Tales of the Tribe — Meet Natasha
Q: Tell us a bit about your journey and launching UnGap?
A: My drive to do something for ‘social good’ started when I was 16 years old. Both my parents were working so I used to spend a lot of time with my grandma. One day she, suddenly passed away. The day I stood by her funeral pyre, I broke down mentally. I was too young to witness something like that. For a good two years, I was in a terrible space. I used to suffer from memory loss, I had severe anxiety and depression too. I made plenty of bad decisions and landed in difficult situations. I was starting to look like a lost cause.
That’s when my mom decided to take me to therapy, and my therapist there simply asked me to find a hobby.
So to distract myself and spend time doing some productive, I joined an NGO that tutored underprivileged children. I honestly didn’t think I would stick around, or develop a passion for what I was doing when I just joined. But over time, that NGO, those kids and those few hours I spent teaching them became a complete gamechanger for my life. I became happier, I realised that there was so much gap in our society and so much disparity. The idea was that I never felt different, or never felt distant when I was spending time with the kids whom I taught — for me, we were all equal. But that’s not how the society functioned and I decided that I wanted to change that.
I initially started by being part of projects like ‘Beauty Lies In The Eye Of The Beholder’ where I dressed up girls from the NGO inexpensive clothing and styled them properly — I then put it up online to see if anyone could guess which socio-economic background they were from — and nobody could! I kept blogging about ‘bridging the gap’ and even making short films on it. Everything I did was to put that vision into action. And after years and years of coming up with a solid, concrete plan — UnGap was formed.
Q: What is the problem that UnGap is solving? Please help us understand your programs & interventions?
A: UnGap exists, like I said before, to bridge socio-economic, mental health and any other form of barriers that disable us from being an equal society. Our prime service is called BSR (Brand Social Responsibility) — Wherein we encourage brands to not just promote their products and commercialize their services, but to create an ecosystem that fosters a community focused on greater social good. ‘Giving away old clothes’, ‘Giving away stale food’, and ‘Spending your birthday at an NGO’ are all traditional forms of bridging the gap that doesn’t have longevity and instead they just create more disparity. At UnGap we work with brands to create path-breaking social campaigns, and even curate multiple projects to foster social good in our community.
Q: Can you share one success story/ anecdote that your organisation has seen in the last few years?
A: My first ‘BSR’ campaign was with an organization that holds events all across the city where spoken word artists perform. I got in touch with them and they said that since it was the year-end, they wanted to hold 3 events at 3 different NGO’s in lieu of ‘giving back. Where they would get a few of their artists, and UnGap would also train a few individuals part of those NGO’s to become spoken word artists for a day and share a piece of their life with the audience! For Instance, when we had an event at the old age home, we had two spoken word artists from the organization — and I remember training two aunties who wanted to perform poetry for the event! The training was so much fun, and when they actually took the stage and amidst so many people, for the first time in their life, performed — it was so emotional, for them and for everyone else in the audience!
A lot of people forget that such people may be disadvantaged, but they are human too. So apart from needing things like shelter and nutrition, they also need love, recognition and to enjoy life — just as much as we all do!
Q: What advice would you give to a smart, driven student about to enter the “Social Entrepreneur space”? What advice should they ignore?
A: Just believe in your idea, and make it work. Make sure the goal is clear in your mind, so it doesn’t matter how many paths you have to change, how many halts you have to take or obstacles you have to face. Believe that you can change lives, and one day you will.
Natasha and Studio Ungap is working with Tribesforgood on the campaign TalesoftheTribe where we share stories of change.