No doubt you’ve seen the bonhomie between grandparents and kids. Old age homes have been trying to harness the strength of that bond between children and senior citizens. “The basic problem for senior citizens in old age homes is loneliness and isolation,” says Prem Poddar of HelpAge India, an NGO working with older people. “Children fill this vacuum beautifully.” HelpAge has a list of about 40 old age homes and directs the child volunteer to an NGO that works best for her/him. But many volunteers, Poddar says, also get in touch with these homes on their own, either individually or in large groups.
While children can read to the elders or write letters for them, the seniors can tell them stories or speak about their experiences. It also appears to set the children thinking. “I wonder if I too will end up this lonely when I am old,” says 13-year-old Anirudhh Sharma, who has helped out a couple of times at Godhuli Senior Citizens Home, Dwarka. The first time he went there, he was reminded of his two grandmothers.
Children also have the option of visiting senior citizens in their homes. “We have a simple formality in terms of getting volunteer cards issued which kids need to carry along to the houses of these isolated senior citizens,” says Susheel Raaja, chairperson, The Help Foundation, an NGO which runs old age homes in Delhi. “In our experience, children respond to the elder’s loneliness with natural love therapy.”
HelpAge India, C-14, Qutab Institutional Area (41688955), www.helpageindia.org.The Help Foundation, 16, Dr Rajendra Prasad Road (9212717171).
Taking care of animals should be a pretty easy sell to most children. While it isn’t all fun, it can be very rewarding. “Given that animal shelters are always short-staffed, kid volunteers can help in a number of ways by assisting in feeding, bathing, taking dogs for a walk or simply spending time with the animals,” says Aarti Verma of Wildlife SOS, an NGO involved in generating awareness on wildlife issues and running animal rescue programmes. “It’s a dirty job, but out of every 10 kids who turn up, we can identify two who are genuinely dedicated.”
Children can also volunteer their services for strays in their colonies. “They can get involved with programmes to spread awareness about stray animals within the colonies and also help collect old newspapers, sacks and so on,” says Ambika Shukla from People For Animals, an organization that works to prevent cruelty towards animals. “Though we do have young children coming forward, the numbers are not as much as we would like. We want kids who are committed and prepared to go beyond the superficial to make a difference.”
Friendicoes SECA, 271 and 273, Defence Colony Flyover market (24314787) . People For Animals, 14, Ashok Road (23357088).Wildlife SOS, D-210, Defence Colony (24621939).
While it’s true that most environmental organizations look for young adults rather than children, here are a couple of suggestions.
“We encourage kids to go in for neighbourhood green accounting,” explains Vikal Samdariya from Kalpavriksh, an organization involved with environmental awareness, campaigns, litigation and research. “Basically, this means observing and recording the various types of trees in their own areas, and issues like tiling around trees that end up choking them.” Following a study of their localities and backed by awareness of environmental laws, the children are encouraged to take up these issues in letters to the people in authority.
The Centre for Environment Education, or CEE, organizes programmes on sustainable living and conducts “green games”. It is also a contact point between volunteers and NGOs working on environmental issues.
Centre for Environment Education, C-40, South Extension II. CEE suggests you first visit www.ceeindia.org then call Prabhjot Sodhi or Sharad Gaur (26262878).
Kalpavriksh, 134, Tower 10, Supreme Enclave, Mayur Vihar, Phase I (22753714 or email at email@example.com. Interested children may form groups to get the basic training on environmental threats and awareness.
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