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Why I Became A Permanent Volunteer At This School For Blind

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Helen Keller rightly said, ‘The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.”

I couldn’t grasp the true essence of these beautiful lines until I visited a blind school as a volunteer teacher. It was the day that filled my soul with compassion, mind with empathy and heart with love. I will try to sketch my feelings to illustrate my experience after connecting with them.

All the girls who were going to volunteer at the school gathered together, bought some eatables for the children and headed towards the school. The NGO behind the school was Janta Adarsh Andhya Vidhyalay (JAAV), situated in Sadiq Nagar, South Delhi, just 10 minutes walking distance from our college.

We all had unknown butterflies in our stomach. Uncertain about their reaction to our interaction, we were conscious about our approach of making them feel comfortable with us. Preparing ourselves as teachers was demanding. Then, after we finally reached, we were welcomed by the Principal ma’am of the school and each of us were assigned a class to teach.

The beautiful kids greeted us with smiles, laughter and love, and said “Namastey Ma’am ji.” It was indeed an overwhelming love. My eyes suddenly froze with a great moment of realisation. It might have been my ignorance at the beginning or my great passion to teach. But for that very moment, I was clueless about how I can’t use my traditional lessons to teach them directly. They were visually impaired. What is an apple or a ball, how much is one or two, they had no clue.

Image has been provided by the author.

We were needed to use some tricks to teach them. So, I chose to teach them numbers by hearing the pat on the desk as we were only supposed to teach them orally. Besides, they had their braille books that were taught to them in the morning classes. So, if I patted once, I was asking them to respond, and so on.

A lovely experience indeed! They cooperated with us with all their efforts. Then, I began with asking their introduction. The children told me about their names and also about their different backgrounds. I got to discover the fact that most of them belonged to either very poor families or without any family. A guy with a smile told me, “Ma’amji, my dad doesn’t come to meet me. It’s been four years since he left me here.” When I asked him why, he said, “Because my dad stays far, ma’am ji. He stays in Bihar and it is not easy for him to come here. But he loves me a lot.”

I was astonished for a while to learn about this young boy of eight years, who was full of positivity and great understanding for his family circumstances, and his hope to be with them soon, while those who live with their families sometimes fail to appreciate what they have. Similarly, I got to hear so many stories. This experience was outside of this world and mere thinking about this makes me nostalgic. Every moment spent there was nostalgic, every moment lived and learnt.

A teacher wouldn’t have expected much more than that. That particular day changed my way of living life as these kids never show any of their grievances on their face. I have always found them cheerful, enthusiastic and open to learning. Then, to turn the surroundings fun for them, I asked them to show their talents.

Three of the girls sang melodiously. A small kid told me he is a tabla player in the Bhakti song team of that NGO. A boy and a girl danced gracefully.

The extremely talented little kids never failed to surprise and entertain me with their skills. They shone from within and that was the light of hope that keeps them moving without feeling deprived of anything. They were visually impaired, not dependent on any outsider but interdependent, who were mastering the art of interdependent living.

The most beautiful thing I found was that they help each other with all their means and efforts. They are not like other selfish human beings. Real humanity lies within them. They wholeheartedly cheer for each other, encourage each other and what not. They play with dogs, cats and chickens. They put their own garbage into the dustbin. They know the number of steps they need to walk to go to different places. They are perfect or we can say have worked so hard to get thorough of all these things.

I realised it was so easy for me. It could be unjust from Mother Nature to deprive them of eyesight. But who understands the grand design?
I truly believe that they are the closest people to dear God as yes, some of them are blind, but not blind with envy, competition, hatred,
narrow mindedness, casteism and other cruelties of the world. They were living a free and a complaint-less life, they are “Blind but not Bind.”

As a student, I used to think that my eyes and the right hand are my biggest assets, but these kids taught me that having a great vision is more important than having a good sight. I went to teach them but in return, they taught me more. They made me realise and be thankful for the life I have. They taught me that our success and happiness lies in our own selves. If we resolve to keep ourselves happy, we and our joy shall form an invincible host against difficulties.

It is we, the able-bodied people who tend to curse our destiny for some or the other reasons. Have you ever imagined a world without your eyesight? Have you?

We spent some two hours together and then it was time to see them off. They all hugged us tightly, saying, “Come again, ma’amji.” To love and spread love, no one knows better than them. They filled my life with strength, positivity, love and hope. Visiting the school gave me an immense amount of satisfaction.

I decided to become a permanent volunteer and to visit the school every time I would be asked by the coordinator. Every time I visited them, they would hug me and just by a touch, they would said, “Alisha didi aa gai (Alisha didi is here).”

This lovely experience is one of my most beautiful memories I made in my college years. This event took place in August 2020. Today, I am a certified NSS member. While our colleges are still closed due to Covid-19, I am at home, cherishing all these beautiful memories. I can’t thank these kids enough for teaching me some great life lessons. I love them with all my heart.

I thank NSS, Gargi College, for providing me with this beautiful opportunity. I will always remain thankful to the Almighty for gifting me this blissful experience.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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