Since 2012, Hilton Worldwide has collaborated with Room to Read to benefit and impact more than 43,000 young people in Asia. This has included supporting nearly 600 girls to complete secondary school, establishing 30 school libraries, publishing and distributing more than 3,600 school books, and constructing four school buildings. Collectively, by 2017 the two organizations aim to impact more than 70,000 young people. Room to Read and Hilton Worldwide recently launched a first-of-its-kind formalized Job Shadowing Program for Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program participants.
Over the next three years, the program will provide up to 300 Girls’ Education Program students exposure to various career opportunities and guide them through the range of career options in the hospitality industry. To kick off the program, the first job shadowing day took place in India and Sri Lanka the week of May 25, 2015. Below are guest posts written by team members from Hilton Worldwide who were part of this initiative.
Mansi Chugh, Marketing Communications Manager, DoubleTree by Hilton Gurgaon-New Delhi NCR
We were very excited with the opportunity to spend a day with the young women from Room to Read and mentor them through a Career Counseling Workshop. The Workshop was part of Hilton Worldwide’s Open Doors commitment, which aims to positively impact at least one million young people by 2019 and better prepare them to reach their full potential. In preparation for the Workshop, we were briefed that the objective was to highlight the career opportunities available both within and outside the hospitality industry, stressing those that may be most suited to the participants’ disposition. Ahead of the Workshop, we were also unequivocally advised that the focus was not to direct and prescribe but to inform, guide, encourage and inspire. We were familiar with Room to Read’s great work and we were aware of its Girls’ Education Program that supports girls not only to complete secondary school, but to also develop the skills they need to negotiate key life decisions.
However, no amount of planning and briefing could have prepared us for the life lessons we were to learn in interacting with our guests – girls who were determined to receive an education and reach their full potential even in the face of severe hardship and challenges. They are girls who are intensely committed to taking charge and transforming their lives and that of their families. Their sacrifice, passion, tenacity and commitment, as well as that of their families and the Room to Read staff, was overwhelming and inspiring. An activity during the Workshop highlighted that only after passing through a kiln could clay adopt a form, just as gold must pass through fire. What greater lesson could there be than a young participant in the Workshop matter-of-factly stating that she “was like the clay in the kiln that would emerge in its true form to seize its destiny.” Another young lady wrote a poem in Hindi during the Workshop that roughly translates as follows:
She doesn’t stop,
She doesn’t get tired,
She doesn’t bend before anyone.
Once she decides something,
She respects that with her whole heart.
She knows well how to face situations of life,
She has taken a flight of courage,
But she needs wings.
During the Workshop, our young guests unanimously declared Rani of Jhansi (Queen of Jhansi, one of the leaders of the 1857 Indian Rebellion) among their role models. This resonated with us, as most of us in India had grown up hearing or reading about the legendary queen’s bravery. We found inspiration in the famous poem on her life, an excerpt from which reads, “…..your name…Queen of Jhansi, will be an eternal memorial of courage…” In our young guests, we saw similar courage and almost palpable strength. It is not just this but their determination and infectious optimism that moved us profoundly, and it is this that drives us, at Hilton Worldwide, to more than ever support Room to Read’s efforts and impact as many young people to better prepare them to achieve their full potential.
Vishni Vincent, HR Assistant, Hilton Colombo Residence
Six years ago the war in this country, which lasted three decades, ended. We have seen the profound impact that the war has had on the living standards and social progress of many in our country, including rural villages such as Hatton. As such, we felt privileged to host some of the young girls from Hatton and enlighten them on how the magic in hospitality happens.
In the words of Gandhi, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world." We set out to develop a program to inspire the young participants. A number of my female colleagues shared their own career journeys – how they entered the industry, the challenges they faced, and how they were overcome. The young participants listened to these stories with much passion and enthusiasm, and asked what it was like living in Colombo, outside their own hometowns, and how our team members overcame various barriers. Their inquisitive nature and eagerness to learn was amazing to see, and certainly inspired our team.
When we divided the participants into smaller groups to receive hands-on training in various departments, their readiness to participate was indeed motivating. The team that went to the housekeeping department was thrilled and remarked how interesting it was for them to learn there are professions apart from being a teacher, doctor, engineer or housewife – these were the most common aspirations a young lady would seek to achieve in her village. They were surprised by the diversity of professions in a hotel, and appreciated how various functions were conducted in a way that makes the work enjoyable and easy. They also saw for themselves that many capable women, some in leadership positions, were working in this industry – prompting some of the girls to want to convince their parents to allow them to work in a hotel.
Another participant shadowing the kitchen team said she never thought that cooking in a hotel could be this interesting, even though this is a common activity conducted at home. She was eager to share this finding with her friends and tell them that “life does not end if we do not become a teacher, doctor or engineer, as there is so much more to achieve.”
A girl who shadowed the Food & Beverage team managed to fold 20 serviettes, despite her physical handicap. She was thrilled and thankful that our team gave her an opportunity to build personal confidence for the life ahead of her.
As the day came to an end, the group gathered to relish a meal. They were grateful for our team’s hospitality and our willingness to share new learnings. At this critical period in their lives, they appreciated our efforts to spend time with them and offer career planning advice.
Each participant was presented with a certificate of participation by our director of Human Resources – a gesture they did not expect. They took great care to keep their certificates safely in their bags without crumpling them. It was wonderful to see their smiles and for our team to be a part of the girls’ learning process!
A participant stepped forward to experience a fine dining meal service from Shervin Thomas, from the Food & Beverage Department, while Evangelin Gnanamani from Front Office, and translator for the day, looks on. The enthusiasm of the girl who stepped up was evident in the way she eagerly followed every step as shown, and enjoyed every minute of it, as did our team of facilitators. The girl took real courage when she was shown how cutlery was used and what behaviors are encouraged during a fine dining meal service – from the point of welcome, to bidding goodbye.
Hilton Worldwide is currently matching all donations to Room to Read, up to $100,000. Donate now to double your impact!