they came, they saw, they conquered

For almost a month now, project why has been touched a very special brand of love. Almost a month ago seven bright students from a leading business school in Paris landed on our planet brimming with enthusiasm and energy. Sofia, Aude, Anais, Matthieu, Aymeric, Jessica and Carlos are members of SARI, an association aimed at extending support to organisations in India. This year project why was the chosen one!

I must confess that I was a little apprehensive at first as this was the very first time we were hosting not one, not two but seven volunteers at a time. But somehow the warmth of the emails they sent and their deep commitment was enough to bowl us over.

This unique bunch of kids is not your run of the mill business school scholar. They are kids who have learnt to see with their hearts at an age when most of their peers are busy with mundane pursuits. For the past months they have been busy preparing their trip and have spent many a week ends and holidays fund raising for us: baking cakes and Indian pies or taking up sundry chores, they just did everything they could think of.

For the past month these incredible kids have been battling the odds that awaited them with grit and determination: the heat an dust, the mosquitoes, the power cuts, the over spiced food, the language problem and above all the cultural shock. And frankly nothing can prepare anyone for slum India! I guess many of our own people would find it difficult of not impossible to spend one or even half a day there. But these brave kids soldiered on and after a difficult first week each one of them found their place in project why. And what was even more remarkable was the fact that they even slept in turns at the foster care where life is rudimentary by all standards, a place where I must confess, I would not find it easy to stay.

In the day they each went their way, some to teach at the women centre, others to play with the kids in the creche and still others to Okhla which is by far our most forbidding centre. Questions abounded in their minds and perhaps we were not able to answer them all. It is much easier to deal with an individual than a group and we realised we too had a lot of learning to do. Many things remained unsaid though they were deeply felt by all of us. We would have liked to be able to reach out and interact much more than we actually could.

By the time they leave, the SARI group as we fondly called them, would have left their indelible mark in our hearts. But that was not enough for them. The last week was spent on a huge shopping spree: school bags for the kids at the women centre who use plastic bags in lieu, oodles of mats to replace the threadbare ones, white boards and even clothes for little GyaniChu. But the biggest gift all is the money given to rebuild our Okhla centre that was literally blown apart. The SARI kids will be fondly remembered by each one of us. They conquered our hearts in their own way.

I have often said that I am busy being grateful. And once again I find myself filled with the same overwhelming sense of gratitude. I realise that I often fall short of saying the two sated words: thank you as they cannot even begin to express the depth of my feelings. Perhaps I should use them more often.

There is another thing that the SARI kids have done and that they not are even aware of. They have vindicated a dream of mine, one that I wish I could see happen with their peers in India. I am convinced that India could change for the better if young people from good homes and leading institutions found the time and the commitment to reach out to the less privileged. I wonder whether that day will dawn while I am still around.

Yes our SARI kids will be in our hearts for a long time. I hope they too will remember us and forgive our shortcomings if any. What they did is something they can truly be proud of. And in a land where the divine rules, we will pray that God grants them all that their heart desires.

You can share some of the special moments of their visit here:

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