In India, many initiatives are dependent on tens of thousands of volunteers who give up their time, and sometimes comfortable lives, to make life better for strangers in need. So why do they do it?
A young reader of The Better India shared with us her thoughts about why she felt everyone should give it a shot. Here’s what she has to say –
If you look around yourself, you’ll find your family members, friends, neighbours and colleagues cribbing about problems.
“There’s so much of pollution”, “India isn’t going anywhere”, “In spite of the Right to Education, the level of illiteracy hasn’t improved”, “The medical facilities are poor”, so on and so forth.
The complaints are endless, but those making them choose to keep their hands in their pockets. Now, it’s your choice. Will you be one among them? Or, will you get your hands dirty and bring some change?
Growing up in a metropolitan city and living in a middle class family provided me with all the good things of life, and till a certain point of time, I never really thought of looking at the other side.
After completing my Masters, I got the opportunity to be a part of an organization which works with government schools in rural Rajasthan. I moved to a tribal part of the state, which seldom appears on the map of India. But thousands of people live there. And they have an otherwise happy life without even basic necessities!
For me, it was an entire process of unlearning, finding out about the ingredients of happiness, and a new meaning to life.
It was during that time when I realized that if I dream of a better India, I can’t be blind to the poor in this country. If we want to grow, we have to all grow together.
Here’s is how volunteering changed the way I look at life. And it can do the same for you as well –
Learn to give without expecting anything in return.
It’s a feeling of unadulterated happiness to see the sheer joy in someone’s face who probably will never be able to repay you for your deeds. If you have problems with the growing illiteracy in the country, call the kids of your house-help and teach them during the weekends.
If you think it’s working, you can slowly pull in the kids of the neighbor’s help as well. For once, take the leap and do something without expecting anything. (This time, you’ll probably get the best returns!)
Change the system, rather than accepting whatever is going on.
Some of us have had the privilege of going to schools and getting a formal education. Now the question is, why do children from underprivileged societies refrain from going to schools, in spite of free education provided by the government?
After visiting several rural schools, I realized they have a poor teacher student ratio (sometimes it is as low as 1:40), the classrooms are in ruins, the mid-day meal is nearly tasteless.
Coupled with reasons such as working on farms and babysitting younger siblings, many children are deprived of an education.
Now, drastic changes cannot happen overnight, but if steps are taken in the right direction, it can be inevitable. There are several organizations like Teach For India, Kaivalya Education Foundation, CRY and Pratham, that are working towards improving the infrastructure of government schools, and you can join them to contribute in whichever way you can.
Appreciating the little things in life.
Waking up every day with a roof over your head, meals to satisfy your hunger, a loving family, and supportive friends – there’s so much in life for which we should be grateful. Yet many of us are unhappy. This entire perspective might change once you walk into the lives of those who don’t even have the basic necessities of life.
According to a study by an international charity for orphaned and abandoned children, the number of orphans in India in 2011 was 20 million, which is expected to increase by 2021.
A majority of these kids become street dwellers and these are the ones you come across at traffic signals. Many NGOs have started Street Kids’ Schools in cities like New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, where you can volunteer and teach them lessons about how to lead a healthy life.
Being a volunteer in a tribal area of Rajasthan, I realized how difficult life can be, for those who don’t even have a proper meal on a day-to-day basis. It was then that I learned not to waste food, because there are many in my country who goes to sleep, hungry.
It’s only when you get to see some things closely, you’ll appreciate the bigger things.
Know that there are still good people in this world.
There’s war and hatred – but there’s love as well! When you volunteer, you’ll meet several inspirational people.
I met a group of Dutch students who volunteered at a slum school in New Delhi through an organization called Volunteering India and got to know that they visit India every year, to work in slum schools, and it’s something that gives them immense satisfaction.
They were all High School students, accompanied by two teachers. We worked together and our main goal was to ensure that the kids take interest in the lessons and don’t drop out of the school.
During my interaction with one of their teachers, I got to know that they had organized ‘Fundraising Dinners’ in their country to raise money. With that they got blackboards, carpets, water purifiers and air coolers for slum schools.
The way we get inspired by reading others’ stories, we can also inspire people to follow our footsteps and take up a cause.
I learned it was very easy to to complain about the problems, but much harder to be a part of the solution. Find a cause that you feel the most strongly about, and take a step towards resolving it.
By Riyanka Roy