Mid-Year (Aug 2010-March 2011) Public Progress Report

Hi Everyone,

It has been a while…Lots of work, not enough time to write and post on the blog. I’ll try to be better from now, but no promises 🙂 To get things rolling, below is my mid-year public progress report. It’s a long one. At-minimum, I recommend you read the end. Feedback is appreciated!

A little about myself:

My name is Ranjodh. I was born in a small village in Punjab, India. When I was 10 years old, my family immigrated to the US. I completed my college education in Pittsburgh, PA. Upon graduating, I decided to come back to India for a year of service.

A little about Manzil:

Manzil, an NGO located in Khan Market, New Delhi, empowers children and youth from low-income families by providing resources and a platform to learn, teach and be creative. Through empowering, Manzil seeks to create an environment that seeds the next generation of sound Indian and global citizens.

Manzil was co-founded by Ravi Gulati, and functions from the Gulati house in Khan Market. We work with about 150 students and run 45 classes a week from a house in Khan Market and two quarters in Sujan Singh Park. Apart from classes in English, Maths and Computers, we have given equal importance to the opening of young minds, broadening of their horizons and the enhancement of their self-expression, confidence and creativity through the Arts, like Theatre, Dance and Music. Although this has been difficult, through determination and perseverance we have been at it for the last 13 years.

For more information about Manzil, please see: www.manzil.in

A little about my project:

My project’s vision is to ensure that Manzil continues its work without the founder and the foundation; that is, without Ravi Bhaiya (“Bhaiya” is Hindi for “Older Brother”) and the house in Khan Market, respectively. To achieve this, I have worked both at the organizational, top-down level and at the day-to-day operations, bottom-up level. My project can be subdivided into three major components:

  1. Strengthening the core team;
  2. Consolidating the organizational processes and systems;
  3. Constructing two apartments in Sujan Singh Park, an apartment complex adjacent to Khan Market.

Strengthening the core team has been a work in progress. We realized early that the chain of influence extending from Ravi Bhaiya to the students has been fractured, where Ravi Bhaiya’s teachings are not reaching Manzil’s students. We suspected this was primarily due to a disorganized and weak Core team, which has been unable to relay Ravi Bhaiya’s teachings to the students. My goal was to reestablish the chain of influence between Ravi BhaiyaàCore teamàstudent-teachersàstudents. I started by strengthening the core team through equipping them with new skills (e.g. Google Docs and time management), giving them continual feedback, challenging them on Manzil issues to provoke thinking, purposefully putting them in leadership roles to exercise their new skill-sets and overall encouraging team-work. Strengthening the Core team will continue until the end of the fellowship year, but will be spearheaded primarily by Geetika Kapoor, our new Chief Coordinator.

Another major part of strengthening the Core team was finding a Chief Coordinator. This person would eventually replace Ravi Bhaiya. We were originally looking externally to find such a person. We lucked-out with Geetika Bhen (“Bhen” is Hindi for “Older Sister”). Geetika Bhen has volunteered part-time with Manzil for the past year and has played a major role in the organizational decision-making. Her background is in learning and development and, while previously she was lost to the corporate world, she has found a rejuvenated sense for services and decided to join us full-time as the Chief Coordinator.

While the Core team was getting stronger, I also paid close attention to the systems and processes in Manzil. I noted four main things:

  1. Time management of the Core team was poor;
  2. There was no system for managing volunteers;
  3. Roles and responsibilities of each person in Manzil were unclear;
  4. The classes had no structure

To tackle the first, I started making a daily schedule for myself. Only after I had made and followed religiously a daily schedule for a month did I ask the remaining Core team to join me in doing the same. The time management has been a running success. We are much more efficient with our work, meaning we can get our daily chores out of way to spend more time with the students.

To manage volunteers, we have created applications for part-time and full-time volunteers. The idea of the application is to filter out non-serious applicants. Those who clear the application are then encouraged to visit Manzil. We have a whole process for the visit (classes to show, things to tell, etc.). The process allows us to be economical about managing volunteers, filtering our non-serious applicants, and investing our time in serious volunteers.

The vagueness around the roles and responsibilities of people in Manzil became clear over one singular example: No one knew who was responsible for filling the water tank. We realized that being unclear about one’s roles and responsibilities was making our work inefficient and redundant. We thus decided to meticulously write-out the roles and responsibilities of the following key people in Manzil: Chief Coordinator, Senior Coordinator, Student Coordinator, Facilities and Accounts Manager, Subject Coordinator, Student-Teachers, Volunteers, and Students. Writing out the roles and responsibilities has allowed us to hold each other accountable for our work, increase our efficiency, and has made us stronger as a team.

From observing classes, I noted that teachers were repeating materials from one class to the next. Because of this, the students were often bored. And, due to the students’ lack of interest, the teacher would disengage from the class. This was a downward spiral. It was clear that our classes needed a curriculum that presented fresh material and engaged the students.

For our math classes, the curriculum is largely the same as the one in government schools. Therefore, we let them run as they are running. Computer classes have a good curriculum. English classes, on the other hand, are disorganized and in-need of a better structure. To respond to this need, we have started compiling an English curriculum for our English classes. Including myself, we have three other people working on the curriculum. We hope to implement the curriculum in May, and see how it progress.

The construction in Sujan Singh Park is progressing nicely. We are renovating two quarters –a total of four rooms—into a common room, classroom, computer room and office. In addition to this space, we have additional spaces for dance and music within a 5 kilometer radius of Khan Market. We are hoping to finish construction and move Manzil to Sujan Singh Park by end of April.

Below is what I’d like to accomplish in my remaining time at Manzil:

  1. Finish Sujan Singh Park construction
  2. Support Geetika Bhen
  3. Strengthen classes
  4. Strengthen students
  5. Strengthen Core team

A little about my personal growth:

“I sought my soul, my soul I could not see.

“I sought my love, my love eluded me;

“I sought my brother, I found all three.”

-Babe Amte

Closing remarks for the reader:

To the one seeking knowledge, you and I are brothers;

To the one seeking wisdom, you and I are one.

To the general reader, wish luck upon me;

To the reflective reader, criticize me;

To the daring reader: Join me.

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About Ranjodh Singh
I'm currently an Ally in the Public Allies New York Apprenticeship (www.publicallies.org). Through the apprenticeship, I'm partnered with NYCRx (www.nyxrc.org), a nonprofit organization that improves the health of New Yorkers using public health interventions. I'm excited to continue serving, but doing so closer to health and medicine. I'm also enjoying NYC, which I find to be an enriching environment.

One Response to Mid-Year (Aug 2010-March 2011) Public Progress Report

  1. mukesh says:

    hi ranjot,

    i have read your report and wish you best of luck …..
    would nice if you send me your thoughts thr mail.

    with love,
    mukesh
    ex-student, manzil

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