I never had many expectations about Aasraa Trust before I came here. I just knew it was a charity which was based in Dehradun which helps out under-privileged children. So what I was about to discover and see was completely indescribable.
Where the children live is somewhere no one in the world should live. I’ve seen the slums on TV in different countries and it hurts a lot to see. But in person is a completely different story. I think I stood in shock when I seen the river dividing the rough part of the slums to the road. It was something like I have never seen before and the fact that children live there just breaks my heart completely.
The children I have met and seen are completely beautiful individuals. They are all so unique and have different personalities. They are all so smart, and I believe that they will achieve a lot more now that Aasraa is helping them out. They can now see what the world has to offer, and they can see what the world looks like. The children are so happy and smile every day. The background stories of all of them are very dark and terrifying that some have made me cry just on the spot of hearing them. The fact some of them go through such horrific things and are constantly happy and smile just makes my heart melt. They are by far the strongest children I have met in my life and will remain to be. The projects they attend all help them with forgetting about what happens at home, and makes them focus on what they are able to do. Some of the older children are so incredibly smart. The Maths they do in particular is incredible. I was never good at maths, but to see what equations they do is amazing. They do it all without a calculator, and it just amazes me. Where I come from, technology has taken over the children’s lives. It’s all about the latest gadget or computer game. The children here just play with what they can. Their imaginations run wild and the games they come up with are amazing and they could put that towards their future.
I stayed in a hostel when I was with Aasraa and I stayed with 5 handsome boys, and 5 beautiful girls. They were so sweet and so easy to get along with. Although there was a communication problem, they still made me feel so welcome, and helped me through the 3 months. Some would hug me after they came home from school, and I felt like they were my family. My 5 younger brothers and my 5 younger sisters of India and they will always remain in my heart. Their faces light up when music is on, or when someone makes a kind donation of clothes. They are very lucky they live in the hostel as many children don’t. They are very smart individuals with a lot of potential. One of them was very creative and everyday shocked me with what he could do. He was so proud of everything he did, and it made me smile. They all made me smile, and made me feel happy when I was feeling homesick. To know some of them don’t have parents and their stories is just torture. But like I’ve said, they are so happy and so grateful for what they have. It makes me really sad to think that some people where I’m from moan about the latest phone, or moan that something isn’t in the fridge. This hostel isn’t just full of children, it’s full of a family which I was welcomed into.
This was my first ever teaching job, and I won’t lie, it was incredibly difficult. I don’t know any Hindi apart from odd parts, which I’d recommend to anyone going out somewhere to teach to learn some bits, to help you as well as to learn something new. My class was group 5 at Haven (boy’s hostel). It was an NIOS class (National Institute of Open Schooling). They were so smart, and caught on very quickly. They loved doing art activities after a class, so that brought a lot more fun into our classes. They were warm and welcoming to me, and were very polite. They loved to joke around, and loved it more when the activites took place. They are amazing children and people all around the world need to notice this charity.
My whole experience with Aasraa has been incredible. It’s been a great experience, learning new things about the charity and area it’s based in, as well as the children and myself. There have been lows with homesickness and learning about the children’s backgrounds and seeing where they live, but I guess that’s it. The whole experience has been emotional yet rewarding.
My goal is to get Aasraa worldwide recognition and get the help and support these children need to become more healthy, hygienic and lead a better life overall.
Anouska Zoe Leonard has been a volunteer with Aasraa since September 2015. She will be leaving for Jersey Channel Islands soon.