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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

Second childhood

Shaswati Das, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, February 12, 2013
First Published: 00:33 IST(12/2/2013) | Last Updated: 00:34 IST(12/2/2013)

Every month, 25 children aged five to eight gather at an open ground in a slum in southeast Delhi, eager to celebrate their day of joy.

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Organised by Shining Network, a volunteer body formed by students of Delhi University's Kamala Nehru College, this day could involve anything from new colouring books and crayons to sing-alongs, dance sessions and skits, as 16 students attempt to recreate for the children a childhood otherwise lost to deprivation.

"We do things that the children enjoy. Since they are very young, it requires infinite patience," says Anjali Gupta, a final-year psychology student and convener of Shining Network.

Each month, the group picks a fresh theme to add an element of surprise to their visit.

"Shining Network is about our development as individuals too," says Raveesha Gupta, a second-year student of economics and member of the group.

"It is far removed from 'social work' because it focuses on spreading joy among those less fortunate than us."

Launched in 2007 by students of the college, the group is not part of any university social service credit programme, focusing solely on helping others with no expectation of returns.

"All the activities of Shining Network help the team members strengthen their social commitment. Making time, while balancing studies, for issues neglected in society is proof of their infinite potential," says Geetesh Nirban, faculty in-charge of Shining Network.

The children now eagerly look forward to these visits.

"We play new games each time and get colouring books and crayons too," says Ashu, 5, (name changed).

"The didis [elder sisters] also teach us to sing and dance. We love it when they visit."

In addition to working with the slum children, the group of students also visits a home for the aged once a month, offering the 35 aged inhabitants some laughs and young companionship.

"The people in the home have largely been abandoned by their children and families. They have no one to speak  to," says Gupta.

"We perform for them and sing with them. There is nothing more satisfying than making someone laugh."

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