25 May 2020

I will come out a stronger and wiser person post corona crisis, thanks to our leadership

Sudershan at his work-station at home, on a video conference call with his colleagues
By Sudershan Dhirta

A few days before the ‘Lockdown’ became a headline on every news channel in India, I was en route to the Sampark head office, where I was to begin a five-week training with five of my colleagues from the field.

I was excited and was looking forward to some learning.

But barely four days into the training, the coronavirus crisis deepened, and our founder called us in the evening, asking us to pack our bags and head home. “Your safety is my top priority,” he told us. Everyone else in the head office was also asked to work from home. His thoughtfulness and strong leadership ethics touched me deeply. Without thinking of the loss of work hours or financial implications, arrangements were made for all six of us to return to our respective states.

The next day, at home I set up my workstation in a cozy corner with a window overlooking my lush green town. Outside, the quietness was unusual—all the shops were locked up and people were confined to their homes. ‘This is all it takes for the world to come to a standstill—a small virus,’ I thought.

The next day, at home I set up my workstation in a cozy corner with a window overlooking my lush green town. Outside, the quietness was unusual—all the shops were locked up and people were confined to their homes. ‘This is all it takes for the world to come to a standstill—a small virus,’ I thought.

By evening, we got clear instructions and advisory from head office on how to resume work from home. We received a schedule for video calls; task-related WhatsApp groups were created. I contacted all my teammates and briefed them about the new way of working. There was a lot of uncertainty and anxiety in their minds about the sudden crisis and its implications on their jobs.  Besides, most of my team members had never worked remotely and were used to being active in the field instead of on a laptop.

But soon, we received a mail that mentioned the ‘No Spark Left Behind’ policy of our organization. We were told that no one would be laid off. Along with this, we were also sent detailed plans for effectively utilizing our work hours and up-skilling ourselves during this time. It gave us a lot of confidence and encouragement. Now our anxieties gone, we were ready to work from home, all pumped up.

Soon, things fell into place. We had a clear idea of how to proceed with work. There were some changes in the plan, we put on hold our on-field tasks and prioritized other tasks such as capacity building, internal training, documentation, and so on. We even began the training, which was to be held in Noida, from home.

We set new targets. At Sampark, we all have one overriding objective: improving the quality of education for children. But with schools closed, children were confined to their homes. And most rural children don’t have the means to pursue education online.

We wanted to reach out to these children somehow. Everyone at Sampark worked day and night to map the content according to the state syllabus, with our technology team focusing on creating an app, which could help children continue their studies from home. In a couple of weeks, we succeeded in launching the Sampark Baithak app.
During these past two months of the lockdown, the leadership of our organization has been extremely supportive. Since we were into fieldwork, I ensured every Spark in the state has constructive work at his/her hand so that one does not feel underutilized or bored.

Every night, when I go to sleep, I thank my lucky stars that I am safe; at home with my family and have a job which I love doing. Once this Coronavirus crisis is over, I feel I will come out a stronger, wiser, and more thankful person.

(The writer is a State Operations Manager at Sampark Foundation. Views expressed are personal.)