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Inspiring Leaders Interviews

Sana Sharif On Leading An NGO & Changing The Future of UP – #FridayInterview

Solopreneur left a fancy job at PayTM to listen to her true calling

A typical Delhi-ite, Sana Shariff did her bachelors in psychology and after juggling with jobs finally set a base in the product management team of PayTM India.However, while her time there she realized that though her career graph looked perfect there was something else that she inherently lacked – a satisfaction that her 9-5 eluded her! Which was when the idea of The Beginning Foundation was born. An NGO that strives to reform lives in Uttar Pradesh, India and change the destiny of the next generation of leaders.

Sana Shariff, The Beginning Foundation

Sana Shariff, The Beginning Foundation

Excerpts from an exclusive interview here:

Please give us a brief introduction of The Beginning Foundation – What does the NGO exactly work for?

The NGO works for the social welfare of underprivileged women and children in the rural areas of Uttar Pradesh. Currently there is a team of around 25 women who are getting professionally trained in stitching so they can use these skills to find better opportunities and earn more through our platform.

With respect to child education currently, around 22 kids from different age groups are being trained in fixing electrical appliances, driving, coding and stitching, as we are not restricted to the idea of formal education. We also focus on outdoor classrooms where kids learn and engage in gardening, playing football and cricket. Here as a part of their curriculum we also celebrate, “the art of achievement”.

In younger children of U.P. we recently noticed a newer problem that has risen – of substance abuse. Our volunteers have taken quick cognizance of this and are working actively towards spreading awareness against this as well!

Lastly, the pandemic has been tough for all, hence mental health for women, children and all adults is also another thing that we specifically focus on.

What inspired you to walk this path & What is the change that you are looking to bring

In the beginning of the pandemic, I was distributing ration kits when I came across a man, who stood in front of me, refusing to take the kit. He joined his hands with tears in his eyes and said, “kaam choot gaya hai, khana nahi chahiye, kaam chahiye, kuch bhi kar lenge. Aapki gaadi, aapka ghar, kuch bhi saaf kar denga magar kaam dila do”.

I went inside their house, the ceiling was ready to fall off, a strong wind could have broken their doors and windows, their kitchen and bathroom was separated by a line of utensils but this man’s wife was sitting there, stitching clothes for as low as 50 rupees. I asked her to stitch a couple of things for me and paid her what I would have paid to anyone else in the city.

That’s where the Beginning Foundation actually began.

The change we are trying to bring about is simple – We want people to recognize the talent and skills they have and make them capable enough of monetizing them fearlessly.

Lives of entrepreneurs are laced with challenges – how do you overcome yours with the NGO?

I started this NGO during COVID, I was already aware of the situation that we could possibly face, however, the second wave hit us really bad and when I got Covid myself, I turned quite hopeless.

Women who were associated with me also went through a downward spiral. However, my family played the knight in shining armour at this time and made sure they were there for these women. They organized video calls from time-to-time and took care of things while I took time off to recover.

Thus in retrospect I would say, having a strong support system is very important for any entrepreneur. It is not a one mans job!

Your favourite leader – and why? Favourite leadership quote

Oh there are so many, starting from Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou & Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

My favourite leadership quote by far has to be:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Last thoughts for the leaders of tomorrow?

We have been put on Earth for a purpose, find that and do everything you can to achieve it.

Sana Shariff is the Founder of The Beginning Foundation, an NGO that works for the welfare of rural communities in India. Do follow her and support her project on Linkedin

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