“I didn’t think people like me would be allowed into Canary Wharf, let alone work there!” When you know that children feel this way, how do you walk away?

Those are the words of Nilesh B. Dosa, a finance professional at EY (Ernst & Young) and founder of ‘icanyoucantoo’, an organisation focused on creating better future work prospects and outcomes for non-privileged youngsters, a topic which he resonates with from personal experience.

Nilesh’s parents are from Tanzania and India and he grew up in a one-bedroom council flat in Newham where he did his schooling. As is often the case with immigrant children, the passion shared by his family to make the most of the potential and opportunity before them, meant Nilesh graduated with a first-class degree in finance; completed his chartered accountancy training at a Big-4 firm; worked in banking and then joined EY in 2014.

So far, so good, and indeed it is not a hugely uncommon story compared to others who have battled against the odds of their upbringing to achieve great things. However, Nilesh was diagnosed at birth, with a neurodegenerative condition called Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT) Disease. This meant, he grew up knowing that, whilst the symptoms hadn’t yet permeated his everyday life, he was a ticking time bomb who needed to fulfil his meaning, purpose, and potential to impact society.

Living With A Degenerative Disease 

CMT is a hereditary muscle-wasting condition which currently has no cure or medication. The condition, which has worsened over time, leads to patients suffering from constant pain and also experiencing ‘neurological fatigue’ – “days when getting out of bed genuinely feels impossible,” Nilesh explained to me.

“Whilst I was born with it, it’s only in the past three years, I’ve felt a significant deterioration in my condition, with both chronic pain and fatigue a daily feature”, he explains.

As a result of the deterioration in his physical health he also experienced a period of depression –  where he sought counselling and psychiatric support. This was due to a “multitude of reasons”, he explained, centred primarily with “worries about the future.”

“How quickly will my health deteriorate? Who will take care of my family and what legacy will I leave for them and the community? It was these big questions that, whilst not welcome at the time, caused a step change in his thinking that inevitably led to a more fulfilling path for his community.

“I have always been inherently dissatisfied – he explained. “I want to do as much as I can before my health begins to prevent me from making the impact that I desire! So, in January 2018, I took a 40% pay cut, went part-time at EY and created the capacity I needed to do more for the causes I love.”

I Can, You Can Too.

Nilesh has always had an overriding passion for supporting children and young people – an area he has volunteered in for almost the past two decades. Before creating ‘icanyoucantoo’ in 2016, he spent 10+ years volunteering with the global grassroots charity Swadhyay – empowering young people, through community-based projects, to foster social responsibility in their own lives. His aspiration had always been to facilitate social mobility and level the playing field for young people.

Having grown up in a deprived part of London himself, he understood first-hand the challenges faced by many children, young adults and their families. And so ‘icanyoucantoo’ was  born out of a frustration, a lived experience and a hunger to change things – because “it is unacceptable as it currently stands.”

Every child has a dream

“I fundamentally believe that every child has a dream – this is their birth right”, Nilesh tells me. However, as he explained, for too many, these don’t materialise not because of inability or inaptitude, but because of a postcode; an environment not conducive to aspiration, to achievement, to greatness.

“This is a modern-day tragedy!” he exclaims in a grandiose fashion that demonstrates how deeply his passion on the topic shines through. “These are limiting beliefs that I simply cannot accept. How do I look my own daughter, Mahi, in the eyes, knowing that this phenomenon exists on our doorstep!?”

Impacting Futures

Nilesh believes that not only what he is doing is different, but how he is doing it. From the very beginning his intention has been to create an initiative that was different to other corporate outreach programmes.

Traditionally, many companies deliver expert presentations on how to obtain a job at a top firm delivered by very slick, very inspiring speakers, but they don’t take it further – and this is where the real barrier lies. Nilesh explains “this programme isn’t about one-off presentations and interventions – we work withthe youngsters regularly and methodically to ensure that they imbibe the skills that will serve them in the future”.

“I am absolutely outcomes focussed”, he explains. The young and disenfranchised who once believed things like “I will never get to work at a company in Canary Wharf” are now working at EY, just like him. Others who were going to “find some 9-5 job” after college have gone on to university. “The children I work with, and their families, have become friends. I have been to their homes and shared a meal with their families and been to their place of worship and prayed with them”.

Outcomes

“So, what about outcomes thus far?” I ask, to the self-confessed outcome oriented community builder.

  • 30% of icanyoucantoo students have gained employment or secured an apprenticeship at a number of top-flight companies including EY, Deloitte, UBS, JP Morgan and Allen & Overy.
  • 70% of icanyoucantoo students have gone on to further education – studying accountancy, finance, law, medicine or the social sciences.
  • 100% of icanyoucantoo students fed back that their involvement in this initiative contributed to helping them decide what they wanted to do next.

Inspiring stuff indeed, and certainly a thought-provoking example of how others can serve their communities with a view to creating impact on the future careers of those around them.

Source – www . Forbes . com

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