Lessons from volunteerism

“After marriage, I was made to sleep in the kitchen which was damp and cold during winters and often had water seeping in during the monsoons.” –  Rupali Thanadar, Bani Mandir, Sadurhat

Fifth of six siblings Rupali was born into a poor family residing in the district of Murshidabad. He father, a farmer by profession did his very best to send all his children to school so that all of them would get a basic education.

Rupali was lucky to have completed grade X as her father did not have the means to make her continue her education. “Even though” recalls Rupali, “I protested and showed my frustration in many different ways just to convince my father to support my education, it did not seem possible at all and I finally gave up.”

Married at the age of eighteen, Rupali’s unfortunate streak seemed to have followed her to her husband’s house. She was married off to a man who was a tailor by profession, hailing from a poor family.

She states, “I realised that with his earnings, we could not sustain ourselves hence I began embroidery work at home and also joined a tailoring school.”

The lady thanks her lucky stars when she says, “My son Souvik got enrolled into the (CI) Children International-SAHAY sponsorship program and we were fortunate for the same. He is now in grade VIII.”

One of her childhood memories is that of an argument, a subsequent fight and her making up with her elder sister. She states it taught her ‘to forgive’ and ‘accept people’ as they are.

Rupali opines that one of the greatest lessons she learnt was when she was in school. He friend Hasina, who stood first in class advised her ‘to put in a little extra effort’ in her studies daily. Rupali listened to her and studied for an extra half hour every day and realised the difference it had made as she ranked 8th against her original rank of 12th in class.

Today as a CI-SAHAY volunteer she puts in that extra effort to reach out to people and their families- the difference shows.

As a volunteer some of her duties include, informing families to report at the centre, assist during health check-ups and letter writing, gift distribution and help to organise awareness programmes such as youth trainings, Youth Health Corps and nutrition fairs and workshops.

Being a volunteer has certainly been a learning experience for Rupali. She asserts, “This voluntary job has helped me a great deal to gain knowledge on various aspects like balanced nutrition, health issues, child rights and their protection. When I share this information with my family and friends, they are often surprised to see how much this programme has taught me and how I have been able to help others.”

“Life has been a struggle,” states the lady, “But I did not give up. I took up embroidery, learnt tailoring, and got a job as an ICDS volunteer; gradually our living conditions began to improve.”

She sums up by saying, “My life’s struggle has taught me a lot and hence I never give up an opportunity to reach out to others because my little effort can change people’s lives.”

(Rupali is a volunteer with Children International-SAHAY. The Kolkata based NGO works with about 26,000 children and youth in eight districts of West Bengal. SAHAY is affiliated to Children International, Kansas City, U.S.A. More details on www.children.org)

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