In May, AIC welcomed a new leader to the team, Bharati Kewalramani. Bharati will be taking over as AIC’s new Executive Director, as Mary Kay Hazel (affectionately known as “MK Didi”) heads off to new adventures back in the US.
MK has spent the past 2 and a half years at AIC, first as a volunteer, and then in Director capacity, and has played a central role in the growth and development of our programs and local presence during that time. She is adored by the AIC kids (student Sonal reminisces about how MK is kind to all of the children and speaks so lovingly to them) and formed close relationships with AIC staff members (Vidhya, Education Program Office Assistant, laments that she was unable to line up a “nice Indian boy” for MK so that she might decide to settle in Pune forever!), all of whom learned a great deal from MK’s mentorship and innovative ideas.
Greeshma, Education Program Counselor, says that MK was always more of a friend than a boss, and that her persistence and unflappability during trying times were admirable. Education Program Director, Bunty, who worked quite closely with MK, particularly during MK’s initial stint as Director of Education Development, says, “I am really going to miss MK. There are hundreds of memories I have which I will always cherish. Having spent two and half years working with her so closely, we came up with so many ideas and projects and saw them from inception to fruition.”
About her upcoming departure, MK had this to say: “Although it is with enormous sadness that I am leaving Pune, I am so grateful that Bharati is taking over. With her vast experience and even vaster heart, I know the on-site programs are in excellent hands. The past few years have been full of growth, both for the kids as individuals as well as the programs as a whole. With Bharati at the helm, that development will accelerate even faster, and I can’t wait to be a part of the changes as a member of the international AIC family.” The whole AIC family is truly grateful that MK has been there for the children and community through the good and the bad, working long hours and putting others’ needs before her own on every occasion.
As MK wraps up her time in Pune, Bharati hasn’t wasted a moment jumping right in to work. Bharati comes to AIC after many years in the corporate sector, with significant experience in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activities as well as operations management, stakeholder engagement, and strategic planning. She has extensive experience leading teams of hundreds of employees, and we are quite confident that her professional expertise will be tremendously beneficial to the organization. She says, “I am truly overwhelmed by the efforts and the impact of the work done by Ashraya Initiative for Children in the slum area of Yerwada in the last decade. I feel very privileged to be a part of this team and look forward to making a meaningful difference towards the cause. The key will be to ensure sustainability and break the cycle of poverty.”
This summer, we also welcomed a new Residential Program Director, Pooja Rao, and Health and Community Outreach Program Director, Madhavi Salunke, to the group as well. Madhavi, a physician by training, has worked with AIC’s Education Outreach Program for the past 2 years and has now moved into a leadership role in Health & Community, while Pooja has known some of the Residential Program children for almost five years, as she used to provide regular counseling services to them through her previous employment at a local children’s development centre. More about these two new Directors coming soon – we’re building up quite the dream team over here at AIC and can’t wait to see what this passionate, visionary team can do!