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Untold Story of a CHERISHing Soul

'A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.' Here is a quintessence of benevolence who has devoted her time for the upliftment of downtrodden - Mrs. Neelima. Read on!
Talking to certain people and listening to their work can fill you with loads of inspiration. One such visionary is Neelima. At the end of our conversation, I got two of my questions answered. Look into her story and let them unfold. Being a woman with a great passion to give back to the society, she gave up her job as a HR manager in a Singapore-based company and walked into an organization run by a citizen of UK to play an effective role in ameliorating the conditions of the casualties of society. This particular organization was working for the street children, but then, she was sent back saying that she does not possess a professional degree and is not qualified to be a part of their work. She questioned, “What professional degree one is supposed to hold in order to serve people? It just needs the service motive arising from the bottom of your heart.”
This particular incident did not stop her, but in fact triggered her and she completed her course in social work and knocked his doors again. Looking at her determined attitude to serve people and work for their well being, he not only roped her into the firm but also handed over the entire responsibility. He saw within her a dynamic lady who was racing ahead with selfless motive and the zeal within her to change the society.

However her marriage brought her to Hyderabad leaving behind the job where she put her soul. Plucking a flower off a garden can’t diminish its beauty as its fragrance would spread all around in its surroundings irrespective of that being a paradise or a dark abyss. This assertion stands good for Neelima as it lead to the emergence of CHERISH.

Initially, I was focusing on taking up the children from slums who are mainly rag pickers. When I went to the slums to talk to them about this noble initiative, all that I heard was that their child earns a daily income of 75-150 and that I had to pay them the respective amount if I took the child along with me. I tried explaining them that an investment in knowledge pays the best dividends. But, the person was trying to draw a comparison between his sons; younger son who discontinued his education after tenth and accompanies him for work in order to earn daily wages and supports the family while the elder one who pursued his graduation, but sits at home in the clutches of unemployment. It showed the pathetic condition faced by the educated poor who lacks support from the government.
She finally went to Mehdipatnam railway station where she traced more than 10 needy people who were ready to come with her. “I walked along with the bunch of these ten people from the railway station to Talagudda in search of accommodation. Struggles didn’t stop there; people were not ready to rent a house for the street children. Lastly, there was a house beside a graveyard which was left unoccupied due to superstitions. I provided shelter to the kids there.” That marked the dawn of CHERISH.

At the time of registration, it had to be a body of seven people. So, the team had two software engineers and the others were residents of US. She is the only active member who is running it. These days, it is difficult to find a like-minded person who doesn’t expect profits but are ready to work selflessly. An organization like this needs a guiding force in the form of a determined person who puts his/her heart and soul and works for improvising the life of others. “I have seen that the firm I was working for could flap its wings high as long as it was under the supervision of my boss. But as he passed away, it just faded out due to lack of life in its working. My ultimate wish would be someone taking up my organization after me and letting this golden work that I started with so much of passion, not just be a page in the history but continue transforming lives with the same glory.
Presently, CHERISH family consists of 42 girls. She focuses more on girls who are orphans as well as the ones who are not supported by their parents, are pulled back from schools and are sent to work as servant maids. She wants to put an end to this culture. Girls deserve an equal right to education and freedom to live their own life. After 7 years of this voyage, today the NGO consists of kids from different backgrounds- beggars, rag pickers, Bhogi-cleaning staff and also girls from brothel houses. Initially all that they did was playing caroms and watching television. Today, Neelima proudly says that each and every kid goes to school. It is not very important that they achieve excellence in academics but she aims in bringing them out of the bad jobs they are involved in. One’s childhood plays an important role in shaping their mindsets and moulding them into better citizens. She would at least want to see them settle in jobs like salesgirls, drivers, tailors and others that can earn their living in the right way. With this foresight, she has started providing them training programmes like driving, tailoring apart from technical education so to earn their living and stand on their own feet at an early age itself.

When I started it, I felt that my deep desire to change the lives of people would be sufficient to sail the ship of Cherish but very soon I realized that it is not a cinch. It involves a lot of hardships and impediments. Many a times I have encountered situations where kids tend to become emotional and come to me talking about their horrific pasts and vivid imaginations. I feel I need proper counseling in order to handle situations like that. In spite of all this I managed to forge a small world, free from trammels of impecuniosity to these tender hearts. In Neelima’s words- “For me, best feeling of happiness is when I am happy because I have made somebody else happy. The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.

As quoted in the beginning, Neelima’s story answers two important questions; firstly, how do you gain immortality? You light up people’s lives and are remembered forever because of your noble deeds. As rightly said by Randi G. Fine, ‘Be the beacon of light in someone’s darkness.’ The second being the question of true happiness. It lies in giving and serving others. The soul’s greatest joy is in discovering itself and in helping others to achieve the same goal.

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Any facts, figures or references stated here are made by the author & don't reflect the endorsement of iU at all times unless otherwise drafted by official staff at iU. This article was first published here on 6th April 2016.
Interning IJ Sowparnika Koka
A spirited individual who believes in passing the learned lessons to the world.

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