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Hunger for happiness transformed me into a social activist: Dr Geetanjali Chopra

Oct 24, 2019

NGOs working for social cause are not pitted against each other but are complementing the efforts of each other, said, Dr Geetanjali Chopra, President, Wishes and Blessings, a nonprofit.

Wishes and Blessings is a nonprofit that helps the underprivileged by linking beneficiaries with donors. Dr Geetanjali Chopra, President, Wishes and Blessings, in an interview to OneWorld South Asia, said that the world of social service is universe big enough to accommodate anyone who harbours the desire to reach out. Excerpts from the interview:

OWSA: How did the feeling of reaching out to the needy people transformed into an organisation called Wishes and Blessings?
Dr Geetanjali Chopra: At the outset, I never had an agenda of starting any organisation. The idea was never to start something of my own.

Wishes and Blessings was founded to bridge that trust deficit in a society where both in the need and those who want to lend a helping hand are not able to reach each other without harbouring some kind of suspicion.

The principal of the school where I wanted to support the kids was also skeptical of my initiatives. Because of certain bad experiences people feel that those who want to help others, do so for a motive. It eventually took some time before I could convince these people about my honest intentions.

Disabled will see you with tinted eyes since they have been abused since their childhood. Ironically, even people who need help also live with a trust deficit.

OneWorld South Asia: What guided you to become a social activist from an active journalist?

Dr Geetanjali: I think that the transition is not basically from a journalist to somebody who's a social activist. That transition has various other phases.

While working for television, I felt the need for a specialised focus, like becoming a foreign correspondent and not indulge in random beats. Actually, I joined television during a time when 24x7 news channels were booming, while web journalism or newer forms of media as we see them today and are known by various names were not known yet.

I have a background in international politics as I completed my post graduation in the subject from Jawaharlal Nehru University. I thought exposure to international politics would be of advantage in the field of journalism. I became a doctor in international politics and wrote chapters for various publications and got more inclined towards academics.

So, I successfully dabbled into journalism, academics, enthusiastically pursuing one thing after another guided by the times, until this event wherein I got to play holy with the visually challenged children in school which had been frequented by me since my childhood.

Post this event, I decided to follow my heart rather than my brain, which is what transformed me from a journalist to a social activist.

OneWorld South Asia: How did you chance upon this event that changed your professional and personal life forever?

Dr Geetanjali: For every occasion my grandfather used to take me to a school for visually impaired children. During one such occasions, when I was cutting my birthday cake in that school, one of the visually challenged child asked, “When is my birthday? I was kind of shocked to realise that how can a child not know about one’s birthday.

As someone from a middle class background, celebrating a birthday was taken for granted by me. It was at that point of time, I kind of of started thinking about such children.

At one such occasion a group of kids expressed their desire to play Holi. I wondered how would the visually challenged children play Holi. But with donations as little as eleven rupees, I got support from people around me. I collected that money to organise an event at this school on Holi.

The hunger for satisfaction and happiness which I got after playing Holi with this children drove me from a pillar to post that eventually resulted into an organisation that is serving many needy children along with the elderly.

OWSA: What kind of inspiration it took to drive you everyday to work for the social cause you are engaged in?

Dr Geetanjali: Money is an everyday challenge but it finds one way or other to trickle in. Starting from a fat salary to a thinner one to almost peanuts does need courage to go on for the kind of social cause I am engaged in.

Wishes and Blessings for me is not just a profession, but after investing a good amount of my life into it, the cause has become very much part of my life.

The satisfaction I get from the smiles I get to see because of my work makes me forget the loss of perks and a lifestyle which I could have enjoyed being a foreign correspondent or an academic at a prestigious institution. As journalists are trained to be impartial and compassionate, my various exposures only help me serve the society better.

OWSA: There are so many organizations working for various social causes. Why did not you feel like joining one of them instead of founding Wishes and Blessings?

Dr Geetanjali: The space in the world of social cause is so vast that there is place and scope for everyone to pitch in, and still there would be the need for more.

No NGO is in competition with any other NGO. One has to find a space in the sector one feels like working for. We work in partnerships with organisations working in the field. Therefore, we are working hand in hand for a better future.

OWSA: What kind of role you see for the mandate of Corporate social responsibility (CSR) for social causes?

Dr Geetanjali: On paper the whole concept of CSR is very attractive and promising but in action there is a lot that remains to be achieved. The vision for CSR was towards helping those who needed this fund the most, but in reality I don’t think that’s happening.

Some people might argue that I beautifully balance being a corporate and a philanthropist, but you cannot do justice to both of them at the same time. One needs to be at the centre of one’s calling for fruitful delivery.

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