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.
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.