“Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
My first introduction to Protsahan’s work
I always wanted to do community work and be involved in helping people and Protsahan India Foundation helped me to do so simply and with impact. I am 15 years old and it took me some time to comprehend the course of work that I was entrusted with but I loved how I got so much support and consideration which assisted me in completing the tasks assigned to me as a part of my volunteer work. I got incredible mentoring and learnt a lot during the one month I worked as a volunteer. Interacting with the girls at Protsahan helped me develop a new perspective to view things. It not only gave me a chance to help the under-resourced children but also gave a boost to my own belief in humanity. Writing blogs about issues concerning the children brought about a dynamic change in my thought process and I am grateful for that. All the research work I did for my articles has expanded my boundaries of understanding.
While writing an article about World Menstruation Day i.e. 28 May, I happened to conduct a few game based activities for young girls. I was amazed how innovative board games were being used to break the silence and shame around periods. The girls played several board games revolving around the myths and facts about menstruation and how a girl should handle her first period. I was glad to see that the girls were already so well-aware about the topic and did not hesitate to talk about it. The girls were equipped with all the knowledge they needed to face menarche. During my research I came across alarming statistics that made me question my own privilege. I got to know that so many girls tend to miss school six days a month on an average due to the inability to manage their periods at school. This eventually contributes to almost 23 per cent girls dropping out of school on reaching puberty, which critically undermines their potential as individuals and future workers.
Guided meditations to begin the day
In addition to that, I also observed various other activities they performed on a daily basis. One of them was Guided Meditation. The girls stood in a circle holding hands while soothing songs played in the background, every afternoon. There was a feeling of peace and harmony that could be felt in the air. The girls were profoundly engrossed in this session and a sense of unity could be felt as well. After the session, they hugged each other and shared an empathetic bond. I recall a young girl walking up to me and giving me a hug. This little gesture turned out to be very significant for me and I can never forget how fortunate I felt.
Another experience which impacted me deeply was working from home during the earlier stage of my internship. During that time, I created some posters on social issues concerning children. I believe that Art is a great way for expressing social concerns and I was happy to be given this responsibility. Before coming up with the ideas, I wanted to understand the intersectionality of issues in a better manner and Protsahan’s website helped me in this process. The stories of hope provided me with better cognizance of all problems which assisted me in widening my creative boundaries. I realized the impact of expressive arts based therapies on healing the trauma of abuse. While most organizations work on prevention aspect only, at Protsahan I realized that healing of a child is possible through a combination of psycho-social counseling, legal aid, academics support, peer support and an approach that is deeply embedded in the adolescent girls power framework.
Writing blogs is another form of creative expression for me and through the blogs I wrote, I was able to express my own view about certain social practices and how they angered me. After reading about incidents related to these issues, I tried presenting other perspectives as well. Creative writing is something I always wanted to do but I could never imagine the ease I felt after writing articles concerning social issues. Organizing my thoughts in this manner contributed to my overall development and gave my ideas a direction.
Other people who enhanced my experience, were the interns, volunteers, and social workers I came across at Protsahan Research Center. Their conversations about their assignments enlightened me and gave me food for thought. Even while traveling back to my house after a day at the center, several thoughts circled my mind and I observed instances around me in a better manner. A small yet crucial observation I made on a day at Protsahan was the generosity among the children and the support staff. The patience and the will to listen amid them is worthy to be appreciated.
Apart from that, the learning I procured is clearly something I am thankful for. Listening to stories of some volunteers, survivors and other children in general helped me bring out my empathetic self and transformed my thoughts into creativity. Knowing that I am working for a good cause and good people automatically motivated me to get deeply involved in all the tasks that had been assigned to me. During my internship, the qualitative experience was much more than the quantitative experience. It is not just the number of blogs I wrote or the posters I made but the conversations I came across that broadened my familiarity with all issues. This experience at Protsahan has made me feel much more confident and positive about myself. Observing the girls advanced a great sense of sensitivity yet strength in me. The strong urge of the girls to achieve something in life is what truly made me content. It has been a memorable experience working with everyone associated with Protsahan India Foundation.
I might be only 15 and not be able to vote yet, but I know now by interning at Protsahan, that volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in. Isn’t it?