Aidha was officially launched as an independent entity in 2006 with our first intake of 25 students taught by Aidha founder, Dr Sarah Mavrinac, in a condominium function room. Chanchul Sakhrani, better known as Niky, is a very special volunteer who has been part of Aidha from those very early days.
How it all began
Niky has been a volunteer trainer and mentor since 2016 but previously, she was working with Dr Sarah Mavrinac. In the beginning, both Dr Sarah and Niky were doing everything from marketing, registration and even getting tables and chairs to make the condominium function room look more like a classroom.
“I was very fortunate to be part of the team that was involved in the “birth” of aidha – officially I was the project manager and unofficially I was Dr Sarah Marvinac’s “side-kick” as she worked through the details of Aidha’s brand, assembling the Board of Directors, building the curriculum from scratch and working her way through understanding Singapore’s migrant worker policy.”
Watch Aidha through the years here: https://youtu.be/fo59vSUsZk0
At the early days, the curriculum focused strongly on finance and guiding students towards setting up their own businesses. Fast forward to 2020, Niky is amazed to see how much Aidha has grown in terms of its campus (an entire block in of classrooms in UWC filled with students) right down to the number of fantastic volunteers, mentors and staff who run Aidha like a well-oiled machine and lastly, the ever-expanding curriculum that reflects Aidha’s ability to adapt to the changing and shifting needs of the students over the last 14 years.
Niky’s favourite memories are seeing how Aidha students leave with more confidence and resilience than when they first joined. Students, especially those who join Aidha’s English module, typically do so lacking confidence in their ability to speak and learn the language. But after the 12 lessons, almost all (even those who were really shy in the beginning) leave with the ability to deliver speeches in front of the entire classroom! And to Niky, that is just a testament to how much potential Aidha students have and how important it is to have an organisation like Aidha to help shape and sharpen their potential.
Niky believes that financial education is incredibly important, particularly for Aidha’s audience. As a mentor, she’s seen first-hand how understanding finance and the flow of money helps students to take control of their lives and opens up new possibilities as well as protecting against the risks we all face in life. Thus, as well as economic benefits, financial literacy unlocks a path towards a fuller, more satisfying life for a woman and her family.
Meeting the challenge in 2020
With the Aidha’s campus closed since the beginning of the year, we had to take our classes online via Zoom to ensure the learning continues. Niky was among the first mentors who took up the challenge during the circuit breaker and taught the first batch of Module 3 students, supporting them to successfully complete their classes online – what a milestone!
“It was tricky in the beginning but I think for me personally, it was not in any way a barrier towards facilitating a class. I do miss having individual interactions with my students in a classroom setting but I look forward to being able to teach face to face again, hopefully sometime in 2021!”
With the support of the Aidha team, mentors like Niky are confident using Zoom and its features to make online lessons more interesting with break-out room activities and polls.
Passing it on
Last but not least, in celebration of International Volunteers’ Day on 5th December, Niky would like to share some tips for those who are looking to volunteer. “If you’re looking for an opportunity to give back to society in a constructive and meaningful way that will truly add perspective to your life, do consider volunteering at organisations like Aidha! Every volunteer that I know from Aidha has found real meaning and purpose in the volunteer work that they contribute. Volunteering comes with sacrificing time and overcoming challenges, but that is the very reason why volunteers find the work they do incredibly fulfilling.”