Each individual’s story is unique, filled with personal triumphs, struggles, and moments of resilience. By engaging directly with beneficiaries, we not only gain a deeper appreciation for their experiences, but we also foster a sense of trust and empathy that is crucial in shaping our future endeavors. We seek to create a safe and supportive environment where beneficiaries can share their narratives authentically, knowing that their voices are valued and their stories hold immense significance.
Recognizing the importance of capturing authentic voices and narratives, Soul and Substance stories aim to create a safe space where individuals can express their thoughts, emotions, and aspirations freely, allowing for a comprehensive understanding of the impact of Smile Foundation’s social development programmes on their lives.
Here is the story of a carefree and passionate Roshni* (11 years) trained in our education programme, center located at Shri Ram J.J.Colony, Dhaula Kuan, New Delhi in her own words.
Riya, your teacher told me you dance really well, is that true, what else do you enjoy?
Yes, I love dancing a lot. It’s something I’ve been doing for a few years now at the center. My teacher says I’m good at it, which makes me happy. Apart from dancing, I also enjoy learning rap songs. I like to learn fast songs.
On Saturdays, we used to have dance classes, which I really look forward to. Besides that, I also like doing art and craft activities. But you know, when it comes to dancing, I feel a little shy in front of other people. So, I usually dance alone in my room, copying the moves from songs on TV. I also love reading stories about rulers in the past and the monuments they made.
How long have you been studying at this education center, and what grade are you currently in?
Oh, I’ve been coming to the education center since I was 4 years old. It has been 7 years now. Currently, I’m in class 7th. I really love coming here every day because the teachers are super nice and always ready to help me. I’ve made a few friends here too and I like playing badminton and kho-kho, so every day after class we spend an extra half an hour here to play games. It is a lot of fun.
So, how do you feel about the teachers and staff at the education center? Do you feel supported and cared for?
Yes, Madhu Ma’am is my favourite. She takes care of me and whenever I am unable to attend a class in the centre or I am absent, she calls my mother to ask if I am okay. I love studying history and whenever I read something new and interesting, I tell Madhu ma’am and she appreciates me.
Whenever I read story books, she corrects my pronunciation and asks me to think about how I would want the story to end. I remember once I could not afford a geometry box for my school and I was very upset, Madhu ma’am asked me and I told her my problem. She then smiled and got me a geometry box from the centre saying I should not worry about such small things. She is like my friend and she is always there for me.
That sounds wonderful, what is your everyday routine? Do you also go to school?
Oh yes, I go to Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya School in the morning from Monday to Friday, these days a progamme called Mission Buniyaad is going on, and under this, we are taught different games and extracurricular activities.
My two favourite things dancing and reading classes also take place every day so I do not like to miss school. After school, I come to the education center, where I attend classes and activities. In the evenings, I spend some time doing art and craft activities and helping my mother with household chores.
On weekends, I have more free time, and I often use that time to pursue my hobbies like dancing, reading, and spending time with my family and friends.
Wow, what aspirations and dreams do you have Riya? What do you want to grow up to be?
Oh, I want to be a police officer when I grow up. They’re like superheroes who protect us and make our world safer. Do you know what I find cool? Their uniforms! They look so professional and powerful. I’ve seen police officers in movies, and they always seem so strong and brave.
I want to be someone who helps people and keeps our community safe. My teachers have told me that it also has a lot of benefits like free vacations (giggles). I know it’s not easy, but I’m willing to work hard and learn everything I need to become a police officer one day.
Okay, so you’re interested in free vacations. Would you like to tell us where you want to go on a vacation? What other dreams do you have?
Oh not me, I do not have dreams of vacations and exploring the world but my mother has always wanted to go to Vaishno Devi but we could never afford it. She keeps telling me that when I start earning I must take her there and I have made her a promise that when I am successful, I will use my first salary to take her to her dream place. Nothing will make me happier. This is my ultimate dream.
*Name changed due to confidentiality reasons