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Snehankit Helpline Salutes its Volunteer Force

International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development falls on 5 th December. It is a day set aside by the United Nations (UN) for promoting volunteerism, encouraging governments to support volunteer efforts and recognise volunteer contributions to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.

Snehankit Helpline has always recognised and celebrated the efforts of its volunteer force, which serves as the backbone of many of the organisation’s programmes. Every year Volunteers Day is celebrated with great enthusiasm to cheer the immense contributions of the volunteers. This year the special day was celebrated on 14 th December 2019 at Bal Vikas Kendra, Ramabai Paranjpe Balmandir at Vile Parle (East).

EVERGREEN VOLUNTEERS was the title of this year’s unique programme. The concept behind the programme was to celebrate the talents and skills of the volunteers and give them an opportunity to share these with others. Volunteers were requested to register the skill or talent they wished to showcase or perform. The talent could be anything that could be of use to visually impaired persons or it could be something performed for entertainment. The celebration was well attended by more than 50 volunteers who came to together to honour one another.

An Emotional Welcome

Our Founder, Ms Parimala Bhat, welcomed everyone and spoke eloquently about the humble

beginnings of Snehankit Helpline in 2001. Started with just a handful of people, they had to think of ways to attract volunteers to the organisation. Timely interviews given by Paritai and articles on Snehankit Helpline in newspapers such as Loksatta and Maharashtra Times brought in the first wave of volunteers ready to take the mission of Snehankit forward. At that time the activities of Snehankit only included audio recording of books, reading to the visually impaired students and being their scribes during their college level exams.Paritai spoke with emotion about those first volunteers who have remained with Snehankit even to this day. Snehankit was able to increase its activities manifold, due to the enthusiastic support of the volunteers.Starting with recording books for undergraduate college students in Mumbai, the scope increased to recording books for competitive exams in Maharashtra. Now recordings are done for books used in competitive exams, Bank exams, UPSC, Physiotherapy and many more subjects.

Braille printing in various languages, conversion of physical books into computer based e-books,tutoring in mathematics and science, residential camps for visually impaired children and students are the many activities that the volunteers have come forward in large numbers to support and participate in. Paritai honoured the volunteers and called them the foundation on which Snehankit Helpline stands. The next goal is to reach out and serve the visually impaired at the national level.

Evergreen Volunteers’ Performances

Ms Mrunalini Gupte was the Master of Ceremonies for the evening, introducing each of the

volunteers who had registered to perform. She reminded us that each individual has some talent or skill. Some get encouragement and opportunities to perform, while some are shy and keep their talents to themselves. Snehankit Helpline today presented an opportunity to all those who have some talent or skill, which has remained hidden in the hurly burly of daily life.

Ms Mangala Raje read out her published short story titled “Anaath” (Orphan). The story highlighted the need for selflessness in volunteer work. Any volunteering done with a selfish motive can cause untold damage in unforeseen ways was the moral of the story.

Ms Rashmi Tipnis came forward with a story from her own experience of how not to judge a book by its cover. She narrated the story of her first foreign trip as a young woman with her husband. They travelled to many European countries and had some unsavoury experiences there, which left them feeling quite unsafe and insecure. However, the one place where they thought they wouldn’t be comfortable, Karachi Airport, was the one place where they experienced the most feeling of brotherhood, love and security. The kindness of everyone from the security guards to the local airline staff to the highest ranked officer touched their hearts forever.

Ms Anjali Naidu, an MA in Hindustani Music rendered a Thumri: “Jiya loji mora sawaria” in her

melodious voice.

Mr D.G.Mishra came forward with a beautiful story (writer: anonymous), translated in Marathi,

about using our senses other than sight to enjoy experiences. The story was about a meal served in a darkened restaurant where one enjoys the food through the senses of touch, taste and smell without being able to look at the food. It turns out that the servers in the restaurant are all visually impaired and we learn that there is no such thing as ‘disabled’, there is only ‘differently abled’. Everyone can enjoy life to the fullest if we are open to it. The story ended with a message to donate eyes. Mrunal Tai reminded all about last year’s sensitisation workshop where all volunteers were blindfolded and made to do tasks for an hour to appreciate how it is to be visually impaired.

Ms Sandhya Oak, a theater and TV performer, presented a short monologue from the play

Ithe Oshalala Mrutyu by Vasant Kanetkar. The monologue deals with Yasubai reminding Pant of his duty to fight after the passing of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Ms Oak dazzled everyone with her histrionics on stage.

Ms Alka Shravane came up next to talk about our responsibility to save the environment by cutting our carbon footprint. Using public transport, car-pooling, walking or cycling short distances, saving water, planting trees are all ways in which we can reduce our carbon footprint. The concept was beautifully brought to our attention via a short story.

Dr Madhura Ghayal, Retd. HOD – Microbiology at Jai Hind College read out her essay “Impressions of America”. She said that contrary to general impressions of American cities being concrete jungles or of American people being low on human values, she found that in large parts of America, there is great love for nature and preservation, and American people have good family values and have more trust and faith in humanity than we do in India. She remarked about how the tourist spots are well packaged and marketed, which is something we could learn from them. She also observed that young Indian immigrants who have gone there more recently feel lonelier and isolated since they have not made efforts to form a community around themselves.

Ms Geeta Agni read out a small parable by Shankar Abhyankar about how to apply the teachings of the Bhagwat Gita in daily life. Doing your duty efficiently and effectively is Karmayog, learning and then practicing and applying it is Gnanayog and giving what we have with love to others is Bhaktiyog – this was the short and sweet summary of the divine book by Ms Agni.

Ms Janhavi Joshi gave a spirited Kathak performance on the song ‘Nigahen milane ko jee chahata hai’. The audience was with her at every step, clapping rhythmically with the beats of the song. The performance was highly appreciated by all.

Talented poet Mr Suryakant Jadhav recited a few poems from his published book of poems. Seeing the large number of women volunteers he recited poems celebrating womanhood: ‘Tu jawal nastana’ (When you are not near), ‘Manapasoon’ (inside a woman’s heart), ‘Na ga bai hasoo’ (laugh not, my dear). He also read out a poem about a father’s observations and experiences: ‘Mula mothe zhalya aata’ describing how difficult it is for fathers to form a close bond with their children. Finally he recited a poem about poetry itself: ‘Kaa aste ho hi kavita?’ (what is poetry?).

At the end of the evening, Ms Mangal Raje requested all the volunteers to come forward and

introduce themselves. It was great to see the wide variety of backgrounds and experiences that the volunteers brought with them. It was a humbling experience to hear about the accomplishments of many of the volunteers and the passion they brought to their work with Snehankit Helpline.

The Vote of Thanks was given by Ms Suvrata Samant to all present. Mr Chindarkar and volunteers Mr Girish Gadre, Mr Rajendra Lanje, Mr Sanjay Dabke, Ms Mrunal Gupte, Ms Varsha Joshi and Ms Sandhya Tanpure were specially thanked today for attending the Snehankit Helpline's office at Andheri everyday and doing the everyday work of running the Helpline. Bal Vikas Kendra, which allowed the use of the hall free of charge was also thanked. The formal part of the evening ended with the singing of the National Anthem.

No write up of a Snehankit event is really complete without mention of the sumptuous food. Today was no exception. The event began with tea and delicious chakli made by Snehankit Helpline volunteer Ms Sandhya Tanpure and the evening ended with fulfilling sweet and savoury snacks.

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