This July, I complete my 3 years of volunteering in CRY, and it feels like I have been associated with them since forever, which is partially true because of my parents association with CRY, I will always be a ‘CRY baby’.
But looking at those 3 years, I know things have changed, in kids, in school, in the PAG and above all in me, myself.
I still remember my first class at Jai Bai school and I ended up with moist eyes. I was sharing the class with Varsha didi, the pioneer of our pag in Kalyan, so being the first day we started with introduction, their daily routine and aspirations. And their answers left us numb.
They shared how they go to work with their parents (at a scrap shop, a vegetable cart, slaughter house) or do all the chores at house since their parents live in village and grandparents are too old, and after all that they come to school. And yet they wanted to learn, they wanted to become doctors, army officers and narco inspectors, not to just earn money but because they didn’t have any good facilities in their area.
If such little kids can think of improving their surroundings, why can’t we? I was in tears thinking how privileged we were that our way to school was so easy than these kids, and that is exactly why their school hour should be worth it!
We will put in whatever it takes to make their school lives better, and give them all that they need to be educated and responsible citizens. In the first class when we told them you will be able to learn English, to speak English and you are no less than any child, that each one of you is special and equal for us, the smiles and the hopes we saw in their eyes was a feeling i can’t explain. That smile and hope is what CRY stands by, and I have this opportunity, to make things right, and that’s what we have been trying to do with every event, every activity, every minute that we spend at the school.
The change we wish for is a huge one, but I know we’ve come a long way when the kids look up to us as their role models, when even after hours of shouting they come to us with a sad sorry, when every wall of the school is as cheerful as the faces of its students, when the teachers not just appreciate our efforts but now share the same mission and emotions, when the students who once fumbled to introduce themselves now give English speeches and lead their parade bands, that confidence is the beginning of the change that we have planted and nurtured with a team of volunteers who are passionate, talented and beautiful human beings deep down under.
Every small and tiny effort or even intention, adds up, it adds up to making the world a fair and beautiful place to live in.
I am grateful and proud to be associated with CRY and will continue to be a part of it. I have become a better person here, it may seem like I am very mature, old and grown up person but no I am not, because here I have learnt to ‘keep the child in me alive and cheerful’ . And that child waits for every Saturday, every event as eagerly as the kids do. I get to do all the things I love, be it dancing (flash mob), acting (street play), performing (puppet show), writing (speech), playing games, painting, story telling and what not! It makes me feel so good, so peaceful and amazing, all my stress just washes away. I am selfish and greedy for all that I get to do here, with the kids and for the kids. CRY is my Happy place.
It has not just made me happy but also very sensitive and empathic. I remember Abha Mam guiding us saying- ” Observe each kid, they all have a story to tell, which they will tell you when they trust you. But don’t be over sweet to them, they’re normal kids, don’t be sympathetic towards them, life might have been hard to them but they’re all warriors don’t treat them like cowards”.
And that statement came true when after the Diwali break I went back to school, it was break time and they were excited to see us back. In break they were getting their mid day meals from the schools, as soon as they got their food,they came running to us saying ” Didi aap bhi khao na…” and offered a bite from their mid day meal. I couldn’t refuse the love they offered me that day. And I learnt that even if they are called underprivileged they have a huge heart to share whatever they have.
I have tons of memories when these cute little creatures made my day and they all are close to my heart.
I thought a teacher’s job is a boring one, but these 3 years I have been tasting the life of a teacher, and trust me it’s the most adventurous and beautiful job in the world!
My bond with CRY is a strong one, and will continue not for days or years but for generations till we together make sure that every child in India is living all the rights they are entitled to have!
Divya Mestry, CRY Volunteer, Mumbai