Flying the flag for Snehalaya
As we mark Giving Tuesday we’d like to introduce someone who has given us a lot, both in her own time and fundraising. Through sharing her love of our causes and beneficiaries with her own networks of friends and family she has been flying the Snehalaya flag helping to spread the word of our work far and wide.
Here we ask Meg why Snehalaya means so much to her and why she has been inspired to keep on giving to us time after time.
You first visited Snehalaya in 2015 as one of a group of Raise & Give (RAG) volunteers from the University of Leeds, UK. What first inspired you to volunteer and from all of the RAG projects on offer why did Snehalaya appeal to you?
My decision to volunteer for Snehalaya was quite spontaneous, I have always been passionate about helping others and had wanted to travel to India for some time. The trip seemed the perfect way to incorporate both of these interests. Snehalaya also appealed to me as its focus is on improving the lives of women and children – most RAG projects are to help one or the other, not both.
Was this your first volunteering experience, if not what else have you done?
I have volunteered in smaller projects throughout my life but this was my first full-on experience in the field. Previous to my trip I had volunteered for a couple of days at a school for children with special needs and had been involved with fundraising/ raising awareness for Animal Welfare charities at my University.
What was your Snehalaya experience like?
I know this is a cliché but I do believe my Snehalaya experience altered my outlook on life. Seeing how much of a difference you can make to the lives of others puts things in perspective and makes you realise what is important. When you volunteer you expect to make a difference to somebody else, but I was unaware as to how much my own personality would change and improve through the experience.
Travelling with a RAG society meant I met like-minded people from my University who have now become life-long friends. When you live together and experience such unique situations as a team you become close far quicker than you would under normal circumstances. I couldn’t recommend this experience enough!
You have just visited for a second time, why did you choose to come back?
I chose to return to Snehalaya to see what the experience would be like alone. I wanted to push myself to volunteer without the support network of my University friends. Since my first trip I had been assisting Snehalaya and the Her Voice campaign with some social media marketing, which had kept me in the loop of the goings on of the charity. Because I was constantly in contact with a lot of the other volunteers it meant I was always reminded of how much fun I had on my first trip.
However, the main reason I came back was because I promised the children I would – and I wanted them to know I would keep my promise!
How was your second trip different?
My second trip was totally different, I had more independence and opportunity to specialise how I wanted to spend my time. I had the chance to sit down with the staff at Snehalaya and explain which projects I enjoyed the most during my last trip, which meant my experience this time was far more personalised than when in a group.
Although I would recommend volunteering in a group for your first visit to Snehalaya, I did feel like more of the ‘team’ this time around. With some experiences more difficult to do when there are 12 of you, you naturally have more flexibility when solo and can be more spontaneous with how you spend your time. When you are alone you are pushed to get out of your comfort zone even further.
We were really pleased when you offered to fundraise for the construction of our new Adoption Center. Thank you so much, you have raised £626 so far, what made you choose this project in particular?
During my trip in 2015, I spent the majority of my time helping out at the adoption centre, not only with the babies but with the young mothers also. Spending that much time there made it obvious how much the project needs a new building, as more and more babies come in every month. The fantastic new building began its construction but has had to be paused due to lack of funds. When finished it will be able to house many more abandoned infants and have state-of-the-art medical equipment. I am so passionate about this construction being completed that I specifically fundraised for it this time around.
Why should someone give to Snehalaya rather than another organisation?
The incredible thing with Snehalaya is that the charity doesn’t just fix problems, it creates solutions. Snehlaya doesn’t just give HIV treatment to children of sex workers, it abolishes the whole under-age prostitution industry in Ahmednagar. Snehalaya doesn’t just rehabilitate children from the slums, it has the country’s number 1 Childline service to make sure all children have a safe outlet if they are in danger. Snehalaya hasn’t just successfully had over 300 abandoned babies adopted, it’s Centre for Women in Distress rehabilitates and cares for young mothers and provides a safe haven for any woman in need of help.
It is the only charity in India to have 16 successful projects that focus on the bigger societal issues surrounding the sex industry and HIV.
What is your favourite memory of Snehalaya and why?
My favourite memory is from my most recent trip to India. In 2015 I met a young boy at Snehalaya who could not speak one sound, let alone a word due to the fact that he is deaf. He was shy and struggled to make friends as he could not communicate well with any of the other children.
Upon returning this year I watched him sing in front of his whole school, count to 10 and communicate with his friends in sign language. Due to Snehalaya’s education, rehabilitation and love he is now one of the happiest, most confident children I have ever met. Snehalaya have made it possible for him to live a normal life despite his disability – what could be more memorable than that?
Thanks Meg, we look forward to seeing you for a third visit soon!
If like Meg you would like to give a little towards the construction of our new 50-bed adoption center (pictured below), click here. If you'd like to get involved in fundraising, volunteering in the UK or visiting our projects in India, please visit www.snehalaya.org for more information .