How these volunteers are helping unprivileged children in times of crisis

As many Indians uplift the unprivileged from the looming shadows of the pandemic, let’s recall and laud the efforts of volunteers, who have been working selflessly and fulfilling their pledge to serve humanity in the times of the deadliest crises and redefined the spirit of volunteering.
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While most of us were forced to hole up within our four walls of safety at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many school and college-goers were frustrated as they were not just missing out on their regular studies, but were missing hanging out with their friends.

But for Mrityunjay Kandpal, a 21-year-old student of law, the first thought was how to reach out to the children in the nearby Delhi slums and help them to weather the crisis.

A volunteer with CRY (Child Right and You), he wasted no time, quickly formed a group of fellow volunteers, brainstormed on how they could still reach and support children with education amid the lockdown. Even though he tested positive for COVID-19, forcing him into isolation, it could not make a dent in his spirit of volunteering for children.

“When you are doing something for children, you understand that it is much bigger than your individual problems and that thought is what kept me going,” says a beaming Mrityunjay.

Jay – as Mrityunjay is fondly called by his team of volunteers – actively participated in ‘Masti Ki Pathshala’, an online outreach initiative organised by CRY volunteers, and together, they ensured that no underprivileged children in the slums around were away from education and other recreational activities during the prolonged closure of schools.

Shivam has almost a similar story to tell. A Mumbai-based banker and a Chartered Accountant by profession, Shivam Singhal went out of his way to make sure that vulnerable children and their families have access to basic needs like ration and medicine.

An active volunteer with CRY, he, along with a few others, quickly jumped in to start a fundraiser and conduct a ration distribution drive with the handful of money that they could raise. Not stopping at that, Shivam and his co-volunteers distributed sanitary pads and other health products to girls and children helping them take care of their health and hygiene during the difficult times.

“Seeing them happy with what they have is tremendous. These are some valuable life lessons. People should volunteer once because it gives a lot of perspective in life and adds value to everything,” says Shivam.

Shivam and Mrityunjay are just two faces of a large army of young people who have chosen to take up volunteering with CRY in their spare time. There are many such Shivams and Mrityunjays, who, with selfless acts of kindness, choose to pull themselves up and support the vulnerable children in the moments of huge humanitarian disasters.

Ask them, and they will say – in doing so, while they give something back to the society, they also understand the true essence of collective living and earn a deep sense of satisfaction, gratification and fulfilment.

Volunteering at CRY

This intrinsic idea of ‘giving and getting back’ defines volunteering at CRY. Though the act of volunteering is often deemed as an act of generous giving, for us, it is a two-way journey. Apart from the contentment of touching and transforming lives, it is also an experience with innumerable learnings.

It encourages civic engagement and social integration, while creating young leaders who are ready to take responsibility.

It allows one to expand their horizon in every aspect, think bigger, get the sense of a larger perspective, evolve their personality and skill sets, and engage with the community to bring in social change.

“The fact that a week’s global funding on armies is enough to put all the children in the world to school, often makes me think that ot’s just about where you set your priorities. My biggest takeaway as a volunteer has been this – that the reason why more than a billion children in the world are suffering is the lack of proper policies for the protection and uplift of the children. Being able to work with the children at the grassroots has been a very wholesome experience, as I learnt how policy decisions can create huge impacts by giving the children the childhood they deserve.”

No wonder that he already toys with the idea of bringing his younger brother Prabudhd, an engineering aspirant, into volunteering with CRY. “Other than volunteering for a cause, what better option one can have in becoming a better human being?” – Mrityunjay’s voice exudes passion and conviction.

An organisation driven by a large volunteer base, CRY has been witnessing the beauty of volunteerism for the last 40+ years. Besides working with children, parents and other influential stakeholders like teachers, child protection committees, state and government bodies; the volunteers actually come together to give a voice to these children form the heart of the organisation.

The onset of COVID-19 forced volunteers to switch to virtual mode since the pandemic struck and they quickly put on their ‘virtual helping hat’ with vigour and enthusiasm.

Battling newer and tougher challenges, CRY’s large volunteer base spread across the country helped us reach remote corners, aiding vulnerable children and their families in reducing the impact of the crisis.

Volunteering’s impact on self

Our latest annual survey among volunteers (‘Impact of Volunteering Survey 2020-2021’) finds that 79 percent respondents reported of having a better state ‘Mental Well-Being’ while volunteering for children. Also, 94 percent of respondents reported an increase in ‘Awareness of Making a Meaningful Contribution’, 90 percent reported ‘Contentment and Satisfaction in Life’, and 87 percent responded ‘Things to Look Forward in Life’.

Another visible trend was the significant increase in confidence and self-esteem, as reported by 81 percent of participants. However, more than 90 percent of volunteers admitted that self-development would have been higher, had it not been for the COVID-19 crisis.

Though most volunteers validated that learning potential from the experience would have been higher in a non-COVID era, more than 95 percent of the members agreed that the experience had an extremely meaningful impact on their personal lives.

"I would always want to remain in touch with children, through more volunteering experiences if possible or merely by communicating with children around me. Their worlds are fascinating and different from ours and it is the most fulfilling experience to be volunteering for them,” adds a 19-year-old CRY volunteer.

These inspiring stories and testimonials of young individuals on a mission to help others in any situation reinstate the belief that ‘come what may, humanity will never cease to exist.’

Edited by Kanishk Singh

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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