I am going to describe an experience that occurred to me after the completion of my first year of engineering. In May 2017, I wanted to be part of something defining. I tried looking for technical internships, but you know there is a perception that first-year students can’t contribute much. Although, I was part of a technical student club though, which had great seniors. They kept me busy somewhat with tasks and projects. But I was looking for a unique experience. Something I have never heard of before. I was searching for suggestions on the internet because I couldn’t stand a sedentary lifestyle.
I came across this NGO, Freepathshala. It supports education for underprivileged children. The idea of contributing to such noble cause fascinated me exceedingly. I signed up for it immediately. After a telephonic-interview, I met the founder of Freepathshala, Mr Roshan Kumar Rawat. He instantly asked me to join in one of his multiple centres. He is a gentleman who has an aim to make this world a better place. His mission is to provide proper and stable education to children of construction workers, as they often migrate from one place to another.
I still remember my first day there. I reached the place at 8 AM. I went to a society park near to the centre where I was supposed to find my first students. I was astonished to see those little children, all aged from 4–9 years, having a morning assembly on their own. They did a Sanskrit prayer, checked nails of each other and then formed a proper queue and started to go to the centre. There was no adult. That’s how they were trained to do. I have not expected the discipline they had. However, later I realized they are not as disciplined as they seem to be.
When we went to classes, I met other volunteers. I tried understanding the ecosystem there. Everything there had a very positive vibe. Those students were not split into many standards, like any other school, but there were two major groups. A group was for kids between age 3–6, and the other one was for their seniors. I was assigned to teach the younger group. I innocently asked which subject would I be teaching. I expected it to be either mathematics or English. But that system was more flexible. We, volunteers, were supposed to teach all subjects to a particular group. I was glad to hear that as I would be able to connect to students at a great level.
Then, I realised that I would have to teach Hindi too. A sudden wave of panic chilled my veins. I was not good at Hindi spellings. And then me teaching Hindi, to these little progs would give a heart attack to Hindi teachers of my childhood school. But I did it. And yes, I was unbelievably good. At least that’s what those students reflected. Later on the same day, after a 10 minutes break, I started teaching mathematics. I could see the students facing difficulty in drawing shapes of the numbers and identifying them. As this was my first time as a teacher, this situation was disturbing to me. At that moment, I failed to realise that once, it was hard for me too to carry out the same activities. I understood that a lot of hard work and patience would be required to make a difference during my time here. After the lunch break, I taught English alphabets and essential words. You could have noticed their enthusiasm for English. I did my best, and so did they. When the class ended, they all said thank you very politely and noted their home works. While leaving, they were in herds or else they stayed and waited for their parents. I was relaxed and lied down after reaching home.
My first day was toughest, as I was not used to it. But gradually, I started loving what I was doing. Some of the kids were so innocently naughty that you would have to be heartless to scold them. But yet, very irritating at times. These kids were disciplined only around new people. And a mess in a fun and loving way when they are comfortable. I started to admire my faculties more than ever after this encounter.
In the above picture, you can see that little girl with bubbly cheeks. She used to be extremely quiet around me. However, one could see her throwing objects and wrath at others from a distance. In the following pic, you can see this cute little bub in blue top teasing with his tongue. His name is Prince. This little mischief was everyone’s favourite. Although he was not clear why he was coming to the NGO, he was loving his time here with his new friends. He had the finest handwriting among all. Just not these two, but all my students were unique in their own ways.
It was not just about teaching. I realised it was like an adventure that changed my life. I learnt a lot even from Mr Roshan too. He was so clear with his vision and putting all his effort to bring an actual difference. I was there for 22 days, and I can’t thank him enough for bestowing such an opportunity on me. During my final days at NGO, I started helping in a survey. Mr Rawat was trying to provide food to kids so that more and more parents could send their children to our NGO. So he asked one other volunteer and me to survey nearby huts occupied by construction workers. This was also an experience in itself as I encountered problems faced by deprived families. These families treated me with great respect when they heard that I am from this NGO. They answered all my questions politely and helped in research volunteering. I gathered all the data I recorded and submitted to Mr Rawat. Right now, I’m not in contact with him.
I was forced to leave early as my college was reopening after the summer break. I wished if I could have stayed for more time. Not just because I contributed to society, but because I enjoyed it. I loved my time there and the kids. I understood how any teacher would be pleased if their students were to do something fantastic with their lives. I am proud to have done something worthy of admiration right before I was 18 years old. If you read this and haven’t worked before for an NGO, trust me when I say that you should go for an experience such as this. The amount of self-satisfaction that you gain is immeasurable. That’s why I wish to start an NGO soon for the same purpose.
As you made it till here, here’s a gift from me. You can pet this good boy.