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Surekha Waldia; ELNA; The Story Exchange; Learning; Education; Social EnterpriseYour Name: Surekha Waldia

Business Name: ELNA (Experiential Learning via Nature Based Activity), an activities service aimed at turing passive learners into achievers

Type of Business: Social Enterprise

Business Location: Gurgaon, India

Website www.elna.co.in
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/ELNA-experiential-learning-via-nature-based-activity/

Reason for starting
Deep inside me I had always wanted to be independent and be free of restrictions, but at the same time do such work that would help change the lives of the people I worked with. Secondly, I have always believed education should empower the learner by developing critical awareness so that we can break away from the ‘culture of silence’ maintained by the present day schools, where the student is just a passive learner. Thus began my journey with ELNA my social venture, where I work in schools to implement the life skills among children.The objective of this format is to develop a simple, effective format that helps develop Life skills and hone children’s Attitudes & Value System by imparting clear understanding of the deep rooted concepts being taught in class through integration of various subjects via nature based activities.

How do you define success?
For me success is just another measuring unit giving us indications of our progress.In my case success have been small milestones I have reached in my career path. My earliest milestone in the path of becoming a social entrepreneur was getting admiited at Upenn for a course in Non profit Leadership.The learnings from here gave me the insight on how should I understand my own needs and then work on to fulfill them. My next milestone of achievement was when I became a mother & learnt the basic but very valuable lessons,on influence of environment,on the growth and development of a child, with a repository of experiences which I got when I watched my son grow from an infant to a baby to a four year old nursery boy. It’s during these years that I started developing ideas and thoughts on what is ideal education and thus ELNA was born.

Biggest Success
ELNA was a step in this direction where experiments & workshops with children are conducted to record, how they react and respond to gardening, painting, model making, conducting surveys, interacting with professionals from other walks of life and academics,when clubbed together.After one year of workshop with kids of various age groups, I decided to move on to making my own format which I wanted Schools to implement in their curriculum. The objective of this format is to develop a simple, effective format that helps develop Life skills and hone children’s Attitudes & Value System by imparting clear understanding of the deep rooted concepts being taught in class through integration of various subjects via nature based activities. My biggest success came when a well reputed chain of Schools in India, decided to implement my ELNA in one of their branch in Delhi NCR, giving me the chance of testing my concept.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
My biggest struggle in the process of becoming a social entrepreneur was the conflict of ideas within me which made me change my track twice in becoming an entrepreneur. My work experience had been connected with how to educate people to make themselves more self reliant and grow their money. Back from Penn,I was obsessed with this idea that to alleviate the societal miseries, we need to educate people on how to become self-reliant.Thus began my work in educating farmers on how they can access the market better & streamline their various processes, for this I began travelling to interiors of the country trying to connect with farmers living in remote villages. After working here, I realized,my efforts are going futile because it wasn’t easy to re-mold their thought process. Its here I realized that mindset needs to be changed when young & naive and the importance of being educated.

Who is your most important role model?
I believe inspiration is something which is present constantly in our surroundings in the form of some colleagues doing some act of kindness, or hearing some incident of bravery, or how someone in our social circle fought against all odds to reach the goal he or she wanted to achieve. My biggest inspiration have been my parents who fought all odds, to reach a certain platform in the society from where they instilled the right values and guided both my sister and me to reach our goals.

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