Spotlight

Championing education for marginalised communities

Janan, the COO of The Patatas, has been working to provide more access to education for underprivileged communities alongside his team for years. What does it take to carry out work on the ground?

Lynette Chua

April 22nd, 2021

Janan, the COO of The Patatas, has been working to provide more access to education for underprivileged communities, alongside his team for years. Having been on the ground, he visited many of these communities and understood their pain points, seeing things from their perspectives.

In this #PotatoSpotlight, he shares more about his take on education and both the joy and challenges that comes with carrying out work in various communities.

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

I love the outdoors and spending time in nature. I used to practice Krav Maga and I’m a certified Open Water Instructor.

2. What do you like the most about your work?

It’s a really great feeling to see the smiles on the faces of the children when the teachers we work with on the ground introduce us.

But what is even better is when you hear about the ongoing progress they are making after you leave and when they graduate from school. It is a really great validation of what we put so much effort into.

3. Why is equality in education important to you?

I think the term I would use isn’t equality but equity. Equality is providing the equal amount of support regardless, but equity is providing different levels of support to equal the playing field.

Also, it might be beneficial to broaden the aspect of the term ‘education’. Bring up the term and most would immediately equate it to the usual categories of ‘English, Math, Science’. But for us, education is any subject that provides the acquisition of knowledge for the topic that makes a difference in their lives. Water sanitation, carpentry, farming etc.

So why is education important? If it was a grand scheme answer, I would say because education provides the potential to break out of the cycle of poverty. 

But to me, it is because even the most basic knowledge that we take for granted would make a real difference on the ground. For example, boiling water before drinking. That sort of information would make a real impact for communities that are affected by things such as cholera.

4. What is the greatest challenge you faced while trying to further the mission of The Patatas?

Considering the demographic that we focus on, I would say finding the correct partners and organizations who are willing to walk the journey with us.

5. What are some of the valuable lessons you have learnt after working with underprivileged communities?

The most valuable lesson I have learnt would be to remove the ‘1st world goggles’.

We have no right to go into their community and force our methods on them.

Talk to them, talk to the organisations that work with them. Understand what they truly need, not what we think they need.

6. What qualities do you look for in applicants who would like to join The Patatas?

We don’t want a team member to say “Well, it’s always been done this way”. 

We keep an eye out for applicants who are curious about how things work and then throw out random ideas on a possibility of how to improve it.

7. What are the greatest values you focus on for your company?

Definitely Integrity, Empathy and Authenticity.

8. How did you decide to join Potato?

I was an intern in 2008 or 2009. Potato culture was something that was amazing and it was an easy decision to make on coming back. If anything, I think with the amazing culture at Potato, there will definitely be a strong readjustment period if I had to work anywhere else. Not forgetting to mention that Hans is a great person to be working for. There are quite a few incidents where through his actions to others, I learnt the meaning of humility.

9. What is one crazy goal you want to achieve within your lifetime?

Not work related, I think my ‘crazy goal’ is to be a good son to my parents, husband to my wife and a father to my kid(s).


If you would like to have a chat with Janan for more information on The Patatas’ services, click here!