My visit to India 2010 : A life changing experience

September 9, 2010
By Abhinav Saikia GOLD, Plainsboro, New Jersey
Abhinav Saikia GOLD, Plainsboro, New Jersey
19 articles 4 photos 0 comments

India has the largest number of street children in the world. Every summer when I visited India, the sight of these street children always troubled me. Children are supposed to be carefree, loved, cared for and protected. Yet I saw children as young as 5 years begging, living under bridges, carrying luggage, fetching tea or working in small industries to support themselves and their families. They live in an environment where they commit crimes, become victims of crime and begin a life of addiction. I thought about these children often even after coming back to the US and always wondered if I could help them in any way.
In the summer of 2010 I had a chance to visit an orphanage in Delhi. When I saw children as young as 3 years, I realized that the most effected victims of drug addicts and poverty were these innocent children. What was even more sad was that these children were not actually orphans. They were children of drug addict parents who could not look after them. or children whose parents were so poor that they could not provide them the basic necessities of life. I will never forget their excited faces when they saw the crayons, colored pencils, and markers I got them, and their joy when they realized that they can keep those supplies. Drawing enabled them to express their ideas, thoughts, and emotions. Their pictures took them to a fantasy world, a world where their hopes were not dreams but realities. What struck me the most was the cheerful and positive attitude of these children and their eagerness to learn. I came to know that I can sponsor a child’s education for 10$ a month. I knew that this was my chance to help. So with the money I got by teaching guitar I decided to sponsor a child.
I made presentations at various schools of Delhi and Assam and talked about topics like drug and alcohol abuse, how addiction effects not only the addict but the entire family specially children, and about the great gift of youth mentoring (which is a relatively new concept in India) A 14-year-old boy was shot five times on his forehead at a school in Delhi. The two students who killed the teenager were his classmates and wanted to teach the “class bully” a lesson. The most common problem, besides the pressure to perform in academics, is standing up to a bully. All three students were victims. This incident could have been easily prevented if the students were taught about bullying and how to stop it, like our schools here in the US. I made presentations about cyber and school bullying . More than 800 students of various schools pledged to be an up stander and stop bullying at schools and make them bully free zones.
I also volunteered at a place called Asha Bhawan which means habitat for hope. This is the place where my uncle lives and works. My Uncle had it all. His drug and alcohol addiction made him loose everything in life, his job, family and home. He was at a point in his life where he used to live under a bridge, stealing, begging for food and money to buy drugs. Nothing mattered to him. His only thought was how to get money for his next shot. But today he is a changed man. He is not only living a sober, honest, self dependent live but also helping others too. What is unique about this place is that recovering drug addicts not only live free of cost but also learn to be drug free and to be self – dependent and sustainable. People learn to get back their self respect and also heal their emotional and spiritual wounds. Here I learned that it’s ok to make mistakes, learn from it and even if one hits rock bottom, one can bounce back in life with dignity.
My visit to India this summer was a life changing experience for me. Spending time at the orphanage made me realize that any contribution, no matter how small, is always appreciated. I have the power to make a difference in this world. They also made me grateful for the everyday things that I often take for granted, and to work hard for the things that I believe in.
Abhinav Saikia

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