“Wrinkles should merely indicate where the smiles have been” – Mark Twain
Bhagubai Shinde is a vegetable vendor who travels over 20 kilometres everyday to spend time at this old age centre supported by Concern India Foundation in Mumbai. The bhajans and the community activities give her a sense of participation and belonging and she finds it worth her while to travel all the way.
A few years ago, Bhagubai was detected with Esophageal Cancer. The staff at the centre swung into action and helped arrange for her treatment. Her friends at the centre made regular home visits and were a constant source of support. Bhagubai had her last chemotherapy session six months ago. Today, she feels her five year long association with the centre has turned out to be almost prophetic.
The location of this quaint old age centre in Lower Parel, Mumbai – tucked away between an old banyan tree and a colourful bougainvillea is almost symbolic – home to childlike exuberance and mature tenacity, in equal measure.
The centre works for elderly care and mental health with underprivileged communities. It works towards improving the quality of life by providing opportunities for self-expression and growth. Services provided include healthcare, physiotherapy, yoga, access to government schemes, volunteer development, legal literacy, counseling and community outreach. Concern India Foundation funds the salaries of the support staff who conduct these daily programmes.
The centre that was started in 1979, now welcomes approximately 30-50 senior citizens everyday who come here for a variety of reasons. Some are in need of medicines, some come for yoga classes and others come looking for a support system. But whatever the reason that brings them here, they all walk away with a sense of belonging and an uplifted state of mind.
– Neha Mitra, Communications Team, Concern India Foundation (Mumbai)
“To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.” – Abraham Lincoln
These were my thoughts when I started my career as a social work professional three years ago. If I rewind, all I remember now are the weary faces of men, women and children smiling at the slightest joy that they get.
Working as a social worker has taught me one simple truth: our own troubles are nothing in comparison to the issues that lie around us. There is always a scope of learning more from the lives of all the different people we come across, irrespective of how simple they are.
And most importantly, some of the best gifts one receives are the smiles from people around you.
– Sudakshina Aich, Programmes co-ordinator, Concern India Foundation (Kolkata)