Nivedita Patil has witnessed ARMMAN’s growth over the five years she has spent here – from a single project in Sion Hospital to 5 programs across 9 states; from 6 employees to over 100 team members; from one office room to an entire floor. As ARMMAN celebrates 10 years since registration, we tag along with Nivedita for a trip down memory lane.
I applied to ARMMAN right after completing my Masters in Social Work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences. My interview was taken by Alvin (D’Souza) and Dr. Sandhya (Joshi), who was the research head at the time. I joined as a project officer for Arogya Sakhi on 1st May, 2013, ten days before my convocation. We were two project officers, and we divided the work between us. I was responsible for the development of voice calls and animation, and my colleague created the training modules and manuals.
We Did It All
At that time, the Arogya Sakhi project in Osmanabad, Solapur and Washim was funded by Department for International Development, UK (Editor’s note: The project is now supported by Bajaj Finance). I had done fieldwork before, so I didn’t find it too difficult to travel and stay alone. Since ARMMAN was relatively new, I got the experience of working at the grass-root level of the organisation. We used to carry big bundles of photocopies from Mumbai on the overnight train since it was cheaper here. Often, we had to translate the material ourselves. We didn’t stick to our assigned roles. We had to play all parts – admin, stationery managers, project officers, accountants. We picked up so many skills during that period.
We also had to handle communication. My colleague used to post on social media platforms. We even made a video with the help of a local wedding videographer. We took him to the village and directed him to shoot our project there. We’ve had good experiences and bad, but this period was crucial in preparing us for the future.
Learning From Dr. Aparna
I miss the old days when we travelled to the field with Dr. Aparna. Solapur was the last stop on the train and we would arrive there at 7am. When we travelled alone, we would wake up at 6:45am but when Dr. Aparna was with us, we’d get very conscious. She would wake up at 4am and start working, even in the train!
Her attention to detail is impeccable. We didn’t pay attention to so many things while making reports but she would spot casing errors and formatting mistakes. Because of her, we started looking at documentation closely. We have learned a lot from her. We’ve seen her passion. She emanates a special energy. Whenever she speaks to us, she always inspires us to do more. We really appreciate her motivation and guidance.
Then and Now
The essence and culture of ARMMAN to bind everyone together is still intact, but a few things have changed. Even now we interact with Dr. Aparna regularly, but earlier we would go directly to her house to meet her. That is difficult as the staff and organisation grows, but I miss those days because we learnt so much from her.
The other major difference is that now we have dedicated people for each post, unlike earlier when all of us did everything around the clock. We would get emails from Dr. Aparna and Alvin at 3am and 4am. We would work on animations and go to collect printouts after 6pm. The animator we were working with at that time was based in US, so we would have meetings with her at 6:30am. Earlier we found that hectic, but now I miss it.
ARMMAN Has Given Me A Lot
This was my first job out of college, but I’m still here because ARMMAN has given me a lot of knowledge. My work is not monotonous. After every appraisal, I move to a different project. First I was with the DFID project, then I shifted to mMitra followed by Arogya Sakhi and now I’m working on the Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) project. I’m happy with my growth at ARMMAN. I’ve received experience at both the field and office level.
My Wish for ARMMAN
All our projects are technology-based, but we don’t have as much recognition as we deserve in the digital space. We need to increase our presence and build awareness around our brand, because we put in a lot of effort to do good work. ARMMAN should be the foremost name in the digital and technological solutions space.