Dr Sonal SethiaChief Operating Officer
Hailing from Kolkata, Dr. Sonal completed her M.Sc. in Biotechnology from IIT Bombay where, in 2010, she was awarded as the most outstanding student of her batch. She went on to obtain a PhD from University of Glasgow, Scotland. Post her doctorate, she abjured lucrative options in the academic sector and opted to join the two-year Teach for India Fellowship. During this Fellowship, she taught children from a low socio-economic background at a government school at Pune. In her summer holidays, she took up a challenging internship at a government school at Bandipora in Kashmir. Here, in the heart of the conflict zone, she realised that not only quality education, but the very joys of childhood were far-fetched dreams for children. Dr. Sonal first became acquainted with Sunbird Trust when she interned at the Trust supported Happiness Home for HIV affected children at Pangzwal in Churachandpur town of Manipur. Resonating with the Trust’s vision, she chose to join Sunbird in 2018. She is currently the School Leader for Lyzon Friendship School at remote Khomunnom Village close to the Indo-Myanmar border in Manipur. In her short tenure there, she has already introduced numerous improvements in the pedagogy and infrastructure. In line with Sunbird Trust’s “Peace through Education” objective, she aspires for the children of the current generation becoming healers and peacemakers and aims to provide education to that end.
Vishwanath HiregoudarProgram Manager
After the completion of his Mechanical Engineering degree, Vishwanath worked in the corporate sector for 8 years. During this time he got to travel to many countries on work and gained much experience in the technical and management fields. A people’s person, Vishwanath was always possessed with a strong desire to work in the social development sector. With this in mind, he decided to first build up his capacity and a strong foundation to help him take the leap. Joining Sunbird Trust in November 2019, he credits his parents with their immense support for giving him the powerful wings to make the transition. Commencing his new journey, Vishwanath is connecting the dots from child education through community development in the remote villages in the North East where Sunbird Trust works. He has the onerous responsibility of coordinating sponsorship of all Sunbird Trust supported children and in interacting with over 50 partner institutions. Vishwanath is a sports enthusiast who plays several games, football being his favourite. He looks forward to mentoring rural children in personality development, career guidance, fitness and sports activities.
Johnny JosephAdministrative Officer
Hailing from Karong Village in Senapati District of Manipur and coming from an underprivileged agricultural family, Johnny lost his parents at an early age. He educated himself with great difficulty in the process experiencing immense challenges in a conflict affected state. Seeking better prospects for himself and his siblings, he came to Bangalore in 2006. A volunteer for Sunbird Trust since its inception, he devoted considerable time to helping other youngsters from the North East make the transition to Bangalore. From advising them on their travel, to receiving them in his modest rented accommodation and helping them establish themselves either at their colleges or at places of work, he is a rock of support. Johnny joined Sunbird in 2018 as Project Administrator. His “man Friday” role involves dealing with team members and partners across Sunbird Trust projects in resolving challenging situations. Based at Bangalore, he looks after interests and welfare of 35 Sunbird sponsored college students in the city and at Kolar. Another difficult task is coordinating payments and receipts to numerous sponsored schools and students. His rich experience after a decade at Bangalore helps him imbibe Sunbird Trust sponsored youngsters studying at Bangalore and hailing from remote villages in the North East with the cultural nuances and the practical challenges of life in a metropolis. He also coordinates transportation of material donated for Sunbird projects to the project areas.
Ajinkya HandeAdministrative Officer, North East India
A commerce graduate with a second degree in Hotel Management, Ajinkya has worn many hats during his short career. From working as a mortgage underwriter for a US based company to working as a Chef in some of the best 5-star hotels in Mumbai, he has savoured many flavors. As the travel and trekking bug in him wouldn’t allow him to rest at one place, he opted for a mountaineering course at Manali. Here, he was awarded the badge for the ‘Best Rope Leader’. Working for a mountaineering club at Bangalore, Ajinkya realized that mountaineering is not only about physical fitness, but also about having a vision, leadership qualities and abilities to plan, delegate and much more. A passionate rider, Ajinkya has travelled on his Royal Enfield across the length and breadth of India. On one such trip, he took up a volunteering opportunity as a teacher in Sikkim with a school for the underprivileged. He later joined staff at the school as their Finance and Operations head helping streamline operations of the school. Ajinkya joined Sunbird Trust in July 2018 as Administrative Coordinator. Through many challenges faced in the remote areas where Sunbird Trust works, he facilitates the smooth functioning and movement of team members. He loses no opportunity while on the job (and off!) to mount his Royal Enfield and thunder through the meandering hill roads.
A state level footballer, Konish completed his graduation in Civil Engineering. Hailing from a services family, he caught the travel bug through the many postings of his father. The frequent transfers endowed him with much resilience and flexibility. Meeting many children and people who needed to be heard, he discovered his love for working in the development sector. He interned with United Nations (UNDP) in Lesotho, South Africa and worked for NGOs such as CRY and Magic Bus. Joining Sunbird Trust in May 2017, Konish was based at the Trust’s pilot project at Ijeirong village in Manipur. Here, his aim was to ensure overall development of the children and increase their exposure through sports and co-curricular activities. At Sunbird Trust’s partner Paangkriang Friendship school at Ijeirong, Konish started coaching football crazy youngsters and formed a school football team that represented the school and village. Teamwork, reading skills, writing skills, general knowledge, technology training and public speaking are some of the soft skills that are his primary objectives. His boundless enthusiasm and affable nature has endeared him to his young wards and the village community. Konish lives by the adage “Travel, Experience, Learn and Give”.
Arpan SenSchool Leader and Project Engineer, Singhat
Trained as a civil engineer, Arpan worked with Coal India Limited for 3 years. Realizing a passion for teaching, he joined the Teach For India fellowship where he taught in a low-income private school in Pune. He worked in IMAX, a tech-based curriculum partner for schools for a year. Arpan is an avid reader also bitten by the travel bug. He also loves to debate and act. Joining Sunbird Trust in 2018, he joined the team at Singhat, Manipur as an Assistant School Leader. Leveraging his skills and hobbies he hopes to develop the talent of his young wards at Lyzon Friendship School. Keeping in mind Sunbird Trust’s “Peace through Education” objective, he is also delving into the local community finding means to partner with them in improving their quality of life. With a civil engineering background, he is the de-facto Project Engineer for infrastructure projects at Lyzon Friendship School.
Shivalika GillAssistant School Leader, Tamei
Shivalika believes that education is a powerful tool that not only empowers individuals, but also builds a better and more peaceful society. After completing her master’s degree, she started with a corporate job with in 2010. Getting an opportunity to work closely with her company’s CSRteam working with an orphanage in Hyderabad, she volunteered with the institution to broaden her understanding and to support her team. It was here that realization dawned on her that she wanted to live a more meaningful life that could impact others. This led her to Teach for India where, during her fellowship, she taught a class of 50 children in 4th and 5th standard. During her time with TFI, she experienced the paradox of a world that, on the one hand, had privilege and abundance for a few and deprivation and poverty for millions of others. During her TFI internship, Shivalika worked on creating a safe space for students who had witnessed violence in their lives. Utilizing principles of experiential learning, she helped students realise their strengths and potential to achieve their goals. Shivalika joined Sunbird Trust in March 2019 as an Assistant School Leader. Detailed at the Sunbird Trust partner school Hope Foundation Academy at Tamei in Manipur, she is focusing on nourishment, hygiene and mental health of the children along with providing quality education. She is also exploring ways to engage with the local community in matters of livelihood sustainability – through this, she hopes to impact the learning and living environment of her underprivileged wards.
Dr Aloka SAssistant Teacher and Healthcare Manager, Singhat
Aloka believes that life should be about choices, freedom and adventure that bring on the joie de vivre.
During her studies for a Bachelor’s degree in Dental Surgery at a college in Bangalore, Aloka volunteered
at various camps and schools for underprivileged children. With this she gained a good understanding of
the challenges faced by these youngsters in accessing a good education and building a bright future for
themselves. Graduating as a dentist, Aloka found her true calling in being around children, imparting knowledge to them and helping germinate their young minds with a love for learning.
Hearing about Sunbird Trust from a friend, Aloka volunteered to join the organization and was deputed as an Academic Coordinator and Health in Charge at Lyzon Friendship School at tiny Khomunnom village in the south of Manipur. At this picturesque locale set amongst rolling hills, she finds her creativity greatly enhanced by the natural beauty around her. Already a much-loved teacher, she has quickly immersed herself in meaningful community work well beyond the school and endeared herself to the local tribal folks. Switching from an academic background of health sciences to teaching and transiting from bustling Bangalore to a tiny and remote village, while being challenging, has only whetted Aloka’s appetite for more work. As a trained dentist, she will be implementing and spreading oral hygiene awareness to the children and community members. With a degree in the health sciences, she also serves as the de facto resident “doctor”. She is now assiduously crystallizing enhanced engagement with the local community while bringing in much joy to her children in the classroom.
Ravi Kumar KAssistant School Leader, Ijeirong
Originally from Visakhapatnam, Ravi moved to Hyderabad to join Future group’s Big Bazaar after completing his MBA. After working for three months in the corporate sector, he realized he was looking for a more meaningful profession and that his calling lay elsewhere. He joined Greenpeace international to work for a cause close to his heart and later joined Teach for India’s Fellowship program. As a part of the fellowship he was posted at a school in Dharavi area of Mumbai where he taught students of secondary session for four years. In his fourth year of the fellowship he also acted as an Assistant School leader of the school along with teaching students of 10th grade. During his fellowship with TFI, Ravi found the mantra for happy and meaningful life and decided to remain in the education line, exploring and understanding its nuances. His interest in theatre, dance and performing arts escalated while he was in Mumbai. He is currently learning Indian classical dance form of Kathak from Chhandam Nritya Bharati, Mumbai and is also a part of theatre club in Mumbai. Ravi joined Sunbird Trust in April 2019 as Assistant School leader in Paankriang Friendship School, Ijeirong. Realising the power of sports and performing arts in a child's life and understanding how they can build skills in the early stages of life, he would like to introduce children to these activities. He is keen to build a community centre where the children of the village could come after school hours and learn things that interest them. He also looks as engaging the adults and elders of the community through activities which will make them more invested in education.
Rucha DeshpandeAssistant Teacher & Communications Associate, Ijeirong
Having worked in the corporate sector for about 3 years, Rucha was dissatisfied with how her work did
not impact lives as she would have wished for. She decided to take the plunge and quit her job to commence work with Sunbird Trust.
Rucha has a passion for music and has a YouTube channel of her own. She aims to integrate music into teaching. Travel and writing are other activities that Rucha is fond of, and these are some skills she employs while she writes content and handles Sunbird Trust's social media.
Rucha has studied German over 6 years and holds a Master's Degree in German Literature. She has also taught the language formally at a school and a few other institutes to children and adults alike.
At Sunbird Trust, Rucha has the onerous task of improving the social media communications for a rapidly growing organization. Like any other “Sunbirder”, she too has a task of teaching as well and wishes to explore alternative methods of instruction, encourage young minds to think out of the box and chase their dreams.
Angela MathewAssistant School Leader, Langmei
An advertising graduate from Mumbai, Angela has interned with multiple advertising agencies during her college years. As passionate as she was about designing and writing, she felt her work was not really impacting people around her. With the unwavering support from her family, she decided to find vocation that would benefit the community more. Joining Teach for India, she completed her fellowship at a locality called Kasarwadi on the outskirts of Pune. Here, she leveraged her passion for art, music and writing to contribute to the development of children. It was during this fellowship that she realized her strongest motivator was 'being happy and spreading joy'. Her evolving vision moulded into 'To empower by nurturing holistic individuals'. Post her fellowship, she continued working in over 20 schools around Mumbai under the Teach for India umbrella. She worked towards building relations with the Government, principals and schools in order to make quality education accessible to all children despite their economic backgrounds. Through this, she further enhanced her capability of bringing joy to the classrooms of her little wards. At Sunbird, Angela works as an Assistant School Leader at Hope Foundation Academy in Langmei, near Tamei in Manipur. She hopes to bring the same vision of happy classrooms, quality education and empowered holistic individuals alive in the community here. Once age, she is enriching the lives and learning of her children with music, art and literature. Through her work and her children, she is connecting with the local community and exploring ways to partner in sustainable livelihood development.
Pratip GangulyCommunity Development Co-ordinator, Singhat
Pratip, likes to mention that he is from the laid-back city of India, Kolkata – ‘the land of foodies and intellectuals’. He found out through his fellowship with Teach for India, that being around children is equivalent to happiness. Being able to dream together, fly together, run together, and tumble together with kids made him fall in love with teaching. For him, working in crunch situations, low budgets, limited facilities, but being able to put a smile on people’s faces, had a strong sense of accomplishment. He strongly believes that we can achieve equity & inclusion through engagement and empowerment of the community. Pratip enjoys travelling, cooking, conversations, and playing a variety of sports noting that these things help people connect better. He feels that the ‘Bong intellect’ (as he puts it!) comes through when he sits down over a cup of tea in a corner stall and discusses societal or life issues.
Michelle MarkosAssistant School Leader
Michelle dreamt of being a teacher right from her school days, but finally took the leap only when she did her two- year Teach for India fellowship. Here, she taught students of classes 8, 9, and 10 in a low-income private school in Pune. Realizing that her school did not have space for post school academic and co-curricular support, she helped set up a community centre for her students to enable them safely utilise their after school hours. Raising this centre and engaging closely with the students sparked her interest in schools and communities. She went on to pursue a Masters in Education specialising in School leadership, Organisation and Management from Azim Premji University, Bangalore. This course helped her strengthen her understanding of the education sector in India immensely. Michelle’s interest in working in North East India began when she interned with Sunbird Trust’s partner Ayang Trust in Majuli, Assam. This was a part of her final research thesis on the topic of school and community engagements in geographically challenged areas. Her stint here gave her a stronger understanding of the challenges that schools and communities faced in such remote locations. She also came to appreciate the role of organisations like Sunbird Trust in mitigating these challenges. Resonating with Sunbird Trust’s vision of ‘Peace through Education’ led her to joining the organisation. Michelle is now an assistant school leader in Sungcham Friendship School at Puichi Village in Noney District of Manipur.
Josmy JosephCommunity Development Head
Josmy Joseph is a person who finds immense happiness in travelling to new places and meeting new people. Daughter of a strong fighter in life, her father and her mother a calm, wise - logical thinker she has proved to be an amalgam of both of them. From a very young age she found herself empathetic to social issues and humanitarian in thinking. She strongly believes and tries to work towards what Mahatma Gandhi has said “Be the change you want to see in the world.” She did her under graduation in English Language and Literature which opened up her critical, creative and analytical thinking. It gave her the space to be the dreamer she always wanted to be. She took a break from studies and joined as a Student Counsellor and Course Coordinator in Lakshya CA Campus, Kerala and worked for a year which gave her a different perspective of life. 2014 was the year of stretch and realisations which helped know her strength and weaknesses as a professional, thus decided to gain more exposure in the knowledge and experience. From that moment of introspection, she was always in the quest of finding her own best possible form. She decided to give herself all possible adventure to reach there. She did her Post Graduation in Social Work with a specialisation in Community Development which was her experiment lab of finding the place where she fitted the best. After her Master’s Program she chose to join Gandhi fellowship. Experience of being a Gandhi fellow opened a whole new realm to her, where she got the opportunity to leave a mark on the people whom she met and at the same time work on herself as a person and a professional social worker. Working in a team of diverse bunch of youngsters from different corners of the nation made her prejudices and judgements break. She believes that the greatest qualities a person should possess are humility, tolerance and inclusiveness to the fellow being. During the two years residential program she got to work for the improvement of the educational set-up of Dungarpur district of Rajasthan by working in 45 selected Adarsh government schools through capacity building of the government officials, Principals, PEEOs, teachers, Parents, community and students directly. During this fellowship she got varied platforms to explore herself in the competencies like critical thinking, problem solving, managing information, creativity, design thinking, communication, liaising, relationship management, team management, etc. through different processes. She got opportunities to run her own Public System Projects and create Human Centered Designs in two tribal communities where she worked with. These experiences have made her believe that there is always a learning which you can derive even from a failure. Most of all, it gave her the space to identify her major strength of not falling back at any cost. She found Sunbird trust as the best platform to help her grow as a better humanitarian and more importantly a better human being. She believes that ‘when you are in the sail of finding your best version you will indirectly try to give your best to the fellow beings.’ After completing Gandhi fellowship, she joined sunbird trust as the Head – Community and Social work in 2019. She lives amidst a tribal village called Puichi, Manipur to understand the community, design and implement social work programs for the improvement of their overall economic and social development. The driving principle of her life is, ‘Actions should always speak louder than words.’
Bruno, from the Adivasi community hails from a small village in Dibrugarh District of Assam. The son of tea garden workers, he is the eldest among five brothers. He recollects a time while in Class V when he had to drop out of school as his parents could not afford his school and hostel fees. With some difficulty and immense support from his parents and brothers, he was able to continue his studies and successfully complete his MSW course. Post this he worked as a young professional in different Non-Governmental organisations for 5 years interacting with rural communities in fields of Community Development and Skill Development related to Government projects. While working with the community, he used his spare time to take tuition classes for the village students. With this, he realized his potential as a teacher to ignite the minds of young children. He found much happiness in this as it not only helped his personal growth, but also helped him empower others. Joining Sunbird Trust in January 2020, he took on the responsibility of being a warden to the children at the Paangkriang Friendship School Hostel at Ijeirong. He also took on the responsibility of community outreach in and around the village. Bruno has endeared himself to his young wards at the school and hostel and to the village community with his infectious zeal and affable nature. He is an avid footballer and a drummer.
Hailing from Ukhrul District of Manipur, Jonah is a passionate agriculturist. He overlooks the organic farming and supervises work at the Ravishankar – Sunbird Farmers Learning Centre at Ijeirong. He has the arduous task of raising the farm from an overgrown stretch of land. Jonah guides students of Paangkriang Friendship School in their kitchen garden and organic farming training.
Lianneilal, born in Singngat moved to Mizoram at an early age of 15. Due to his financial situation at home, he couldn’t pursue education beyond 6th standard. However, he took up odd jobs and kept on learning a diverse range of skills from an early age, supporting himself and his family. In Mizoram, he worked at a vehicle showroom, worked as a handyman, a contractual worker, at hardware stores and eventually as a driver. He loves driving and has an unmatched control over the vehicle. Passengers testify to feel safe and thrilled at the same time when he is at the steering wheel. Lal returned to Singngat, Manipur in 2009 and got married in 2011 and now has two children. A daughter in class III and a son in UKG, both studying in the Sunbird supported Lyzon Friendship School. In his free time, he likes to work for the church, repair vehicles and watch videos on YouTube to catch up with things going on around the world.
Phumreiba aka GaithoiSupport
Phumreiba fondly recollects his early childhood memories assisting his parents in the farms of Puichi, an Inpui village in the northern hills of Manipur. Things changed when he was introduced to driving by one of his uncles. He had found his passion! His love for driving took him to Dimapur, Nagaland, where he worked as a driver until he joined Sunbird Trust in October 2019.
An integral part of the team, he traverses the length and breadth of Manipur and even outside, ferrying team members through difficult terrains all through the year.
'Gaithoi', as people affectionately call him, is pleasantly easy to approach and is known for his commitment to work.
A married man, Gaithoi is soon going to be a father.