BY PUJA MARWAHA
IT is more often than not that we and people around us complain of a lack of compassion that is engulfing the world right now. And most of the times, we are not wrong – if news and features and social media posts be trusted. What we choose to, or cannot help overlook, is the fact that the war against this depressing scenario is on as well. It is on in schools, colleges, little clusters in slums, youth groups in villages, among the professionals who are running against time and also leaders from various walks of life.
What drives these people to go against the current? There must be some forces at work which push them to do the right things instead of doing the things right. And so, when a young citizens’ group of IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) Kharagpur get their Sundays off after a week of gruelling studies, they do not laze around or party or just rest. Instead they take up a study on child sexual abuse and come up with workshop ideas. They go to the schools in the villages around them. They conduct workshops with children – where they teach children about understanding what child sexual abuse is. They tell them it is never their fault and how they should report instances, stay aware, and be alert. “Project Balrakshak” – is for them their way of expressing enough is enough.
Or you may take the case of 16-year-old Shambhavi Vaidiyanathan, who is currently based in Singapore. This force drove her to spend her summer in India this year planning a walkathon while preparing for her board examinations. Getting people to walk for a cause in the sweltering Chennai heat during the month of June is no mean task. However, that wasn’t enough for the girl. She ran a crowd funding alongside all of this, raising lakhs [hundreds of thousands] of rupees to stop child labour in the midst of all of this. She says: “I joined CRY – Child Rights and You a year ago as a volunteer, with a mindset to help children. Through the course of one year, I have helped hold workshops, health camps, created a documentary, organized a walkathon for around 250 people, etc. I have learnt a lot about how to tackle the issue of child labour and come up with long term solutions that can make a difference. Along the way I also understood the importance of team work, efficient communication and having immense gratitude.”
In all likelihood, our question has been answered by this teenager. The force that drives people to swim against the tide is the transformation they go through themselves. Whenever you embark on a journey to change the world around you for the better, you begin a wonderful journey of rediscovering yourself. You discover things about yourself that you could never imagine, you discover a strength in your being that was otherwise invisible and you discover that change is possible, change is happening and you are, in fact, making it happen.
In a journey spanning around four decades now, CRY has seen numerous such stories of self-discovery and transformation. Having worked with thousands of volunteers every year, we have never been able to thank them for the work they do to ensure that every child gets access to the rights they deserve. They cut in midway through your sentence and start telling you about how they have become better versions of themselves, how the children have touched their lives and how they feel confident of confronting any situation from here on. Before you can tell them how wonderful they are, they will tell you how wonderful the journey has been.
This winter, as we have just celebrated International Volunteers’ Day, we’ve not only championed the infectious spirit of volunteerism, but also had an opportunity to look within and celebrate the transformation that giving of yourself brings to your life. Let us acknowledge that the spirit of giving – giving your time, energy, efforts, voice or yourself – brings about a change in you that you otherwise would not be able to achieve. Let us acknowledge that when you give, you actually become a receiver.
And yes, the door – the one that keeps us connected to the external world – always opens from within…
Puja Marwaha is the CEO at CRY – Child Rights and You