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Working for a self-sustained society in Manipur

Dec 29, 2017

Rythm Foundation is helping people in Manipur through social empowerment.

Imphal: Hejang Misao from the North-Eastern state of Manipur is one of the many social entrepreneurs across India who is being supported by the RYTHM Foundation, the CSR arm of Asia’s leading direct selling firm QNET. RYTHM Foundation has joined hands with Manava Seva Dharma Samvardhani (MSDS) to encourage and support social entrepreneurs like Misao working in the oft-neglected recesses of India through their Sadguru Gnanananda Fellowship Project.

In an interview, Misao speaks about his life in the riot-torn state of Manipur, his struggle with poverty, his stint in extremism during his early youth, and finally his life’s calling in social work and his dreams for a better and self-sustained society, which are being turned into reality with support from RYTHM FOUNDATION.

Misao says encouragement from his own people and RYTHM Foundation’s support in the form of a fellowship, and guidance has helped him to nurture and grow his project ‘InSIDE-NorthEast’ into one of the most recognisable and respected social ventures for youth and women in Manipur today.

Misao was born in Shelmei village of Manipur in 1979. He has three siblings – two elder brothers and a younger sister. However, this village was decimated from the very map of Manipur in the 1992 riots. He lost his father when he was just five years old. Suddenly, they were staring at extreme poverty. His mom was the sole bread earner and she had four mouths to feed. She brought them up in great hardship by working in Jhum Cultivation (Shifting Cultivation). He had to work in a rice mill when he was in Standard 8th to support his education. He spent his formative days in Saikul village in Kangpokpi district and currently he is based there.

Like many teens and youth of Manipur, He was also pulled into the extremist movements. When he was young, there were widespread conflicts among communities. In 1993, he got sucked into the insurgency conflict. Many youngsters like him were force-recruited by the insurgents and sent to training camps. He too was trained in guerrilla warfare. After training, he had the choice to join the insurgent group or defend his village. He chose to stay put and defend village.

During his student days, when he was in college, he started working with other social workers first as a means of livelihood, but later it became his life’s calling when he saw the happiness, the joy and the smile that his service brought to the people of his community. He decided to commit his life to social service and that is when he also decided to do his Masters studies in social work.

After completing his MSoW (Master of Social Work) course, he was involved with an Austrian project. While working there, he decided to start his own project - Integrated Social & Institutional Development for Empowerment (InSIDE-North East). The organisation was registered on 14th February, 2013. They were looking for funding and support for the project and came across the MSDS Fellowship, which is provided by RYTHM Foundation. He applied for it in October 2016 and was accepted and became a fellow of Sadguru Gnanananda Fellowship Project.

They wanted to begin by helping the young people who are the worst affected by the insurgency war. Along with a group of his friends, they started this project called ‘Guns to Pens’ to bring education at the grassroots level. They set up book banks and life-skill programs. They revived the practice of ‘Shom-in’ where village elders impart training to youngsters in areas like cultivation, hunting, village administration etc. They also started several projects for women empowerment. They provide training in beauty and wellness to young girls.

Misao has chosen social work as his career and not for money. The smile that his work brings to people’s faces – that is invaluable to him. He is happy that people today recognise and respect him for the work he did. He wanted to help the young boys and girls of his state who like him had to face (and still face) a lot of hardship due to the insurgency problems and poverty. Many are forced to give up education and often turn into terrorists or drug addicts. The fact that he is now able to help such young people and bring them back to mainstream society and enrich their lives with knowledge and education, brings me huge joy and satisfaction. He is balancing his life and work well with people’s love and from the financial support he gets from the fellowship.

Misao told,“the best thing about the MSDS fellowship is that RYTHM Foundation supports him in developing his own ideas for social good as well as nurtures him to become a successful entrepreneur by giving him ideas on how to make his projects self-sustainable. They are always there to mentor and guide me whenever he stumble or fumble but, at the same time, give him enough space to work and grow as an individual and as an entrepreneur.”

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