Saathi Sanga Manka Kura - Where your voices GET HEARD

I look at the calendar and am surprised how time flies, it has already been a month since I became a part of Saathi Sanga Manka Kura radio production team as an intern, and every day it’s a new experience- an experience that teaches the value of life. I feel connected to the youths all over Nepal, as the SSMK team receives manifold letters, emails and SMS from young people all around Nepal. As I busy myself reading the letters, emails and SMS being sent by the radio listeners – who think of SSMK as their best friend, I can't stop myself from feeling emotional – as these letters depict so much trust, people recite their problems which are very personal and which dwell on sensitive issues. Sabita, who mostly looks after the incoming letters tells me, that the SSMK team cherishes the letters they receive and make it a point to handle them with utmost dedication and enthusiasm. As she believes, that every member of the team gets a certain sense of satisfaction when they receive letters from different parts of the country. Judging by her enthusiasm when she talks about the letters that they receive from the nooks and corners of Nepal, I believe that, the SSMK team feels proud to have garnered the trust of so many young people, and dealing these problems on air really makes them feel that they are making a huge difference in the lives of thousands of Nepali youths.

Now, let me talk about how these letters are dealt: The team receives letters addressing different types of problems. They are opened carefully and the main details like name, age, address and the problem are highlighted.  They get categorized according to the issues put forward in them. There are about 50 different categories ranging from questions about the program to queries on same sex problems, from general love problems to rape cases. Once they are categorized all the letters get individual replies, these replies are flanked with life-skill, practical options and suggestion for listeners, and with personal replies- they also receive life skills booklets and books which helps them make sound decisions in their life. SSMK team receives thousands of letters. Is it practical to answer all of them? One of the SSMK team members looks at me and strictly states: "All letters are important! All letters need to be responded". Now one may have a question: "How can the team of six read all the letters in a 45 minutes long radio show?' – The answer is – not all letters get read out – but letters which can be related by all and letters which sparks urgency are selected. The letters which are selected for the program are discussed within the team and the best possible advice is determined which is later incorporated in the program.

I have been a part of many letter discussion sessions, which comprises of the youth team, experts and many people from different walk of life. The SSMK team was discussing a letter sent by a boy studying in 12th grade. The letter profoundly described his inability to continue his studies because of his poor economic condition. He sought advice on how to earn enough money to continue his studies. He also expressed his desire to become a radio jockey and asked for the team's help to pursue his dream. After the letter was read the team turned to me for my input. I was really nervous. After a few moments of hesitation, I finally spoke "His ambition and willingness to pursue his studies under difficult conditions are praise-worthy and it should be appreciated on the show and on as to how to improve his financial condition ". Everyone nodded and smiled and moved onto Swapan (The hip web producer). The team on the other hand had no problems expressing themselves. With years of experience and in-depth knowledge of life skills, they addressed the issue with a certain grace and confidence.

The discussion made me realize how naïve I was and how I was living in my own little bubble. I was concerned with how little I was able to relate to the letter discussed. Reading those letters in which people are pouring their hearts out describing their very serious problems made me realize how insignificant my so called "problems" were compared to their. I had been living in a world in which people were coping with being raped and having suicidal thoughts whilst I considered not being able to express my feelings to a girl I liked my biggest problem. In a way I feel very blessed and humbled. These letters gave me a very real perspective on what are life's real problems and struggles. I came to appreciate the thousands of Nepali youngsters who are coping with these problems and who have the courage to reach out for help. Even though I am working as an intern on this radio program that proudly shoulders the problems of young people all over Nepal, I can proudly say: That I too am a part of CHANGE.

Ayush Manandhar works as a intern in radio program Saathi Sanga Manka Kura. He's a dreamer who believes anything is possible.

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