Superheroes possess the abilities beyond those of ordinary people and are believed to use their powers to make the world a better place.
Such is the story of Usha Parbhakar whose charitable organisation, Nirmal Jyot, comprising a women-volunteer team has been striving hard towards ensuring quality education for the underprivileged children in Mumbai's Mulund.
In 2010, while walking past a construction site, Usha came across a group of children playing amongst themselves. These were the children of the daily wage labourers engaged in the construction activity. After a cheerful interaction with these kids, she started taking informal classes for them, teaching them basic lessons.
Watching Usha surrounded by curious eyes and surprised faces, a few of her friends expressed interest in teaching children. Later, she along with her friends started conducting classes for the children under the open sky.
The builder noticed this group of women who were dedicatedly spending time to uplift the lives of children belonging to the marginalised section and decided to extend a helping hand to their cause.
Putting the left-over construction material to use, he built a small space that could accommodate these children and their teachers and become their 'classroom'. Eventually, the numbers — both of the students and the elderly volunteers started rising and the idea started travelling places, connecting like-minded people to the initiative.
The school started running morning classes as well and the team decided to take a step further with getting the children admitted to local schools for formal education along with tuition classes.
Education for these children was not limited to the books, Usha and her team realised the significance of lessons on health and hygiene in the lives of these children and their families. The team started explaining the importance of a healthy mind and body and the volunteers helped in sponsoring fruits, milk and dates for the kids.
As the volunteer-children synergy grew, the volunteers brought in the best. They introduced the children to new learning opportunities and many interesting concepts to bring the children at par with the other privileged children residing in the neighbourhood. It was equally important to equip them lessons that would not only help them earn a livelihood but also improve their standard of living.
From instructions on picking hobbies, soft skills to organising interactive sessions with speakers from diverse fields and arranging for fun-filled activities, the volunteers made sure the children were provided with the facilities that any normal school would be equipped with.
In a matter of seven years, the initiative that started as a gathering in the open transformed and registered itself as a charitable trust.
The trustees comprise of five women-pillars— Ms Parul Vora (chair-person), Ms Sunita Ravi, Ms Sangeeta Sindhkar, Ms Meena Kanyalkar and Ms Lakshmi Subramanian.
By 2020, seven batches of children have already cleared high school, many deserving children are still receiving sustained sponsorship for higher education. Some children post their 10th, were helped with vocational training and supported to find suitable means of livelihood.
"When teachers came into our lives, we learnt the importance of education, discipline and how one should present him/herself. We had never imagined that living a better life would be possible for us," said one of the boys.
It has been rightly said that a woman holds the potential to transform not just her own life or of the ones in her family but also the community. Ms Usha's initiative is a shining example of the power of change which began with a bunch of kids and expanded to uplifting the lives of not just the children but also the volunteers.
This story has been received from Giving Circle. It is a platform that connects social change makers, donors, and volunteers. They are working to scale up these initiatives.