US teenager prefers service in a Mumbai girls’ home over vacation in Brazil
When Rayna Srivastava, a 16-year-old high school student in Frisco High School, Texas, USA told her parents that she would like to volunteer for social work in India, they were surprised and taken aback, as her schoolmates were planning a trip to Brazil this summer.
But Rayna was unrelenting. She dug in her heels and dragged her parents to India with her.
Rayna taught English, environment, and internet to the inmates of Divya Prabha Home for Girls in Distress
Rayna applied to Divya Prabha Home for Girls in Distress, which is at Thane.
Divya Prabha gives full-time shelter for up to 50 girls at Thane and Vasai, and educates them till they are self-reliant. These are girls from the streets, abandoned by families and often physically and emotionally abused by the very people who are responsible for their safety.
Rayna offered her summer vacation time to help the inmates of the home some conversational English and something about the environment, and also introduce them to using the internet.
The home gets a lot of help in the form of books, clothes and food, but Sister Deodhita was pleasantly surprised to receive a request from a teenager wanting to spend time bonding with the girls at the orphanage.
So, over three weeks from 14 June to 7 July, Rayna not only worked with the kids, but also used her weekends to raise money for the institution.
Rayna is very excited about her work; she says that she has made friends for life and she will continue to be a mentor for these kids and find ways to help them even when she is back in the US.
She hopes to find donors to fund the orphanage’s expenses of Rs 19,000 per child per year. Already, by calling up her family and friends, she managed to raise funds for the expenses of two girls for this year.
For Rayna, as well as her parents Rahul and Waishali Srivastava, these three weeks have been a huge eye-opener.
Says Rahul, who sometimes accompanied his daughter, “IITs and medical colleges should give preference to students who show some work indicating that they have social commitment and empathy with fellow human beings. Just having good marks is not enough.”
The US education system encourages students to do some volunteering and social work, to sensitize them towards less fortunate people.
If a student in USA wants to go to a good university, he is likely to put about 100 hours of voluntary service over a period of 3-4 years, says Rahul, who is a global aviation industry consultant born and bred in India.
Although at first, like many Indian parents, he felt queasy about his daughter’s close proximity with the girls from the orphanage, Rahul now feels that the experience has made his daughter as well as his wife and himself more sensitive to social realities, and made them better human beings.