Written by: Cynthia Luo
Since 2015, Azmeen Ansar has been mentoring classes that provide valuable basic computer skills to Aidha students. It is commonly the foundation that kickstarts many to overcome their lack of confidence in using computers and opens them to a whole new world of IT tools and the resources available on the internet.
During her three years of volunteering at Aidha, the marketing professional has not only taken on an additional role in the Aidha Facebook Comms team to spark excitement online about the organisation’s events and happenings, but also actively participates in Aidha’s special events such as Sports Day.
“There are times when I‘m thinking, I’m only teaching something as simple as Microsoft Word but the fact that they [the students] are so active and motivated during each class is when I know we’re helping them gain a useful skill, even if it doesn’t mean starting a business.”
When she is not teaching on the weekends, Azmeen is an avid non-fiction reader, and is currently reading “The Game of Spies”, a book she highly recommends! Her lucky husband also takes pleasure in her interest in cooking, a special favourite being her signature traditional Indian gravy dish called sambar.
Azmeen’s selfie time with her students!
But Azmeen’s real passion has always been with education, and it shows in her past and current affiliation with organisations such as the Red Cross, UN Women and Make a Difference (MAD) back in her home country, India.
How does she balance her professional life, volunteer time and her hobbies?
“If it’s something you’re passionate about, you’ll make time.”
And this passion is what drove Azmeen to discover Aidha soon after moving to Singapore.
“I started off researching to find something in education, but at Aidha, I can mix education with women’s empowerment. I’m happy to be part of this bigger thing that has helped so many individuals who have gone back to their hometowns and made a difference.”
While she’s aware teaching the Essential Computer Skills course in Module 1 means she can’t always follow her students from their first classes at Aidha all the way to graduation, she has heard the many success stories of students who have completed the other modules at Aidha.
“One particular student I had a few batches back got so good she started to do more than what we asked her to do. It was motivating to see how she applied her skills, actively answered questions and offered to help others. She even started doing her expenses on excel, and sharing her learnings with the class.”
“You don’t necessarily have to start a business to be successful here. If you can help them manage their finances better, and show them what women’s empowerment is like, being self-dependent, being able to say no, you’re helping them.”
“Being open to learning is the same mentality mentors should also apply to their work”, says Azmeen.
Azmeen has volunteered at Aidha for 3 years!
Becoming a mentor at Aidha not only benefits the students but many of the times, students open the eyes of the mentors.
“I’ve learned patience from them. I keep wondering how they have so much of it. Some of these women don’t understand English, but they’re listening every Sunday and working hard to understand a woman telling them how to open an excel sheet.”
“I realised all the little frustrations you have in life are nothing compared to the ones faced by these women. They [the students] might be tied down in so many aspects you never realised. They do so much by simply coming to class – some women have never seen a keyboard before, and yet they still come every weekend to give their 100%.”
“Do a self-check on what we consider is a horrible situation and what is not. I definitely see myself long term at Aidha.”