Women for Change: The CRY Volunteers Story

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IndiaCSR Feature

Malvika Saini, 26 is a young graphic designer whose goal is to make not just her work more beautiful but also the world around her. A lofty aim she acknowledges but by doing her bit she can possibly make a child’s life easier is what appeals to her.

So, every Sunday, when most of her friends are unwinding relaxing at home or on holiday she can be found at Jogeshwari slums helping 35 young students either ace their English grammar through lessons or one can see her unwind with children through games and workshops which she plans for with like minded individual volunteers for CRY- Child rights and You.

On being asked why she works with children, Malvika says, “I was unsettled by the sight of children working and begging and not having the opportunity to go to school. Volunteering at CRY was the perfect solution to address these children and make a difference.” Having herself struggled through childhood without the luxuries that she saw in others’ lives, Malvika while teaching these children who have barely anything has realized how little she needs to complain about. It gives her the motivation to keep coming back, no matter how bad her week at work was.

Teaching the eager children in Jogeshwari, her only wish is that more people would give up a few hours a week to make a child’s life brighter. She is excited to go back each week as the 35 odd children are rearing to go from the moment they arrive. Every occasion that she gets to ineract with the children Malvika uses her creative side to come with intriguing strategies to keep the kids interested. “Last week we taught the children some origami which they absolutely loved. Interacting with the children is what is most important. The fact that they know there are people out there who care about them, who want them to succeed in life, is the most important thing” she says.

The joy of volunteering is something that 23 year old Pavitra Vijayaraghavan can identify with. Pavitra has managed to balance her hectic medical studies with volunteering at CRY every weekend. Her passion for volunteering means that she has had to make certain sacrifices.

There are no Friday late-night plans in her calendar as she has to wake up at 6 am on Saturday mornings to make it to the school where she tutors English as a support staff to kids. It takes her and her fellow volunteers about an hour and a half to reach their destinations in the morning.

“It’s a small price to pay” she says. “When I think about the cheery faces that we are welcomed in the community with for our sessions well on time or the disappointment in their eyes when we are late for the same more than makes up for it , nothing we seem to be too much of an effort for these little ones”.

cry logoThe 6 volunteers that are part of Pavitra’s group divide the 50 children into small groups to do the activities like role playing which helps with their spoken English. “With the education that they receive in their regular government school it is also important that the children get opportunity to interact in the language and are encouraged in their efforts, so they get confident about using the language the more.”Pavitra believes that it is a fallacy to say that when we volunteer we are helping others; it is instead about giving oneself the opportunity to learn.

“For me it is an escape, from the monotony of everyday studies and work. At first, I used to think that volunteering every week would be a distraction, but this experience has been like a meditation for me. The love and joy that these children give us is worth every effort. It has opened a different world for me wherein I give back a little of what I have received in my life,” says, Pavitra.

Another person who believes in giving back is 25 year old IT professional Kavita More. She looks forward to her weekly visit to the slums where she serves as a support teacher for children. “It makes me proud of what I do,” she says, “It separates me from the rest.” While others may be sleeping in on a Sunday morning, 25 year old Kavita is more than happy to spend her weekly off organizing fun activities for her community children.

She has been volunteering at CRY from April 2011, and she says she would not give up a minute of it. She echoes Pavitra’s sentiment when she says, “More than the knowledge I have imparted, I feel I have learnt more from them. It’s truly incredible. ”

While pavitra can talk a dime a dozen, Suman Prakash Jawade is a woman of few words, she lets her actions speak for itself. She has been volunteering at CRY since September, but has been teaching underprivileged children at other NGOs for the last 4 years. Suman studied engineering and had classes on Sundays, thus her only disappointment is that she could only teach on Saturdays.

At 22, Suman has managed to juggle work and volunteering on weekends effortlessly. “its part of my routine” she states humbly “I hardly think about it. My Saturday mornings are religiously set aside for the children. I can’t bear to think about their excited faces fill with disappointment even if we are a little late.”

Suman, along with 12 other volunteers, has support classed for  English and Maths for 8th standard children from underprivileged backgrounds. Over the years she has also had support classes for Science and history to children of various ages. On Saturday mornings she wakes at 6 to make it on time to the school in Dhurba at 8 sharp where the children will be waiting eagerly. “I love CRY” she says, “It’s my second home. I would recommend volunteering to all youngsters. It is a beautiful experience. Being too busy is not an excuse.”

Being busy is definitely not what you will find 20 year old student volunteer Aditi Kuber uses . Aditi’s journey of volunteering was introduced at CRY about two years ago, and it’s been quiet an adventure. About twice a month, she, along with other volunteers, visits different slum areas and puts up workshops for the children for an educational and fun day. They have support classed for children of all ages on the basics like numbers, colors, English phrases etc which is meant to create an interest in education and boost their confidence.

“CRY is a wonderful organization and truly makes a difference in these kids lives” she says “I have made many friends working with CRY and will continue working for as long as possible.” The volunteers set aside atleast two weekends a month for the workshops, planning the activities and preparing the schedule. Aditi’s fellow volunteers are from different colleges around Pune, from engineering to medical students, they all strive for a common goal.

On the specified Saturday afternoons they meet and engage the students in the activities for around 3 hours. Of volunteerin g Aditi says, “There is so much potential, the more people volunteer, the more evident our efforts will be in these kids’ lives.”

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