For most of us, 25-year-olds are synonymous with taking toddler steps in their career, partying hard and leading a carefree life. Not Kinjal Shah. Kinjal took a conscious decision to don an important role early in her life – Kinjal is a Trustee at Shwas, Breathe Life Into, a not-for-profit which essentially looks into underprivileged children’s education.
A biomedical engineer (this discipline is all about machinery used in hospitals) from her hometown Ahmedabad, Kinjal started teaching slum kids over the weekends when she was in her second year of college, along with a few of her friends.
“They started and I followed them. I always knew I wanted to do something in the Education field,” says this youngster who took up a work assignment after her engineering but only for six months. She knew her heart lay elsewhere and she would not be able to do justice to the job she had got into.
After working with her friends for a couple of months, she joined them. A neighbourhood municipality school allowed the group of friends to teach kids after school hours.
We were teaching the group of 40-45 kids what they were not taught in their school. We told them about basic hygiene, nutrition and supplementary education to hold them in good stead,
says the soft-spoken Kinjal.
“It was only after I started working closely with them did I realize that they were very much like normal kids, who were simply opportunity-denied,” says Kinjal.
Initially her parents too were skeptical about the work she was doing and thought that her effort would go waste, but great results over the years have ensured that their doubts have faded away.
Teaching over the weekends became a schedule for Kinjal and it went on for the next three years. Then a more serious thought crept in. What about channelizing the potential of these slum kids and bring them into the mainstream?
“With this thought in mind, we started collecting funds from family and friends. We first got four kids admitted to mainstream schools and upon following up with the schools learnt they were picking up really well,” says a proud Kinjal. She says it is a big challenge for children to pursue their higher studies as municipality schools don’t have grades beyond Std 8, so the obvious choice is to drop out.
More so with girl children, whose parents are reluctant to send them to schools that are far-off.
We spoke to the parents, counselled them and convinced them to send their children to better schools, after all they cannot afford to negotiate with their children’s future.
Thus was born Shwas, Breathe Life Into, which sponsors kids going to mainstream schools with stationery, uniform and books, in 2008. Between Monday and Friday, volunteers and Shwas trustee Kinjal, teach kids whom they have admitted into mainstream schools while the weekends are open to all kids from the neighbouring slums to those attending proper schools.
All work and all play make kids a happy lot
Kinjal follows a simple motto at Shwas – all work and all play to keep the kids happy.
Every month, they take the kids to different places – amusement parks, factories, recreational places to increase their exposure levels to the outside world. “The more the kids get exposed to the outside world, the more they learn and practical exposure aids the best learning,” says Kinjal.
One thing which her hands-on experience has taught Kinjal – kids have all the potential. They just need direction and opportunity to shine.
Recently a girl named Shilpa cleared her class 10 board examinations thus bringing in a sense of achievement to the Shwas team members too. “All said and done, they are brilliant students. Just the right opportunity needs to be provided to them to channelize their interests,” says Kinjal.
No wonder then that Kinjal models herself on Shaheen Mistri, CEO of Teach for India since 2008. “I truly admire her and would want to learn from her and teach the way she does,” says Kinjal who works as an assistant to the principal in a neighbourhood school during the day hours.