Bold New Step For Project Ashiyana

Posted by Sachi Maniar on Jun 5, 2015
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In many ways, this was a culmination point for Ashiyana -- our project to fill an extremely challenged remand home in Bombay with love and smiles.  After having tried various models of operation, this was our first step to become fully volunteer-run, fully community-supported.

Chairs were shifted and the side table was moved, mats were laid for all 12 of us to gather and sit in a circle. Balkha graciously offered her house, fed us yummy samosas and cooling Tang. The summer heat was at it’s peak but what we were waiting for next was to dive into the conversations of the place we all love -- Dongri Children’s home. Dev Tayde, volunteer of Ashiyana, facilitated this gathering and took us on a beautiful reflective journey.  

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We began with quotes that were handed to each of us and we were urged to draw resonance. We spent the next fifteen minutes talking about Dongri Children’s Home, our
lives, how we related to these quotes.

Next, we took some time to reflect and write or draw our highs and lows in our experiences with Dongri.  High points that make us feel inspired and want us to come to the children’s home every Sunday. And lowest of the low points when we felt extremely sad and yet we decided to convert that sadness into an opportunity to change the situation and continued the participation in Ashiyana, remotely or by physically being there.

It was both intense and amazing to see the reflection that came out of this session.  Some of the high points included -- the smiles of the children, children’s potential, their laughter and resilience, children looking forward to our visit(s).  The low points included children in frail conditions, fights that break out between some boys, condition of special needs children, and condition of the home.  And then there were a few questions around “Am I doing enough? How do I give them a better life?”

As we continued to be in the space of reflection, we shared about how going to the Dongri Children’s Home has changed/impacted our lives?  Often, in our circles after Sunday sessions, we have spoken about how we feel like we are receiving more than giving. This was one of those moments where volunteers shared about how their attitude towards life had changed and how they felt like their life had become more enriching than ever.

Next, we saw the Power of One clip, an inspiring take on how individuals made a difference. Dev pointed out how we were a group of individuals that was being the change by the small actions we were taking in the children’s home too. Followed by this, was a lovely presentation on the journey of Ashiyana:



Pictures of old volunteers and all the new volunteers put a big smile on everyone’s faces. This was a good opportunity for all of us to think of how we have been a force of positive change in the Children’s Home that has been around for a while, and not caved in to the manifold challenges of the Dongri Children’s Home.

We also saw the clip of Ayrton Senna, a Brazilian F-1 driver. Here are some of the takeaways from the clip. “Walking away from the dark forces doesn't become an option” & “There is a lot to go, lot to learn, lot to do.. but I have plenty of time.” We connected this to how Dongri represent a dark place in our lives, but yet we continue to brighten it with our smiles and efforts.

Next, we heard the story of an Olympian who was exemplary and changed the face of his event forever. In 1968, during the Mexico City Olympics, the crowds witnessed a remarkable spectacle. The American high-jumper Dick Fosbury approached the bar from the side, and maneuvered himself over it backwards, shoulders first, landing on the cushion with an elegant flop. The audience did not take him seriously at first, but Fosbury kept clearing the increasing heights, and ended up winning the gold medal with his new method. Within a few years, all high-jumpers would make use of the ‘Fosbury flop’, as it came to be called. Four years later, in Munich, 28 of the 40 competitors used Fosbury's technique.

To me, what we are making happen in the Dongri Children’s Home every Sunday is nothing short of breaking the norm. To bring in 20 volunteers and enter a Children’s Home -- that otherwise has strict rules, so many security guards, and far too many regulations -- is a miracle in itself.  Let alone that it's a Sunday.  

And now, to collectively start a community run initiative in a Children’s Home is another leap forward.  Not just for Dongri home, but for our own faith in the power of compassion.  I can't thank you all enough, for being guiding lights along the way.

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