How Volunteering changed the way I look at life
This was way back in 2011, till then I have been doing some environmental and fundraising work at High school, but nothing
really demanding. The Student chapter that I worked for decided to do a fundraiser for an orphanage, we did well, we contributed among ourselves to raise a decent amount of 13,000 Indian Rupees. We decided to also pay a visit to the orphanage and spend some quality time with the children. I was quite excited about the Idea, I have always been good with children (Mostly because i have a lot of cousins who are younger than me and we grew up together), This did not sound so much like a bad idea. We reached the orphanage around 3.30 in the afternoon, the seniors of the chapter were having a conversation with the nuns running the home (it’s called Nirmala Sishu Bhavan), they guided us inside.
I remember quite clearly how i was standing in the back and I realised that the guys who went in the front started holding up and started looking at each other’s faces.
I did not know what was happening, I did see one of them going in, But I started walking in curiously and I saw these shy girls running to my right and to my left I saw a lot of beds and these beds were filled with differently able children, many of them probably could not communicate with us or were not quite aware that we were there. They were mentally and developmentally disabled children. I was not ready for that, I always thought I was not ready for that, every time I see something related to mentally or physically challenged people on television I always got the feeling that I could never face it.
Now, I was there and It was happening. I tried talking to the small girl children (Infants to adolescents) but they ran away in shyness and kept peeping by the doorway, they needed more time. I took a left to see the disabled children, Initially, It was just me and another friend of mine, who were in that room in the starting. I saw these children, kept there like babies in a birth ward, they were just doing something on their own.
I just hit me very hard, I had tears almost rolling down my cheeks and before I could think how I could react, I just went ahead and took one of the kids from the bed, I remember this particular kid was drooling and had no idea what I was doing. I wanted to be as normal as possible and I started playing with him just like how I would play with any kid. The usual tricks that make them laugh or smile, but it didn’t work with him, but I kept trying till it had a lovely conversation with him, but he never responded, but that was ok.
Lot more of us joined in, we were strong now, we started bringing in some smiles. We had some balloons, so the girls from the other room joined in, everyone was helping each other and before we knew, the place was lit up and was filled with joy. While some of them played with the balloons, some more wanted to listen to music, we had a laptop, so we fixed it up and started showing them videos.
They were extremely happy, I felt like I have never done anything more awesome before, but also very humbled and grateful at the same time. I felt that I could make another person happy very easily and that it is very simple but extremely important. Now, the shyness was gone, they were dancing and singing with us. They went on piggy rides with me and I had a special moment, when the girls came up to me and asked me to promise that I would visit them again. They said that they would wait for me.
It was a tough moment, but also a beautiful one. We gave them the money and some stationaries and left around 7 pm. There was a quote on the wall by Mother Teresa that said ”Love till it hurts”, we could feel that right there. The thing I am not proud about is that I forgot the girls names and I never had the courage to visit them again during my university time.
But, for some good reason it popped up in my head as i was in Gent sitting in my lab, and I found Serve the city Brussels after some googling and Now, I go on monthly visits to homes of children and refugee camps, it is really amazing how you can make another person feel good-by just being there and talking. On my first visit, I learnt the game of Ludo from a completely french speaking kid who’s mom has actually served food and had a conversation with Mother Teresa (She was very normal about this, Amazing woman!), it was such a beautiful experience.
The father from Albania who fled the country because of ISIS threats and has seen his new born son only on Skype, The drunk old man who lost his right leg and was probably making fun of me in french with a lot of attitude, but he needed me to be there, so I listened to it all (I beat him in chess anyway so we are even :D). We met some Syrian kids who wanted us to play football with them and by the end of the game this kid wouldn’t let my hand go. That’s all it takes, to make someone extremely happy sometimes, A few smiles and few games and maybe a bit of magic tricks :D.
If you are lucky, you both will miss each other.
Personally, I think it does more good to you that the other person, it’s always lovely to see the face of a child anyway.
When was the last time you saw Innocence?
Take a day off from the stress, the routine, the rush and just meet some people who might need another person to be just there.
You can just google if there is a Volunteering place near the place you live, it could be anything, just helping anyone can do wonders to them and more importantly to you. If you are interested, I will personally help you find something. I promise you that it will change your life and I will definitely visit the orphanage in India again. Your experience might change you like the way my experience with volunteering changed mine.
Hope we have a deal 🙂