redefining community work

Life is full of experiences, challenges and questions. Our journey with the Niswarth program, although short, has been memorable and life-changing. My thoughts on Dharavi are varied....with mixed emotions and feelings.  As I put pen to paper, I can't conjure up any substantial words to describe it. After the trip yesterday, and the interesting documentary viewed by us today, I can't help but feel somewhat confused. The problems that center around Dharavi are extremely complexed and the peeling of layers and layers of skin off the bark of an old tree. These people have their roots in generations of an age-old society. But there is something still nagging at my conscience: food for thought. When we went and toured the slums at Dharavi, it felt like I was watching an exhibition, or to put it more crudely, at the zoo. After all, we were walking through their homes and societies......observing them as though they are different from us, our objects of pity.

After an invigorating talk by Namrata Arora (author of a Harvard case study on Dharavi), we met a man who had a great success story.  A slum child for 8-9 years of his life, his house was demolished by the BMC, forcing him to live on the streets for 3 days. His whole family had no access to resources and felt extremely insecure. This experience inspired him to do something for those children who have grown up on the streets, to give them an education, and guide them into being worldly wise. Ramesh Joshi, CEO and founder of a small NGO called Ashaansh endeavors to give street children a proper education that covers values and core concepts too, so that they can stand on their own feet and be independent. His organization uses various creative and engaging activities to help the children grow as individuals. Their "khel" (meaning sports in Hindi) allows them to play a structured game. At the end, the teachers and volunteers link the problem and solution of the game to their real lives.

Truly, "Individually we are one drop, but together we are an ocean" (Satora). My whole experience with Niswarth has helped me evolve as a person, and has taught me a few lessons about myself. This opportunity has redefined community work completely for me. Life is like a candy box, with each sweet representing a different choice in life. I hope that the choices that I make will make a contribution towards others in this world that may be small, yet significant.

-Avanti The Cathedral and John Connon School, Grade 9.