By Upasana Sharma:Â
Darkness is nothing but the absence of light. All of us hold the power to dispel darkness but very few of us utilise it. And those who do are known as torchbearers. Torchbearers of power, knowledge and a path towards better future. One such person is Gayatree Joshi. How did a girl, at the tender age of 16, decide that working for a better India isn’t going to her “I-will-do-it-when-I-am-free” thing! She takes me through this journey of hers and answers the most important question in our minds, “What can I do to help?”
Tell me about the moment you realized social work is your calling. What moved you enough to take it up as a career?
Having a family history of social work, I was engaged in social work when I was young. During my NSS course in college, I encountered several social issues which touched my heart, but being a student of human development and dealing with a lot of children, I somehow knew I should be in this field of healing children and youth. This was the calling which has encouraged me to be in this field since 15 yrs with great privilege of being guided by mentors at various Don Bosco Organisations I have been working with.
How did you go about your journey ahead in pursuing what you had set your mind upon?
During my NSS training, I worked selflessly beyond hours as a volunteer in different organizations which worked for different issues. I worked as a volunteer for 10 years with Don Bosco School and Shelter Don Bosco. Dealing with street children further inspired me to take up different courses and guidance from my mentors. Then, I decided to take, helping marginalized children and youth with my creative skills, as a professional career. I, further, upgraded my skills and got certified as an art based therapy practitioner.
What are you currently doingÂ ?
I am working at the Don Bosco research centre as a consultant dealing with several projects. I also work with a project called Connect All India, which has a primary aim of social and financial inclusion of marginalized families, both rural and urban. With a wish to reach out to maximum number of children, I conduct arts based therapy healing sessions for government supported children’s homes, tribal children, street children, slum children and youth in Mumbai and other cities. My beautiful journey is supported by various funding agencies that believe in the cause I work towards.
Where do you take inspiration from?
Each day I wake up with a determination to make at least one child smile, save one soul, encourage one person, heal someone’s life. My work gave me the opportunity to see how encouragement and support can change lives which in itself inspires me each day to do more. I have been very fortunate to get all the support I could have asked for and more from my family. My grassroot experiences with these kids leave no room for any other source of inspiration
Was there a moment where you thought of giving up? Tell us about the hurdles you faced?
Social work is a helping profession and generally labelled as charity. But, having worked in the field, I know it’s much more than that. It is about long term sustainable help. The thought of giving up never occurs to me. Instead, I dream of reaching 100 more and encourage the youth to wake up to this call of change.
How has your journey shaped you as a person?
As a person I feel it has helped me be extremely compassionate and patient. I am happy, satisfied and content every moment of my life. Sharing whatever I can with people who need it the most, gives me immense joy and reasons to smile. As the NSS oath says “Not me but you”, it is also important to empower your life and develop your skills to be able to reach out with positive energy. The journey has led me to be a contributing citizen of our society.
What qualities must a person inculcate to follow on your path?
I guess it’s important to first empower and heal ourselves, try and overcome the weakness we have and at the same time identify our strengths. Only then can you know what will be the best way you can contribute and in which sector. Without limiting it to the field of social work and following anyone else’s path, create your own after realising the changes you wish to bring in yourself, your surroundings and society at large.
Finally and most importantly, what can the youth do to be a contributing citizen?
Most life journey’s are spent living with the flow and in focussing on what’s important to us, our families, careers and our relationships. Society doesn’t figure into our priority list. Our contribution is limited to joining a NSS group or some organization dealing with social activities on our free days. But that is not going to serve the purpose of long term sustainability. With such help the situation will be the same. We will still see child beggars, labourers and people who are in terrible conditions. The aim should be to get them out of the vicious circle of poverty and believe in giving “Long-term Support” and help them by mainstreaming them back into the society. Find out skills that you have and can be helped in getting them back on their feet and figuring out a way ahead. They need as much support and guidance as we can provide. Only when we are successful in bringing them into the mainstream, will the balance in the current lopsided society, be back.
If you wish to get connected to my projects, volunteer or contribute by training youth kindly mail me at [email protected]