Poonam was qualified, talented and educated but still could not get a decent job like “normal” people. Suffering from’ Osteogenesis Imperfecta,’ sometimes known as brittle bone disease, or “Lobstein syndrome”, her tiny body has been ravaged by numerous operations. In her own words, there are perhaps more plates supporting her tiny body than bones. Poonam is just two feet and eight inches in height, but this did not stop her from positively impacting the lives of many. An MBA in Finance with a Post Graduate Diploma in Personnel Management, she still struggled to find a job. Prospective employers never considered her exceptional qualifications or abilities but declined to hire her just because of her tiny structure. Even before completing 30 years, she has proved them all wrong! She converted her disability into an opportunity and started an organization to help the people around her in many ways.
Poonam, the youngest daughter with two elder brothers, has always been treated as a normal child. Her parents have been the major source of motivation and they have instilled in her the ability to live normally.Poonam attended a normal school in Bhopal and completed her graduation in Commerce. Driven by the urge to excel, Poonam completed her Master’s in Business Administration specializing in Finance. To equip herself further, she also completed her post graduate diploma in Personnel Management. These educational qualifications would have landed a “normal” individual with a decent employment, but not Poonam.
In every interview she attended, prospective employers were always concerned about her tiny physical structure – how would she commute to and from the office, whether she would be able to sit and work for 8 to 10 hours, and what about targets and deadlines? Even the various reservations in the employment sector never favoured Poonam.Finally, a HR firm seemed a shade positive. She approached them stating that they need not pay her any salary, until they were convinced about her working abilities. Taking her on the face value, she was hired and treated like any other employee. She had a set of targets and deadlines and was also scolded if there were delays or unmet targets. The only exemption made to her was that she could go home if she felt uneasy or unwell. But the tasks had to be completed, albeit from home. Poonam worked here for six years.
Soon Poonam realised that she had not progressed vertically. She was where she began on day one. She was not satisfied with a dull job and wanted to do something different, which could challenge her. After a point, the work became mundane and she did not feel satisfied. Her friends would discuss and motivate her to think beyond this routine job. That’s when one of her friends, Ashish Mishra, helped her look at the larger picture – wherein she could truly utilize her potential to help numerous other challenged individuals to shore up their potential. Uddip Social Welfare Society, a registered organisation, was still in its nascent stage. Poonam left her job and breathed life into Uddip Social Welfare Society. It allowed Poonam to utilise her potential, as someone who has seen the worst in her life, and has emerged as a role model. She has focused on physically challenged individuals first.
Uddip Social Welfare Society has started a campaign ‘Can Do’ for the empowerment of disabled individuals. In this campaign, Uddip worked with Shubham Viklang Evam Samaj Seva Samiti, and in August 2014, a small session on skill development, career counseling and guidance was conducted.It was in this session that the true worth of Poonam was realized. She wants to continue working with the organization and support as many people as possible.
Gangaprasad is one such individual who participated in the campaign. He hails from a very poor family and was admitted to the Shubham Viklang Evam Samaj Seva Samiti when he was barely six or seven. He is suffering from polio in both his legs. He completed his schooling and is now studying in the second year of the BCA. He believes that, even with his physical disability, he will definitely find a job. Poonam has been counseling him to be prepared holistically. Gangaprasad has been preparing for government exams, but he cannot develop even a small computer program. Poonam, along with her friend who is a computer expert, is helping Gangaprasad in mastering programming. Poonam is also coaching him, in terms of how to perform at group discussions and interviews. This is where she is using the experiences from her own life to guide and prepare others. .
Other activities that she has begun focusing on are blood donations and livelihoods. Poonam has concentrated her efforts on rural areas, having completed a survey of one village already. She wants to make the women self-sufficient by providing them livelihood options. The survey discovered that sewing is the way forward for empowering the women. It also indicated that women in the villages would like to become literate, or enhance their literary skills so that they can assist their own children in finishing their homework. She is also working on projects to enable learning by fun for children.
With support from friends and family, Poonam has achieved her dreams. Spelling out her secret of success, Poonam states, “If one’s willpower is strong, one is propelled to action, and when one takes that action, the path ahead becomes clearer.” A big salute to Poonam standing tall, in spite of her short height.