Though we had worked in the same organisation for months, I met both of them during our rafting expedition. One fell into the water and was rescued by us. The other drifted too far away from her own raft while ‘swimming’ in a still part of the river and was rescued by us. You don’t go through experiences like that and not smile at each other in office!
But it was only last week that we progressed beyond a smile and a ‘hi’. We got talking about this and that, and the guy who was knocked over told me that for the past year, the two of them had been working with girls from the dockyards to provide them with livelihood and social development skills. They had received a small grant from an organisation set up to encourage social entrepreneurs like them, and were hoping to nail some funding that would allow them to work unhindered for the next couple of years. We spoke about potential funders for a few minutes, and when I complimented him on his grasp of finance, he informed me that both of them were also working towards an undergraduate degree in Commerce.
I know the guy represents the state in rugby, and that the girl also plays the game at the highest levels. “How on earth do you find the time for all that”, I asked. “Full-time job, your own non-profit, rugby, B.Com.”
The girl laughed. “D. P. Ed also”, she said.
“What’s that?”, I asked.
“Diploma in Physical Education”, she clarified.
“You mean you are doing a B.Com. and a D. P. Ed. Simultaneously?” I was genuinely astonished. “Either with a full-time job is tough enough. How do you manage both, and still find time for your non-profit and for rugby?”
“When you have to do something, you can always do it”, she told me simply.
“But why do you have to do so much? Can’t you let something rest for now?”
“But what do I leave”, he asked. “I need to do all of it.”
Their families needed the money so they had to work. Both were the first in their families to attend high school, and saw education as the only way to move out of poverty. Both loved rugby and could imagine not playing every weekend. But did they really have to do much more?
“I understand about your studies and rugby”, I said. “But can’t you delay starting your own non-profit?”
Both looked shocked at the suggestion. “We are where we are only because of non-profits”, she finally told me. “I can give up anything, but don’t ask me to give up that work. If I don’t do it, what will happen to those girls?”
They are both nineteen. They grew up construction sites. They are in charge of their destiny. They are determined to give other people a future, the way they were given their’s.
I am proud to know them. And even more, I am in awe of them. Because they are proof that if you are passionate about something, your day expands to let you do it.