Thursday, December 05, 2013

Celebrating Children

We have all grown up celebrating Children’s Day on 14 November in India. What I didn’t know though was 20 November is also celebrated worldwide, as Universal Children’s Day, declared by the UN. You’ll notice this gives us a clear week to celebrate children. (Unless of course your kids are driving you crazy and you feel more homicidal than celebratory. This has been known to happen.)

I don’t usually pay attention to these days but this year ITC Sonar decided to celebrate the occasion in a somewhat unusual way and Arundhati Ghosh from their PR department asked if I wanted to contribute on Facebook and/or Twitter. For a week they collected little notes of love, hope and inspiration for children from underprivileged backgrounds. As a finale they took over these messages, some gift parcels and a feast to the girls of Hope Foundation, Panditiya, on 30 November 2013. They were joined by me and a few others who had tweeted, written the notes and been otherwise involved in the programme.

The event was a little late in starting, so I spent a few minutes chatting with the girls. I had never known before that just a few doors away from my mamarbari there was such a large shelter housing so many young girls. The only children associated with Hope that I’d met before this were the young kids at my storytelling sessions but these girls were in their early to mid-teens, with a clearer vision of what they hoped to make of their lives, and talking to them was actually rather inspirational for me.

Shweta Pillai, Learning Services Manager, ITC Sonar, started the group off with a few games. The girls fell over laughing when they discovered they had to run a race as a ‘balloon train’, connected by balloons they had to balance between them.

This was followed by a game of passing the ring. One of the girls had a hoop placed on her and all the girls formed a large circle. They had to pass the hoop from person to person without holding it or breaking the circle. The girls confidently predicted that such gymnastics would take them at least twenty minutes but in fact they managed a complete pass in less than one minute!

Dipendu Kumar Ghosal from Sonar’s Engineering department had brought along his magician’s bag of tricks. The girls had great fun trying to guess his sleights of hand; even more sportingly, he actually showed them how he did it all, stressing all the while that magic was based on science, not superstition.

There were little speeches by Maureen Forrest, Founder Director, and Geeta Venkadakrishnan, Director, Hope Foundation, that explained the work the Foundation does through its various shelters, sponsorships, training institutes and outreach programmes like Nabadisha. My visits to Hamari Muskan had given me an idea of the backgrounds these children come from but it was still unnerving to be told how many of these bright young girls had been rescued from trafficking or picked up during the night rescue drives.

Bringing the mood back to gaiety and celebration, the girls put on some music and there was dancing. They started out dancing for us but soon they were calling us in and the ITC team gamely tucked in their sarees and joined them. Then we handed out the little gifts brought by ITC.

After all that excitement there was the feast. We all sat around in a circle and tucked into rolls, sandwiches, puffs and cakes while servers plied us with soft drinks and water.

Over the years I’ve learned to be wary of CSR exercises, but this one by ITC Sonar, Kolkata, was a welcome reminder of how much joy a social responsibility programme can bring when planned and executed with belief and enthusiasm.


R's Mom said...

Thats so lovely Sue...its a beautiful way to contribute to the society..loved the last pic :)

Anonymous said...

Feminism is stupid. See.

dipali said...

This sounds so wonderful!

Rajeev said...

I am associated with many NGOs in New Delhi and NCR region and really appreciate that you are sharing all this and spreading happiness and awareness among people.
Likes and keep it up.


Sue said...

R's Mom -- It was a very nice morning.

Dipali -- I left feeling a lot less cynical, I can tell you. :)

Rajeev -- Thanks!