Help each other grow! | Daily News

Help each other grow!

Moments from the first CYP workshops
Moments from the first CYP workshops

Social work, to many, represents an industry wrapped around the poor, providing them with services so that they can meet the basic living needs to survive. For Surangi Perera and Dr. Rushma Mohammed-Fronczak, however, it serves as a productive outlet for them to channel their passion for helping others.

This is the inspiration behind ‘Create Your Path’, a series of online workshops which help build entrepreneurial skills in women. Starting off on March 7, 2020, the CYP series soon moved onto an online platform due to the pandemic. Now it is in its fifth season which started on September 7 and ends on September 30. The workshops are conducted from 6pm to 8pm via zoom.

“Our love for helping other people is the main reason why we started CYP. We believe that specially now, we have to get out of the mindset that we are in a pandemic and nothing is going right and get into a culture of helping in whatever way we can to lift each other up,” Surangi and Rushma explained the inspiration behind CYP.

“Being a business owner myself I have come across many who say that they want to start on their own. One thing that I saw in many was that they didn’t know where to start from. I had wanted to help budding entrepreneurs for a long time. I was also trying to find my way in that area, when one day I randomly messaged Rushma telling her my idea. She instantly jumped onboard. We started making plans. We didn’t expect to come this far but our dedication and seeing the ladies who passed through each season motivated and made us stronger to work for another season,” Surangi said.

Rushma notes that being a Sri Lankan woman, living in this country and earning in rupees is not easy.

“I realized there needs to be side hustle if you are a single income family. So is the case for many women, who are the breadwinners of their own family. I am a clinical psychologist based in Kandy and, through my practice, I have worked with many women from all walks of life. It also includes young, sexually abused females in a way-home in Kandy. Through this I noticed that there are quite a number of women who believe that a woman from another ethnicity or religious or racial background will not be able to support or help. This made me feel sad actually, because there would be a lot of women bashing happening in the sessions. When I noticed that the women did not realize that both them and me were not of the same ethnicity, race, religion or language on many occasions. Furthermore, I noticed that there are so many organizations out there doing wonderful work that identify with one or the other demographic details I mentioned before. So, I was wondering when we have outside the box thinking it can help us a lot to overcome so many challenges and I wanted to do something where we identify as women of Ceylon bonding together to lift each other up with out the unseen borders or limitations hindering us, hence, sisterhood in Sri Lanka,” she elaborated.

She says that through CYP she wants to have empowerment of women happening through education, counselling and financial independence. Financial independence was an important element she wanted to focus on because upon speaking to a few matrons of way-homes she was informed that once the girl of abuse reaches 18 they need to leave the safe home.

“Many of them do go back to their abusers because of the financial support they can get. This broke my heart. So, while I am not in a position yet to figure out a pathway to support these young females in the safe homes I wanted to at least try to come up with something to help women who are in relationships of abuse and strong hold to free themselves financially, in the least. Whilst I was thinking of what to do and how to set about, Surangi happened to message me and TA DA! That is how CYP started,” she added.

Part of CYP’s proceedings goes to help a female owned low income business named Sandaliya based in Kandy. The other part of the proceedings goes to two projects handled by Rushma’s organization that is focused on suicide prevention and aiding victims of domestic abuse.

Surangi and Rushma noted that and hearing the reviews from the participants keep them going. It is their passion to help others gain courage in creating their path that mainly fuels CYP.

“I really enjoy working with Surangi. While I manage the mental health component of things, Surangi really keeps the project moving forward and gives very practical examples of business management from her own experience that keeps participants hooked. In real time I can witness from the side lines the Aha! moment faces, lets us know that they uncovered a blind spot in terms of business and life progress. Furthermore, given that this is a branch of the Sisterhood Sri Lanka project, I am psyched about the fact a community of Sri Lankan women are connecting and networking with each other which has created a cosy environment for empowerment and upliftment,” Rushma mused.

Finding people to register, low finance for social media promoting and not being able to conduct the workshops in three languages are some of the main challenges they have faced. However, the duo are discussing on how they can start a range of workshops that are being conducted in Sinhala and Tamil. “Since we started our first season we have been wondering how to get this done. For now finances play a big role in moving forward with the language component, to incorporate interpreters,” Surangi said.

Content writing is a new subject which one can expect in season 5. Three new facilitators too have been added to the list.

“We have looked at the other seasons and noticed that while it is well paced in many ways, there is the element of commitment for 8 weeks. So we thought of doing a workshop boot camp month where we wrap up in 4 weeks, with 2 workshops a week with professionals in their respective fields for at least 5 years,” Surangi expressed.

CYP has helped women emerging from diverse backgrounds starting from 21 years to 37 years. The businesses ranged from health and skincare to fashion and content writing. The participants came from areas like Colombo, Kandy, Matale, and Gampaha.

“More than business growth, we help individuals to connect with the soul essence of their entrepreneurial venture- what is it they want to put back into the world and how they want to impact people,” Surangi said.

CYP keeps a constant tab on the participants throughout the workshop with assignments and follow-ups. There is a WhatsApp group that they would be added to where they would meet everyone from other seasons as well.

“We also record the sessions and upload them to the drive so that the participants can refer back at any time throughout the years to come. We send the message across that we are reachable anytime for them after the workshop,” she added.

Those who wish to take part in the workshops can register through the link in the bio of the Instagram page of Sisterhood in Sri Lanka. The handle is @sisterhood_in_srilanka.

“It can be someone who is hoping to start their own business in any area or someone who has already started and feels like they need a push to expand and gain more from their business. We focus on the startup level. No specific qualification is needed - just one’s love to learn and big dreams!” Surangi noted with a smile.

Surangi and Rushma plan to create an online education platform in a trilingual set up that would allow one to access master classes at any time. They are working on getting all their facilitators and new facilitators involved in this that would create a revenue for all.

“Networking is an important part in taking your business to the next level. CYP is a great opportunity to network with other like minded people. I would like to say, always make yourself and your business visible to all in a way that is relevant to your brand. It is important that you be the first that people remember when the requirement comes. Never be shy. Also be authentic,” Surangi advised.

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