Hi everyone, Vinoth Kumar here. Last month, I completed my 6th year working at NalandaWay Foundation and I took some time to reflect on my journey. Welcome aboard the bus I like to call ‘Vinoth Super Fast Express’. Why the name? Well, my journey has been really long but it has been super quick at the same time, there have been many unexpected turns, a lot of new routes, some bumps here and there, and some smooth rides, but it’s gotten me where I am right now…where I need to be.

My journey at NalandaWay started when a close relative recommended this job to me. As someone with an engineering background, the job was completely irrelevant to my educational qualification. But I was passionate about it. I stayed up all night thinking about this. I went to the office for my interview the next day and I felt at home immediately. In my career, I have attended over 100 interviews but I was never treated with due respect. There was something special about interacting with people at NalandaWay where I felt so valued on my first visit itself.  

When I received the offer letter a few days later, I had so many thoughts. Will I fit in in the social work sector? Should I stick to engineering? What do I know about art? But I convinced myself that I could shine with commitment and dedication because I was passionate about working with children after all. 

The first project I worked on was ‘Art in Education’ where my role mostly involved coordinating with teachers and a lot of school visits. In one of our team meetings, we discussed the process of documenting the project so I decided to film a video of one of the teachers sharing the experience in the classroom. I still recall the appreciation I received from the project head and the CEO for this. Their compliments really meant a lot to me and motivated me to give this role my very best. 

I simultaneously got involved in coordinating and planning events for our Chennai Children’s Choir. It was challenging handling my responsibilities for two projects at the same time but it was an experience. 

Soon, I got shifted to the ‘Art Lab’ project where I worked on content development with different artists. This was the first time I got to lead a project, even though it was for a very short time because I got roped into another project and well, the lockdown. 

When the pandemic began in 2022, we launched the ‘Take it Easy’ project to help adolescents across Tamil Nadu who were stressed and overwhelmed due to the pandemic and their board exams. Students gave a missed call to a number and an automated call was placed back to their mobile phones and the story of the day was played through IVRS technology. I had to ensure that the content was uploaded and the calling process was happening smoothly. It was truly magical when the project launched and we listened to thousands of children give feedback about how our stories helped them overcome their fear and anxiety. 

After this, I was involved in piloting music sessions in government homes for a brief period. This was quickly followed by a role/project that I can quite confidently say, changed my life. I joined vAnam Vasapadum, a project that aims to create joyful art experiences for children in government-run homes that build their sense of self and well-being through a trauma-informed lens. When children would ask me when I was coming to the home again, I felt like I had really succeeded in life. I was able to make an impact on them. When I was co-ordinating the art festival for this project, I really teared up looking at the children’s beautiful artwork. I still can’t put my feelings into words when I think of my time working on the vAnam Vasapadum project. 

In the past 6 years, I have noticed so many changes in myself. I came from a field that was completely unrelated and I dove deep into several projects that focus on art and well-being. Across these different projects, I have handled tasks related to coordination, content development, teacher training, event planning, monitoring, documentation and more. 

Recently, I got the opportunity to lead a new project, the Art Vandi. It was a tough decision because that meant moving on from my favourite project. But I would still like to collaborate or be involved in the vAnam Vasapadum project whenever possible in the future. So I took the new route and I’m already giving it my best. I wonder where the Vinoth Super Fast Express is heading and how this part of the journey will be.

A huge thank you to everyone I’ve worked with in the last 6 years – teachers, authorities, colleagues, children…You made the ride worth it!

Written by Vinoth Kumar. Vinoth heads NalandaWay’s ‘Art Vandi’ project. In the last 6 years, he has donned several hats for different art and wellbeing projects that we have implemented across Tamil Nadu.