By Sunidhi Singh, Army Institute of Law, Mohali.

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”-Ronald Reagan

Today, a great number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), functional throughout the world, are providing a variety of services for humanitarian causes.

Since I got the golden opportunity of working with an NGO, I would love to share my experience with all of you. HOPE stands for Hope of People Everywhere and they work to provide quality education and life skills to the underprivileged children of our country, for their holistic development.

This NGO was established in Indore with only 15 members who came together for a noble cause. HOPE then set up centres in Bhopal and Jaipur, thereby making its presence felt in three cities. Gradually, the number of members associated with them increased, with the increase in their area of operation. Today, HOPE is a big success as it has now reached the mega cities such as Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai and Chandigarh (my workplace).

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”. -Nelson Mandela

At the beginning of my internship, when I got to know that I would get the chance to teach and learn with children, my joy knew no bounds. We went to Gur Aasra- a shelter home for orphans in  Chandigarh. First day was only an interactive session. Meeting those children was an enriching experience for all of us.  We got to learn that those children had a very strong will to study, learn and become contributing members of our society. To begin with, we divided the students on the basis of their classes and I was given the opportunity of teaching four very enthusiastic and confident little girls studying in class sixth, namely Muskan, Neha, Jashanpreet and Mamta. Although they did not have a glorious past and were born and brought up in adverse conditions, ultimately ending up at the orphanage, they present themselves with a hopeful and charming smile every time we meet.

“Orphanages are the only places that ever left me feeling empty and full at the same time.”-John M. Simmons.

One harsh reality that I came face to face with, on the very first day of teaching them was, though these children were studying in the sixth standard, their basic knowledge about various aspects with respect to the subjects being taught, was quite low. For instance, when I asked them to read out loud from their textbooks, which were in English, they had a really tough time doing so.

I realised that these children had also been a part of the formal schooling system ( they had been attending classes at a government school), however, the authorities and teachers had recklessly ignored ensuring that the children at least understand the taught topics well. Their future was being played with. This helped me in inferring the deep rooted problem, which is quite prevalent throughout our country. I thereby decided to teach them from the very beginning, i.e., vowels and alphabets. We began to first read small, then big words, which I saw, started making a little difference in their reading and writing abilities.

“When one teaches, two learn.”-Robert Heinlein

It’s not just about teaching others and only making others learn. I got to learn a lot from these girls as well. Once when I was explaining a chapter in Hindi on ‘Baisakhi’, I was having a hard time understanding a lot of Punjabi terms, which they made me understand. I was amazed at how good these kids were, when it came to explaining things.

It somehow relieved me to see that despite facing a lot of difficulties in their lives growing up, they were still well-versed with their cultural practices and rituals, and were proud of the same too. They taught me an important attitude of smiling in even the toughest situations of life. They made me comprehend that you don’t need luxuries to be happy. My students there, also possessed a naughty side which I loved. Whenever they didn’t feel like studying, they quickly took out their drawing books and start doodling, as an indicator for me to let them draw and stop teaching course books. I found their gesture really cute.

“A child can always teach an adult three things. To be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.”-Paulo Coelho

Once when I went for another session, I was surprised to see that my students had made a little piece of art for me- a drawing of the famous cartoon characters ‘Chhota Bheem’ and ‘Chutki’. Other children had also prepared gifts for the other interns. That day, all of us actually realized how much our presence meant to them, and that the only thing that these children expected from us was, selfless love and affection, in exchange of their love for all of us.

My experience with HOPE NGO has been amazing, to say the least. There are more such experiences to follow, I am sure. I would really suggest everyone to associate themselves with an NGO, because when you do something for others which makes a positive difference in their lives and for which they don’t need to repay you, it gives you a feeling of accomplishment, that is extremely peaceful. There is immense satisfaction in watching others smile and be happy, especially when you know that the reason behind their gaiety is nothing else, but you. It is these little things in life that matter a lot. Appreciate everything that you have.

“In this life we cannot do great things, we can only do small things with great love.”-Mother Teresa