In the May of 2015, I was able to pay a visit to Swagat Ashram, a small care centre/orphanage run by a Trust in the Kandiwali West area of Mumbai. Being my very first visit to a care centre I was clueless of what the opportunity would offer. I had always heard of the immense joy people feel on donating basic necessities and money to the unfortunate but had never experienced it first hand. The idea to do something good with the money I received from my book State of the Heart was always there. After much thought and deliberation, Swagat Ashram proved to be the answer. It was time to experience the unexperienced.
After speaking to the in charge over the phone to fix the date and time I learnt of the do’s and don’t’s. Outside food was not allowed for hygienic and health reasons. However one could choose to serve in-house made breakfast (which included poha and milk) at a cost of Rs.2000/- or lunch or dinner (which included roti, rice, a side dish and sweet) for Rs.4000/-. Choosing to serve breakfast, I made myself present on the appointed date and time. I thought I was well prepared but didn’t expect what was in store even in my dreams.
As I entered the room where the young children were seated they cried out in unison, “Namaste“. Hearing that I was floored. Never before did that word sound so sweet and humbling. Never before it brought me so much joy and feel welcome. I hadn’t even started serving breakfast but had already received my reward. I knew what I was doing was right, and if nothing else, the morning would go well for these children. Handing over a simple plate of poha to every child and getting a “Thank You” from each one of them moved me.
After feeding the children I clicked many pictures with them. The excitement on being captured was second to none. Screams and joys of laughter with every kid wanting to be in every picture was typical of childhood. Those kids didn’t and wouldn’t know how they looked, or use those pictures for a future reference, but they didn’t seem to care. They smiled so bright that my phone camera chose to skip the flash. It knew it was no match for the million-watt bright smiles.
It was then time to meet the older kids. Having said the good-bye’s, I headed off to meet the older kids not too far away from the original place. There I was met with the same joy I had received earlier. It seemed as if I was watching a sequel which matched its prequel to the same degree. Before leaving the place I met and interacted with the staff and volunteers who provide for and care for the forgotten. Great things are indeed possible by many hands. Donating some money so they may continue the good work I headed home, but completely content and blessed. The visit for me was the highlight of 2015.
Not being able to go in 2016, I made it a point to pay a visit in 2017. Nothing had changed. I was greeted with the same fervour, welcoming staff and kindness. What had changed were the kids and how they had grown. The kids were surprised when I showed them pics of their younger days. They were just not able to contain the excitement. I completed my visit and headed home.
2017 had begun well.
If you would like to see the pics and compare how they had grown, check the following links:
If you would like to connect with Swagat Ashram and feel what I experienced, you can reach them at the following address.
Swagat Ashram Charitable Trust
Child Social Service Organization · Ganesh Nagar, Kandiwali West
Address: Ganesh Nagar, Kandiwali West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400067, India
Phone: +91 92203 33498 (Mayuri)