Pratyasha Foundation (formerly known as Asha Guwahati) began in October 2011 in response to an ever-present notion in my heart to do something for the countless children found in the streets of Guwahati. I wanted to do something planned and with purpose, but I wanted it to be simple as I was only one person. So on that first day I made twenty meals by myself, which I placed in individual packing, containers, loaded them in a box and in my backpack and headed off in an auto rickshaw. I stopped the driver at the first group of children I saw. At the most, they were half clothed and picking through a trash pile looking for things that could be recycled. I called them over and as I gave them meals I heard my name called. I looked back to see a MMC Hospital employee named Chetri. He asked me what I was doing to which I replied, “I am feeding the children, Chetri!” He said, “That’s great, I know where there are a lot of children.” He led me down the road through a muddy vegetable market and to the very edge of the railroad tracks. My mind could not in that moment comprehend the area I was in but it was the slums of Lakhtokia, rows of cardboard and tarp homes overflowing with trash and with constant trains roaring by. As if almost by fate, thus began the relationship that has been built between myself, my friends and the beautiful children that Pratyasha serves.
I went home shaking that first day. I told my flatmates about the adventure, about unexpectedly meeting Chetri and where he took me. The following weekend my roommate coordinated the first ‘street girls day’ with a local orphanage. We simply asked the Father to bring thirty street girls to one of their homes that they allowed us to borrow and we would host a fun day. We played games, trimmed hair, treated lice, bathed, clothed and fed thirty little girls. My friends, the sisters at the orphanage, and I did not realize it in the moment but those thirty girls were from Lakhtokia, the same slum area that Chetri had brought me to the prior week. The relationship with them grew stronger without us even intending it to.
The next day I made twenty more meals and passed them out with the help of my roommate/coworker. The following week we made thirty, then forty, forty became fifty, fifty became seventy and seventy just recently became eighty. Every single week we bring the meals into the slum and serve the children, rain or shine, help or no help. We have street girls days every one to two months and the project has found itself growing very naturally with support from all around the world. When I set out in October, I did not know what would come of my action but I knew that I needed to follow that urge in my heart. The change I have seen in Lakhtokia and in its surrounding community because we have simply loved these kids without expectation of anything in return is humbling. The same children who tried to take multiple meals for them selves back in October now find joy in serving one another the food. Pediatricians who have never stepped into a slum in their life are now standing up and offering free basic health care for every single child in Lakhtokia. The same kids who would have sold our serving equipment in heartbeat six months ago, now walk to the hospital to return it when we accidently leave it behind.
In life we often want to do big things. We want to leave a big mark, we want to make a real change. What I am here to tell you is that there is immeasurable value in the seemingly miniscule acts that we have the opportunity to perform regularly. One small meal is just that, one small meal. It is incredibly simple, but also incredibly powerful when that meal is served to an individual child week in and week out. A little girl who has previously been treated as if she is untouchable remembers the first time she received a huge hug overflowing with love. We may not, but they find significance in a person stooping down low to scrub them with soap, to wash their feet and comb their hair. We have a huge responsibility in this life if we choose to acknowledge it. The way we present ourselves in front of children, the compassion that we show has the potential to shape them forever. The smallest of acts is magnified in the eyes and heart of a child; Pratyasha simply strives to recognize this. What these children have taught us is that the biggest of love can grow from the tiniest notion.