“Would you like to coach freely some slum kids for 1-2 hours on weekends?” a companion asked the second year bio-medical student.
Just for an outing, Kinjal Shah agreed to go that Saturday evening with 5-6 girls to the nearby Gulbai Tekra slum in Ahmadabad, Gujarat.
Kinjal found the government school kids interesting, inspiring and intelligent. Their parents are involved in making statues. They engaged their children too in their traditional occupation.
“I always wanted to do something in the education field. Why not I too contribute to society,” Kinjal asked herself that evening.
Though in the beginning she taught the kids only on weekends, gradually it became a daily schedule. Besides explaining their school lessons, Kinjal also taught these underprivileged children what was not taught in the schools — basic hygiene, nutrition and supplementary education.
Her life with these kids for three years made Kinjal realize that some of them were very smart but were denied of opportunity, with no one to guide them and finance their higher studies.
After graduation, many of her friends planned to go abroad for higher studies and to secure jobs. But Kinjal decided to continue her life with these kids. “No, I cannot abandon these kids this way,” she explained to her ambitious companions. They laughed at her. She responded by saying, “You had better get employed abroad and help these kids with your money!”
Though Kinjal got employed in a big company in her town, she soon left, saying, “My happiness was not in getting a big pay, but bettering the future of these kids.”
Though her family and friends criticized her forleaving the job, her father stood with her. The progress of the kids also encouraged her.
With financial assistance from her friends and relatives, Kinjal sent the children to the town to get a higher education. But getting the girls to continue their education after the eighth grade became very difficult since their parents were unwilling to send the grown-up girls outside their village, besides involving them in their household chores and family business.
Kinjal’s NGO Shwas (Breathe Life Into) educates 650 children and has employed teachers. The work that she began eleven years ago has spread to eleven localities in Ahmadabad. Forty-five children are receiving a higher education with the help of Shwas. Many children have also been admitted to private schools in the town. The village kids also visit different places to expose them to the outside world.
Kinjal requests well-to-do families to adopt at least one poor child, preferably a girl. If they find it difficult to continue their support after a few years, some others could adopt that child. “Like this it can become a chain,” she says. “Many are interested in doing such good work,” Kinjal adds proudly.