to Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

At the end of the training, students are offered positions with local companies — such as Coffee Day, temporary employment giant Adecco, Reliance Retail, Shoppers’ Stop and Bharti Airtel — with monthly salaries ranging from $123 to more than $400 per month, roughly double the average Indian salary of $65 per month.

Coffee Day also offers part-time work to Etasha students as they are completing the training module.

“It took us a good three years of working with industry to get them to give our children jobs,” said the diminutive Nayar, in an interview over a Greek lunch. “Now we have them coming back, because they see that our kids will stick on,” she said.

One of the organization’s success stories is Heena, who now works as a store manager at Gyaani Ice Creams.

Heena’s mother raised her three children single-handedly on a $130 per month salary, but Heena has already doubled the family’s income in the first two years of her career, said Nayar, noting she was most proud when the 20-year-old recently sent over a tub of ice cream to the Etasha office.

“It meant she had the authority to make that decision,” she said.

Etasha also offers “social confidence” building as part of each module. Following lessons on good grooming and clean clothing, trainees are taken to a restaurant, something they may have never done before, said Nayar.

Once there, Etasha students are given money and must place their order in English, and sit down to eat. They are then expected to make a presentation about the experience to their classmates.

“It disabuses them of the notion that they’ll get thrown out of there,” said Nayar, adding that her students also learn to open a bank account, procure an education loan, and learn to understand the world of work, including performance targets, benefits and salaries.

“These kids have no experience of the organized sector,” she explained.

During her November visit to the U.S., Nayar began the process of filing for a 501 (c)(3) tax exemption status, the first step in establishing a non-profit organization in the U.S. She also met with several local companies to explore how Etasha’s work might fit into their corporate social responsibility plans.

Somewhat serendipitously, Nayar also met Nilima Sabharwal, founder of the Home of Hope, which runs 13 projects for disadvantaged children in India, including five in Delhi. Sabharwal told India-West she was excited about a possible Home of Hope and Etasha partnership.

“Our goal at Home of Hope is to empower disadvantaged kids, to ignite hope in their lives, so that they just blossom and bloom,” said Sabharwal. “Etasha is completely in line with our mission.”

Heading up the U.S. chapter are Salil and Geetika Jain of Cupertino, Calif.

Etasha is a driver of social change that works on a self-help model rather than traditional hand-out based charity, Geetika Jain, who teaches video arts courses at Foothill College in Cupertino, told India-West.

“Organizations such as Etasha help to reach those for whom India’s recent economic progress remains an unconfirmed rumor,” she said.

5 thoughts on “Going Global… ETASHA Launches US Chapter”

  1. I am trully happy and proud with the developments at ETASHA. My congratulations to Meenakshi and her entire team, each one of which is so dedictated to the cause. I am taking liberty to forward the mail to all my acquiantances to whom I have talking so proudly about ETASHA.

  2. Another milestone for Etasha and yet another feather in your cap Meenakshi. So proud of Etasha and so, so happy for you and the disadvantaged youth of India, which is in great hands!

  3. Another milestone for Etasha, and yet another feather in your cap Meenakshi. So proud of all of you at Etasha, and so, so happy for you and the disadvantaged youth of India, whose future is in great hands!

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