Today I am going to talk about volunteers (yes, the ones on the left), but that’s coming a bit later. Before that there’s something else that I need to talk about. I am unable to start this post without acknowledging that something has gone terribly wrong with the world. It seems that it houses strange creatures and they are all crazy. It is also safe then, to assume that since the end was once prophesied, the crazy earthlings are trying hard, oh so very hard, to meet that deadline of doom, and they are actually eager to hasten the destruction. An obedient and hard-working lot, they are. So what, if they are slightly deranged? So what, if they are simply selfish? So what, if they commit atrocities against each other? They still have many endearing qualities. Don’t they?
After all, they are diligent when they grab available (and unavailable) land; they are meticulous when they shell schools; they are methodical when they shoot down civilian planes and they can justify when they kidnap girls. Heck, they even shrug responsibility when their own staff rapes their own 6- years old student in their own school campus! See?And seeing is all that we do. We see the newspaper coverage, the pictures, the news feed, the forwarded messages and so on. It is almost as if we are amused to see these earthlings as they massacre, squander, raid and rape. So, do you want to see some (more) heart wrenching pictures of blood and gore, of rape and despair?
Oh, you do? Bad luck mate, I refuse to pander to your curiosity. I refuse to be a part of this ‘they;’ ‘they,’ who are mad enough to massacre this world and ‘they,’ who enjoy these stories of gore. Yes, I agree that we need to know but no, we don’t need to glamorise. We need to empathise, yes, but no, we don’t need to pry in to their grief. They deserve the dignity of pain and they shall have it.
Whose side am I on?
It is that elusive side, where people give peace a chance; where war is not an option; where no one, I repeat, no one, for any gain, political or otherwise, have the right to violate another life, in any way. Yeah, I am on that unpopular side. With such non- confrontational attitude, I will never attain success: so be it. I am also on the side, where hope is brought in to the forefront; where inspiration is celebrated, where empathy is a quality that makes you want to do and not just simply a quality to be talked about. And so, people who have done something beyond the ‘usual’ should be celebrated or at least congratulated on a job well done.
So, what about VIBGYOR High school in Bangalore? Do I want to congratulate them as well? Nah! Here’s their website. You can congratulate them yourself for allowing the rape of a 6- years old student by their own Physical Ed. teacher. Feel free to pass your ‘congratulatory’ message.
VIBGOR HIGH School
People to contact: Rustom P. Kerawalla (Founder-Chairman); Ms. Kavita Sahay (Director – Schools & Academics); Mr. Pratik Patel (Director – Strategic Planning & New Initiatives); Mr. Vispi J Vesuna (Trustee).
Meanwhile, even if this world is crazy and dark, there are indeed some stories that inspire and so, this is where I let go off my sarcasm, and present The Young Volunteers, Part I.
These are the ‘bright sparks’ of the world and they represent the youth that refuses to give up on humanity. Not only are these youngsters smart and driven, but they also are resourceful in their own small ways and show us some simple ways of giving back to the community.
Nidhi & Ishita Thakkar
Cause: Teaching slum kids.
Nidhi & Ishita Thakkar
Determined to make a difference in their immediate community, Ishita, and her friends, Arpit, Bhumika and Parth, set out to meet the people of the slum nearby, and convinced them to send the kids for ‘free tuition.’ Thus their first class was ready but the lack of space proved to be a deterrent. The team wanted to reach out to more students but didn’t know who to approach. Eventually, the Principal of KVIS, Ms Reshma Hegde, allowed them the use of the school premises and in barely 3 months, their class strength rose to an astonishing 20. This has encouraged the teenagers to cruise ahead and Ishita, aged 18, is now determined to start her own NGO.
Nidhi, on the other hand, started out by volunteering for The Candle Project and a year later, moved on to an orphanage, to teach a group of children, aged, 8-11 years. The engineering student, likes calling them, ‘my kids,’ as they have become much more than just ‘her students.’ She teaches them basic English & Mathematics and now they are able to spell, read and count. She is ‘proud of them’ and justifiably so. Nidhi says that she may have started volunteering for a cause, but now she is there every weekend, simply because they end up teaching her ‘more’ than she teaches them: from being ‘oh so patient…to being satisfied with what you have.’ When they scribble ‘thank you’ note to her, they mean it and that’s what, she says, makes it all ‘so worthwhile.’
Cause: Activist, Volunteer & Artist
Kokila’s biggest mission, she says, is to ‘spread awareness about corporate crimes and corporate responsibilities.’ The teenaged activist likes to ‘decode advertisements that brainwash’ and feels strongly about all ‘aspects that encourage futile consumerism.’ Recognising the role of activism in the present scenario, she is equally vocal about Climate Change, Social justice and Journalism through design. Her mission, she says, is to be a ‘good human being.’
Kokila started volunteering in her early teens by joining ‘Justice for the victims of the Bhopal Gas tragedy’ and other related environmental concerns with the Sambhavna Trust, Bhopal. At age 16, she had organised an awareness event, called, “Bhopali Bachche,” that aimed to sensitise the young about the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, arguably the worst industrial disaster in the world. They went on to raise money for the victims who are still suffering from the aftermath of the tragedy. This was achieved through film screenings, photo exhibitions and signed petitions.
The designer is also associated with creative projects, where she writes, designs, ideates and volunteers. The list of projects includes, The Peace Gong, a children’s newspaper based in Kashmir, AFRC India in Kerala, Prayatna and Ahambhumika Bhopal, a rural education centre where she volunteers as a teacher. Kokila works untiringly and when she says, “The youth are an invulnerable force,” I am inclined to agree.
Whether it is Ishita’s quiet determination, Nidhi’s easygoing camaraderie with ‘her kids’ or Kokila’s focused activism, the youth has arrived with a calm confidence and we should heave a sigh of relief. Even in Singapore, the pilot intake of youth corps are ready to embark on community projects and more youngsters are finding innovative ways to give back to the society.
Here are some of them:
Mother Teresa Club
The Volunteers Switchboard
There are many more stories and many young volunteers to celebrate but that’s for another post. Till then, here’s hoping that the world stops spinning so precariously. As I pray for the families who have lost their beloved around the world, I look at the youngsters and say…
There’s hope still….