“Teachers can open the door, but you must enter it yourself.” — Chinese proverb
Radha….. when I saw this tiny girl for the first time at Donate an Hour, I developed an immediate bond with her. Radha is brave & bold and does not shy away from acknowledging a person who approaches her. She is always in a hurry but that’s because she is a responsible child & has her own share of errands to run. A 13 year old girl, short in height but taller in terms of aspirations & determination, it is hard to ignore her when you arrive at DoaR. My first question to her was “What do you aspire to be Radha?” and without hesitation she replied “I want to join the Indian Army ma’am!” I was disheartened because I was hesitant in informing her that she can not apply for the Armed Forces due to her short height. She made it easier for me by gauging my dilemma from my looks and saying “O ma’am I know I can’t be an officer in the Army because I am so small….. but this is my dream and will always remain close to my heart.” There was a smile and kindness which was facing me while I was left with a sudden urge to embrace this girl. Radha….. the brightest child and also the fieriest one. You can not afford to touch her at the wrong chord because she is forever ready to face challenges & is seen running around due to her leadership skills; she likes to be in charge and you are not supposed to disturb her while she is attending to her chores. Any outsider or a new volunteer can not intimidate her with their immediate queries & sympathies because she is way ahead of these feelings. Radha is a soldier; Radha is a young girl with bright eyes which spell hope & reflect her determination but Radha is also a sweet child who is full of honesty.
Radha was not fortunate enough to begin schooling at an appropriate time although her elder sister was attending school regularly while staying with their maternal grandmother. Radha was enrolled in the afternoon school program nearby where she was attending (charity) classes for a few hours through a voluntary program. One day she observed that a couple were teaching a large group of small children in one of the parks in sector 45 and out of curiosity she joined them. Fascinated by the technique employed by them in explaining the lesson, she was drawn towards them and she would hardly miss their class. Her participation was noticed and the couple (Meenakshi & Divya Prakash) upon seeing her enthusiasm, decided to give her personal attention. Soon she was enrolled in the EA program and this brilliant child didn’t take long to become everyones favourite.
Her mother is a simpleton Homemaker who has not taken much efforts to step out of her zone while her father is a hardworking man but with social limitations. It is not easy for people from extremely conservative backgrounds (especially when they belong to an economically backward section of society) to lay trust upon people who approach them with an assurance to educate their child. But Radha has been fortunate enough to have the blessings of her parents who shared her responsibility with Meenakshi & Divya.
What makes Radha different from other children who are scattered around us in huge numbers and have similar stories to share?
On one of the regular days at DoaR where Radha studies at the EA academy along with others, (and there are hundreds of other small children who are being groomed for schooling) students were all over the place while their mentor Meenakshi paid a surprise visit. Hell broke loose because the vacant rooms had the fans & lights running and our children did not bother to switch them off while they were not being used. For some it might be a small issue to create a ruckus but not for a person like Meenakshi, who is spending her hard earned money for providing benefits to her wards. Every little penny counts because the students need much more than books & pencils so this careless attitude was not acceptable to her. She was furious and called them over for a round of counselling. Meenakshi simply asked them to present a reasoning for their behaviour and when the children could not explain themselves she asked them to leave. They were told to return within 3 hours and individually answer a simple question: “How do you intend to give back what you are receiving as a benefit from society & your mentors who are donating their precious time?”
This question could have been answered in simpler ways and children tend to get manipulative when they have to defend their actions, so a few of them did come up with unreasonable answers but Radha kept quiet. Meenakshi was disgusted and she left them on their own to come up with a genuine plan to express their intentions in the future to act as responsible citizens. A few days passed and after a while she was approached by the group once again. They requested her to accompany her to a park nearby and Meenakshi was astounded when she reached the premises. A big group of almost a 100 small children were seated in front of a Black-board while Radha (along with her fellow students) was conducting a “Night Class” with them teaching them basic mathematics. The Group admitted instantly that it was Radha who conceived this idea and with her leadership skills was able to implement it with the rest of them.
Recently Radha had to witness & bear the ordeal of a tragic incident when her father was a victim of a hit-and-run road accident. By the grace of god he was taken to a hospital by a genuine good soul but his condition was critical. Our extended family at DoaR was immediately alarmed when Divya Prakash informed us that his life was critical and he needed immediate surgery and a strenuous recovering phase at the hospital. The DoaR family is forever connected where we have members as young as 15 and as younger as 65 who are all attached with our boys & girls. This incident arrived at a time when corona-virus had already proven devastating but the astonishing participation & contribution of our volunteers within half an hour helped us save a life and guaranteed his healthy recovery. When I happened to meet Radha recently, I couldn’t help but ask her how she managed to play her role as a daughter and what was the lesson she learnt from this horrifying experience. Well, like a true soldier her answer was straight and without any hesitations she told me that she learnt three things: 1) Time management (as she had to make sure her father received his medicines on time everyday). 2) Punctuality as it was essential that he receives his timely doses as prescribed by the physician 3)Importance of dependency on your family as they had to be sure that at-least one of the family member was awake around him while he was in ICU.
And then she smiled and and said “I promise you ma’am, I will make sure that someday I stand in place of you and all others at DoaR who helped my family in need”. I hugged her back and like every other time (I end up teasing her for her tom-boyish body language because she reminds me of my own self) told her to take her hands out of her pockets! Radha has a younger sister & a brother who will definitely go to school as she is going to take charge of their education. Her father has recovered fully and has resumed work while her mother still hesitates to step out of her home. Her elder sister is with their Nani and Radha is with us at “Donate an Hour” studying in class 7 at the Explorers Academy.
Today is Daughter’s Day and I wish that every parent gets blessed with a beautiful bundle of joy who is as determined, dedicated, brave, bold & hardworking as Radha. She has her own wings to fly and I hope that she is able to soar confidently in her own sky.
Connect with us at “Donate an Hour” donateanhour.org and please donate an hour if you can to make a change in a person’s life and make this world a better place to live in for yourself and your future generations.