Please take a few minutes to read this :
This summer, Sid and I spent an entire week in Sevalaya – volunteering. Sevalaya is a charitable trust that does many things. Free education is one of them. I have seen Sevalaya, grow from a one building school to a huge campus in the past decade. As donors, we have visited the campus several times over the years. But, for the first time, we decided to spend ‘time’ (and not just money) here. It was the independence day week and boy, what a week it turned out to be!
Children in Sevalaya are from the nearby villages. Education is free and the right to education for every child is visible here. In this sprawling campus is a school, community college, hostels for boys and girls, old age home, a medical centre and a cow-shelter (for rescued cows) !
During the summer vacation, Sid planned some lessons to teach SCRATCH programming, Math and introduce children to Wildlife. During, our stay, Sid interacted with a host of 4th , 5th and 8th graders. The experience was filled with laughter because, at first we struggled with our ‘Iyer’ Tamil but with the help of the teachers there, we soon, learnt some big words – like the Tamil word for ‘migration’ or the Tamil word for ‘island’. It was fun as we learnt while we taught. And, we did manage to turn every session into a mad house, when we did our selfie click!
We didn’t waste our evenings either as we walked up to the boys hostel within the campus. The boys in the hostel are mostly homeless or destitute s. While the plan was to help them in their studies during the study hour, the boys were keen to talk to us. They wanted to know us – as people – where we are from, what we do and so on. Like the good man in the hostel – Mr Krishnaswamy (whom the kids call ‘appa’ or dad) put it – all that the kids need is for some one to speak to them. ‘You gift them memories’, he told us one day, ‘because, they will now speak about your visit for months’.
I don’t know what we did as volunteers because, we went there to teach but came back richer in terms of experience, friends and of course a lot more wiser. Like Ms Annapoorna Narayanaswamy told me, ‘This, Sudha, is the real India – and not the 10 % that you see otherwise’.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as a self appointed Goodwill Ambassador of Sevalaya, I urge you all to give this a thought – ‘If you ever want to give some thing back to the society – no matter what it is – Sevalaya is a place I can vouch for.’ Children don’t just need resources to get educated, they could also benefit from your time. For more information, log on to their website (www.sevalaya.org) or visit their fb page. If you want to know about my personal experience or what I think their requirements are – please inbox me and I shall be happy to chat up. Yes, there is a lot that still needs to be done. We could all do our bit and earn some love because, that is one thing we all surely need.
Like the above ‘thought’ conveys – ‘May the beating of the drums echo the sound of Love and when we consider every one as EQUAL – Happiness will grow in multitude’ – The Great Tamil Poet Bharathiyaar.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
There is no specific thing you can do. A couple of things that come to my mind :
- Any one can sponsor meals for kids – either one time or for the entire day.
- You can sponsor a child or many children for a year or more.
- You can donate in kind too. (In my opinion, please find out if what you have in mind to donate is of use to them)
- The common-areas in the hostels can do with some lighting. The children study with little light.
- The classrooms too could do with some light! Lights and fans are very essential in every classroom (I was afraid I would come out baked and with thicker glasses – given the weather!)
- Most children have not travelled beyond the campus. In recent times, some one has sponsored for the children to go to the zoo in Chennai. Trip sponsorship is a great idea.
- Lots of pep talks – about the outside world – the careers to choose from, what they can become – is very important.
- English definitely needs to be taught since most study in the local language.
- Sevalaya constantly struggles to pay salaries to the staff and support staff. Without these people, Sevalaya cannot function.
Finally, my own understanding of the children in Sevalaya is that – they are fun, intelligent and ambitious too. All that they need is some role model – some one they can aspire to become. And, I realised that the role models need not be famous people. It is important that they see, meet and hear about ordinary people a lot more so that, they know that, it is possible to become some one. So, go ahead and aspire to inspire and just maybe you can put a smile on some one’s face!
Thank you for your time!