Saritha Mendanha, program coordinator in Hyderabad, India, presents at Unbound's Global Insight Series on March 29 in Kansas City.
Apr 5 2017

Guiding students toward success in India

Hyderabad program coordinator shares about youth programs

Saritha Mendanha, program coordinator in Hyderabad, India, presents at Unbound's Global Insight Series on March 29 in Kansas City.

Saritha Mendanha, program coordinator in Hyderabad, India, presents at Unbound’s Global Insight Series on March 29 in Kansas City.

Saritha Mendanha is Unbound’s program coordinator in Hyderabad, India. With two master’s degrees, in social work and counseling & psychotherapy, Saritha has worked for Unbound for eight years. She began as the program coordinator in Chennai in 2009 and took on the same role in Hyderabad — Unbound’s largest project in India — in 2012.

Unbound has 37 projects in the 19 countries where we work. The projects serve as regional hubs in areas where sponsored members live, and are the coordinating centers for community-based programs that span the area. Each of these hubs is led by a coordinator who helps guide and manage the Unbound program in that area.

At both Unbound’s Global Insight Series on March 29 and at an employee-wide presentation earlier in the week, Saritha shared about the innovative programs happening in her project in Hyderabad. With an emphasis on guiding and mentoring young adults, the Hyderabad program is finding unique — and fun — ways for sponsored children and young adults to find their path in life.

Saritha explained that, in India, youth begin to choose their long term career paths in their teenage years. Unlike in the U.S., where college students can change majors every year and still end up in a different field than their degree, Indian students must commit to a career path early on. She expressed the difficulty in changing direction once in university, and thus the importance of choosing rightly from the start.

Because of this major life decision that young adults are expected to make early on, the Unbound program in Hyderabad has created a series of programs to help mentor children and young adults and guide them to make the best possible choice for their future.

To this end, the Hyderabad project has instituted three summer programs for children ranging from elementary school age to university students.

“We listen to their goals and help them achieve their dreams.“ — Saritha in India Click To Tweet

For children, Blossom Camp is a day-long experience that helps children understand the idea of goal setting early in their development. They begin to explore their own interests and learn what it means to achieve their dreams.

“We help them to pass through the stages of development,” Saritha said. “We listen to their goals and help them achieve their dreams.”

As sponsored children enter into secondary school in their teenage years, they participate in Pathfinders — a program that helps them discern their career paths and helps build confidence as they prepare for university. With the guidance of career counselors and Unbound staff, students explore their passions and skill sets to make wise decisions.

Finally, sponsored youth who are in university participate in Yuvakalarang, which means “colors of youth.” This program offers students a strong ending to their time as Unbound sponsored children, and helps them to prepare for job interviews and best practices in a workplace. It is also aimed at engaging students who are soon to retire from Unbound sponsorship to stay involved as volunteers.

For sponsored children in Hyderabad, Unbound’s programs provide guidance and a better way to achieve their dreams. The benefits of sponsorship paired with this in-depth guidance and mentorship is life-changing, instilling confidence and wisdom in children and youth at an early age.

Saritha and her team in Hyderabad take inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who once said, “If you can’t fly then run; if you can’t run then walk; if you can’t walk then crawl; but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

This the mindset with which the staff in Hyderabad lead sponsored families — inspiring them to keep moving, no matter what. For students choosing their goals and paving their path to the future at an early age, that wisdom is invaluable.

See photos from the Global Insight Series.

Maureen Lunn

Writer/Editor

Maureen joined Unbound in 2016. With a master’s degree in international studies, Maureen has long been passionate about international development and loves using writing as a means to share that passion. She is a globetrotter, movie lover, Sporting KC fan, yoga teacher and self-designated crazy cat lady. Maureen and her husband, Toby, sponsor an elder in Kenya named Wambui.

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