Born to uneducated parents in a slum, in 2014 I completed my MBA
Mollahati slum is my birth place, and remains my home. My life is living proof of the fact that the lives of men, women and children living in abject poverty can change if given an opportunity. My story is a testament to what God is doing in the lives of those restricted by poverty and suffering.
Samina Begum, my mother, was only 14 when she got married to my father, who was 22 at the time. They lived as squatters in mollahati slum. Neither of them had received any formal school education, so our family depended on my father’s irregular jobs for income. I grew up in a small 2 by 3 meter house, surrounded by disease, violence and poverty. There were times when my father, mother, my sister and I went to bed hungry. Surrounded by a sense of hopelessness my parents were scared to dream and nurture ambitions for us. But God had other plans. "I was the first child, but not the last, in my entire community to go to an English medium school; it was a huge opportunity for me and my family."
At the age of four, I got admission to The Calcutta Emmanuel School (CES), an English medium school founded by Reverend Vijayan and Premila Pavamani to provide complimentary education to children from underprivileged backgrounds. I was the first child (but not the last) in my entire community to go to an English medium school; it was a huge opportunity for me and my family.
At CES I was provided the best quality teaching which helped me to excel in my academics. Often teachers would spend extra hours to help me with subjects I struggled in. Not just education, I was provided a nutritious hot meal for lunch, received regular medical check-ups, medical treatments when I was sick, books, uniforms and other hygiene supplies. This meant the burden was completely taken off my parents’ shoulders.
With the support of my teachers and my parents I successfully completed school education and went on to pursue a degree in Business Administration at Scottish Church College. I managed to secure a first class distinction in my Bachelor’s degree which got me an offer from The University of Manchester. In the year 2014, I received a first class distinction in my Masters in International Business from Manchester Business School. Upon completion of my masters, I was offered a scholarship by the University of Manchester to pursue a PhD program in Business and Organisational Sustainability. This was an incredible moment as it affirmed the years of hard work put in by my parents and my teachers. But most of all, it showed that my background did not decide my future. It was a hard decision but I kindly turned down the offer for a PhD as my heart was to serve my community, my people whose lives are still restricted by poverty. In 2015, I founded a non-governmental organisation along with my fiance Naomi Hickford. Our aim is to empower the lives of the poor in India through various developmental programmes. My time at CES has been an integral part of my journey; it has enabled me to do and be all that I am.