Lighting a Path to a Better Future
September 22, 2016
When we first heard of FleishmanHillard in New Delhi’s planned social inclusion initiative, it seemed like another routine activity on a Friday, when what was most on our minds was the coming weekend. What we didn’t know was the happiness we would feel by the time we finished our activation.
It’s pretty commonplace to come across homeless children on the streets of Delhi. For some, it’s slightly uncomfortable due to their unsightly appearance; for most, a feeling of sympathy makes us hand out food or – the more commonly demanded commodity – money. Seldom do we take a step back and wonder what these kids are doing on the streets instead of in schools, being who they’re supposed to be: the future of our great nation.
Save the Quest, a charity who helps homeless children through education, not only took a step back to think about this, but went above and beyond to make the lives of these little ones better. In an economic landscape like ours, taking this step was not only generous, but rather courageous as well. The most important factor to feeling safe in these children’s circumstances is having a place to call home. And this is exactly how our day began, visiting their home, which is situated in Rain Basera, a shelter provided to the homeless by the Government of India. We were able to experience their classrooms, which had wonderfully colorful drawings pasted all around the walls that made even the darkest corner shine with a childlike innocence.
The day we had planned for the children was quite exceptional, but none of us were quite sure how they would react to it. All our minds took a 360-degree turn as soon as we entered the bus we had booked for them, and we could sense the excitement like electricity in the air.
The first stop was The Nehru Planetarium, where the kids witnessed the Big Bang and all the other wonderful intricacies that go into making the universe. We were asked to have a word with the kids, and try to help them understand why education is the driving force behind achieving the life they want for themselves and even for their parents. Saying that these kids have a hard time growing up is gross understatement. In just trying to survive, they often skip on the basics like sanitation and hygiene, and it was of utmost importance to teach them how keeping all these little things in mind leads to them becoming a better person.
Sitting on the bus with these kids on our way to the next stop made even maddening rush hour traffic not just bearable, but rather enjoyable. When they pointed at their friends at a red light and asked us to take pictures of them as well, it hit us that change is a slow and painstaking process. However, we truly believe that Save the Quest will be able to transform each of their lives.
We spoke to them trying to get insight into what goes on in their heads, their hopes, their dreams, what they thought of school. Much to our surprise, they looked forward to each morning to putting their uniforms on. Little Salim has big hopes of becoming a pilot one day, and each one of us on the Delhi team wished him all the luck in the world.
We then took the kids to McDonald’s. It truly was a one-of-a-kind experience for not only them, but us as well. This was the first time any of these kids had been inside a restaurant. Not only were they served food, but they were given respect as well, and this brought a smile to all their faces – one that I doubt any of us would be able to match.
This brought a close to our happy day. We had to bid adieu to the kids, but not before we could hand them the goody bags we prepared for them. Just a little something they could remember us by, something that would help them strive harder towards their goals.
These little ones showed all of us the true meaning of empathy. We all have bad days, but to be so full of hope in a world so grim, as these children are, is a lesson that we could all learn.