The great poet Rumi once said, “You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop.”
We are conditioned to believe that we are insignificant cogs in some defunct machine but I believe that we are the catalysts for the change we wish to see. Rooted in this thought lies my belief that everyone is a changemaker and the realisation that even if our fates are carved in stone, we can chip away at them with our perseverance. How do I know that? Because I’ve done it myself.
Up till the 5th grade, I attended a convent school in Jaipur, rather unaware of the world around me, sheltered and protected. Shifting to the metropolitan city of Gurgaon turned my life upside down and not in the best of ways. I was unable to fit in and constantly bullied. I felt underconfident and overwhelmed.
For a child who was yet to be introduced to the concept of dating, to be ridiculed for supposedly being gay was another culture shock. I responded in the worst of ways, crying myself to sleep at night and later dating people constantly just to avoid this tag which seemed offensive at the time. It was only later that I realised the detrimental impact of such an approach. This is where the thought of asking for help germinated in my mind.
A Cry For Help (ACFH) is a non-profit that aims to help adolescents struggling with problems like peer pressure, stress, anxiety and bullying. It works on the simple model of teenagers helping teenagers. As children, we often find it hard to open up to those we perceive as authority figures or who are far removed from our lives and contexts. It’s easier to talk to others of a similar age and background who have themselves undergone similar experiences and who we can relate to. This serves a dual purpose – not only does it help young people seek and receive help but by helping others we can help ourselves too.
Starting ACFH turned my life around. I grew confident, and went on to becoming the president of my school and excelling at many co-curricular activities.
When compared to a few decades ago, competition has peaked today and children are more susceptible to stress and anxiety than ever before, in turn giving further rise to problems like substance abuse and bullying. Population growth has led to a proportionate growth in competition as well, leaving kids with hardly any time to be just that, kids.
In these trying times, I think we need to look within for answers because no one size fits all.
A Cry For Help works in 3 stages – raising awareness through flash mobs, plays etc., organising workshops to introduce children to the program and lastly, one-to-one peer counselling. The main aim of establishing self-help groups is to encourage adolescents to talk about otherwise taboo topics and to help each other evolve viable solutions to problems. It aims to provide them with a positive platform to voice their opinions and gives them a healthy coping mechanism.
It reminds me of a story I once read about two children born to an alcoholic father. One grew up to be a successful carpenter who never drank while the other ended up becoming an alcoholic just like his father. When asked why he didn’t drink, the first brother said that he saw what it did to his father and he could never even bring himself to try while the second said he learnt to drink on his father’s knee. It made me realise that we can’t choose where we come from but we can choose where we can go from there. We can take the pain and hurt we’ve been given and give it back to the world or we can ensure no one else ever feels the way we were made to feel. I have myself counselled those on the brink of suicide and understood that sometimes all you need to pull you back from the edge is the realisation that someone’s willing to listen, that somebody cares.
The youth is the future and what sort of dreary dystopia are we staring towards if we continue to be dragged down by the weight of burdens we can help each other ease? We can build a better tomorrow by being a better version of ourselves today.
ACFH has received backing from the Ashoka Foundation as well as the Robert Bosch Foundation to collaborate with EduX Space China for a one-of-a-kind exchange program between school children from the two countries. In collaboration with Teach for India, ACFH shall be training student leaders about the aforementioned problems and how to solve them. They shall be in touch with their counterparts in China, culminating in a 5-day exchange program wherein the children visit Beijing to participate in various workshops and team building exercises. The end result shall be the creation of a self-synthesised manual on these pressing problems and a redressal model which shall then be implemented in schools in both countries.
ACFH wishes to provide children from low-income households an opportunity to participate in this unique initiative. The aim is to raise funds to enable 10 children to participate and since these are all minors, two caretakers from Teach for India must also accompany them as well as two core team members from A Cry For Help to ensure their safety and a successful stay.
The average cost inclusive of passports, visa, accommodation and travel is ₹38,500 per head, coming to a total of ₹5,39,000. We are therefore aiming to raise ₹5.5 lakhs to comfortably cover these expenses and any additional costs which may be incurred.
These children have very limited world exposure, their families’ financial constraints have also constrained the experiences and education they have received. For them, to visit another city, much less another country seems like an unattainable dream. This exchange truly has the potential to change their lives and gives them a shot to turn the most far-fetched of dreams into reality. Your contribution will go a long way in helping us cover the cost of travel, accommodation etc for these bright young minds. Each child under this program is an incredible individual, brimming with bright ideas to combat the crisis of mental health.
You can help them make the most of an opportunity that their financial conditions otherwise constrain. Your valuable input will also directly aid the creation of a sustainable self-help model that will start by helping students in India and China and hopefully eventually, the world.