Social Responsibility: A Memorable Day at Valsalyabhavan

This is a memoir of an unforgettable day we had at Valsalyabhavan. When I say ‘we’ it includes the entire design team – Alen, Anugeeth, Anup, Hari, Nithin, Prasil, Rahul, Rony,  Sujith, Saranya, Melvin, Melvin’s wife Nimmy and their lovely daughter Teresa along with the inmates at Valsalyabhavan. To those who are unaware, Valsalyabhavan is an all girls orphanage at Thammanam, Ernakulam. Our visit to Valsalyabhavan was on the last Saturday, 24th of May 2014. Though I am not very good at memorizing events with all of its subtlety, I have still tried to the best of my efforts and memory to recollect all the good moments we enjoyed there.

My career with RapidValue has only started for less than 20 days. I was introduced to ‘Gems’, the design collective at RapidValue on the day of joining. My expectations at RapidValue were too high as I learned there is a team of 10 designers here. Being the part of RapidValue turned out to be a good decision as it was not just ‘office-work’ waiting for me here!

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Artwork by Valsalyabhavan students

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy

Gems, our design team was not just about discussing office work, or the issues we face at the company or anything of such sort that a usual in-house group is always after. Instead, it was about the possibilities we can have, about everything new we can learn, and further about how we can think out-of-the box! Out of these visions put forward were the daily seminar sessions, researching on what’s new and ahead, developing us, and finally social activities.

We’ve all been doing social activities. Planting a tree while we were at school will be the first one we ever did! Or recently, it’ll be a monthly donation you give away for charity. It could be anything. As always said, life is complicated and busy. We live our lives in front of computers. For many, social activities are just ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ in the social media. Now, that will be an entirely different topic.

When we formed Gems, we put forward some principles, some values that’ll make us different, unique, stand out from the rest and be an example for everyone. That’s why we chose our first social activity in the very formation of our group. We decided to conduct a cultural activity at Valsalyabhavan so that we can spend our quality time with the children there. Spend time and play with them. And yet of course to contribute to our best to make their lives better.

A goal without a plan, is just a wish

If you really want something to happen, you have to make sure you plan well for it. There was no difference in our case. Eleven of us used our free times, seminar and brainstorming sessions to discuss about how good we can make this event happen. We put forward our inputs. We took the best of it and made a list of what all we could do.

Tasks were split for everyone among us. Rahul was then in charge of monetary arrangements. Melvin (along with his wife) volunteered to take care of everything required for a drawing competition (which was the main activity on that day). Saranya, Hari, Nithin and Anugeeth were in charge of the stationary, sweets and lunch. Anup, Alan, Sujith, Rony and I were assigned the duties of cultural events we planned.

Once everything was finalized after a few sessions, we made a list of events that we could conduct on the day we visit the children at Valsalyabhavan.

  1. Drawing competition
  2. Making paper hats
  3. Cultural activities with kids (singing, dancing or anything)
  4. Musical chair
  5. Mimics by Nithin
  6. Dumb charades
  7. Bomb in the city

We were all so excited about the day, that we wished the days passed by sooner than usual. Ours was a slow and steady preparation. Just like how it’s said ‘Slow and steady wins the race’. Why I say this is because, there was no hurry-burry or no quick-change in the plan at the end. We made clear, good, yet short plans for the day.

Get..Set..

Truth be told, we were all set and ready for the day at least a couple of days before the event. By Friday night we were all set for the next sunrise! Crayons, chart papers, books, chocolates, sweets, and the arrangement for food and ice creams were all set.

On Friday night we made some interesting placards for ‘Bomb in the city’ game we planned. I was the one drawing the placards! It was fun. We also packed sweets in different gift-wrappers. After making the final arrangements, a double-check on everything, we left the office at 8-9PM. Tomorrow is the day!

On Saturday morning, at 10AM all of us gathered at Valsalyabhavan only to be overwhelmingly welcomed by the children there. If not all, at least some of us might have thought how the children there would behave to us. I mean, they could be of any sort of behavior. May be too noisy, or too naughty, or even whining. The opportunities of getting clumsy handling they were limitless if anything we feared had happened. But to everyone’s surprise, it was all-good and turned to be very well. There were 14 children there. Each of them welcomed us. They smiled and interacted with us very soon. As we had Saranya, Nimmy and little Teresa, it helped us in the greater sense to get them all acquainted so soon.

Saranya gave them a quick introduction about us all and we all waved them a “hi”. Kids were at first a little shy to introduce themselves. But Saranya, who was too good at befriending them managed to get them out of the shy-zone. All of them introduced themselves within less than a minute.That was all about introduction. Kids don’t really like to hear speeches or introductions. They want playtime. Which was just getting ready in its way! Our introduction was finished off with a beautiful melody by Alan, to which the kids sang along and enjoyed together. Anugeeth distributed sweets to everyone there – to the kids, to the management and lastly to us Gems.

Draw anything

After the melody and sweets distribution, Melvin and Nimmy announced about a drawing competition. It was not really a competition. We were not going to judge any one of them or value them. But, just for the sake of getting them to participate to the fullest, we called it a competition. We gave every child a set of crayons and chart paper. We asked them to draw anything that came to their minds. The Kids were all excited about this. Just immediately after we said ‘start‘, they had already started sketching!

Three of us, Rony, Sujith and myself joined the kids for drawing. We too, took our pencils out to draw and color. I started drawing a Superman, albeit it looked like an alien! The Kids really enjoyed sketching and coloring with crayons. Sometimes they asked Nimmy for her comments, to which she replied with a smile. She even gave her tips on how to use crayons. Every one of us loved watching them do it with joy and a smile on their faces. The more that made me enjoy about it was that, it took me and I am sure every one of us back to our lower primary school days – when we used crayons to color our imaginations. You know what I am saying, those landscapes that you draw, those mountains, rising sun and flying birds all over the sky!

Drawing session took about an hour, more or less. When each one of them completed their drawing Nimmy or Saranya would raise the drawing for a round of applause from everyone of us.

Explore yourself

After the drawing session, we made the kids explore their talents. Some of them volunteered themselves, came forward to sing. But some were shy to come forward. I guess we all were at some point in our childhood were too shy to come forward. But eventually everyone, or at least most of them came forward to show their talents. Some were good at dancing, some, good in singing. One of them even imitated Tamil superstar Vijay. For everyone who came forward to perform something, we gave them a chocolate as a token of appreciation. This again inspired the rest to come forward.

Crowns for the princesses

The next event to our schedule was making paper hats. We had made prior arrangements for this. We had carried many chart papers sliced down to fit in a hat size. Before we started with this we made them split into three groups, so that we’ll be able to manage them well and to keep up the spirit of competition. We gave those chart papers to the kids. Anup instructed them how making a hat from those chart papers. Kids heeded to his instruction. We gave them scissors, staplers, gums, ribbons and sketch pens to decorate it well. We too joined them to assist. It was a joyful experience to do such a thing. Turned out our instructions were to make a hat. But they were all making crowns, like for a princess.

While kids were busy making their hats, or should I say crowns, two of us made arrangements for the food in their kitchen, which just arrived.

Lunch time

After hats were all done, we said we’d have a lunch break. The Kids didn’t seem to be hungry. They were all in a playful mood. We served to the kids, and we gathered together to have food. It was good to see them pray before having food. How many of us still do the same? Thanking God almighty is something we forget by the time we’ve grown as adults. We did take the opportunity to make our prayers along with them before we had our lunch.

What’ll be next!

Even before finishing her lunch, a little girl among these kids asked out loud “what will be the next game?” All of them seemed to be enjoying and not a bit tired or bored with our games. That my friend, is one moment of gratitude!

Mimics by Nithin

Nithin aka Kuttan, is one among us with a gifted talent of doing mimicry and impersonations. After having our lunch kids were too eager for the next game. The next game planned was musical chair, but we have Nithin with us to do mimics. He came forward and started impersonating celebrities. We all love to see mimicry. Along with the kids, we all laughed out loud to his performance. Nithin has his expertise in performing film stars; He performed one film star and danced like him for a song. Laughter was all we could hear throughout the mimics. Mimics only took less than 15 minutes. And then we decided to start with our next game planned – i.e., musical chair.

Musical Chair

The fun of musical chair never ends. You can still enjoy it at your forties. If you have the right selection of songs, an encouraging audience, and a playful mind you can play musical chair at any place. Girls especially love this game. When we said about musical chair everybody seemed excited about it, and hence we started arranging the chairs as quickly as possible. While Alan and Saranya coordinated the game, the rest of us cheered, and shouted our hurrahs to keep them going. We made ourselves to be a fair audience – the best any game player could get. Musical chair turned out to be very well. The winner was proclaimed, but the gifts were to be only distributed at the end.

Dumb Charades

Next on the list was dumb charades. Teams as split for ‘making hat‘ were kept as such in the game. Dumb charades are also yet another game that anyone of any age could enjoy.

Melvin, Rahul, Alan, Hari, Rony and Sujith joined by the kids in three different teams. What happened next was hilarious. These young lads were more excited than the kids! For every movie name being acted, these boys were shouting out loud, and gloating.

Bomb in the city

The last game to play was ‘Bomb in the city’. Unlike our previous games this seemed new to them. They didn’t understand it all very well. But still enjoyed playing it. Like any of us who wanted to play more games, they too insisted to play more. We wished we could spend some more time. By evening at around 4PM, we had promised to leave the place, as they had a meeting arranged at that time. We were too reluctant to leave the place by then because the amount of fun and joy we were having was limitless.

Gifts for one and all

After every game was finished, we started off giving gifts to the winners one by one, thereafter to each team and to each and everyone. We didn’t have to leave anyone out without any gift. So at the end of the day, everyone was a winner. After we gave away all the gifts, the eldest among them came forward to thank us on the behalf of each and every one of them. We were moved to see a little girl, little to our age who came forward to thank us on the behalf of them. We were not expecting anything like that. This again, my friends, is another moment of gratitude.

Our experience

It was a good choice, in fact the best choice to have opted to visit Valsalyabhavan. We had a good opportunity to meet some brilliant and talented kids. When I look back, this was something I never did in my life – visiting an orphanage. Like any other kid, they too are enjoying their lives to the fullest. Right after Nithin did his mimics, a girl among them came forward to sing parody songs that they created themselves. She sang us 2-3 songs, which made all of us laugh out loud for the next 5 minutes. It was so much fun! We too enjoyed with the kids, played, cherished and enjoyed. You just need to look around to enjoy a moment. If people chose to socialize with each and every living soul, that alone can heal the unfortunate events in our daily lives. We live a busy life. Especially working in an IT firm has its own busy schedule. We deal with challenges, deadlines, workload, so on and so forth. You know the whole list!

Instead of choosing to remain home and sleep for endless hours on holidays, make use of time to do good things- good things that can turn good to you, and for the society. We chose to do something good for ourselves and for the society. The end result is the same – happiness and smile. What I believe is, if you make a person smile, you make them happy. If you make someone happy, you inspire them to make yet another person happy. Be kind, volunteer yourself to spread smiles and happiness.

Our message to the whole team is to make use of your time to do good things in your life, to make yourself and others happy. Thus, in a distant future, when you remind about the good things you did a long ago, could bring the most pure and beautiful smile in your face.

P.S :It was not just a journey to an orphanage that made me so happy. It was a journey to my childhood that made me (I believe each and every one of us) so happy!

By Prasil Lakshmanan

UI/UX Designer, RapidValue Solutions

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