Friday, June 26

When giving up was a better option than giving in: Naseem speaks about overcoming addiction

Disclaimer: The following story is about one of our Community Youth Leaders who overcame alcoholism. His name is changed to protect his identity.

Before it turns your health upside down, addiction plays havoc with a person’s will power.

Nasha was my life. I would begin and end my day with it. I had lost count of days, months, and years that had flown past me while I was in nasha”, recounts 25-years-old Naseem (name changed)

Naseem was an alcoholic for four years, from 2007-2011.

When Naseem graduated from school in 2007, his parents haboured hopes of seeing their youngest child in a white-collared job, unlike their three elder children – two sons and a daughter - all three married and working in the unorganised sector as labourers. 

That’s how most people in his community, Bhalaswa in north Delhi subsist: as daily-wage laourers. Incidents of crime, drug abuse or nasha as people fondly call it, are widely prevalent here. Naseem unwittingly took to alcohol at quite an early age.

A sneak-peak into Naseem's session.
“As a 17-year-old, I was running on a very thin rope; there were enough reasons for me to not indulge in bad company, but at such a tender age, only bad felt good”, he grimaces.
Naseem began consuming alcohol in remarkable proportions since then. His tryst with intoxication continued for 4 years till Magic Bus intervened in the community. Nirmal, Magic Bus Youth Mentor marked the community as “high-risk” as it was known in the neighourhood for indulging in substance abuse. 

Despite caution, Nirmal ventured into the community and began mobilising people. In the second month of meetings, Nirmal met Naseem. Naseem had potential but he was gradually throwing away all his talents through excessive drinking. It was Nirmal who introduced Naseem to Santosh, Training and Monitoring Officer, for rehabilitation and counseling.

“Santosh bhaiya was calm yet firm with me. In my first few sessions, I watched atleast five documentaries that showed me the fatal effects of alcohol. I began to analyse my activities objectively”, he explains.

The incident that shook him the most was when one of his dear friends collapsed in front of him due to excessive consumption of alcohol. He realised that it could have been him. All that Santosh bhaiya had been telling him about abandoning his habit came back to him. He took his friend to the hospital and vowed never to touch alcohol again.

Naseem was dejected. He experienced withdrawal symptoms after he gave up alcohol but he was ready to try and turn around his life towards a better future. That’s when something remarkable happened. Santosh bhaiya appointed him the Community Youth Leader. In one go, Naseem found himself being looked upon as a role model. 

“ I will always credit Magic Bus for believing that I could be a better person, that not all was over. When one is fighting addiction, the belief and faith of the ones closest to you does a great deal of good. The first few months were unbearable without alcohol, but Magic Bus’ constant support and the company of children helped me forego my habit”, he smiles.

Today, Naseem works as a government contractor and continues to be Magic Bus Community Youth Leader. In his free time, he counsels children and youth who indulge in nasha. He gives his own example every time he faces a stubborn addict.

In fact when he shared his story, he believed that it would motivate anyone indulging in substance abuse to give up on their habit.

On International Day against Drug Abuse and Trafficking, sponsor a child and help them stay addiction-free.

Thursday, June 18

Small town, big dreams – Kowsalya’s story

A year ago, it was rare for girls of V.R.P. Chatram community to step out and participate in outdoor activities. V.R.P. Chatram is a semi-rural suburb near Chennai. Its residents are mostly factory or agricultural labourers who travel to Sriperumbudur everyday for work. Girls of this community would often engage with elders to understand the root cause of gender-inequity in their community, and try to subvert it; however, their efforts went in vain.

“There were guidelines set for girls at every age, and we were supposed to adhere to those. I was not ready, but I was unsupported in my quest”, reminisces 19-year-old Kowsalya. 

Kowsalya delivering a session
Kowsalya joined Magic Bus a year ago as a Community Youth Leader. She was spotted by Magic Bus Youth Mentor, Kiruba.  “Kowsalya came across as an independent, righteous girl who wanted to empower herself and women within her community. However, she had limited support from her community”, says Kiruba.

Magic Bus entered her life at a critical juncture: it gave her the platform that she was looking for years. 

“Before I joined Magic Bus, I would give out leaflets to children in my community on gender-equity, healthy practices, and education. They would enjoy reading it but would forget about it in a few days. I soon realised that there was need to reiterate the message and find innovative ways of putting it across as well. Magic Bus’ Sport-for-Development approach was the perfect combination of both”, she explains.

Sports has an easy connect with children. But, to get girls to play alongside boys is always a stiff challenge in communities where the norm is to keep girls indoors. Initial resistance to change, suspicion about Magic Bus’ activities in the community and its underlying purpose always poses a challenge. But, our Community Youth Leaders (CYLs) and Youth Mentors (YMs) are adequately motivated and convinced to take on those challenges and slowly open up the community to support girls participation in sports and activities.

Children participating in a sport-for-development session
Kowsalya overcame the resistance of her home and community. Not only did she step out of her home, but also motivated and encouraged other girls in her community to do the same. She realised that simply stepping out of homes is not enough – girls had to be made aware of the importance of hygiene, healthcare and education.

Kowsalya is studying Bachelors in Computer Science and working as an agent of change in her community.

There are many more Kowsalya’s whose story you will read about in this blog. But, we must not forget the incredible support of Asian Paints in scripting change in this particular community. Thanks to Asian Paints’ support we’re now able to work with 2400 children in this community – many of whom have unrealized leadership potential lying dormant in them.

Similarly, your donation might help more Kowsalya’s to lead change in her community. 
It simply takes Rs.1500 ($25, £15) to help more children like Kowsalya to step out of their homes and become leaders. Support them.