Sharnam Girl Shelter, Mumbai “Didi didi namaste! come and watch our dance practise, we are going to perform tomorrow at the Lion’s Club, will you come to watch us?’, said Roshni, 5-years old who lived in one of the girl’s shelters I went to visit yesterday.
After sleeping at Bombay Central Train Station for over 3 years, Roshni was one of 30 girls picked up off the street and given a home and education by Bombay based NGO Sharnam. She had a smile on her face, hope in her eyes – so happy to see me – a stranger who decided to pass by.
Mother and Child Welfare Society, Rajgurunagar, Pune We visited 4 of 29 villages in the outskirts of Pune. Each village had a population between 1000-3000 people, so poor that they couldn’t even afford to have bathrooms. They survived off their land, ate their hand grown vegetables, sold them when they could, drank their cow’s milk, built their own houses.
The non-governmental organisation we went with worked with these villages and provided them with all sorts of support possible: infrastructure and development support, vocational training, medical services and computer training.
We visited a sewing class of about 30 girls who were learning to tailor clothes. They believed things could change for them, they believed they could contribute towards that change.
The Society Undertaking Poor People’s Onus for Rehabilitation looked after about 100 street kid’s who were druggies, addicted to everything from sniffing glue to brown sugar. The organisation picked them off the street, gave them shelter, worked on their detoxification and rehabilitation.
“Most these kids have poor, broken or abusive families. Their parents are mostly alcoholics or drug addicts. They are emotionally wounded and disturbed children, difficult to handle,” said Sujata Gunega, who has been running the organisation for over 16 years. “They don’t believe that anyone wants to help them, but once they do – the response is phenomenal. The process unfortunatley can take 5-6 years.”
The last few days have been enlightening and moving to say the least. As much as I have always been grounded, meeting these children shook that ground a bit. Put my life into perspective.
All the money and comforts you have all of a sudden seemed frivolous; almost embarrassing to have. A good job, your client’s PR plan, your ambitions, your ‘uncertain future’, all suddenly seemed like bollocks. Realising that you can make a difference just by shaking their hand or telling these kids a story was overwhelming.
These kids were all full of hope. The most important thing that these organisations do is to give them just that.
Feeling what I felt and realising how easy it is to make a difference has put my thinking cap back on. What will I do about it? Sadly, I still do not know.