Know Our Team is a series that attempts to bring to you the stories of our team, share our experiences, why we do what we do and special moments that have left an indelible mark in each of our lives.
Jessica Xalxo is the Volunteer Engagement Officer at Safecity. She manages Safecity’s Internship Programme and Volunteer outreach. Along with Mubaraka Motiwala, she also leads Safecity’s Campus Ambassador (Leadership) Programme & Safecity’s NSS (Mumbai University) Project. An avid reader and a child at heart, you’ll find her entrenched in the realms beyond during her time of leisure. Her personal favourite form of literary expression is Poetry. A positively empowered student, she takes on every challenge as a learning opportunity. Her mantra – Die another day.
Know Our Team- The Journey and Beyond
It all started with a workshop.
The year was 2015. I was a freshwoman at Sophia College and had joined the SSRI (Students for Social Reform Initiative) club in an overtly enthusiastic bid to leave my mark on the college. Fresher’s syndrome they say it is (I still blend into the walls). Whatever it may have been, this enthusiasm paved the way for me to Safecity. I had only ever heard that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. This step for me was attending a Safecity workshop.
My reasons for attending the workshop weren’t all altruistic in nature. Having heard that Safecity was looking for interns (you will not see the twist coming in 2016), I hopped at the chance to be able to write and have my articles go up on a professional website and blog. That this coincided with my passion to non-violently fight for the cause against sexual violence and for gender equality was thought by me to be mere happenstance. But as I was going to be finding out, there was a reason why our paths had crossed.
Post the workshop, I started off as a Blogging Intern at Safecity – afraid of having nothing to write and yet putting words to proverbial paper. I still remember Elsa (my mentor for all intents and purposes – a beautiful woman who has never stopped believing in me) interviewing me on call. I was on the local train and spoke to her between Mahalaxmi and Elphinstone Road stations. My network and phone balance had failed me but she called me back. I was elated when I received an email from her confirming my role as a Blogger at Safecity. Since then, I met various mentors and friends, each teaching me myriad lessons, adding value to my life in ways unimaginable. I also volunteered on-ground with Safecity and online too for @SafecityIndia, experiencing first-hand what it is like to interact with people – just like you and me – about an issue such as that of sexual harassment and gender. I was ready to be nerve-wrecked. Instead, I was enlightened and healed. I learned about the differences between me and fellow humans who inhabit this planet; our choices, our backgrounds, our strengths. Most of all, I learned that though we are infinitely unique, we are all united in our struggle to be equal. I learned to not take my privilege for granted and to work side by side with my fellow humans to overcome all the challenges in our way.
Hey Ma, I’m on an official poster! (Safecity’s 2015 Foundation Day Poster)
Come 2016, I became a part of Safecity’s Communications team and grew immensely. From storifying tweetchats, curating @pinthecreep, editing and proof reading my fellow interns’ articles to planning my first ever online campaign, Invisible Women with Kirthi Jayakumar (who is now a dear friend, thank you – a thousand times over – for your patience and kindness) of The Red Elephant Foundation, working on creating posters with Safecity’s Graphic Design team (shout out to Preethi and Sukhbir!) of which Team Communications (Hola Riddhima, Renita and Aditi!) was an honorary part of and contributing in a small manner to #BrokenSilences, I had many firsts at Safecity.
Broken Silences poetry by Jessica Xalxo. Edited by Riddhima Sharma.
Here comes the twist – I was roaming in a store at the mall with my parents when I received a call from Vandita Morarka, Safecity’s then Youth Outreach Co-ordinator and now Policy and Legal Officer. To call that half an hour conversation life-changing would be an understatement. I had just turned 18 and received a job offer – to take over the reins for Youth Outreach from the absolutely brilliant Vandita. A warm and detailed meeting after – I accepted. Thus began a 7 month long journey of a whole new kind of learning and chiseling. My interactions and responsibilities expanded and so did my network and communication. Being my first job and having nothing to compare it with– it was definitely the toughest job on the planet. As the Volunteer Engagement Officer, I manage Safecity’s Internship and Volunteer Programme and Events Outreach. I also produce the creative content for Safecity’s Periscope show #MySafecity. Every day brings a new set of abundant emails, calls, messages and the likes of professional interaction. Every day is an opportunity to step out and form partnerships. Every day is a chance to explore the playground. The job while being demanding has been a vital experience for me. I’ve transformed from a person who used to have an anxiety attack every time I had to get on a call or meet someone to a person who can do everything that used to scare her with confidence and ease. I’ve learned to be organised, efficient and ready to tackle any curve-ball that life throws at me. I’ve learned to value my time and hard work and especially that of others. I’ve learned that respect doesn’t come with a title or tag but with the manner in which you treat each person you meet (or virtually interact with). I’ve also transformed into a person who asks my fellow humans to not call me ma’am (I’m younger than most of the people I work with + doesn’t Jessica sound better? – I like the ring to it).
Hundreds (hyperbole for some of the mentioned) of emails, calls, orientations, workshops, survey reports, on-ground events, online campaigns, blogs, posters later, here I am. Safecity has been my playground. It has been a platform for me to run wild and free. It has showed me the power of kindness, patience and compassion. It has taught me that I am capable and brilliant. It has positively fortified me for life ahead. Safecity has been what breathing magic is like!
It’s exceedingly bittersweet to write this blog while I’m transitioning out of Safecity as a core team member. Safecity, for the larger part of my life, is me and I am Safecity.
Who am I without Safecity? Well, I’m about to find out.
Lots of love,
P.S. A big jhappi and thank you to Elsa (kindness and patience), Supreet (love), Ashwini (energy), Tania (insight), Vandita (professionalism), Renita (friendship), Jyotsna (understanding), Mubaraka (perspective), Sumati (lessons), Salini (warmth), Anu (ease), Riddhima (skill) and Abhijith (knowledge) – my fellow team members, both present and past – I cannot thank you all enough for your kindness and patience, it has meant the world and more. Thank you for being my inspiration and strength. Thank you for being my mentors. Thank you for always persevering. More love and power to you all, always.
A big jhappi and thank you to all the interns and volunteers that I’ve worked with! Your growth, smiles and passion have shaped every step of this journey, given meaning to and amplified the joy within it. Thank you!