By Devika Mittal:
I had enjoyed working as a teacher in an NGO. So I had opted for umeed, one of the children homes of Aman Biradari, to repeat the fun. But it turned out that I did everything but that. Initially, I felt a bit turned off because teaching kids art and craft was not my cup of tea but by the end of my summer vacations, I had shocked myself. The dil se campaign was a mutual learning experience. I learned a lot while I taught. The two months with Umeed can be described through some lasting memories that me and Manya (another volunteer) managed to collect.
While we would do some documentation work in the office room, kids would keep swarming in and out. And when we would ask for their names, we would get Munna, Rocky and Abhishek (Bachchan). It was only the files which would force them to tell us their real names. I asked this boy his name and with all the seriousness in the world he said “Shahid (Kapoor)”. I had accepted it but the moment he turned away, his friends called out his real name.
And then there was this day, when a kid ‘found’ his parents. They were passing by the home when he spotted them. Everyone in the home was just too happy that day.
The most challenging part was of course managing the kids. It was a task to go around the home and gather the kids. Then they were to be held in a room by one volunteer, while the other went around looking for some more. While some of them were very enthusiastic to learn, others considered themselves just too cool to stay put. One very typical scene would be that two kids would start fighting and while I made efforts to stop them, others would become spectators. But When I would manage to get the two kids to negotiate, I would look up only to find the room empty.
But we did manage to extract a lot from their creative sides. If the coloring sheets ended up like inter-state disputes over resources (crayons and stationary), photo frames and the shoe aquariums, which had them grouped together, became treaties.
Childhood is incomplete without those stupid fights. And when you have a space to share with your peers as well as seniors, tables are bound to be in pieces. I was once suggested by a kid to stay over to experience ‘real’ politics.
Then there were some moments where I became a student. I was given a lecture on hindu-muslim unity and how politicians are disrupting it. In fact, politics was their favorite topic.
But of course, the best part about the whole experience was the love and respect that they would express. They would always be so excited to see us coming. They would always force us to eat with them. After completing our volunteership, we had been to the home once. And the naughtiest of them all was the happiest to see us again. That paid us off.
Working at Umeed, we also saw the challenges that are involved in the management of an NGO. We can imagine how hard it must be to manage more than 100 kids of varied age groups. I had also been for the field work once and saw for myself how things work at the level which is so vulnerable but also the most neglected. Though I would always crib as this volunteership required four hours of travelling everyday, the experience was worth it as it really inspires me to give back to the society. Umeed lives up to its name. It gives one the hope that things can be changed and will change.