Jolly Johnson, founder of the Helping Hands Organisation (H2O) based in Kerala knew the exact moment when she heard her calling.
“I still remember my first visit to an old age home. I met an old woman from Uttar Pradesh who took me in her arms and started crying. She said that I reminded her of her daughter. I didn’t know then that this moment would be the beginning of some of the major decisions in my life,” says the 33-year-old.
One of her decisions was to start her organisation to help children with disabilities and on the autism spectrum.
H2O has so far helped over 2,000 students with autism and has a network of 12,000 youth volunteers conducting various skill development programmes for children with disabilities.
Random Acts Of Kindness
“I grew up near a church in a small village called Valithura near Thiruvanathapuram, Kerala. I was also active in the church’s activities, because of which one of my first dreams was to become a nun. A lot of people found that to be odd, but for me, the whole idea was to help out people,” explains Jolly.
Because of the constant desire to help people out, soon after completing her 10th grade, Jolly started taking tuition classes for underprivileged students.
“Initially my plan was to take tuitions with a minimal fee but later on when I visited the homes of these children, I realised how much they were all struggling and decided to take the classes absolutely free of cost,” she says.
But her acts of compassion didn’t stop there. Even during her college days, Jolly would visit senior citizens on weekends at the Santhwana Old Age Home, Vettuthura, and deliver essentials to them.
Jolly was also an active member of several organisations during her college days like the Mahila Mandiram and the Rotary club of Thiruvananthapuram through which she received the opportunity to become a part of innumerable awareness programmes and fundraising drives.
“Soon after graduating college I got a job at ICICI Bank, but in a few months, I had to quit my job because my mother fell ill and she needed someone to help her full time,” she explains.
It was during that time that Jolly decided to start a daycare for special children to make the most of her time at home.
“I started doing a lot of research on special schools to get a better understanding of the kind of attention and care these required. This was when Dr M K C Nair, a family friend, suggested that I set up a learning and skill development centre for children with autism. That was the beginning of H2O in 2012,” Jolly explains.
A Loving Friends To Her Students
“The aim of H2O is to create a platform for specially-challenged children to attain a sense of independence through various skill development programmes,” explains Himavathi, co-founder of H2O.
The organisation started out by providing behavioural therapy, music therapy, horticulture therapy, prevocational training for children below the age of 15 and vocational training for the senior level learners from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Gais Amir, who has been a volunteer at H20 for more than 6 years, says, “We have had to face a lot of difficulties regarding funds to carry out these projects. So some of us from the College of Engineering Trivandrum came together and started collecting old newspapers to raise money for the NGO. For the past six years, our college has been able to give around Rs 10,000 every month towards the cause.”
“H2O has also conducted several campaigns, including a kite festival to raise funds to expand the organisation. But looking back, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come,” he adds.
Where They Are Today
Today, H2O rents a 3-acre plot consisting of the building and a horticulture farm which cultivates several vegetables like tomatoes, cabbage, beans and ginger. The organisation currently has over 12,000 youth volunteers from across different colleges in Kerala co-ordinating over 92 WhatsApp groups.
“I got to know about H2O through my college seniors when I was in my first year. Ever since then I’ve been an active participant and it has given me a completely different outlook to life. I’ve been able to train several children. We teach them pot painting, candle making, paper bag making and even help them cultivate their own vegetables,” says Hari Krishnan a final year student at Marian College, Kuttikanam, Kerala.
Over the span of eight years, Jolly’s organisation has been able to help over 2,000 such learners and has been successful in opening up a conversation on the need for skill development for these children.
“I still remember visiting my neighbour’s daughter with cerebral palsy. She was younger than me but I somehow felt connected to her. And although I had never seen her before in my life, there was an urge inside me to make her feel happier. I’m glad that this feeling stayed with me all through my life. Else, I wouldn’t have been able to help so many people through my organisation,” Jolly concludes.
Due to the lockdown, The Helping Hands Organisation has been struggling to meet their financial requirements. You can help these students by donating to the account given below:
Acc Name: Helping Hands Organisation
Acc No: 0379 0530 0001 0499
IFSC Code: SIBL 0000 379
Bank Name: The South Indian Bank Ltd
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)