“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead
During my regular visits to Donate An Hour, where I have been volunteering for 2 years, I have come across various people from all age groups. They are not only donating their precious time to teach underprivileged children, but also creating unique techniques to help them understand the concept of a particular lesson.
One day, I observed a few children trying to climb up and down the stairs with a young lady who was engrossed in the activity as well. It was an interesting sight and the excitement of those young boys and girls was so high that I had to observe them from a distance.
I was curious, obviously, but more than that I was eager to know who this lady was who could get these kids involved in participation. It’s definitely not easy to work with children who have not had an introduction with Education; also to handle their energy is not an easy task because they are always restless and desperate to move on to something more exciting.
So, this lady was teaching them the concept of ascending and descending order in Mathematics which I gathered from listening to her hidden from where I couldn’t be seen.
Meenal Jain is a B-tech graduate in Electronics and Communication who worked for 5 years in the IT Industry as a software engineer, got married in 2016 and moved to Gurgaon. This city brought her closer to her ambitious dream of serving our society because she always carried a concern for the migrant labour class who are constantly moving from one place to another. Their children bear the brunt of this brutal reality as they are never able to enjoy the benefits of stability.
She was trying to update her portfolio and happened to search the internet for an NGO where she could contribute. Meenal was fortunate enough to find an organisation which was located near her residence in sector 45 so she contacted them without wasting any time. She describes her initial experience for getting enrolled at DoaR as something she wasn’t ready for. Expectations of beginning a journey with Meenakshi and Divya Prakash on their wonderful cause were so high that she almost forgot that her ambitions needed more than an Hour of donation.
As she explained to me, she was facing a dozen children who had never been to school and had no inclination towards studies, besides more than a 100 in different batches who were being handled by other volunteers.
As a person, she is soft-spoken, meek and carries a composure of being calm but when you are handed over with a responsibility to channelise the energy of tiny-tots who need schooling, the challenge is more than enough.
She faced hurdles initially and to simply get basic attention from these small children was a tiresome task. Once frustration did seep in but her dilemma was solved by Meenakshi who told her “If these kids can study easily, then the challenge is over”! I still wonder at times that what actually got her into leaving a promising career behind and succumb to this urgent need for social service!
As I said, an hour isn’t enough when you are determined to shape up the lives of those who are less fortunate than us. And when you reach the doorstep of DoaR, this beautiful World full of promising and happy children embrace you with open arms. Meenal was handling the teaching for EA students after successfully guiding very small children in the Library previously.
That’s when I met her and was totally in awe because when I was engrossed with my batch for making ‘Teacher’s Day cards, the maximum cards were being made for her and not me.
For Meenal, another opportunity was served when she was attending a session for recruitment at DoaR. A village “Kherla” in Nuh Distt of Haryana which was adopted by the organisation for community development, needed immediate attendance. We had already established a government school and were undergoing a process of cleaning the village premises; a Major Slogan and Cause of DoaR are to eradicate the use of plastic.
So, the task was to reach the village, meet with the Sarpanch and start a campaign of cleaning and painting of walls of every house. She was excited and was expecting to spend some money to buy paints and to pay someone for completing the task. Upon reaching the village, Meenal was instantly intimidated after coming face-to-face with villagers who seemed threatening. The goal was not to get the walls painted but to convince the villagers to clean their surroundings by themselves.
Meenakshi said, “If they can have a dozen buffaloes, they might as well buy a tin of paint for their walls!” And this gave her relief because within a few hours the walls of the village were decorated in colours and the graffitis were fascinating enough to ensure her that she was in the safe company of determined soldiers.
This was unforeseen and her aim was to simply teach! But this one day spent at Kherla changed her perspective especially after witnessing Meenakshi’s stern leadership. You don’t have to donate money for every cause, you just have to convince others to utilise their means (within their limitations of-course) for maintaining a healthier lifestyle and surroundings. Even the poor are entitled to it if they are provided with genuine provision for working towards this goal.
While Meenal was expecting a monetary sum to be given to them for painting their walls, she was astonished to see that the villagers did the same with simple instructions. This incident changed her altogether because her mind was now fully dedicated to “Donate an Hour” and we cannot deny the contribution of her husband Udit Mangal and her in-laws who gave her the freedom to walk ahead with her cause.
Meenal decided to dedicate herself fully to DoaR after she met Divya Prakash who is the man behind this project of EA Academy where students with potential are being educated in a proper manner. While exploring the academy she discovered that out of those dozens of children that she was guiding, the ones with a potential to rise higher were being trapped at an early stage for proper schooling.
Her mathematics lessons got regular and soon she was provided with an opportunity to teach at EA Academy on a regular basis.
She was in the family way soon but that didn’t cause any hindrance because of the support she received from her family. Her husband Udit encouraged her to continue with her routine and as I said, no woman can contribute for such causes if the husband and families don’t support.
We, somehow, fall back without it. Although her gynaecologist did advice her to stay away from social service because it might prove hazardous to her health (absolutely weird on her part for this advice) due to her interaction with children from “unhealthier environment, Meenal ignored it.
During her entire pregnancy, she spent most of her time in taking regular classes for students at EA. Something she can never, ever, forget is pure love and innocent portrayal of possessiveness by her students who tried their best every day to pamper her while she was showing signs of motherhood. Dhaani arrived on Dec 2, 2019, and is a part of our family today.
How are these warriors different from any other, you may wonder! We all do our bit and don’t miss a chance to donate money whenever it is required for a social cause, so what makes her different from you? Well, try to spend a little time with a child who is 8 years old and has never been to a school.
You will get your answers and I can assure you, you will never be able to keep him out of your mind. At “DoaR” we have hundreds of children whom we gather and at times, have to literally battle with their parents to drag them out of their homes… But we do that with determination because without education life is wasted.
The “Conscientious” DoaRians can never allow that so we are the warriors who fight our own battles for a child’s rights! Yes, we do! We struggle to get the fathers to come to an agreement to send their child to us, while our fights with the mothers are equally strenuous. To gain their trust is our foremost priority and so far we have managed to build a school of hardworking scholars at the EA Academy.