Joining a project midstream can be parallel to entering a conversation midway, where catching up on the previous dialogues becomes essential before contributing meaningfully. This was my reality when I joined the SSMI Sakhi cohort in Delhi, stepping into a narrative that had already been unfolding for a year under the guidance of another Sakhi facilitator. The challenge was clear: to establish rapport, cultivate trust, improve attendance, all while building everything from scratch. 

Entering the school premises filled me with a sense of purpose. Armed with fresh ideas, I was fully ready to take on every and any challenge that came my way. Every time I walked down the school’s corridor, the vibrant energy of SSMI engulfed me, reinforcing my purpose, that is, to empower these young bright girls. Yet, beneath the surface of excitement lay the weight of the responsibility. Inadvertently, I had to seamlessly transition into the role left by my predecessor, forging relationships with both the girls and the school management as well as continue the work that had been initiated. 

I have to admit, the task seemed easier to me than it really was. The first few months went by with ease as lots of new ideas took shape on the field such as an exposure visit to National Science Center, facilitation of dance workshops and introduction of Dance Movement Therapy sessions. However, as the scholars moved to class 9 and their studies became more demanding, various logistical challenges emerged. Going further, the ride was bumpy, confronting and testing my patience at every crossroad. 

There were moments when I felt bouts of doubt clouding me. One of the most significant challenges was establishing a meaningful connection with the girls within the constraints of limited time. Thirty minutes a week hardly seemed sufficient to bridge the gap between us. It wasn’t until later that I grasped the inadequacy of this duration to develop deeper bonds. Perhaps I was oblivious to the external limitations that surrounded me. 

Yet, consistently showing up every week eventually helped in blossoming the trust. Gradually, the school management became more accepting of me, seeing me as the whole ‘NalandaWay Foundation’ in their school. Their acknowledgement of my efforts and praise for my ‘honest approach’ provided encouragement to continue pushing forward towards our joint mission. 

As weeks turned into months, the rapport with the Sakhi girls deepened. Despite their initial hesitation, some girls began to share their personal stories and experiences, restoring my confidence in the impact of our work. These moments of connection bear witness to the importance of patience and perseverance in building relationships. 

Although the journey has only just started to unravel, I am filled with a renewed sense of purpose. There is still much ground to cover and more challenges to overcome. But alongside my Sakhis, I am confident that we will navigate the path ahead with resilience and compassion.

Written by: Kulpreet Kaur, Associate-NalandaWay Foundation

Kulpreet holds a Master’s degree in Psychology. At NalandaWay Foundation, she is a part of Project Sakhi. She is also involved in curriculum development and research work centering mental health and well-being, gender, and adolescent development.

Read more: A note upon forging relationships: My journey with Project Sakhi