What is so special about singing the Happy Birthday song and blowing out candles by this Delhi-based NGO? Like you, it also makes visually impaired children, underprivileged kids, and abandoned adults feel special, loved, and cared.
Wishes and Blessings, founded by Dr.Geetanjali Chopra, is envisioned to be a platform for connecting donors with beneficiaries with the aim of spreading happiness and making dreams come true.
Today on April 20, this initiative turns 5 years old with many successful happy stories to its name. Over the past 5 years of their operation, Wishes and Blessings have witnessed significant growth, and the impact in numbers has been impressive. From sending children to school, to building toilets and providing relief in SOS situations, they have done it all.
In an exclusive interview with Life Beyond Numbers, the members of the NGO share why these children and adults who are either cornered by family members or society because of being differently-abled or for coming from a disadvantaged background, should feel loved and accepted.
The extraordinary journey
For Geetanjali, charity is not something new. Even as a young child she would accompany her grandfather to a school dedicated to visually impaired children to celebrate special events and festivals. Even after his demise, she continued this tradition. It was in 2014 when after celebrating a special Holi with the same visually impaired children, Geetanjali made a leap of faith and created Wishes and Blessings.
The NGO started by working with visually impaired children and soon they expanded to include orphanages, old age homes, and shelters for the homeless. Presently, they work across age, gender, economic and social barriers and address more than nine pressing issues which include education, food, infrastructure, relief, skill development, and health. Currently, the NGO has more than 16 projects dedicated to aiding the underprivileged, fulfilling the ultimate goal of spreading happiness.
Wishes and Blessings run more than 16 centers that are located across NCR, Delhi. The school for visually impaired children has around 100 students enrolled.
“These beautiful children feel a sense of belonging here, they get very excited and elated when we organize birthday celebrations. To relieve them from the insecurities of feeling lonely or alone and to show them there are others too,” says the founder.
“We celebrate the birthdays at an interval of 2 months. These children often come from challenging backgrounds, where their families cannot afford to celebrate their birthdays, and their disability sometimes makes their lives more difficult compared to those who can see,” says Geetanjali.
The celebration day kickstarts by putting birthday caps on all birthday kids, cutting cakes and blowing candles, distributing gifts and throwing a party. To add more happiness to the day, these children sing their favorite songs with a big smile on their face. Further, the members of the NGO arrange special treats for these children and distribute chips, samosa, cake, milk, and chocolates to them.
“Children always crave for love and care. They cherish being loved by someone and like to be in a happy environment. The acceptance they receive here results in high self-esteem. Since its inception, the NGO has celebrated 350 birthdays and looks forward to many more,” she says.
Help those in need
Wishes and Blessings act as a platform to link donors with beneficiaries, to connect those who can help with those who need help. This is directly reflected in the name of the NGO- there are those who have unfulfilled wishes and there are others who can fulfill these and receive blessings in return.
Under the ‘Sponsor a Childhood’ programme by this NGO, the education and overall development of these children are supported by donors across the world. Aged between 5-16, these kids also develop special bonding with the donors and get a dose of motivation to study hard, change their lives for better and build a financially stable and secure future.
The NGO provides the opportunity to make a valuable difference in the lives of underprivileged children who have been denied the most basic right, the Right to Education. Under this programme, the donors are invited to become special bhaiyas(brothers) and special didis(sisters) of differently-abled, underprivileged and orphaned children.
Once the child completes the graduation, they can opt for further studies. “But, most children are inclined towards skill development and vocational training in specialized institutes. Based on their aptitude and talent they get enrolled in workshops which prepare them to become financially independent,” says Chopra.
On being asked how the children respond to studies, a member of the NGO, Riya Gosain says between laughs, “Some like to study, some just hate it. Some are mischievous but there are also some who are extremely compassionate. But, despite all the differences, what’s common is their love for the special birthday cake.”
Apart from securing the future of these children, the NGO also runs two other major programs- The Daily Meals and The Elderly Care.
Through their daily meals programme, the NGO supplies food and shelter to these homeless children, women, men and aged people. “An empty stomach is the breeding ground for social evils. These people are fed 3 hot and nutritious meals a day, thus preventing them from resorting to petty theft and begging to fill their stomachs. This helps them to escape the long, vicious cycle of poverty,” says Geetanjali.
The other initiative, the elderly care, ensures that the second innings of these aged people are full of love and dignity. Inaugurated on April 25, 2018, “Mann ka Tilak” is the shelter home dedicated to the care of the abandoned elderly people of NCR, Delhi.
What makes “Mann ka Tilak” unique? “All facilities are provided completely free of cost. This is to ensure that they live a life full of respect, love, and dignity. It is the first of a chain of old age homes that will be set up across India to help the abandoned elderly age gracefully,” she says to LBN.
Life Beyond Numbers stands with Wishes and Blessings for their selfless effort to spread happiness, love, and care to all.