By Lara Shankar

What does volunteering mean? Does it mean going to your local NGO (non government organisation) to help do their work or add value to their programs by teaching children or beautifying their work place? Usually we approach an NGO, we see them doing ‘good work’ and we join to ‘help’. We thus continue to forget our role

in society. And that is to fight against injustice. Do we, as citizens, have a sense of what we ought to be doing as our duty? If we don’t ask ‘why’ then how will we be able to participate and demand accountability? Isn’t that why we must vote? So that each and every one of us matters. So that our leaders turn around and acknowledge our existence. But wait a second, children cannot vote! This brings it upon us, the “above 18” populace, to stand up for the rights of those below 18.

At CRY, we decided to give volunteering a new meaning. The change that we sought was from “What can we do?” to “We’ll fight for what’s right!” And not just with who comes to CRY but with each and every average man and woman out there. The urban middle class is a huge and ever-growing section of the population that is also a reservoir of energy, power, influence and a voice that can shake things up forever.

There are quite a few battles that the middle class struggles with, such as, demanding proper roads, application of taxes, clean surroundings, proper disposal of garbage, lack of open spaces and access to quality education and health services. Now ponder a minute and try and see these issues from a child rights point of view and they still hold. For a child living with her family on the streets of Mumbai, many rights stand violated and exploited. Without access to education or health facilities, having to drink unclean water, living amongst animal and human waste, exposed to harsh weather conditions, child rights die a million deaths each day. Yet how many of us have the luxury, or may I say the conscience, to feel upset when children’s rights, along with their dreams, get swept away by the roadside? Should we continue to believe that more than 60 years after independence, we cannot do anything? It will be lethal to believe we can do nothing.

CRY’s role with those interested in exploring volunteerism is to enable them to envision alternatives to the world around them and work towards change. Volunteers are encouraged to envisage a childhood that is fulfilling. Health, education, play, security, stable livelihood source and housing are some of the basic requirements in this regard. Likewise, human rights, like the right to life with dignity, equal access to services with adequate quality and employment guarantee are essential for the overall development of the family and the status of child rights.

The task of bringing the urban people together is not easy. Volunteering is a commitment we make to ourselves. More often than anything that we value, our time, we offer and share. It’s a calling; it’s a decision inevitable to be taken. Busy schedules, work, meetings, exercise regimes, illness, family and festivities fill up our lives in such a way that we postpone this duty to our fellow beings, to our nation and more importantly to ourselves. But by being a CRY Volunteer, we stand up as equals, for our fellow beings, especially for children. We get to lend a hand in building a better tomorrow.

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