Today, 17-year-old Sonali is a confident, bubbly, optimistic young girl, a far cry from her shy, introverted self just a few years ago.
A 2nd year Commerce student at Bhavsar College, life took a very difficult turn when her father was struck with paralysis, and as a result, was bed-ridden. Having been the primary caregiver, her mother was now forced to also become the primary wage-earner. Odd sewing jobs manageable from home were her only source of income. It didn’t take Sonali and her sisters long to realise the dire situation they were in. They too began helping with darning and miscellaneous sewing jobs but not enough to make a dent in the family finances. The 3 siblings lost their childhood overnight. Caring for their mother both emotionally and financially began to take its toll.
Tenacity, grit and determination are not what one expects of a shy and reserved girl. But Sonali displayed these traits when her family needed them the most. She grabbed the opportunity of enrolling in the Beauty and Wellness course offered by Salaam Bombay Foundation in her ninth grade. The basic training course equipped her not only with the skills of the trade but also life skills like decision-making, problem-solving, financial management and creative thinking. Simultaneously, she continued her studies and passed her SSC exams with distinction. “My mother’s determination to do her best by us, her strength and love were my biggest motivation”, she says.
The Beauty and Wellness course had opened her eyes to countless career opportunities. Sonali now wanted to round off her education with a Commerce degree that would equip her with business and money management skills. Once again, she worked hard with Salaam Bombay’s guidance to secure a scholarship. The scholarship has only made her more career-focused and determined to carve out a better future for herself and her family. Sonali was ready to spread her wings and test herself.
Salaam Bombay’s DreamLab initiative gave her just the opportunity she needed. The initiative collaborates with corporates to provide real-world internships to Salaam Bombay alumni so that they may experience actual working conditions and broaden their career horizons. It helps them make informed career decisions which have an impact on their future wellbeing. Eventually they become productive, employable citizens. Sonali interned within a Big Bazaar store, helping to sell their newly launched in-house brand of cosmetics. No challenge could have been greater for this shy girl who now had to communicate with potential customers, far more educated and eloquent than she was. She admits that the internship brought her out of her shell, gave her a hands-on understanding of consumer buying psychology and the art of sales in retail management. She learnt to smile more. The internship opportunity helped her to financially support her family. It has widened her career horizons as she has come to the realisation that a training in Beauty and Wellness does not limit her to just delivering beauty services in a salon. She believes the vocational and soft skill training at Salaam Bombay Foundation, the DreamLab internship, and her mother’s blessings have already carved new pathways to prosperity and will continue to impact her life in more ways than one.