-Penned by Communications Intern Tanay

One of the strongest drives in humans is to protect and nurture children. It is the only drive strong enough to override the other instinct of self-preservation. This is seen with the many videos on the internet of people performing near superhuman feats to save children- their own or otherwise- from imminent physical danger. Children are one of the aspects of life that make people look outside of themselves- of their own self-interest. 

For most adults, this instinct to nurture children only surfaces once in a while, while encountering the children of friends or family- until they are consumed by it when they have children of their own. A few individuals have found that nurturing this base yet noble instinct is what they find most fulfilling in their lives. These are the teachers, caregivers and many other professions that involve the care of children. We have these people to thank for every new generation that they mould and form into grown human beings.

The team at Sharana is comprised of such individuals. The team’s investment and dedication in the children’s wellbeing and happiness is obvious to anyone who has spent even a little time at the organisation.

Sharana works mostly with children from very underprivileged backgrounds. ‘Sharana’ means ‘refuge’, ‘shelter’ or ‘protection’. This is best illustrated by this image of street and slum children in the days when Sharana ran a day-care centre.

In this program street and slum children could come to our centre and sleep, rest, take a shower and have a hot meal. This was necessary because these things would not normally be available to them.

This is only one example of how Sharana has had an enormous influence on children’s lives over the past two decades. The other that comes to mind- these examples are not the extent of how Sharana has touched children’s lives- is that many of the children we support are first-generation school goers. The impact of Sharana is not lost to the children themselves when they grow up. Some are still in contact with the social workers and express their gratitude if they happen to encounter other members of the team. Some have even made contributions to Sharana when they began to make a living.

I would like to end with my own experience on working with children. I work in communications at Sharana, so any direct work with beneficiaries is extremely rare. However, during the summer camp I was  asked if I could conduct a mime workshop with the children as I had done a little bit of Theatre in school. Child Protection officer and Art Therapist Manuel was present at all times to ensure the co-operation of the children and bridge the language gap, and also provide valuable inputs as he also has some experience with stage performance. We began to work towards a small performance consisting of several 5-10 minute pieces by groups of 2-3 children each. This performance would be seen by all the other 100 children at the summer camp and some of their parents.

The children were shy and awkward when we began, but over the course of three weeks, began to come up with their own suggestions and improvisations. This brought great joy to me as it meant they were invested and were enjoying the activity. At one point, one of the pieces became longer and longer with each practice performance!

When the day of the performance came, we painted their faces to resemble the characters. The final performance was one of the most fulfilling artistic experiences for me, because I saw the children slowly come out of their shells and enjoy the audience’s appreciation. Even with this short experience I realised that facilitating a child’s growth and development is an honour and a privilege.