In the photo: Divya Mathias, volunteer from Symbiosis University, teaching English to Ritu at Protsahan
“Protsahan: Because Art transforms wounds into hope.”
When I first saw this on the Protsahan webpage, I was intrigued and wondered was it really possible. My first day at Protsahan as a volunteer, the girls were taking a photography class, they were going to capture a drop and ripple of water. I saw the class take place and that’s when I realized the meaning of that sentence. Their smiles and enthusiasm was full of hope and wonder. After the class, I spoke to girls and asked them why exactly did they want to learn the Art of Photography and one of the girls, Soni (age 15) told me, “Photography karne se mujhe khushi milti hai…main apne photgraphy ke zariye jo chupe hue jurm hai unhe bahar nikaal na chahti hoon.” (Photography makes me happy…Through my photography I want to bring out crimes that are hidden.) This struck me, now I understood how even after being brought down in life these girls through art, rise with hope.
During my first week at Protsahan as a volunteer, one of mentors casually told me, “I think you are emotional, you aren’t emotionally strong.” At that time I didn’t really understand what she meant but after spending nearly 6 weeks with the girls I realized; Yes, I am not emotionally strong, these girls are, they have the courage to stand up against their family, the world’s social norms and demand and receive what is truly their right.
I started volunteer work with Protsahan thinking that this was going to be like any other internship. I am going to work here for a month and a half, learn something professionally and leave. But today as I write this, I realize that no matter what I’m always going to be thinking about these girls and where they have reached in life. Working here I realized that no matter what life throws at you, you always have the strength to face it. I learnt this, from these rockstar girls who come in day after day with a bright smile on their faces and hope in their eyes. My mentor Sonal taught me that there is so much more to life than a 9-5 job in life. That it was important to stand up for what is right in life and not care about the aftermath. That living in the present and making one’s life count for someone who probably can never pay back, is what life should comprise.
I started off slowly, first working with just capturing moments of the girls making memories then decided that there is so much more I can do here, so I started taking classes for the girls whenever they were free. In these classes we read newspapers, discussed current affairs, searched new words, played hangman and learnt grammar. I think I was my happiest when the girls came to me and asked me when am I going to take their next class and that they couldn’t wait for it. For the first time in a very long time I felt a sense of accomplishment. I was then assigned to teach a girl English. At first I was a bit apprehensive as I wasn’t sure how I would begin and I didn’t want to let my Mentor down but as I began teaching her I thought to myself that I’m going to give it my best. I might not have enough time to make her perfect but I’m going to do as much as I can. The tiny tots at Protsahan taught me that no matter how bad my day would I should never forget to smile. Meditation sessions here taught me that it’s very important to just take out 10 minutes from our daily life and introspect.
Today nearly at the end of my Internship I realize that there is so much to life than I had previously known. Things might be difficult but there is always a way out only if we beleive. For me working at Protsahan was something that changed a part of me forever.