Sukanya Khan, Award Leader from Dhirubhai Ambani International School, Mumbai sharing an inspiring experience with an Award Participant.
My profession as a high school Physics teacher requires me to spend about one-third of each day with teenagers. While the process of nurturing curious young minds is intellectually very stimulating and gratifying beyond words, there have been times when looking through the one-dimensional lens of academic performance, I have felt inadequate in my understanding of a child whose world extends way beyond the confines of the classroom. So when, five years ago, the responsibility of coordinating the IAYP at my school was handed over to me, I knew that a new chapter had begun in my journey as an educator.
I had been closely associated with a number of service initiatives even before my association with IAYP began and working closely with cancer patients and their caregivers was one of them. Every week I would accompany a handful of students to the facility in the neighborhood where the volunteers would chat with the adults, play with the children and generally try and engage them with activities that would take their minds off from their illness, albeit for a brief period. In my first year as the coordinator, I witnessed a transformational experience there. A student named Aman joined this group of volunteers and after his first visit, requested me to shift him to a different service activity. He said that the sight of the patients, many of whom were amputee children, with their shaven heads was too depressing for him. His friends and my colleagues weren’t surprised by his reaction and they told me that Aman possessed neither the sensitivity nor the empathy and level of commitment required for a service activity of that kind and it was likely that the reason for his initial interest was the fact that the facility was close to his residence. I found out that in addition to being at the bottom of the pile in academics, sports and co-curricular activities, he had gotten into trouble in the past due to his irresponsible behavior. I was also made privy to the information that he had been advised to meet the counselor.
I cannot remember the reasons for my judgment on the basis of which I sat him down and requested him to visit the facility just once more with me. Once we were in the facility, I stayed next to him all the time, gently asking him to speak to the children in the local language and make an effort to make friends with them. As the afternoon came to an end, I found myself at the corner of the room opposite to where Aman was. While he was teaching Bollywood dance steps to a four year old, my eyes were welling up with pride.
Aman turned out to be the most dedicated student towards service in his entire batch. It was his idea and initiative to engage with care givers and patients in painting diyas and making greeting cards and gift pouches. The funds raised from selling those were used for purchasing sewing machines and utensils. Aman ran extensive and aggressive campaigns that in addition to cash donations, led to two computers being donated to the facility. He was one of the volunteers who taught computer skills to the inmates after school hours. Last but not the least, his painting on canvas, depicting the varied hues of life, was auctioned at the school fete and raised two lakh rupees for the patients.
It might sound like a fairy tale, but it is true that Aman’s experience at the facility through the IAYP Programme gave him the confidence that he had never experienced before. His grades began to improve and his inner turmoil found a beautiful outlet through his paintings.