Shubham has worked with Wildlife SOS for about two years now, assisting Rakhee Sharma with the Kalandar Rehabilitation Program. He can always be seen happily trotting from one state to another distributing school supplies and spreading smiles amongst the Kalandar families. We thought we’d talk to him to find out a little bit more about the work he does.
How did you come to work for Wildlife SOS?
Before joining Wildlife SOS, I had been working at a Call Centre in Customer Care for about two years. I wanted to study but didn’t want to stop working either, and heard about a part-time position with Wildlife SOS’ Kalandar program from my aunt – Rakhee – who is the Kalandar Program coordinator. I’ve always respected her and valued her opinion, so I trusted her judgment and applied for the job.
I worked part-time for a while and pursued a BCA, or Bachelors in Computer Applications, however once I’d graduated, I chose to stay on with the organization, as I’d found myself loving the work I was doing.
What are your responsibilities within the Kalandar Program?
The program has so many branches and aspects that there’s always a lot to do. I maintain a log of all the work being done and manage staff at some of the centres. I also organize and manage the support programs- distributing school supplies to children, helping the people of the community start their businesses, paying school fees and so on.
What is your favourite part of your job?
I’ve always been a people-person, I love meeting new people and hearing their stories or finding out about their lives. The Kalandar Program gives me the perfect platform to do that, to meet people, talk to them. I get to identify their skills and strengths, convince them about the importance of changing their lives and educating their children, and help them make a positive, tangible difference to their lives. I also enjoy interacting with the Kalandar children, who I meet and distribute school supplies to, it’s just heartwarming to see the smiles on their faces.
How has working with the Kalandar Program changed you?
I’ve learnt a lot, so the experience has definitely had an immense impact on me. The most valuable lesson I’ve learnt has been from Rakhee ma’am. She showed me the value of respecting people, of treating everyone as equal- and how it helps you work as a team to get things done. Even within the program, this attitude has benefitted my work and helped me push the people I manage to their full potential.
What do you do with your spare time?
Work takes up a lot of my time, so I don’t really have time to do much else. But I do enjoy a good game of cricket whenever I get the chance.
Tell us something about the Kalandar people that you’d like our readers to know.
I think the Kalandars were a deeply misunderstood people. It’s easy to demonise them as bear dancers without understanding their background of poverty and hardship. But with the introduction of Wildlife SOS’ Kalandar Rehabilitation Program, the community was given a new lease on life and chance to improve their conditions. They seemed reluctant at first, hesitant and scared of change- but once they give it a shot, they love it and prove themselves hardworking and eager to improve their lives.