Finding My Niche
Finding ones niche is significant to the development of ones character, both mentally and socially. For this matter I have always found it pertinent to give back to my community. Helping others and giving back has always been instilled in me as a student at YES, but never did I imagine of the boundaries I would cross on this road. There are many people in the world who suffer the injustices of life whether it is poverty, hunger, or social injustices. For this reason I made my goal to lend a hand to the impoverished citizens of India’s most notorious slums.
As I prepared to begin my high school experience as a freshman, I was presented with the opportunity to serve my global community across the world in India. A group of dedicated teachers with ties to a variety of international organizations proposed a service opportunity that would change my life. Going to India required all accepted participants to fundraise the entire summer, not only to pay for the airplane tickets, but to donate an amount to the cause.
Along with a group of 12 teammates and two teachers, we began our journey to the other side of the world. Arriving in Ahmadabad where the biggest slum of India was located, we were to work with an organization called Manav Savanna, which worked with the children of the slums. Flying on an airplane for 36 hours can seem tiring and amazing in and of itself, but this was a small matter compared to what laid ahead. Many throw around the word “poor” when maybe they cannot afford the newest brand shoes or buy the most exclusive car on the market, but one has not seen poverty until one visits the slums of India.
Growing up as a son of a single mother with four children enabled me to see poverty with a different perspective as it became difficult to pay for the rent or eat a warm meal, but never did I imagine the magnitude of the situation in India’s slums.
Working in the slums was shocking in many ways. Having to see hundreds of children starving, begging, and falling to the hardships of life was overpowering. The idea that many of these children were uneducated and were living in unsanitary conditions broke my heart. For starters, many of us take things for granted and choose to complain and cry about it, yet these children always had a smile on their faces. Smiles which spoke of happiness and the appreciation of having the opportunity to live another day. Like them I understood the importance of staying positive and smiling at life in order to get past the roadblocks it throws at you. I shared not only their pain but also their commitment to strive in life.
One month in India was to be split into three different projects. The first project involved building wheelchairs out of plastic chairs and donated tires for handicapped civilians of the slums. Having been raised in the city I was never given the opportunity to work with my hands. Here I was using tools to twist and turn bolts in order to make a functional wheelchair. Working inside a warehouse with a temperature of a hundred and five degrees was tough, but never did my teammates and I lose the passion or eagerness to continue working. Seeing the eyes of those who received their free wheelchairs made it all worth doing. Knowing that these wheels chairs would allow for many of these people including children to move around made my heart cry. Helping others has always been one of my moral codes, but never had I felt the passion and the honor to lend a hand in the planting of this seed.
In addition to making wheelchairs, I was given the opportunity to work in a non-profit restaurant called Seva CafÃ©, which gives a large percentage of their profits to the funding of education and nutrition of children in the slums. From cooking to cleaning and serving, this proved to be the most fun and overpowering experience of my life. I was given the freedom to roam in a field of culinary and public service. Cooking dishes for the less fortunate and making sure that as many children in the slums had a hot warm meal became my goal. Not only did it challenge me to come out of my comfort zone by having to learn the native tongue in order to communicate, but it allowed me to mature as a person. Working along other co-workers with different customs and mentalities enabled me to appreciate the diversity in others and the good in all. For I truly believe that everyone, deep inside, is kind and willing to help the existence of humanity.
We understood that many of these children were deprived of the opportunity for a proper education and a chance for playtime due to the early maturing of their lives. In order to accomplish this, I worked with my teammates to go around the streets of Ahmadabad giving small lessons on basic principles of writing and reading. I was blessed with the opportunity to teach children on the streets sanitary information like how to dispose of waste and trash. We informed them of procedures like bathing, clipping their nails, and brushing their teeth. As small as this would seem to many of us, these children were never given the proper education on any of these basic aspects of sanitary conditions.
Indeed much more is to be done in order to aid in the development of India and its civilians, but we must all add our significant seed to the process. Taking the initiative and striving for the “change you wish to see in the world”, as Gandhi beautifully put it, must become our lifetime commitment. Going to India and lending my skills and service allowed me to not only mature as a young individual, but it allowed me to appreciate the things that I posses like my family, customs, and most importantly my global community. Leaving that fundamental legacy behind is, and will continue to be, my niche to strive for in life. It is indeed distressing to see so much poverty and injustice in India because of their cast system and social inequality, but we must join forces to give those who are underprivileged an opportunity to an education and a warm meal.
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