Interview By Anobik Saha
Hello Prerna. Can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi! I am Prerna, an economics graduate from Delhi University with more than five years of corporate experience. I truly believe in the concept of hard-work, because that’s the only thing my mother possessed when my father passed away 12 years back. I have seen her grow from a home-maker to a successful professional and have started this organization with her (Mrs. Vandana Sehgal).
I have been very active during my college days in organizing social campaigns and events and that’s when I realized my bent towards the development sector. Organizing events gives me a different type of kick and thus merging my passion for social sector and event organization gave shape to this initiative.
What made you leave the corporate world to start working in the social sector?
IMPACT, the one and only reason behind my decision to give up corporate slavery and do something more meaningful in life. The satisfaction one gets in empowering others is unmatchable to any pay cheque.
What is The Coloured Zebra? Can you tell us more about the vision of the organization?
The Coloured Zebra: Beyond Black & White is an organization working for differently-abled (or as we like to call them – specially-abled) children and young adults. We aim at imparting the right skill set to these individuals, their parents and teachers to create an inclusive set-up.
My mother started providing academic training to these kids a decade back and it has been a couple of years that we have entered the space of workshops and vocational training.
There are plenty of organizations working for these kids, but hardly any focusing on their careers. We aim to make our kids entrepreneurs, who can run their own businesses and earn a respectable livelihood.
Do you find it challenging to convince the parents of differently-abled children to join your workshops?
Yes, it is a challenge at times because parents are not very accepting of their child’s condition. However, we manage to convince them because to the fields we are focusing on. Our workshops are not just about sensitizing parents (which most organizations do) but guiding their children and crafting a career path for them.
What kind of skills are most critical to shape the future of differently abled children, to help them lead fulfilling lives?
The first step in identifying these skills is to understand the child and his or her family background. These kids are extremely talented and with proper training they can excel in fields such as photography, music etc. The foremost skill to shape their future is public speaking, to boost their confidence.
Can you tell us more about the Theatre in Education workshop in association with The Barry John Studio?
Our Theatre in Education workshop conducted in 2017, was a hit amongst parents and the theatre community. It was a 20-day workshop with a stage performance on the final day. You can view our more recent activities through our Facebook page.
Since there is no other way better than theatre to bring out a person’s expressions and enhance their public speaking skills, we chose it as our first workshop to work on personality grooming.
The kids’ day started with our trainer making them do exercises to open up their muscles, then laughing therapy followed by acting classes. This was basically a platform for parents to learn about their child’s capabilities and to help the child pursue the right path. We even shot a small film for one of our students and aim to get him modelling assignments.
How are the children reacting to such workshops?
Oh! They love these workshops. They get to socialize, interact and be on their own sans any judgement.
Where do you see The Colored Zebra five years from now?
Our main aim is to provide vocational and skill training to these absolutely talented kids and help them make a respectable career. Thus, we see ourselves as one of the premier organizations for career counselling and training of children and young adults with various intellectual disabilities
Please share a message on what ordinary folks like us can do to help make a difference in the lives of these children.
We can really make a difference by acting normal around these kids and not being all sympathetic. They don’t need sympathy but love, time and affection of their parents and people around them. The intensity of intellectual disabilities can be reduced tremendously with proper counselling, mentoring and training by parents and teachers.
About the Interviewer
Anobik is passionate about his purposeful work as a digital marketing professional at a U.S.-based leadership tech development start-up. In the past, his intellectual pursuits led him to explore several domains that include working as a graphic designer, freelance writer, proscenium theatre artist and learning French. After work hours, he dedicates time to his lo-fi music production and prepping for the next trek in the Himalayas. His recent trysts with meditation and yoga now take up most of his headspace, pondering over and learning about the boundaries of human potential, breakthroughs in neuroscience and emotional intelligence. His favorite movies are Into the Wild, Frances Ha and Valley Uprising.