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Radha: A Young Soldier From “DoaR India” Who Is Loved By All

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“Teachers can open the door, but you must enter it yourself.” — Chinese proverb.

“Teachers can open the door, but you must enter it yourself.” — Chinese proverb.

Radha-when I saw this tiny girl for the first time at Donate an Hour; I developed an immediate bond with her. Radha is brave & bold and does not shy away from acknowledging a person who approaches her. She is always in a hurry, but that’s because she is a responsible child & has her share of errands to run. A 13-year-old girl, short in height but taller in terms of aspirations & determination, is hard to ignore when you arrive at DoaR. My first question to her was, “What do you aspire to be, Radha?” and without hesitation, she replied, “I want to join the Indian Army ma’am!” I was disheartened because I was hesitant to inform her that she can not apply for the Armed Forces due to her short height. She made it easier for me by gauging my dilemma from my looks and saying, “O ma’am, I know I can’t be an officer in the Army because I am so small….. but this is my dream and will always remain close to my heart.” A smile and kindness were facing me while I was left with a sudden urge to embrace this girl: Radha….. the brightest child and the fiercest one. You can not afford to touch her at the wrong chord because she is forever ready to face challenges & is seen running around due to her leadership skills; she likes to be in charge, and you are not supposed to disturb her while attending to her chores. Any outsider or a new volunteer can not intimidate her with their immediate queries & sympathies because she is way ahead of these feelings. Radha is a soldier; Radha is a young girl with bright eyes that spell hope & reflect her determination, but Radha is also a sweet child full of honesty.

 Radha was not fortunate enough to begin schooling at an appropriate time, although her elder sister regularly attended school while staying with their maternal grandmother. Radha was enrolled in the afternoon school program nearby, where she was attending (charity) classes for a few hours through a voluntary program. One day she observed that a couple was teaching a large group of small children in one of the parks in sector 45, and out of curiosity, she joined them. Fascinated by their technique in explaining the lesson, she was drawn towards them and would hardly miss their class. Her participation was noticed, and the couple (Meenakshi & Divya Prakash), upon seeing her enthusiasm, decided to give her attention. Soon she was enrolled in the EA program, and this brilliant child didn’t take long to become everyone’s favorite.

Her mother is a simpleton Homemaker who has not taken much effort to step out of her zone while her father is a hardworking man but with social limitations. It is not easy for people from too conservative backgrounds (especially when they belong to an economically backward section of society) to lay trust upon people who approach them with an assurance to educate their child. But Radha has been fortunate enough to have her parents’ blessings, who shared her responsibility with Meenakshi & Divya.

What makes Radha different from other children scattered around us in huge numbers and have similar stories to share?

On one of the regular days at DoaR, where Radha studies at the EA academy (and there are hundreds of other small children who are being groomed for schooling), students were all over the place while their mentor Meenakshi paid a surprise visit. Hell broke loose because the vacant rooms had the fans & lights running, and our children did not bother to switch them off while they were not being used. For some, it might be a small issue to create a stir but not for a person like Meenakshi, who is spending her hard-earned money for providing benefits to her wards. Every little penny counts because the students need much more than books & pencils, so this careless attitude was not acceptable. She was furious and called them over for a round of counseling. Meenakshi asked them to present reasoning for their behavior, and when the children could not explain themselves, she asked them to leave. They were told to return within 3 hours and individually answer a simple question: “How do you intend to give back what you are receiving as a benefit from society & your mentors who are donating their precious time?”

This question could have been answered in simpler ways, and children tend to get manipulative when they have to defend their actions, so a few of them did come up with unreasonable answers, but Radha kept quiet. Meenakshi was disgusted, and she left them on their own to develop a simple plan to express their intentions in the future to act as responsible citizens. A few days passed, and after a while, she was approached by the group once again. They requested her to accompany her to a park nearby, and Meenakshi was astounded when she reached the premises. A big group of almost 100 small children was seated in front of a Black-board while Radha (along with her fellow students) was conducting a “Night Class” with them, teaching them basic mathematics. The Group admitted instantly that Radha conceived this idea and, with her leadership skills, was able to implement it with the rest of them.

Recently Radha had to witness & bear the ordeal of a tragic incident when her father was a victim of a hit-and-run road accident. By the grace of God, he was taken to a hospital by a genuinely good soul, but his condition was critical. Our extended family at DoaR was immediately alarmed when Divya Prakash informed us that his life was critical. He needed immediate surgery and a strenuous recovery phase at the hospital. The DoaR family is forever connected where we have members as young as 15 and as younger as 65 who are all attached to our boys & girls. This incident arrived when corona-virus had already proven devastating. Still, our volunteers’ astonishing participation & contribution within half an hour helped us save a life and guaranteed his healthy recovery. When I happened to meet Radha recently, I couldn’t help but ask her how she managed to play her role as a daughter and the lesson she learned from this horrifying experience. Like a real soldier, her answer was straight, and without any hesitation, she told me that she learned three things: 1) Time management (as she had to make sure her father received his medicines on time every day). 2) Punctuality as he needed to receive his timely doses as prescribed by the physician 3)Importance of dependency on your family as they had to be sure that at least one of the family members was awake around him while he was in ICU. 

And then she smiled and said, “I promise you ma’am, I will make sure that someday I stand in place of you and all others at DoaR who helped my family in need.” I hugged her, back and like every other time (I end up teasing her for her tom-boyish body language because she reminds me of myself), told her to take her hands out of her pockets! Radha has a younger sister & a brother who will go to school as she will take charge of their education. Her father has recovered fully and has resumed work while her mother still hesitates to step out of her home. Her elder sister is with their Nani, and Radha is with us at “Donate an Hour” studying in class 7 at the Explorers Academy.

Today is Daughter’s Day, and I wish that every parent gets blessed with a beautiful bundle of joy, which is as determined, dedicated, brave, bold & hardworking as Radha. She has her wings to fly, and I hope that she can soar confidently in her sky.

Connect with us at “Donate an Hour” donateanhour.org, and please donate an hour if you can to make a change in a person’s life and make this world a better place to live in for yourself and your future generations.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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