Corporate Culture

Chaitali Pereira, Pantaloons: Trading Comfort to Embark on A Journey into the Unknown

by ABFRLadmin | October 11, 2023

Chaitali Pereira, Group Manager, Marketing at Pantaloons took a step most of us would ponder over heavily before even considering. She was part of ABG’s CSR initiative, the Teach For India (TFI) Fellowship, 2017-19 cohort. This proved to be a game-changing move, not just professionally, but also on a spiritual level for her. Read on to know how she made a difference in many lives, including her own!

Imagine a 10×10 room with the paint peeling off the wall. To keep the cracks away from plain sight, they are decorated with hand-painted posters, some of them with moral messages. A brass bell rings and kids start running out of nowhere. Yesterday, the class was abuzz with 50 faces, today the number is down to 40. Then, as the teacher starts her class, a fight breaks out from seemingly nothing. No one bats an eyelid, because it is life as usual. Now, think about the ways you can calm this room down, make sure each one of the 67 children shows up, and eventually have a passion for education through the dark side of society that they call home. Are you still a little numb? Imagine trying to do this for two full years.

It takes a lot of grit and fortitude to take a two-year-long sabbatical from a well-paying job to follow your heart and make a difference for those who need it the most. “I felt the need to absorb myself in a social cause and the fact ABG encouraged me to take this step so early in my career without it having an adverse effect on my professional growth. This was instrumental in my decision. Moreover, these kids inspired me to make a big career move from design to marketing,” Chaitali adds with a smile.

The TFI Fellowship offers talented individuals to serve as full-time teachers to children from underserved communities. While the fellowship promises a brighter future to these students, it offers the skills and mindset for leadership positions and builds educational equity across India.

Chaitali’s cohort led her to Mumbai’s Mohili Village BMC School, in a class of 67 students, and a co-teacher to help navigate her way through the fellowship. She made this difficult decision, trading her free time and weekends to help students from underprivileged backgrounds see the light at the end of the tunnel and made them shine at the end of this journey.

“My journey in this direction started with the need to do a little bit more for the community as a whole. It is incomparable to anything else I had ever done in my life. I got to interact with my students closely, along with their family and friends. It made me realize how privileged we truly are,” says Chaitali with a wide smile, as she looks back at her time with bright young minds.

“The two-year break was a risk and thoughts of what I would do post the fellowship were a concern. However, the benefit of the fellowship far surpassed the risk for me. Being able to help the community and give back some amount of what I have received was a rare opportunity that I did not want to give up,” she adds.

Always on a learning curve

Chaitali is a NIFTian from NIFT Chennai, and later pursued her MBA in marketing. Her desire to keep getting better at her craft led her to pursue an advanced Marketing program with IIM-C. She will soon complete a decade as a proud ABFRLite. Going beyond this school, her Instagram page HumForHumanity helped 1500+ people in communities across Mumbai, and at times, even beyond, during the peak of the pandemic.

“In the early days, the class would break out into fights over small things, and I couldn’t comprehend why,” she says of her earliest experience with the class. She decided to channel all this excess energy into some form of sports and introduced the kids to sports. “After that,” she says, “it was pure magic! There were no more quarrels.”

This new spark led her to seek help on her social media platforms, and in no time, she had access to not just sponsored sporting equipment but also two football coaches and 10-15 volunteers for various other sports! 

“The boost from the community was overwhelming. Soon the kids were playing badminton, football, and many other sports they had never even heard about!” she gushes.

In 2020, when the pandemic hit, Chaitali’s thoughts shifted back to her time with the kids and their families. Most of them were daily wage earners and were the first to bear the economic brunt of COVID. An SOS on Instagram saw donors coming forward to help these families. “We started out with listing the kids who were still in the city and got them to identify grocery stores within their community and we handed over food parcels for the entire duration of the lockdown,” she adds.

But her association with the students of Mohili Village BMC School doesn’t end there. In fact, TFI was just the beginning. “Two of my students reached out to me for help to continue their education.

One of them needed help with tuition fees, which were far higher than what her parents could afford. My Instagram family once again came to my rescue, and she is now starting her second year of college,” she beams with pride.

The other student shared with Chaitali, that his mother was a victim of domestic abuse. He wanted to quit education after the 10th to support his mother and sisters. “Once again my community came out in full support. Within 15 minutes of posting the story on Insta, a colleague came forward to support his rent. Another churchmate sponsored his ration, and just like that, he continues to pursue his education. He even managed to land a 3-month stint as a dubbing artist with Netflix and will continue to work with them thereafter.”

Chaitali feels humbled and glad to stay connected with ‘her kids’ long after her fellowship ended. “There is so much to do and every little act of kindness helps,” she signs off. We hope she continues on this path with the support of the community, helping young India truly shine its brightest!

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3 months ago

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Louis Day
3 months ago

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Joslyn Kora Short
3 months ago

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Ezra Woodward
3 months ago

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Joey N. Deleon
2 months ago

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