I was very young, probably just 10 or 12, when a person asked me for food because he was hungry. All I could think was how painful it is that while I was enjoying different meals, somebody out there is begging for such a basic thing, food, which everybody should have. It's our collective responsibility because we can do it; we can help those who are in need.
We are always taught to help others, and I guess the realisation hit home after that encounter. So, I decided it's time to take a step and my motto was 'Ek bhi thaali, nahi rahegi khaali'. I'm an emotional person and it was very tough for me to visit the slums to distribute food because looking at their situation and listening to their stories made me cry. There's no food.
I met drug addicts and understood that there is a wrong perception about them that they don't get hungry because of all the toxic substances they consume, but they begged me to provide them food items that could last for at least two to three days because they were hungry.
My team and I have distributed more than 11,000 food packets and around 1080 ration kits. I used to sleep so peacefully thinking about them enjoying the food we cooked. I have such great friends and family that I don't need to think twice if I want to help others since they have always encouraged me.
Teaching To Uplift Others
My main motive has always been to uplift people, not just to give them food or money. I've been teaching for about six to seven years now. It all started when I was preparing for my 10th board. My household help had a son who wanted guidance in maths and science. I decided to teach him for free.
I keep my doors open, whoever wants an education is welcome, but I also teach those who can pay me because, at the end of the day, I'm also a student trying to fulfill my needs. Till now, I've taught around 100 students. We keep blaming the government for everything that's going wrong but I feel that an empowered individual can empower society. When you don't find a way, you make one. The authorities can only launch schemes, but we people need to look out for each other.
Started A Listening Circle - A Non-Judgmental Space
I'm a people person, but due to lockdown, I was caged inside, and everything felt monotonous. It's unbelievable that a person like me, who is outgoing and an extrovert, had to remain inside the same four walls. There were reports of deteriorating mental health making headlines.
I thought, let's make a free space where people can vent out, and that's how the listening circle was born. It was a virtual meeting where people could enter with a different name like butter chicken, kaka ka bacha, garlic bread, and even Modiji.
The oldest person who attended the circle was 47 and the youngest was 15, it was so amusing that people from different age groups were there to listen to you and help you if you need any. People from different countries, demographics used to attend the listening circle, and everybody supported each other. If anybody wanted to help somebody, they used to give me their number to pass it on to the person in need.
I remember, in one of my listening circle's meetings, there was a girl who was a rape survivor and the rapist was none other than her father, that day everybody cried in the meeting, and nobody said anything to her, no advice nothing but we were all there listening to her in that non-judgmental zone.
Therapeutic Newsletter For All
I also started a newsletter named 'letters by Rayah'. The idea came up after I wrote my very first novel 'With Love, Rayah'. The newsletter was a beautiful good morning message with a very positive approach to make people loved and let them know that there's somebody who cares for you. Around 400 people subscribed to that newsletter, and it's overwhelming to see that you're making 400 people feel good about themselves, maybe for a minute, but still, it matters. I did it for six months straight; I wake up and write something beautiful for others.
I wanted to raise a fundraiser for a kid who did not have money to pay for his fees, and then I went out there, asked others to donate. Initially, I was scared because it's a task to manage all the money and make people believe that I'll actually give it to the person in need but gradually it all worked just fine. The fundraiser raised 12,000 in just 45 minutes, and since then, I try to do fundraisers if I feel it would be a lot for somebody out there. I think if you're doing something for the right cause, things happen.
My only limitation is that I'm connected to youngsters, and eventually, they can't do much. However, I'm hopeful that I'll be able to reach more and more people. I just follow one mantra and that is Stop, Listen and Understand and I'll keep preaching it because it sounds simple but it requires patience.
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