Asmita – Sky is the Limit!

“At the end of my life, I would like to say to myself that I have lived a complete life, explored all my potentials and contributed to a great extent to every organization that has given me the opportunity to make a difference!”

Cletus Zuzarte, an energetic 51 year old Program Manager with Centre for Social Action, an MSW with over 17 years of experience in the social sector. He is actively involved in bringing in Quality Standards into the entire Operations of this Organization. From Program Development to its complete Operations in the field he has been actively involved with 18 Partners of CSA leading the Kathkari Tribals in Raigad through a process of People Led Empowerment, access their entitlements and work towards a sustainable future through environment friendly livelihood options. Besides this another major intervention in Dharavi Islands (a suburb of Mumbai) has seen him actively involved with the fisherfolk community in six locations enabling local leaders to take up ownership and lead the community towards resolving their local issues and working towards enhanced livelihood options.

Now this is just one facet of his life that has made him get involved in rural India. He is a multi-faceted personality who actually began his journey in an altogether different sector. He started his professional life in an absolutely different field. After completing his BA in Ancient Indian Culture from St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai, he joined a Catholic Religious Society called the Blessed Sacrament Fathers in an effort to pursue his religious calling. He completed his initial two years of training (called Novitiate) and then went on to an elaborate 7 year training that consisted of study at St. Pius College in Mumbai in Philosophy and Theology and 1 year practical training (kind of internship) with the religious society and then went on to serve the Religious Society for four year after being officially ‘ordained’ as a Catholic Priest. He served in various capacities like starting of as an assistant priest and later taking on the responsibility of being Director of a Training Center (Retreat House) at Agashi, Virar (Thane District, a suburb of western Mumbai).

I would like to focus on the turning points in his life that made him review the course of his life and reflect on the opportunities available within the context of his life. He realized that given his potential he would need to move out of the structure of Religious Life in order to make a difference in the lives of the people he served. During this time of his life he met his life partner to whom he made a life long commitment through the sacred pledge of Marriage. He immediately realized that he would need to add to his social qualifications so that he would be able to match up and respond to existing demands of educational merit to succeed in life. He took admissions in the acclaimed Institute of Social Work – Nirmala Niketan and acquired his Masters in Social Work, simultaneously during his holidays he worked with an organization called BUILD that gave him his first touch into grassroots work as he assisted with a Japanese Researcher to collect data on pavement dwellers in Mumbai.

Immediately on completion of MSW he was requested to take on the post of becoming a Programme Coordinator with Western Region Social Service Forum where he was involved with coordinating partners from 16 geographical areas in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Goa. Here he collaborated with them to organize various training programmes to enhance their capability towards implementing projects at the field level. At every step he has reviewed his existing work and he took upon himself to enhance his experience and diversify his field of work. He went on to review NGOs through a process of Credit Rating with and then later on looked at putting the documentation process into place with Vatsalya, an NGO working with street children. He added finesse to reporting and even their Annual Report took on a new shape.

Realizing the need to go ahead into honing his skills on documentation and research he upgraded them by acquiring a Diploma in Research Methodology which led him to take on a position of Researcher with Don Bosco Development Society. During this phase of his life he learnt and sharpened his skills in Participative Research and Impact Assessments. He was also engaged in a Participative Strategic Planning Process with the team using Participative Rural Appraisal techniques of Needs Assessment. Simultaneously he also learnt how to work with various partners at the field and was also involved with capacity building and also interacted with Youth. His knowledge on Documentation helped him develop a software program with Engineers called “Shikshan Jeevika” which he used to collect one million samples across India with a team from 10 different geographical locations of Don Bosco Institutes in India. This effort led the organization to bag the project from the Ministry of Rural Development in India where the set targets were to train and employ a specific number of youth within the project period.

During this time another avenue opened up in terms of expanding his knowledge and experience at the National level. He joined a funding organization called “Caritas India” as a Regional Officer for the Western Region, but through his sheer hard work of setting the projects in order upon taking office within six months he was offered the position of ‘Zonal Manager’ of the Western Region. He took on this responsibility and led the team of State Officers and 26 Partners in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Goa to new heights where he led them to develop projects through a new frame work of Results based Management thus enhancing the quality of project proposals that were submitted to funding agencies.

During his two year tenure with “Swades Foundation” he has worked with 1954 SHGs through his 26 strong social workers team at the grassroots in 6 talukas of Raigad District in Maharashtra; guiding and enabling them to make non-functional SHGs, functional through an elaborate empowerment process. Besides this he has also another set of responsibilities that makes him work with three village communities in Khamgaon, Mhasla Taluka in Raigad District in Maharashtra where he has put into operation at Village level Committee that has been working their way to make a Community Learning and Resource Center operative in their village. This Center called Swajan Jagruti Kendra has various sections like a Library, a Computer section, a Women Empowerment Section that has two batches of Sewing Classes and also a Beautician Course for 20 women each and an Early Childhood Section that lends out 6 sets of toys to 20 Anganwadis in the Khamgaon Cluster. This has been quite an innovative feature that has been one of its kind unparalleled to any such Center operative in Asia as mentioned by READ India the primary partner to the Center.

While working with Don Bosco’s and Caritas India he completed further academic pursuits, he completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Human Resource Excellence, a Diploma in Youth Development Work and another Post Graduate Diploma in Human Rights. He would now like to consolidate his learnings by further adding his experience to his academic knowledge by pursuing a Doctoral Study on an innovative model of ‘Partnership of Stakeholders towards Integrated Growth of a Community”. He plans to work this out concretely by developing a Resource Center that will be operative at a proposed rural geographical set up and wants to document this venture through Process Documentation. Discussions are on and perhaps would materialize in the near future.

What have I learnt through this entire process, is that a person’s life is not determined through circumstances, however the person can determine his future. A sense of self confidence with a deep sense of spiritual strength and lot of support from his natural family (and his wife in particular) and friends set him on course and led him to quite a few significant achievements in his life. At every step of his life he made decisions that have always upheld the dignity of persons he has worked with and worked for. He has touched people as he has moved into the various phases of his life and continues to do today and surely as he reaches the end of his life he will have said that “it was a life worth living and of course he would have made a difference!”

Penned down by a close friend and family member!



My Idea of Happiness

IMG-20150905-WA0033Life is a journey and each one of us are pilgrims waiting to reach our destination that is, Happiness. Yes, each one of us wants to be happy and that is what we all strive to attain and actually struggle through life, just to attain our goal of happiness. If only we understood what really is Happiness, life would so different, isn’t it?

Once a disciple came to the Guru and asked, him can you share with me the secret of happiness. Of course said the Guru, first go and catch the first ray of sunlight in the morning and bring it to me. The disciple waited at dawn the next morning and tried to capture it and bring it to the Guru but unfortunately this ray of sunlight would not stay in his hand. It disappeared before he tried to bring it in to give the Guru. After repeated attempts he realized his folly and came back to the Guru to narrate his failure. The Guru only smiled and asked him a question, ‘did you enjoy looking at the first ray of sunlight’?. The disciple answered him, ‘No Guruji’. I was preoccupied in capturing it and bringing it to you. “Oh, you laboured, so hard, and did not enjoy your task. It would have been sufficient if you had to capture the first ray of sunlight in your eyes and in your smile and share it with me. True happiness is attained in enjoying the task that you do, when you truly enjoy what you are doing it is no long difficult, you will never fail, in fact there will be joy that you radiate. This is happiness. Happiness is living each moment, capturing it and sharing it!

As students we are constantly studying so hard, trying to be number one in life. We want to be the best; we do not compromise and insist on doing everything in the best possible way. Today, we insist on perfection and we are waiting to reach the end, and live in the most beautiful romantic world that we paint in our imagination. But really speaking, Happiness is found in the little moments of madness, in the crazy situations and with the so called foolish people we live with. Take for example, we complain about our daily travel and we wonder when will we have a better transport system, but are we not better off than those who lived just 20 years back. Today we have better buses, trains and cars, faster efficient and less polluting. All we need to say, is that, ‘Am I not better off than how my parents lived their lives’?, and in that you will find the answer. Today, my life is better than Yesterday. Just think about it and in that there is a sense of fulfilment and happiness that will fill your heart. Happiness lies in the wisdom of counting your blessings one by one!

“I have a better dress than you”, “I have a computer, what do you have?” Today the value of person is judged by what he possesses. “Happiness is not Having, but Being”There was once a great and wealthy king who was so unhappy and always sad. Inspite of all his riches he was still so unhappy. He consulted his Guruji, and asked him what more he need to do to be happy. His Guruji gave him a very simple instruction, “If you want to be happy, go find a happy man and wear his shirt, and you will be happy. He met and interviewed each person in his kingdom and asked them if they were happy. Each person had some story of sorrow to narrate. Dejected and disappointed he came back after many days and he met a beggar at his gate was singing and entertaining everyone. The king went upto him and asked him, “Are you happy?” He replied, “Yes”. The king then, immediately asked him, “Then, Give me your shirt”. The beggar smiled and replied, “definitely you can take my shirt, but I don’t have any shirt!”. The king then realized that the greatest wealth of happiness is not having but being. Happiness comes from within, and wealth does not make a person happy.

As I grow up, I realize I too want to be Happy, there are a lot of goals that I need to achieve. I only pray that each day I have the wisdom to sit back and count my blessings and realize that it is not what I have that counts but what I am is what really matter. And of course, and life goes by, I need not run after happiness, all I will do is to Wait and  be Still and Happiness like a butterfly will sit on my shoulder!

~ Cletus Zuzarte