06th July 2017

How corporate fundraising led me to a life-changing experience

Two lucky Virtual1 employees got the opportunity to visit Delhi, India to work with charity partners, Restless Development.

Tara Ridsdale writes on behalf of herself and Keith Saunders about how she fell in love with Restless, India and the inspiring Skill Sakhis.

"It has been awesome getting involved in the partnership with Restless Development – we have had bake sales and run gruelling obstacle races. Most recently, my colleague Keith and I were given a fantastic opportunity to visit Restless’ projects in India and meet the young women doing amazing work in the heart of Delhi’s slums.

For those that don’t know, Virtual 1 is a growing and vibrant Telecoms organisation based in the city of London. We have a very supportive CEO, Tom O’ Hagan, who has encouraged both Keith and I to make the most of this life changing experience. We have been so excited about this trip, as soon as we found out we were going to India we both hurried for our visas and started our travel packing list – we couldn’t wait!

Finally, the day came. Keith and I left the office on a Friday afternoon with our backpacks on and, after a great send off from the office, we got on the plane and excitedly found our seats. As we were readying for take-off, I turned around and everyone on the plane was already sleeping. – I was too excited to sleep.

We finally landed on Indian soil, the moment you walk through the doors the heat just hits you like a fan from an oven. We spent the first couple of days gathering our bearings and getting used to the way of life, the busy roads and the hustle and bustle on the market streets. It was all very exciting and daunting at the same time. We met Dom from Restless the night before, who got us warmed up and excited about what we were going about to embark on over the next few days.

On our first day we made our way to the head office and met the Restless Development India team. They were so welcoming and kind, meeting us with gifts and a prepared dish to give us a taste of authentic home cooked Northern Indian food. We were introduced to the very inspiring and passionate team and got to know and understand the work that Restless do across India in much more detail. We were so impressed by the ambition that the organisation has and the work they are doing with technology and mobile apps, educating young people on sexual and reproductive health and rights. We then led a training session for the India team, discussing what makes a leading corporate partnership.

The next two days were days I will never forget – it was time to visit the women’s project in the Delhi slums. We got up early and headed out of the part of the city we were familiar with towards the north east. We were shown to the resource centre in Sundernagari where we were greeted by the team of Skill Sakhis – a group of inspiring women trained by Restless to teach important lessons on employability, life skills and gender issues. These women were the most vibrant and beautiful people, each of them had such character and energy but yet you could see such emotion through their eyes and body language.

After watching them deliver a session to about 50 women and girls from the community, we sat down in a circle and listened to their stories and songs with powerful, positive and intelligent lyrics which help motivate them through their own individual struggles. There was a moment where one woman had shared such an inspiring story I couldn’t help but let the tears just flow (So much emotion just came over me). Just watching the women in action was so inspiring and heart-warming – I didn’t want to leave.

On the second day, we travelled to Dakshinpuri and we were greeted by another set of ambitious, bright and beautiful Skill Sakhis. Despite us sitting and watching their classes, they were so focused and driven to aspire and succeed. I truly believe the work that the Restless Development do in India and the Skill Sakhis carry out is well and truly an incredible example of youth led work. You can see how effective the projects are and you can see the impact that it is having on improving the lives of the girls for the better.

I can’t thank Restless and Virtual 1 for giving us this opportunity. I can’t wait to get more involved in helping Restless and I am proud that Virtual 1 is supporting this inspiring organisation. Lastly, I just want to shout out to Dom who was an absolutely amazing guide throughout – he is lovely person with a good heart.

I think looking back on everything we have seen has touched me in a way I didn’t think it would. I can honestly say I love India, Restless Development and the Skill Sakhis!"

If you would like more information about Corporate Partnerships with Restless Development, please contact Dom at dominics@restlessdevelopment.org.