Roads less takenNews — By The Desk on October 26, 2009 at 10:38 AM
The Times of India: Her idea of community service goes a little beyond the usual. Apart from being meaningful, she believes, it should also be fun.
In fact, Sheetal Kharka, founder-cum-managing director of the Innocent Heroes Foundation an organisation that serves as a bridge between the corporate world and NGOs that work for children prefers the term “social entrepreneurship” to social work. The 34-year-old employs her professional skills to the task of getting sponsorship and expertise to aid the cause closest to her heart: personality development for underprivileged children. The objective is to provide them the confidence and exposure to face the world beyond the protective confines of the NGOs that house them, as well as vocational training to make them employable and self-sufficient.
When the investment banking professional gave up full-time work to mainly concentrate on underprivileged children, she decided that she wanted to explore new territory. “Apart from taking care of their basic needs like schooling, safety and health care, these kids need to develop the confidence to interact with the world outside. How long can they live with the NGOs after all?” she says. “For that, personality development, be it an exploration of one’s god-given abilities, creative workshops, sporting activities like cricket matches and treks, is vital.”
And even as Sheetal continues with her consultancy, she uses her contacts to bring help where it is needed be it in the form of sponsorship or know-how. “Having been a part of the corporate world, I can persuade people I know to extend a helping hand for various events and trips,” she says.
So be it an inter-NGO cricket tournament for the Innocent Heroes trophy, a trek in the Himalayas, or dance programmes to spread awareness on the need to save water, Sheetal believes in pushing the envelope in order to provide a children an assortment of experiences. “When a child sees something he has not seen before, he starts to think, to dream,” she says. “For instance, in the course of organising a dance programme, there are a variety of expertise that are required from lighting the stage to composing the music to choreographing and co-ordinating the sequence. I rope in people I know to help me with the same, and give all participants concerned a chance to interact.”
Though the journey so far has been fruitful, Sheetal would call for a change in approach from NGOs. “They are a bit conservative in their approach. And while I understand that they are protective of their children, it would be nice if they were open to different people especially youngsters bringing their respective contributions to help their children. For instance, a socially committed person may not necessarily conform to a particular standard of dress or speech, but don’t judge them on that,” she says.
“Similarly, when I have approached people for help in organising a particular trip or event, they will ask me: why don’t you build a library instead? To which, I would ask: don’t they try to develop their own children’s personalities through an assortment of activities that are a value-addition to their growth as individuals? So why can’t the underprivileged children have the same benefit?” she says.