Sohini Roy, Global Links Volunteer
The first time I came across Global Links was when the previous year’s selected 12 students were giving their final presentation in the University of Calcutta, Alipore Campus, in front of the then U.S. Public Relations Officer, Mr. Greg Pardo. I was mesmerized by the work they had done and the immense effort they had put to make it a success in their own ways. The fact that the top five students would get to go to Rollins College for two weeks was even more captivating.
I was disappointed when I realized that such program never came to our school, Shri Shikshayatan College, which made me ask my teacher why that was the case. I remember her saying “Probably this year it will come.” After a few days we got to know that she, our very own Rumpa Ma’am, was set to go to Rollins College, Florida for six months as their scholar. I was filled with pride as well as excitement.
My friends and I made up our minds to apply for this program and had sheer determination to do everything to be one of the students who gets to go to Florida. Six months later when Ma’am came back, our journey with Global Links started with an orientation programme. From helping organize it to actually applying for it, my heart raced the entire time. Getting to know Dr. Conway, Yasmin, and Michelle was cherry on top.
Although clearing the first round was an achievement in itself, my heart pounded when I got the mail of my selection for the second phase of the programme as well. I realized in that very moment about the tricky road ahead of us. It is not easy, especially when I have to get out of my comfort zone and deal with various situations that I normally would have dodged.
The day finally arrived when I would get to meet the entrepreneur with whom I would be working. The first important thing that I was told to do in this programme was to build a good and strong rapport with my entrepreneur to make things go as smoothly as possible. A number of questions came across my mind during the car ride- from Benayak’s entrepreneur’s house to mine. “How is she? Is she friendly? Will she make things that difficult for me like Kalapi and others said they usually do? Do I really want to do this? Am I ready for this?”
Before I could find the answers for the last two questions, I was already at her house with Abira Ma’am, Anushree Ma’am, Sarah, and Benayak. There was no turning back from this moment onwards because there is no way I am going to give up once I start this journey. Then I was introduced to my entrepreneur Rina Dutta; standing in front of me with so many questions in her eyes and that made me a bit more nervous.
Although the teachers did the initial introduction and my job was to just listen, it made me quite anxious about my second field visit which I had to do alone. During the second visit I tried to familiarize with Mrs. Dutta’s business. She has been associated with the NGO Argho for quite a few years now and has been selling her products through the organization. She specializes in making handmade bags using macramé, jewellery and soft toys.
When I met her, she did not have any business of her own and used to work on orders that were given to her by Argho. Although there are a lot of hurdles in her personal life, she was thinking about starting her own business for a long time, other than selling things through this organization and participating in fairs. Till then she would require my help to show her new designs and things made using macramé, improve her spoken English and guide her with all the things she needs to do and remember while opening her business such as setting the price of the products, accounts handling, delivery options etc.
I started focusing on these things and began with her English lessons during the third visit. Although she has some basic knowledge in English, she finds it difficult to understand the meaning of a sentence properly and speak fluently with correct pronunciations. By my sixth field visit, I have successfully helped her in starting her own business by creating a Facebook page- “Kumkum Creations” and we are in the initial stages of our promotion.
I have contacted Biswa Bangla officials hoping to get a chance to present Rina Dutta’s work to their marketing department. Biswa Bangla is one of the biggest platforms in West Bengal to showcase the talents of emerging entrepreneurs like Mrs. Dutta. We have received a date for meeting them with some of her products. As I got to know her more, I learnt that although she receives no financial or emotional support from her family regarding her business, she does not believe in giving up on her dreams. Her positive approach towards her life makes me want to work even harder to help her achieve her dreams.
Even if I do not get to go to the next level of the programme, it’s an absolute pleasure working with Global Links and I will cherish this journey all my life.