Friday, May 17, 2013

A day with the Children at Sri Harsha Memorial

It is amazing what little acts of kindness can do in the lives of those who lack even the smallest means of survival.

This time SRC, XIMB along with the Rotaract Club (Bhubaneswar) has tried to do a bit on these lines for the children at Sri Harsha Memorial (School for the Deaf & Dumb). The project was initiated last year (2012) by SRC and was completed in March of this year (2013). The project consisted of providing some basic amenities to the children at Sri Harsha Memorial within a fixed budget sponsored by the Rotaract Club. After the initiation the SRCians went to work in diligence.

In the first phase, SRC Members went on a visit to the Memorial, only this time they did more than engaging the children staying there. They did an overall survey of the place, the living conditions, and the various ways to improve it. After their return the team then had a brainstorming session regarding the options that can be considered and their feasibility based on the survey report.

In the second phase, after several rounds of discussions, we went to the drawing boards and designed a proposal for the implementation of a few ideas that was then submitted before the Rotaract club for approval. After getting the green flag from Rotaract Club, arrangements were done to gather the various materials required. Again a team of members headed out to collect the approved items at the best possible price all the while keeping in mind the required quality.

Finally the day arrived for the implementation of the last phase of the project. It was the third weekend  of March, 2013. The memories of that day are something that will be cherished for times to come. We arrived at Sri Harsha memorial with all the stuff that we planned to provide them with. We also had Mr. C.K.Padhi who was with us during the proceedings as the representative from Rotaract Club. There were indoor board games, story books and water bottles and we distributed those among everyone present there and gave away the remaining to the social workers there to use in the days to come for any new child arriving there. Along with this there were arrangements made for the installation of tube lights in places/ rooms that needed more lighting, especially the dining area. A water filter was also installed in the girl’s accommodation so that they need not drink directly from the tap. After the distribution the children thanked us in their own special way (they raise their hands and shake them to sh. One has to see it to understand it

The happy faces that we saw that day will stay with us for a very long time. These children are special for the fact that they are audibly & orally challenged, but that did not stop them from communicating & interacting with us. We were asked to speak something for them and it only felt natural, till we actually started speaking. While we were speaking to them, they were not looking at us at all. It seemed awkward for just a moment before then it dawned on us. They were looking at one of their teachers/ caretakers who were translating every word we were saying into sign languages for the children to understand. Each and everyone there was looking at this caretaker, understanding what we were saying and then looking at us with that smile on their face. On realizing this we spoke slowly for them to understand us completely.

It doesn't end there. After distribution the board games we realized that a lot of children did not know some of the games and how to play them. We got down to business once again, this time aware of the challenge to teach the games to the children with whom we cannot speak directly. Initially the caretakers and teachers tried to help in facilitating the communications, but even they cannot capture every doubt of every child and answer each of them separately. That’s when we realized how intelligent and smart they were. What seemed so unnatural to us was so normal to them. We saw children understanding the rules of the games themselves, clarifying their doubts, and teaching their friends what they have learned. All this and the only voices we heard in the room was that of ourselves. All the while smiling and laughing with each other and with us, with the satisfaction of having discovered something new.

Time flew as they say and it was time for us to bid adieu to them & to return to our lives. That realization came late and hard & it was uncomfortable, for us as well as for the children. One of the little girls there was so in love with one of our friends that she really needed to be mollified to let her go. The senior girls even performed a small dance number exclusively for our lady friends.

It was special - every moment of the visit. At the end it was really worth having those moments with the children and it was worth the effort put in for the success of the project. We didn't do much though. Some lights, some board games, books and a water bottle. Looking at our lives, these would hardly make a difference in the lives of children of our social strata. The same things mean so much more to the children at Sri Harsha Memorial. 

The magic of an act of kindness. It’s magnified -  both for the one receiving it & the one imparting it.


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