Volunteer For Change | Business World

Success is a constant journey and determined by how you define it,” says Trishya Screwvala, a budding social activist and founder of the three-year-old non-profit organisation, The Lighthouse Project, a youth mentoring programme that grooms underprivileged children for a better life.

After studying film production from Los Angeles, Trishya produced two short films, one of which was nominated at Cannes. Coming back to India she saw the need to strengthen the culture of volunteering as today’s generation is willing to do so more than ever. And so, breaking away from stereotypical norms, shattering age old, established notions and making it on one’s own are just some of the philosophies that keep Trishya’s passion to work for unprivileged children alive.

Fuelling her dream is the spirit of volunteering. “If you ask me what is that one thing The Lighthouse Project is proud to have achieved, it is to be a successful platform to engage and sustain volunteering. Today, we have 220 motivated and dedicated mentors, who pour energy and thought into each session as they do with their own children,” she says, with no small measure of enthusiasm.

There were cautions against using the volunteer model. “When we were starting out, many from the social sector warned us that a volunteer driven model has not worked because one is relying on an inherently unreliable output. But this, to us, was the vision of the project,” she says. Now, the project symbolises the vision of volunteering.

One-to-one Connection

The Lighthouse Project is a youth mentoring program that connects working professionals and volunteers with children from under-resourced communities through one-on-one mentoring. Working with street children from slum communities across Mumbai, the idea of the project was born out of the fact that while a number of organisations are doing commendable work for their education, the children lack the presence of a positive adult role model in their lives; someone they could trust and look up to.

“All our mentors go through rigorous training and orientation and are provided with tools and resources to help the children develop essential life skills and social skills and expose them to a world beyond their own”, says Trishya. “We have seen many children who are doing jobs in the organised sector often drop out for reasons for things we take completely for granted – lack of guidance, or inability to resolve conflict or negotiate. For them too, successfully transition into an environment that is relatively intimidating and alien to them, the presence of role models can be invaluable. These are the areas we hope to bridge through the Project,” says Trishya

Spirit Of Volunteering

“Our dream is to contribute towards building a strong culture of volunteering in India — accessible, flexible platforms that allow working professionals to share their time, skills, and experiences with children from under-resourced communities,” says Trishya. “We want to make volunteering something everyone does or aspires to do. It’s a two -way experience and we hope to help create more socially conscious citizens,” she says.

Based on the model, The Lighthouse Project is as busy as ever, influencing the lives of many a children for the better. “We started with 30 children and 30 mentors, and now we have close to 400 children and 400 mentors for the next academic year,” Trishya says.

Success Recipe

For Trishya Screwvala, it’s all about having faith in what you want and working consistently. “I think my biggest realisation was after I graduated college and to my own shock realised that a fat pay check or a sleek designation had very little to do with my personal definition of success. I think we all undervalue the success associated with growing and evolving as human beings today and staying true to ourselves,” she elaborates.

Being of the view that our definition of success is very narrow, Trishya believes in achieving success being something for the long run. In the social sector particularly, it is difficult to measure the impact of the work, especially when working with soft skills or long term interventions. So how does she measure success? “Increased attendance rates among our children, improved emotional stability or greater support from an apathetic parent,” she says.

Illustrious Genes

Being the daughter of Ronnie Screwvala obviously helped Trishya to pursue her vision. But it also comes with a price. “My biggest learning from my father is perhaps his completely fearless and almost welcoming attitude towards failure. Of course, there are always two sides to everything. Just last week, after we finished a 45-minute presentation to a potential funder for The Lighthouse Project, his first response: ‘So why is your father not funding you?’ Then the usual explanation follows that I function independently,” says Trishya with pride.

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