By Volunteer Remya R, FHI Chennai
There are many NGOs and charity places that focus on providing monetary / academic support for kids but there aren’t enough organizations that give due importance to mental health. Research says that a child’s subconscious programming is formed between the age of 2 to 6 years. That is when they consciously start understanding who they are and form their beliefs and habits. As scary as it may sound, children are highly influenced by their parents’ / guardians’ point of view. At a young age, children are naïve, and they believe and learn from what they are surrounded with. Their thinking is influenced by that of their adults and as a result, when they grow up, 95% of their beliefs are subconsciously obtained from their upbringing and not consciously thought through.
I believe that powerful leadership, ideal communities and self-love can go a long way in shaping the world of today and tomorrow and the key to that is to ensure the younger generation with good mental health. Yes, I am genuinely happy that there are so many people out there helping the underprivileged kids with necessities like food, shelter, clothing, and the most important of all, education. But I believe that there is something apart from these basic needs that is also important. And that is good mental health. We live in a world where kids belonging to a wealthy and fortunate environment deal with poor mental health caused by issues that they face due to that very environment. This made me question the state of the hundreds of underprivileged kids who are either orphans or come from broken families. They too form a part of tomorrow’s society as citizens, decision makers and leaders, and it is equally important for them to be provided with more than just basic necessities.
Everyone gets motivation from different places and I got mine from reading more on mental health and getting a deeper understanding of its importance. I started looking for NGOs whose purpose matched mine and where I could make a difference in the lives of the human beings who will be the leaders of tomorrow. Fly Higher India was that place for me. “Most times we tend to focus on formal education as we underestimate the value of other life skills. Life skills are not merely qualities we acquire over and above academics; they are essential for excellence.” These lines that I read on the FHI website stuck to me and I knew that this was the place I wanted to be a part of. I found a place whose purpose matched mine. I had no second thought after going through the website and associated pages, and I registered immediately.
The FHI Chennai team is a bunch of enthusiastic, kind and giving set of volunteers. It is a family that has come together with a common motive to bring a change in the lives of the children. I remember reading on FHI’s page – “Children need to witness confident, young adults who can create a positive impact on their impressionable minds.” And this was exactly what I witnessed and experienced in the FHI Chennai family. Also, most of the kids we conducted events for were between the age group of 5 to 14 years and as I understood from the research that I did, the thought process of a child transitions between the age of 2 to 6 years after which they think more consciously. So, after 6 years of age is the perfect time for a child to start learning and developing. Children are like tiny sponges during this age and they absorb everything they see and witness, and they register it mentally. Most of these kids experience a difficult childhood with only one or no parents, lacking the warmth and presence of a family and this subconsciously impacts them and influences their mind even as adults. This is where we can make a difference in their upbringing, by being kind and loving, setting an example for them to be good and generous and making sure that they are heard and seen.
The most beautiful part of our brain is that it is neuroplastic, which means it can change throughout life. We can create new thoughts, change old ones, learn, unlearn and think from different perspectives. We have the ability to re-program our minds. The process keeps getting slower the older we grow, so it is easier to instil and cultivate new thoughts, life skills, social skills, confidence and positivity in children. It’s never too late to develop our thoughts.
It is such a pleasure that all of us volunteers share the same vision. Our compatibility, compassion, behaviour towards each other and the way we talk and react is something I have noticed that the kids observe and learn from us. We realize that for the kids, we are examples of love, giving and kindness. This makes us aware of our behaviour and we become more kind, loving and aware of our actions and most importantly, it reminds us to celebrate every minute with them. This makes me very glad to be a part of FHI, to work along with all the other volunteers to instil in these young minds the qualities to create a beautiful today and tomorrow.