While most of us either turn a blind eye or resort to armchair activism on FacebookÂ when it actually comes to making a difference in someone’s life, teenager Diya Shah actually went out there and changed the lives of many.
Unlike most teenagers her age, instead of chilling with friends, Diya actually wanted to do something for others, which is why she joined an NGO. Although the first few weeks were spent behind a desk, the opportunity did present itself when she went to a village called Khamgaon in Maharashtra as a volunteer. She noticed how bright the people of the village were but their lack of command of the English language hampered their confidence a lot. Wanting to make a change, she requested the CEO of Swades (the NGO she was working with) to send her back to the village for a couple months to teach them English.
Not only were the people of Khamgaon happy to host her, she was also pleasantly surprised to learn how eager the residents were to learn the language. She soon started teaching 3 different batches of children, college students and women. They would start conversing with each other in the language and go up to Diya in case they got confused with some of the meanings. Two months passed in a jiffy, and it was a time that Diya admits she would never forget in her life. She even received the perfect farewell. Read her life changing experience.
â€œEveryone usually tries to get internships between the 10th and 11th grade to add to their rÃ©sumÃ© and I was no different. I started interning at an NGO called Swades and for the first few weeks I sat at my desk and assigned self help groups â€” it was boring and monotonous.Â
One weekend my colleague was going to a village called Khamgaon where our volunteers often visited and asked me to join himâ€¦I immediately agreed! When I went there, I was blown away. The students I met were intelligent, educated and motivated but their confidence was at an all time low because they didnâ€™t know Englishâ€” they felt small and inferior. Something in me shifted and I decided that I wanted to make a change — these were people from my country who were so ashamed, all because they didn’t know English…I felt responsible to do something for them; for a better India… no matter how small the step was.
I reached Bombay and asked the CEO of Swades to let me go, stay in their village and attempt to teach them English. She said she’d never done something like that beforeâ€¦but she wanted to give me a shot. I reached Khamgaon without any other volunteer from Swades and stayed with a local family who welcomed me with open arms. Itâ€™s like what you see in the moviesâ€¦ â€” houses made of cow dung, a walk to draw water from the well, green fields and exceptionally tasty chapattis.Â
Swades had a sewing class for women at the centre, so I made it a point to go there the day I arrived and tell these women that I was here to teach them and their children English. I then went door to door, introduced myself in Marathi and tried to break the ice. The first few days I started off with one student, then two but one week later the entire sewing class of women showed up to learn English! Slowly but steadily I had 3 different batches running through the day â€” of little children, women and college students. Everyday, I would think of new ways to challenge them, to teach them and to help them string sentences together word by word. A few weeks later, when I was at the market I overheard two of my sewing women students talking about which vegetables to buyâ€¦in English! I was delighted!
Everyday after I would return home and help Naitri Tai make dinner, my little students would come to me with questionsâ€¦ â€˜Didi, how can I use this noun? or â€˜What does this word mean?â€™ â€” they were thirsty for knowledge and I was thrilled that I could be the one to give it to them.Â
I didnâ€™t realise when 2 months passed, but on my last day the entire village came together to give me a â€˜bidaiâ€™. They planted two trees in my name, but the gift I got afterwards was one Iâ€™ll never forget all my life. My little students came in front of the audience and gave me a farewell speechâ€¦in close to accurate English! The last line they said was, â€˜Thank you Didi, for changing our lifeâ€™ and ’till today, I get goosebumps every time I think about it.â€
Sometimes even a lifetime isn’t enough to do what Ms Shah did in two months. An opportunity to help might not present itself, but it is on us to do what we can to help others. What’s the point of life otherwise?
ByÂ Rishabh Banerji