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Aspire, from the Latin word ‘aspiro’, loosely translates as ‘to breathe for a purpose’. I must confess that find it rather perplexing how many of us involuntarily, and somewhat mechanically, follow the beaten path to success, but very rarely stop and listen to our heart’s calling. I consider myself fortunate to have found my ‘aspiro’ – an unflinching purpose that I hope to dedicate my life to – and today I want to share my story.

As part of my role as Miss India Botswana 2014, I was given the opportunity to visit Gamodubu - an impoverished village situated on the outskirts of Gaborone, Botswana. Little did I know that this casual visit would metamorphose into one of most defining moments of my life; one that would enkindle my inner calling.

As my friend and I made our way through the dusty roads of Gamodubu, hordes of hollering children frantically chased after our car, cheering us on as though we were heroes returning from a successful conquest. On arriving at Gamodubu Childcare Trust, we asked a few of these children what they aspire to be when they grow up. One child shouted ‘Piloot!’, another exclaimed ‘Teecha!’, and a young girl coyly said, ‘Soshal Worka’. Their unbounded hopefulness and refreshing zeal for life left me in awe. Later, I came to discover that the 14-year-old orphan who aspired to be a social worker was in fact a rape survivor who had recently given birth to a baby girl. Her story shook me to the core. It astounded me that despite the insurmountable challenges she faced, this young girl was determined to put the suffering of others before her own. In just one meeting, I felt an affinity with the children of Gamodubu; I knew that their dreams would become my purpose.

Mother Teresa’s maxim, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples” has found a profound place in my heart. In my own effort to ‘cast a stone’, I founded Ray of Hope Project with the mission to educate and empower underprivileged children at Gamodubu village. As part of the initiative, our team of dedicated high school and college students has initiated a weekly educational program at Gamobodu where we over 50 tutor orphans, rape survivors and HIV/AIDs afflicted children in English, Maths and Life Orientation.

It has been two years since Ray of Hope’s dawn - as I look back on my journey thus far, I am reminded of a few instances which reinforced my passion for service; like the time when I was informed that the efforts of our team at Gamodubu had resulted in 13 students, some of whom were previously on the verge of dropping out of school, attaining A’s in their final exams – a first for the village. Or the moment when I gifted a little boy his first pair of shoes for Christmas and he uninhibitedly flung his arms around me and told me that I was his best friend. Or when a 2-year-old orphan, and my favourite child at Gamodubu, called me Mama for the first time. These seemingly trivial incidents have made realize that, while I may have made a small difference in these children’s lives, they have most definitely left an indelible mark on me.

If my experience could speak for itself, it would attest to the importance of teamwork and unity of purpose. Though I longed to help the children of Gamodubu, it was only when I brought a team of like-minded people together that we were able to make a lasting difference. As I embark on the path of altruism, I am conscious of my immersion in the realm of all past, present and future humanitarians, and I recognize that though my efforts may be humble, I am contributing to the ripple effect.                                                                            

This is the purpose I breathe for - aspiro.

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