• Sohil

An attempt to Make-a-Difference, one child at a time

I am not a founder, a Director, or the CEO of any organization let alone a social one; neither have I created any big social change or had a major influence in the community. But I wanted to make an impact, and maybe I have made one.

I am a volunteer with a social organization, Make-A-Difference, for the last 5 years. MAD has a vision - to enable children in need of care and protection in India to realize a long term outcome equitable to the middle class. And working, along with a great collection of people (albeit, much more aware than me), towards that vision one step at a time has helped me make, at least, a small difference.

By May 2015, I was married to the love of my life, working in an MNC at a managerial role, surrounded with a loving family and friends, traveling internationally and domestically, and learning new things. I was in my late twenties and had achieved a certain lifestyle. But I wanted to make an impact - on something more, something more than myself.

Where that impact would be was a big question. I have been a part of different causes throughout my life. My earliest experience was with HelpAge India, going door-to-door to collect donations for the society. It helped me not only realize the community's needs but also be grateful for what I had. But it never grew into a consistent effort - a contribution here, a helping hand there. Even during my post-graduation, I sometimes helped out the team working towards social causes but did not 'really participate'. I had not worked hard enough and owned up to make a real impact. I continued contributing through the years but only passively; only when the opportunity was in front of me, never creating the opportunity for myself.

That is when I stumbled upon Make-A-Difference (MAD), a social organization that works with children in need of care and protection, primarily out of shelter homes across India. And although I say stumbled, maybe it was destiny. It is a foregone conclusion we will handover an imperfect world to our future generations. But, are they prepared or equipped for it? Do they have the skills to make it a better world? Or rather, do they have the skills to survive in that world? This was one place where I wanted to make a difference. Children are our future. I wanted to make an impact - towards the future.

I joined MAD as a volunteer, to teach English to children in the 6th standard of the state board. There was a chord that struck during that year since I stayed on with the same set of children for 5 years, through their journey till their 10th Boards this year (which finished just recently). But it is much more than education. The effort is to support, in a small way, towards personality development, communication skills as well as preparing them for their future.

Along with studying English, and sometimes the numerous other subjects, we discussed sports and current affairs. We also went to camps to create self-awareness, plan for the future, and also to play in the swimming pool and learn about English breakfast!

In the five years, I have laughed with them sharing ghost stories and life anecdotes, and cried with them sharing the river of life with its highs and lows. I have been strict with them towards studies and giving respect, and childish with them playing and pulling pranks. I have motivated them to learn and in the process learned a lot, even about myself. I have helped them chart their dreams and they have helped me live some of mine. I have lived unlimited stories and created everlasting memories with them - a life-long relationship. I wanted to make an impact - one was made in my life.

For the last two years, I took up additional responsibility as an on-ground mentor, and recently made the decision to further increase the scope of my role and was selected as part of the MAD Fellowship 2020. As Fellows, we are the chain between the strategy and the execution, with the center link being the children. And with that comes higher accountability, something I have been scared of many times.

But I'm also confident because of MAD - the organization, the teams, and the wonderful people. Over the course of five years, I have met and interacted with a wide breadth of individuals at MAD - corporate office-goers stretching beyond their work to students finding those extra hours from their schools and colleges. I'm in awe of some of those individuals, themselves in their 11th/12th (or pre-college as they proudly call it) and turning up to create an impact - I did not have an iota of the awareness they show at that age!

People from different parts of the country bringing their cultural nuances to the fore, people with different life stories introducing unique ideas and thoughts, and people from different walks of life sharing experiences and stories, all over a glass of Oreo shake (one of those unique traditions specific to the shelter home I was associated with directly). There were so many commonalities that you could find with them, all different personalities, and all wanting to make an impact.

With the pandemic and an uncertain scenario, our plans have been and operations will be impacted. There will be an added challenge to deliver on the promise we have made to the stakeholders, to the community, to the children, and to ourselves. And I'm looking forward to being a part of this brilliant team. I wanted to make a larger impact.

I will always be a volunteer. I continue to look for opportunities, even creating some now. Apart from MAD, I have also gotten involved with a Senior Citizens forum, helping out with technology as well as learning, and gotten a couple of chances to speak to students at social forums and meet some inspiring people, on this journey. I wanted to make an impact - and I did.

But there's a lot more to be done. Even before the pandemic, there was a need for more and more people to help out in society. That need has multiplied now, and we need individuals to come forward and drive social change.

In school, we were taught - Think Big, Do Big. But some of us, including me, get stuck with that. In the quest of that next big idea or thought, we go into a loop of inaction. I definitely do. The “What ifs?” outweigh any action that we could have taken. We keep waiting for big but it’s the small steps that matter. We don't really need to think big every time. We need to take action. Think small, do small.

Maybe I have made a small impression with you to create a small impact.

Read about the MAD cause - on their website.

Donate an amount that goes towards new projects, or volunteer and give some of your time. Follow the organization on Instagram or Facebook and engaging with their messages from time to time.

Further, we will have to go digital in the new scenario with our delivery and enable the shelters accordingly. In that respect, any products like laptops, smartphones, projectors, or any other technology solutions that you can contribute towards the cause, would be really helpful and go a long way in supporting our actions.

Reach out to me if you want to contribute, know more about the cause or connect further with the organization, and you can be part of a small change. Or reach out to just share your story.

You can also make an impact like I wanted to.