Courtney Fernandez - 76

AUG. 11, 2020

Curtain Hug

I wasn’t old when I realised that not all people could afford the food that I ate, and pondering over it made me realise that even though they couldn’t afford it, it did not mean that I could not feed them. When I was in high school, our class had to join a club where we had to do a project on the trips we had made to different social places like orphanages, nursing homes and shelters. For one of these projects, we visited the ‘SHANTIRAM SHELTER OF THE NEEDY.’ All of us were very excited about the trip as we were looking forward to our projects. On the day of the visit, ten students and two faculty members boarded the bus. Our excitement turned sour as soon as we entered the main gate of the shelter.
As soon as we entered the main gate, all we saw was half broken walls, torn off paint and a half build home which the watchman very proudly called a shelter. All of us were baffled by the state of the shelter and were trying to imagine the condition of the inside. The caretaker arrived, but he did not seem to be amused to see some visitors. His greeting towards us was not exactly warm, and he seemed uninterested to show us around the place. All of us were still hoping for something better when we met the people staying in the shelter, but our hope seemed to die out pretty soon. As we approached the doorstep to the shelter there, lay about 3-4 half-naked people lying on dirty sheets. On the site of that, the faculty asked the caretaker why they were lying over there. The caretaker’s answer was peculiar, and he said that that lay there because they did not want to move from there. Not only that, those people were so weak that their skeletons were visible. Trying to ignore the sight, we moved into the half-built shelter and saw that the conditions were even worse inside. There were single beds on which about two people sat, there were mats all over the place, and we even spotted at least three huge rats moving around the area. All of us were very uncomfortable by the sight of that. Our faculty told us that we should get our work done over there fast and move on. We got onto the work and started to talk to people there. Everyone had a different story to tell, but only one thing lay similar in their stories: the unavailability of food. We spent 3 hours in the shelter, but it seemed as if we lived there forever, and the problems of the people seemed our own. We moved back fast because we could not stand to see the condition of the people. Wrapping up our work, we entered our bus and sat there in silence, trying to flush out the sad thoughts of the visit. Sitting on the bus looking outside, I just could not get the image of those people out of my mind. Then a thought struck my mind, and I thought it is the responsibility of privileged people like me to help out those in need. I gathered all my fellow club members to discuss the topic. Collectively we decided we wanted to help those people. We went to our faculty members and told them about our thoughts. They told us that on talking to the caretaker, they found out that the shelter had not been receiving adequate funds and could not provide enough food for the people. Our faculty members told us to report this matter to the principal and see what he would like to say.
In school, we told the principal about the visit, and together we decided that we had to collect funds from all the school to help the shelter buy some food for the people. The next day we got onto our collection task and went from class to class, staffroom to staffroom, trying to raise funds. At the end of the week, we were able to collect a reasonable sum of money. After school, all of us were taken to the market next to our school to buy food items and moved onto the shelter to feed the people there. On that day, our excitements were even more than that of the day we first went to the shelter. The smiles of those people still resonate in our minds just like it was yesterday. And that was the day we felt the sense of complete happiness in helping feed the underprivileged.