Mallika Parasa first joined VOICE 4 Girls as a Counsellor, a student intern position while she was still at the University. Having lined up several internships for her holidays she was especially excited by the opportunity at VOICE 4 Girls after reading about the work that they do. After a difficult start to teaching in the residential camp for adolescent girls due to its confined nature, Mallika persevered after an inspiring conversation with her trainer, and went on to embrace the amazing energy from both her colleagues and the kids.
Now having left University, she has returned to VOICE 4 Girls as a Senior Project Officer within the operations team. At the heart of her job, Mallika recruits university students to be Counsellors and trains them ahead of their interaction with the children in the residential camps. Due to COVID-19, like many, her job has changed physically and now uses an online platform. However, the principle is the same and she works hard to bring positive energy to every session.
This is what Mallika’s day usually look like at the moment;
7am – As opposed to getting up and commuting to work, she now has a coffee and gardens for a positive start to the morning. During this time, she will also say hello to her colleagues virtually and do any preparatory reading for the teaching sessions she will carry out later in the day.
10am – For the predominance of her morning, Mallika will focus on recruiting new Counsellors from universities for residential camps later in the year. Normally Mallika works directly with university colleges, delivering presentations on campus and then conducting interviews. However, at the moment she is scheduling virtual interviews in advance, so she’s bound to a strict schedule! The application process consists of the applicant assessing and a brief micro-teaching conducted by the applicant. After the interview Mallika takes the time to give the applicant constructive feedback and decides on the participants who well be welcomed on board.
Since at present we are running three programs online, Mallika is also coordinating with the counsellors to make sure we provide the best quality content to our campers and the running of a smooth session.
1pm – A VOICE lunch break used to be full of laughter and sharing stories from the camp. Well, that has not changed a lot even in times of COVID. During her lunch break Mallika makes sure that the counsellors are prepared for the afternoon training sessions. She also makes sure that everyone has access to technology and a working understanding of Zoom. If not, Mallika appeals to family members of the trainee to lend their devices to the trainee for a couple of hours per day or conducts workshops on how to use Zoom to make the sessions accessible to everyone.
2pm – For the rest of her day Mallika plays an active part in running online training sessions for the incoming Counsellors. Even though most of the sessions last around only two and half hours, Mallika likes to keep the energy high by being a little silly. There is also a level of expectation set by tone which encourages the students to take their sessions seriously so that they’re able to learn. This is particularly important because in the classroom Mallika can assess engagement by body language and attitude, however, online the only indicator is how they complete their homework. Mallika is also very aware that the girls may not be comfortable with the topics covered because they may be in an unsafe space to talk. However, this only emphasises the need for initiatives like VOICE 4 Girls.
Even if you are not feeling well, you must always display enthusiasm and be energetic during the teaching session to keep your students interested.
A story close to her heart:
Mallika’s first overwhelmingly positive experience with VOICE 4 Girls happened during her internship when she engaged in a conversation with one of the adolescents who she was educating and looking after. When she started her internship, she was in a very low place because of the death of her father. However, after coming across a girl who her colleagues praised for her intelligence, sportiness and conscientiousness, this began to change. During their conversation, the girl revealed how she had lost both of her parents and particularly missed her mother. She hates to be reminded of her mother because she could only remember the fateful accident that caused her death. From this short interaction Mallika gained a new appreciation for the 20 wonderful years of growth she had had next to her father and the joyful experiences they had forged together. The camper helped her in ways she would not have imagined which really emphasises the unique and symbiotic relationships that can be created through VOICE 4 Girls camps.
Personal experience informs why Mallika thinks her work at VOICE 4 Girls is so important. When she was an adolescent, she had so many doubts and uncertainties about herself and the things happening around her. She did not feel like there was enough information available to her. Now as an educator, she has the opportunity to serve a cause that she believes in- the empowerment of young women.
VOICE 4 Girls is a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower young girls and boys from marginalized sections of Indian society. Through interactive camps in different parts of rural India, they provide adolescents with critical knowledge, life skills, and spoken English by which they are enabled to break cycles of social, economic and gender inequality and take charge of their lives.