Volunteering at KVTC helped me more than I helped them
I spend all my days and nights looking for a purpose in life and though I might be 20, I feel the burden of not giving back to life after everything I’ve been blessed with. It might sound clichéd when I say that I can’t imagine a life without purpose but I kid you not when I say I have trouble sleeping at night on the days I feel I took more from life than I gave back to it.
With the recent exponential growth in negativity around the world, I found myself soaking in negativity and breathing it out, both quite alien feelings to me. I knew I needed my hope and faith restored. But, for that, I needed to make sure I still had love and kindness to offer after what seemed like a complete drainage of positivity. So I went on Google and searched for places I could volunteer at in Karachi, more or less, to feel good about myself. I found the Karachi Vocational Training Centre for the Intellectually Challenged (KVTC) in Phase IV, a place I’d heard about earlier this year.
I didn’t know what I had signed up for when I arrived for my first day at KVTC. I patiently waited in the sitting area for someone to come and show me around. A mother who had admitted her daughter into KVTC sat next to me. As she spoke to someone who I assume was one of the head staff members, I saw a fear in her eyes that I believe every mother would have before enrolling their child into a new place. She turned towards me and proudly stated how smart her daughter was and I nodded my head a little too passionately to make sure she knew I understood. The mother then made her way out, having been reassured that her daughter would be catered to exactly the way she wanted.
I was also met by other children who would quickly peek in the waiting room on their way to their respective classes and I was taken aback by the number of times I was greeted in the little time that I was there.
As I was shown around, I was amazed by the setup and the numerous activities taking place because, as shabby as the place looked on the outside, it was a completely different picture on the inside.
But that was too little a detail to be surprised about; what took me by surprise was the number of times kids stopped me in the corridors to ask me what my name was or to share a recent development in their lives. I now knew that one of the kids fell on his way inside that morning but because he wore a sweater he managed to stay safe. I also knew a kid got a house in Defence near Royal Rodale Club. I also knew that one of the boys got locked in an elevator at Gulf due to a power outage.
But what moved me most was the number of times I was asked how I was. Such a simple yet genuine inquiry made my heart melt. How many times does someone come to you and ask you how you’re feeling, or how your day is going? It was a feeling of warmth that I hadn’t felt in a really long time.
I spent the first week monitoring the youngest class and, perhaps, the most demanding of them all. For the first time in my life I felt like I was on a high, I felt every muscle in my body and every neuron in my brain actively working, staying prepared to be called upon at any minute or brainstorming creative ways to get the kids to stay put. The students I was helping smiled back at me with appreciation in their eyes. Throughout the week, I felt my heart grow with love and warmth.
I had chosen to stay quiet about my volunteer work. I didn’t mention it to anyone because I felt like it wouldn’t be meaningful if I made the information public. But eventually, I realised that I needed to share my experience with others; one of the important things that KVTC has taught me is to share. With the dominance of technology in our daily lives, we’ve forgotten how valuable human interaction is. We don’t have meaningful conversations anymore; we’re always overwhelmed by the fear of disturbing one’s personal space or invading their time, so we’ll drop a text back and forth. But, here, you share as much as you like and whenever you like, person to person.
I realised that despite having chosen to volunteer at KVTC, I did not even give them half of what the kids and that place had given to me. And that makes me want to push myself even more. I believe that everyone, including myself, leave their worries, fears and anguish outside the door when they enter KVTC. I left everyday with my batteries fully charged with love, warmth, passion, creativity and a need to channel that in the world outside which so desperately needed to look away from their television screens.
I would like to end this by commending the KVTC staff and everyone who is responsible for making this place what it is; for their vision, passion and dedication that has resulted in this absolute gem of an institution for people facing intellectual challenges and for people wishing to help.
I would further like to remind everyone reading who, like me, feel so absorbed in the pain being inflicted upon us by politicians, deadlines, routines and other happenings in life, you get to decide where you invest your time and energy. Choose something that makes you happy to be alive and breathing. Choose something that makes you want to get up every morning, something that encourages you to be a better version of yourself.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.