In the months of September and October, children and volunteers of Make A Difference, across India, participated in the global phenomenon that is Design For Change. DFC is a platform which encourages children to identify, find solutions and implement solutions to fix their own environments, thereby changing their own worlds.
Ever thought that a child cannot do something this momentous? Well, then you’re about to be proved wrong! Thousands upon thousands of children across the world (33 countries, this year) have participated in Design for Change, and by being the extraordinary talents they are, they’ve changed the world we live in, some way or the other!
At MAD, we were excited by the possibilities. So were our volunteers, and so were our children. A bevy of projects were implemented up and down the country. We were awed, inspired, shocked at times by how aware our kids were about the issues surrounding them!
The children took to it so fast that some of us had trouble keeping up. (One particular group came up with 80 ideas for DFC!) In fact, there were so many that we decided to organise a small internal competition to celebrate the best of the best of the best!
Over the course of this week and the next, we’ll be bringing to you the stories of those who stood out from amongst the rest. These are MAD’s superheroes. The volunteers and chidren who inspire us day in, day out!
This bunch of children from Hyderabad headed out to the Railway station to make sure that other children like them had the same opportunities they had!
When 12 year olds roll their sleeves up and tell you, “Yes akka. Every child has a right to study. We want to do something about it.”, you feel amazed. And at the end of the day, when they actually Make A Difference, you stay amazed for the rest of your life.
One of our students, Durga, noticed kids begging on the platform of Begumpet railway station. She had always wanted to change it. She thought every kid deserved a decent education and a better standard of living.
She, along with other students, wanted to talk to the parents of such kids and covince them into joining them in their government hostel.
September 17th, 1.30 pm:
We (MAD volunteers) reached the Begumpet railway station. After a lot of searching, we found a couple and a daughter at the end of the platform. We asked the parents, if they were willing to join their daughter in a hostel which would provide her free food, clothing, education and a better life.
We expected stubborn and rigid mindset and a lot of tantrums as an answer to our request that day. Surprisingly, that did not happen.
There were no arguments. They readily agreed. They mentioned their daughter to be a stubborn child who was once kidnapped by some insane man for 3 months and returned.
We promised that our students would make her understand the importance of education and promised to bring them to the station at 6 to talk to her. I was in a shock imagining all the horrid things that poor girl must’ve undergone in those 3 months.
We then went to a slum in Jawahar Nagar. Plastic burning on one side and a girl taking her bath in a broken water cooler, we expected the families to be poor. Surprisingly, all the kids in that area, according to them, were attending school. We were shown notebooks and pencils as a proof and were also offered a girl for money.
After a lot of adventure (getting lost with an empty petrol tank) we reached Ameerpet State Home. Everyone wanted to be a part of the mission. It took us 2 whole hours to control their excitement and to shortlist such enthusiastic bunch of kids.
The shortlisted students along with the volunteers, in 5:1 ratio, reached the railway station. The old couple and their daughter were eagerly waiting for us near the entrance. We introduced our students to the girl and her parents. The first thing they asked the girl was, “Did you eat anything since morning?”.
For the next one hour, our students fed her biscuits, played with her and pampered her in every way possible. That day must’ve been the best day in her life.
They asked her, “We can play the whole day if you stay with us in our hostel. Do you want to?”
The parents were more than happy to know that their daughter agreed to stay in the hostel. Our students told them about an old age home and how it would help the blind man and his wife to lead a better life. The parents asked if they could meet their daughter once a month if they did join her in the hostel.
Mary replied, “You certainly can. But I think she would be busy playing with us thatha.”
Content with what they had done and being very humble about it, we walked back to the auto stand. Grouping our students, I noticed that there was an extra girl in my group.
Bhagya Lakshmi told her, “Renuka, we will come back day after tomorrow to take you. Till then stay safe. Ok?” She nodded and kept staring at us till we were out of her sight.
It was Renuka’s destiny to lead a better life. Just like how it was mine to join MAD and witness such beautiful and life giving incidents.
Proud to be their teacher.