I always thought that taking some time off post my Master’s would be a good idea; I had no intention of hunting for a job anytime soon. So, when I had a serendipitous meeting with the Founder & CEO of Adveka Foundation at a tobacco de-addiction workshop in August 2016, and she stated that she was looking for volunteers, I had no qualms about signing up for it. Little did I know that my supposed two-month stint as a volunteer would turn into what is probably now a lifelong commitment…and a commitment I’m glad I could make.
Having gone through the Adveka website before, I knew that the cause was a genuinely heartfelt one as was reflected in the authenticity of the content of the website. However, it was only when I actually started working with Adveka along with another close friend of mine, did I realise just how passionate and committed Adveka was about the cause of mental health. The fact that the organisation was named ‘Adveka’ meaning ‘unique’ was like the cherry on the top: I loved how there was an organisation that truly believed that every person, every concern was unique. There were no judgments, no stereotypes, no pre-conceived notions about the people we were going to work with…work for.
I had joined Adveka at a time when I was working hard on improving myself as a person. I wanted to be more accepting of different people; I wanted to be more compassionate; I wanted to be more honest to myself. And this is what Maitreyi, the Founder of Adveka helped me immensely with. When you see a person so dedicated to something that they believe in, it makes you also want to believe in something. When you see someone conversing with another but never judging, you know it’s possible to be non-judgmental.
Our core project was aimed at caregivers, a population that I had seldom thought of. It wasn’t until I had spoken to Maitreyi and revisited the website that I began to understand just why this was such an important part of Adveka’s work. Doing research (something that I had thought I would never do again!), designing curriculum, conducting group sessions and workshops, was all a part of the job. During discussions, nothing is shot down. Nothing is considered “stupid” or “not doable”. Each idea, each person involved in the discussion is respected, acknowledged, and appreciated which encourages and motivates you to work harder.
When Maitreyi, another colleague/friend and I conducted our first group session, I thought I would be nervous. Turns out, I wasn’t in the least bit. When you are standing alongside people whom you share an excellent rapport and comfort level with, every new situation becomes better and easier to triumph over. Apart from conducting the sessions, it was the interactions with the caregivers that I immensely enjoyed and learnt from. I met a lot of people with similar concerns and life situations and yet all of them had a different way of dealing with it. These experiences made me appreciate people more; it showed that people are more than their struggles, they are more than just a parent, a child, a spouse, or a caregiver. I learnt how to speak to different people as well as how to connect to people better. I also learnt Hindi and a bit of Marathi which I believe is the most important thing I will ever learn. Seriously.
One of the most refreshing things at Adveka is that you are valued for who you are. Maitreyi doesn’t even attempt to change you. And when you are allowed to be yourself, magic happens. It’s also a ‘safe space’. I can speak my mind, be it about my worst fears or that I haven’t read a book since ages. I know I won’t be thought of as “arrogant” or a “know-it-all” or even as “difficult”. I may be those things but I will never made to feel that. Never. That’s how comfortable I feel when I’m at Adveka.
Where most organisations and bosses go wrong, Adveka and Maitreyi go right. They believe in congruency, teamwork, and most importantly, the power of compassion. Tell Maitreyi that you won’t be able to work much because you are having an emotionally bad day and she will be ready with genuine words of comfort. Now with such a boss, who wouldn’t like working here?
As I write this, it is almost to the day that I first met Maitreyi and I thank whatever Gods or energies that may exist that my friend forced me to attend that workshop; otherwise, I would probably be stuck in a boring job somewhere, with a boss I secretly hate and work that I did not believe in…
*Written by Rajshree Faria, Program Manager, Adveka Foundation.