Date : Nov 29 , 2019 | Alumni
ILSS alumna Dr Lata Ghanshamnani writes about her experience as a non-profit founder and how daily actions towards change help her find meaning and happiness.
As a medical student years ago, little did I know that some of the lessons and habits acquired during the course – gruelling hard work, meticulous planning and execution, staying calm and focused in adverse conditions, responding to unforeseen emergencies, always looking for the cause of a problem rather than just addressing the symptoms – would come handy in a different space, at a different time.
Two decades on, as a successful doctor and a hands-on mother, I had the opportunity to revisit the civic lessons learnt during my school days as I helped my children with their homework. The section related to rights and duties seemed to have assumed a new meaning and relevance this time, that set me off on a new journey.
In the year 2013, I got interested in issues affecting my day-to-day living in the city, particularly in the subject of waste; as a doctor, I was concerned about the impact of mismanagement of waste on public health. Three years ago, after six years of research and small pilots, I finally set up an NGO, Rnisarg Foundation .
Rnisarg works in the area of making urban spaces sustainable for living, with a primary focus on waste management and road safety. Our waste management campaign ‘Follow the Monkey’ helps create awareness around managing waste in residential areas, commercial complexes, slums, educational institutions and temples. Our Prarambh movement aims to empower more than 300,000 students to address pressing environmental and road safety issues.
We also run an initiative called Project Sakhi, which aims to address the problem of menstrual waste by urging women to switch to menstrual cups. Meanwhile, our Bio-medical Waste Management Project, in partnership with the Indian Medical Association, provides training to healthcare workers for safe management of medical waste in hospitals. We have partnered with corporates, traffic departments, schools and medical associations to widen our reach and be more effective.
As a doctor, I believe that once a diagnosis has been made, the root cause needs to be understood for the disease to be treated and cured effectively. That’s why each of the projects taken up by Rnisarg focuses on creating long-term behavioural change to solve problems.
Setting up a non-profit was a matter of pure passion for a cause – I knew almost nothing about the non-profit sector when I set up Rnisarg. Once we were up and running, though, I encountered countless challenges daily. That’s why when a friend suggested that I attend the ILSS Leadership Program, I immediately agreed.
ILSS opened a new chapter in my life as an NGO founder. The nine-day residential program and daily inputs from stalwarts from various fields added more direction and clarity to my mission. My apprehensions on whether I had chosen the right subject or if my were values right, were also quickly put to rest.
Post-ILSS, I have become more confident of myself and my work and determined to build my organisation on a set of values that I hold dear. My approach towards my work has also changed: I have started thinking in terms of sustainability, scale and organisation building.
I think of ILSS as a beautiful bridge every person must walk on to have a true perspective of what’s in store for them in the social sector. Becoming a more conscious citizen comes with a sense of happiness that cannot be described in words. Only time will tell whether my work adds significant value to the cause of environment, but the daily actions that I take towards addressing the issue add immense value to my being.
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