On 14th November, India celebrates Children’s Day in fond remembrance of our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru or ‘Chaha Nehru’ as the kids affectionately called him. While the ‘architect of modern India’ laid a strong foundation, even in 21st century India, millions of children continue to be stuck in the vicious circle of poverty, completely missing out on their childhood.
This is the story of one such person, who witnessed the deprivation from a very young age and despite the challenges, rose above them all. Menaka Stephen comes from a less fortunate background. Her father abandoned her family when she was just a child and her mother, who worked as a housemaid, found it extremely tough to provide for the family. However, Parikrma Humanity Foundation, which works for the education and empowerment of underprivileged kids, took her in and gave her a platform to showcase her innate talent.
Parikrma Humanity Foundation was started in 2003 with almost 135 children. 8-year-old Menaka was part of the first batch and her life since then has been one of positivity and sheer determination. In the course of her education, Menaka bagged awards of ‘Best All-Rounder’ and ‘Best Student’. Although financial problems continued to cause a strain, young Menaka did not lose heart. She had to drop out of her hospitality course in the final year, but she immediately got a stable job. She later joined IBM as a receptionist and for all intent and purposes, her life seemed settled and happy.
However, she could not forget the support she got at Parikrma Humanity Foundation when she needed it the most. Working at a stable job, Menaka couldn’t help but reflect on the huge role the NGO had played in her life.
Menaka shares, “When I was growing up, every single time I used to wish somebody had just helped me. And Parikrma did. It helped protect my childhood. It helped protect my innocence. I have always wanted to give back but I didn’t know how.”
She decided to follow her heart and give something back to the society and the NGO which helped protect her childhood and innocence. Menaka left her job and joined as a volunteer, teaching arts and crafts to students at one of the schools under the Parikrma Humanity Foundation.
Today, Menaka is an Environmental Science Teacher with Parikrma and she hopes to give the students the same love and support that she received. Menaka’s life has been tough but the fire in her still burns bright, and with that fire, she wishes to light the torch of education in other kids who are in desperate need of unconditional love and support.
She shares, “I could not have asked for more from life as this is what makes me the happiest. Seeing these kids and being with them keeps the child in me alive as well.”
(Text Source: The Logical Indian)