What inspired me to volunteer
And I have been doing social work for the last 10 and a half years. For the last few years, I’ve been going to AIIMS, to help children who are suffering from cancer. I would say, at least 70-80% of the children under my care, are going through cancer. The first three children that I picked up, back then I had just started doing social work, are dead now. One of the kids, the girl, died in my arms. This changed my life in many ways. Since then, I have been looking after children. And then I began looking after the disabled, then the elderly. And now I will look after anyone in need and has whatever illness.
Helping blind children
Twelve years ago, being diagnosed with depression, I was sent to the Lodi road blind school. I worked as a volunteer there for four or five years. I was helping both the blind school and people in AIIMS. And then I started realising that blind children needed me a lot. I still look after blind girls. I have even adopted a blind girl, not legally but otherwise. If I get a call from the school, I still go and help out.
Journey as a cancer volunteer
When I started this, I thought I could save lives. I thought if the doctors said, take the child home, we will keep trying till the last moment. But with my experience, I can say that when a doctor says to take the child home, all one can do is fulfil all their last wishes. Make the child’s family comfortable. Ensure that if the child survives, they are comfortable.
If the child does not survive, then parents and siblings need a lot of emotional strength. This is what I do. I encourage them to go back to normal life. So we have become a family, we look after each other. And if the child survives, then I start tuition and prep them for school. Right. And I help them with the fees and medical bills.
Power of giving and sharing
When I think about becoming a social worker, I think I might be destined to do so. Being a South Indian, I used to have a lot of fun and had hundreds of friends. Right now, I don’t have a single friend because I don’t have time or energy. But then I believe if the change was not very fast, I won’t be able to sustain it. I have seen many people who suddenly decide to become social workers.
And within three months, they fizzle out. I did not do that. I’m not a giver, just a medium for the underprivileged class. I am just a bridge between the underprivileged and the people who offer funds. I can only offer my time, love, and care. But at the end of the day, money does matter. Everything depends on money but it is not the least important thing when someone is going through an illness.
A promise to not give up
I have seen a lot of suffering. I have seen eyes taken away or body parts being amputated. We believe that we are suffering because of our karma. What has that newborn baby done in this life to suffer like that? Sometimes it makes sense and other times it does not. I’m just living one day at a time. I felt like giving it up many times. So, I made a promise to myself that I’m going to keep working. Currently, I work at least 15 hours a day. I have a lot of health issues. I can barely walk. But I am determined to do it. We reach out to more children. If I’m socialising or giving an interview, it is also a work to reach the privileged class.
Supporting the cancer patients and their families
I have realised that when your intention is very pure, then the universe will give back. People were coming from far-off villages, they were not educated. So, they go through a lot of trauma when they have to get their treatments in AIIMS. If I’m not able to help I tell them I’m sorry about it. But then we give it a try. So with every debt, I promised myself I am going to work more. Like for a child surgery recently, we collected around 5.63 lakhs, and on another day we collected 35,000. When a child had fewer chances of survival, I sent messages to around 500 people, asking them to pray for her so that she could be relieved of her suffering.
One thing worth noting is that every child who has cancer and whose parents are penniless needs a maximum of 10,000 rupees a month to survive. You can adopt a child for a month or for six months all up to you. I said on average. Sometimes one month we have spent 6000 on the child. But another month, the child needs an MRI. If you need to get some scans done or something else, then on average, it’s only 10,000. It’s not much for people like us but is a huge amount for poor people.
I have seen how much people fight for their lives. I just really wanted to give up on my life and I even tried it. But now I have realised after seeing the cancer patients. I had one cancer patient who died six months ago. He wanted to live. How could I give up so easily? So I keep giving and helping them. Of course, we will fight together. I have a lot of cancer survivors. If they are looked after with care and warmth, they are encouraged.