India impact teams hit the ground running

Employees reach out to help in some of the country’s most impoverished areas, with a special focus on children and community support

In the less than two years that WeWork India has been operational, WeWork team members in three of the country’s biggest cities—Bengaluru (Bangalore), Gurugram, and Mumbai—have established impact teams committed to helping their communities through a variety of projects.

Many teams organized toy drives as part of their Season of Service holiday volunteer effort. Volunteer WeWork employees in Bangalore partnered with Freedom Foundation, a charity that looks after HIV-positive youth, and donated gifts to an orphanage. The WeWork team spent an evening with the children playing and opening gifts.

The idea came from Sangeeth Samuel, director of new member development, who’s been involved to varying degrees with the orphanage for the last 15 years. In 2006, Samuel formed his own NGO and, through it, raised enough money to pay the school fees of more than 30 kids for three years. But in the years since, his involvement had waned as he became busy with his career, and, well, life.

Organizing the WeWork drive has inspired him to work even harder for the orphans. “Going back there with my WeWork family to meet the new kids in Freedom Foundation reminded me that it’s time to do what I love—and in this case, get love back, too,” he says. “Seeing those new kids shows me that the world goes on, and so must we.”

Children in Mumbai were treated to a toy drive as well, where WeWork volunteers at six locations partnered with The Akanksha Foundation, a local NGO that works with local schools to enhance curricula and offer mentoring, teacher training, and volunteer opportunities. The teams collected and distributed more than 200 gifts and school supplies to fifth grade and kindergarten students. “It was a great success!” says Anusha Gupta, brand and marketing manager at WeWork Mumbai.

WeWork Mumbai also partnered with the Smile Foundation, an NGO that serves children in remote villages and slums across India. The city’s WeWork Enam Sambhav impact team organized a day of fun, including a “choose your own toy” activity, with member company Hasbro. Gupta says the success of the day inspired a future idea: “We’ve been discussing a mentorship program between kids and members and employees, organizing different workshops for them at our buildings on a long-term basis,” she explains.

In New Delhi, the impact team visited Maanas Primary School, an educational center that provides free education, support, and health care to youth from disadvantaged neighborhoods. The team spent the morning at the school distributing more than 100 gifts—and were treated to a rooftop concert from the children.

“It was amazing to see how the members and our teams came together, as a community, to bring smiles to these cute little faces,” says Himmani Nath, community associate at WeWork India.

Elsewhere, impact teams responded to natural disasters and political milestones. Last August, during India’s monsoon season, the state of Kerala experienced the worst floods it has seen in more than a century, which caused the deaths of almost 500 people and the evacuation of nearly 1 million.

In response, Bangalore community lead Kanchana Jayakumar initiated a relief effort in Kerala, where she attended school. The team collected more than 15,000 pounds of materials from staff and donated it to the region’s citizens.

In September, WeWork Bangalore shifted into celebration mode when India’s supreme court overturned Section 377 of the country’s constitution, decriminalizing gay sex. To honor the human rights victory, WeWork Bangalore hosted a series of panel discussions, an art project, a photo exhibition, and musical performances curated and organized by Bengaluru’s LGBTQIA+ community during November’s Pride Week.

WeWork Bengaluru also partnered with the Smile Foundation’s Swabhiman Program to provide 30 scholarships to girls and one-on-one mentorships for female entrepreneurs.

At WeWork in Gurugram, the team collected and donated more than 200 books to Sarvahitey, an NGO that builds libraries in poor or rural areas. One member’s son felt so strongly about the cause that he donated 100 books himself.

As part of WeWork’s Refugee Initiative, with the help of Fair Trade Forum India, WeWork employees in Delhi gave Afghan and Congolese refugees a platform to display their handicrafts and food at a community event.

Many teams got busy for World Cleanup Day in September. In Bangalore, WeWork team members joined forces with The Ugly Indians, a watchdog-type group of anonymous volunteers, to clean trash from the city’s streets and paint murals on walls. In Delhi, they worked with locals to clear the settlements at the polluted Yamuna River bank. And in Mumbai, WeWork volunteers partnered with a local youth organization to clean up Juhu Beach, where shores are covered with trash. The cleanup continues as a communal effort. “Given what a huge problem trash is in Mumbai, this activity felt close to all our hearts,” says Gupta.

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