–– Update to the original blog ––
The word is spreading out amongst our delivery partners and they are encouraging their peers to send their children to पाठशाला. One of our partners said, “I will work as hard as I can and I do that already but today it feels fulfilling to be a part of Zomato because my children are being taught like their own. I feel it’s my other family”. A couple of them even shared their child’s performance in school and have asked to help improve their performance. A few mothers who dropped their children to the Zomato office were extremely happy to see the warmth each volunteer provided to their children. We are also grateful to three non-Zomans (Mansi Joshi, Nanisha Singh and Amit Baliga) who took out time to teach the children.
–– End of update ––
A couple weeks ago I joined a training session for our delivery partners, at our headquarters in Gurgaon. This session was being conducted at our office cafeteria. I was there to meet with some of the newest members of our ever expanding last mile delivery fleet.
While there, I started talking to one of our riders about his life. I asked him about his kids, and which school they went to. This rider told me he has two children – a girl and a boy. Both of them (10 and 9 years of age) go to the same school. I asked him if his children had ever interacted with a computer. He said no. I asked him if they enjoy school, he said yes. But he wished he could provide for better education for his kids.
Post our chat, I looked around at the massive cafeteria space (it’s built for the 800 people in our Gurgaon HQ). And drawing inspiration from the great work the folks at Feeding India and Robin Hood Army do – I thought we should open up the cafeteria space on the weekends to teach our delivery partners’ kids. Some of them are really bright, but don’t have either the exposure, or the opportunity to be able to fulfil their potential. Some probably only need to be inspired to believe that they can create a future that they choose for themselves.
(My parents were both educators, and I know what it means, to have great and inspirational teachers who show you the path. It is also my true privilege to have been exposed to many great teachers through my life, many of whom continue to spark my curiosity and send me on new journeys of self-discovery.)
I quickly set up a chat group with a few people at Zomato, and by the end of the day we had a handful of volunteers ready for our first cafeteria schooling session. Last week, we hosted our first session of the Gurgaon Chapter for Zomato Paathshala. Thanks to Ram, Mohit, Anand, Aakarshna, Srishti, Amrit, Akshay, Tania and Smriti for being the amazing hosts to all the kids who came to our office to learn.
The children absolutely enjoyed the various activities our volunteers facilitated based on their requests. Some of them wanted to sketch. Some wanted to learn how to type on a computer. Some wanted to learn more about Virat Kohli. One of them wanted to become a scientist and spent time reading up on Ramanujan.
While letting the kids decide what they want to learn about, we also had the opportunity to expose them to the arts, science, technology and sports. Needless to say, the experience was truly fulfilling for both the teachers, and the children. Our biggest takeaway was that we all really need to learn how to meaningfully teach children.
I know this is a tiny first step, and that there’s still an insane amount of work to be done, as well as space in the cafeteria (at our HQ in Gurgaon, and I’m sure in all our other offices). My wish is to see more Zomans volunteering over the weekends to teach thousands of kids, over the next few years.
Even if you’re not a part of Zomato, but wish to participate in this mission, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. She is leading this initiative, and would love to hear from you.
I also urge all other companies to start doing the same if they aren’t doing it already. This doesn’t cost anything, is a good and fulfilling break for everyone to take.
Here’s my favourite picture — one of a happy family on their way back home. I managed to grab this one after the session got over.