Two summers ago, I embarked on the Veerayatan volunteering programme to Kutch and Palitana. As a naïve sixteen-year-old, I had little knowledge about the projects Veerayatan conducted or the values that Veerayatan embodied. However, after my two-week experience, I was extremely touched by the compassion, dedication and love the organisation displayed to all. My short experience with Veerayatan not only changed my outlook on life, but made me better appreciate and value the luxuries we are lucky to have.
One story really touched my heart during these two-weeks. Whilst in Kutch, I had grown close to a group of young girls studying at the boarding school. On one occasion during the beginning of my stay, I was bowing down to Acharya Shriji and I dropped my sunglasses. Someone who was behind me then accidentally stepped on them and broke the lens. Since I had no place to put them, I kept them on my head, thinking the children would find it entertaining looking at my broken sunglasses. By the last day, the sunglasses were but a distant memory as so much had happened since. However, as I walked outside on the last day, I saw the young girls giggling outside; they immediately encircled me and presented me with sunglasses identical to my own! These children, who came from humble backgrounds and for whom a simple pencil or paper were expensive purchases, had, using their own money, orchestrated the purchase of a replacement. Suddenly these sunglasses turned from being a useful commodity to an expression of humanity so beautifully personified by these children.
It was stories such as these as well as the organisation’s altruism and empathy towards the less fortunate that inspired me to find an opportunity to give back even a little of what they had given me. Since 2001, a committee of students at my school, Bancroft’s, have produced a charitable show called ‘Taal’ which translates to ‘the beat of life’. It is a multicultural show incorporating a variety of different cultures, predominantly from Southern Asia, through a showcase of music, dance and theatre. This year, I was the Treasurer of a five-person committee for the show that was performed on 7th and 8th February, 2020. As Treasurer, I was responsible for generating sponsorships and donations, co-ordinating ticketing and handling all financial matters. One of the primary duties of the committee was to select the recipient charities and I had no hesitation in proposing Veerayatan as one of the nominated charities due to its positive global impact as well as my personal experiences. After 3 months of hard work, dedication and preparation, we delivered the show to an audience of about 1,200 people over the two nights. Due to the large success of the production, I am delighted to say that we raised over £25,000 for our nominated charities, with Veerayatan receiving a cheque for £9,200.
It fills me with real joy and happiness that I was able to give back to Veerayatan after witnessing and experiencing their work first hand. I would like to encourage people of all ages to fundraise, because after all, “as you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands - one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”
By Anya Shah