The India Journal: Saksham
India Journal Entry #3: "Saksham" Means "Capable"
During my month in India, while I visited the city of Jaipur, I had the privileged opportunity to visit "Saksham"- which is a community initiative started by Jaipur local, Nitin Sharma. "Saksham" means "Capable" in Hindi, and the program works with children and women in the slum areas of the city. Saksham is designed to empower women by teaching them the alphabet and grammar, how to count and use numbers, how to manage money and business, and it runs sewing classes in a small room that Nitin pays the rent on, along with the six peddling sewing machines that he also purchased himself.
Alongside renting the sewing room, he also rents five classrooms throughout the slum area, in which children are taught in programs and where they run kindergarten classes. He stocks these classrooms with supplies, so that the students don't have to provide what they cannot afford. He wants no excuse for a child to be turned away or feel that they cannot attend. He hires local, educated women to teach and facilitate the multiple classes that are ran throughout the slums.
While in Jaipur, I stayed with Nitin and his family, in their home. They live in a very nice and clean home, a basic setup with the necessities to a make a comfortable living. They are incredibly kind and genuine people, that live frugal, and are always putting the needs of others before themselves. Nitin shared with me his passion for the program, how it was birthed, and how he started it all by selling things- like his favorite motorbike- to pay for it. He continues to make money through renting out his room on Airbnb, along with other business ventures and living a basic lifestyle with his family.
Nitin, a devout Hindu, sat on the bed beside me in one of our first conversations after I had arrived. We chatted and got to know one another, and then he looked at me and asked "What is the meaning of Life?" It was quite the question for a first conversation, and I felt we had just jumped over all of the small-talk icebreakers, at that point. I looked at him, dumbfounded and caught off guard. I stumbled for an answer, and he then went on to answer the question for me. He said, referring to a quote by the Dalai Lama's ideology and teaching...
“We are visitors on this planet. We are here for one hundred years at the very most. During that period we must try to do something good, something useful, with our lives. If you contribute to other people's happiness, you will find the true meaning of life.”
Because of this, Nitin is extremely passionate about what he does. He wants to use the life he has to make a lasting impact on his community. Although he shared with me the sacrifices he has had to make to run the program, and the struggle he sometimes runs into trying to fund all of it- that doesn't, for a second, slow him down.
He shared with me his dreams of expanding, reaching more people through purchasing a larger sewing space and creating a store front for the items that are made. He wants to accommodate more people, and the dream of a community center with computers, where locals can learn basic computer skills, is one of the many things that he says are yet to come.
The selflessness that exudes from this man and his family doesn't stop there. They treated me so well during my stay in Jaipur- going far above any expectations I may have set, prior to meeting them. This being said, I felt incredibly grateful when, after posting some of the items created by the women in the sewing class on my Facebook, my friends stepped up and cleared out their scarf inventory in less than an hour. This family and their endeavors deserve to be blessed.
It's funny how life has a way of placing us in the right places at the right time. When the universe knows exactly what we need, at the moment that we need it the most. When God allows us to bless and be blessed.
I've had a dream of visiting India for many years now, a passion that was originally lit inside of me after watching a video at Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia about 8 years ago. I watched as two boys from the slums of Mumbai, India talked to the camera about their everyday lives- and I remember being stirred to visit and see this for myself. To find a way to get involved. I always thought I'd arrive in Mumbai and volunteer with the large program that is established in the slums in that city. However, God sent me, instead, to this little initiative in the city of Jaipur- a city I didn't even know of until I arrived in India. He allowed me to be a part of something bigger, and to make an impact where help was needed.
It's when individuals, sometimes from extremely different backgrounds, come together for such a time as this, to help one another, that they can then make an impact in the world. And no impact is too small.
And so I ask you- What is the meaning of YOUR life?
Are you willing to be inconvenienced in order to make a greater impact?
How can WE make bold moves in order to give back?
Below I've listed the link to Nitin's Airbnb, if ever you feel the drive to visit Jaipur. Also, there is a link to the Saksham Facebook page where you can learn more about what is happening in the slums of Jaipur.
Photos taken at Saksham. Jaipur, India.