I’ve always loved interacting with children, and I was thrilled when my mentor asked me to cover an NGO for the duration of my summer internship. I had already volunteered with Prayaas Corps. which works with underprivileged students, and I immediately called Jaspal Sir to fix an appointment and meet the students at Prayaas Ki Paathshala. Sir Jaspal Godara is the CEO and founder at Prayaas Corps, and believe me, he is so humble that he didn’t even hesitate for a second when we asked him to meet them.
Reaching there, we realized that their classroom is just as vibrant as how ours used to be. The kids are of different age groups ranging from 2-10 years, and they were seated in rows. The younger kids were in another study room, while the older kids were all seated together.
The smiles on their faces made our faces light up. Suddenly, I didn’t think of them as underprivileged kids but as lovely human beings. Some of them even remembered me from my volunteering days and asked me why I wasn’t coming to teach them anymore. I had forgotten this happiness that I had felt whenever I would meet and teach these amazing souls. I had a small flashback through time and I swore to myself that I would visit more often.
The children greeted us with a warm Namaste and a beautiful smile. The class started at 9 am and most of them were ready with their homework. Some did extremely well but some of them were not able to complete their homework. The teachers were very involved with students and ensured that everyone completed their homework perfectly. Back in the day, when we didn’t do our homework, often times we didn’t do it because we didn’t care. But these kids want to learn and excel, yet some of them just can’t complete their homework on time because they are made to do household work or do some rag picking, etc. if their families need some extra income. Their struggle is way different from ours, yet they are always so cheerful. It’s so amazing to see that!
What struck me the most was ‘Madamji’. Madamji is an interactive tool which teaches the younger kids what we learned through expensive schooling, books, and gadgets. It has words, images, and sounds to help guide the student through their ABC’s. What an apt name!
During the class break, I tried to talk to some of the kids, few were shy but others showed a lot of interest in talking to us. Many of them happily posed for us. One of the kids, Mamta, asked my mentor, Ishita Shelat, and me for our names and quickly interacted with us and became our friend. She was one of the two students teaching the class, and she knew her alphabet, tables, and even the Hindi Alphabet. She asked us if we would help teach her the Hindi alphabet as that was tougher than English and we certainly got a revision lesson. It’s funny how we don’t know our own national language precisely but can teach anyone the ABC’s. Mamta’s best friend Anjali was the second girl teaching the other kids. She is super-shy, but also very ambitious. She wants to become a doctor, and apparently the fastest learner in the batch. Her drawing skills swept us off our feet.
It was then time for lunch. The lunch is provided by the Prayaas team for free of cost so that their nutrition is well-taken care of. We saw the kids neatly sit in rows and politely ask servers for extra rice, chapati, dal or whatever they wanted. They even washed their own utensils and kept them in the designated areas. It’s wonderful to see how well-disciplined these kids are.
Usually, to enhance their creativity, drawing, arts, and crafts are also scheduled in the daily routine. On the day we visited, the kids were given a page, brand new crayons, and asked to draw their favorite things. Some drew a house, some trees, and some drew hearts. Some colored in the coloring book, and all the kids were so excited to show their drawings to the teachers and to me.
Later, I had a quick chat with teachers and volunteers who devoted their whole lives for the betterment of society with no self-gain or ill motive. I asked the teachers why they chose to teach for a cause. They said that they didn’t want fame or money. The satisfaction of seeing the smiles on these children’s faces was enough motivation for them to carry on for months.
We had gotten candies for the children. Some of the students got only one, and some got two. But even then, they offered to share it with us since they saw that we didn’t get any. This spirit of sharing in spite of having so little is what moved me the most.
And last, but not the least, before the children left for their homes, they had a small assignment. They had to water the plants which were assigned to them. They took care of the plants like their own babies and watered their own before leaving. On speaking with Jaspal sir, we learned that the kids in the neighborhood throw stones at trees. This activity was started so that the kids learn the responsibility of caring for the trees as their own. It definitely works in changing the mindsets of kids who otherwise would have not known any better.
After all this, the day ended with the fun we had with these children and the learning that they gave us. I learned the importance of the little things we take for granted. I also understood what it means to be truly happy. Sometimes, it is not the big things, but the little things, like watering the plants and sharing the things you get, that makes a world of a difference. Most importantly, I understood that one should never stop dreaming, no matter what the circumstances are.
We signed off for the day with some memorable snaps with Jaspal Sir and the kids, and a quick chat about Prayaas’ vision. Jaspal Sir wants these kids to learn how to lead a proper lifestyle and groom them for future employment opportunities. Along with education, he wants to teach these kids a way of life. He aims to increase the school timing and have uniforms at Prayaas Ki Paathshala. He also wants these students to be more responsible and wash and iron their own school uniforms like they wash their own plates right now. Even more so, he wants them to grow up with technology like we did so that they are not alien to working environments and pick up computer-related and other technical jobs in the future. It was moving to see the kids open ‘Paint’ software on Windows PC and wrote their own names or did a creative drawing. Kudos to Jaspal Sir and the whole Prayaas Team!
One can volunteer at Prayaas Corps to gain a life-changing experience of working with Prayaas’ kids and can also learn more about the incredible work that the youngsters at Prayaas Corps are doing every day. It’s a wonderful way to stay connected with issues pertaining to social justice and to learn about cutting-edge social and environmental activism.
You can also donate them and help these children sustain a better life that they deserve just like you and me. A small amount makes a big difference for these children who come to school every day to learn something that they never thought of. Their lives can be more than just a little income to their family by your tiny contribution. You can learn more about it here.
I promise it will be overwhelming if you spend just a day with these little buds who are doing such amazing work in spite of their circumstances and making the most of the learning coming their way. They will definitely repay your efforts with the brightest smiles.
Find out more at www.prayaascorps.com