American national Kia Scherr lost her 13-year-old daughter and husband on November 26, 2008, when terror struck Mumbai.
After the tragedy, the 55-year-old now finds solace in bringing positivity into the lives of others, Scherr recently launched an initiative to impart holistic education to students from various social, economic and religious backgrounds, at the Cheetah camp in Mankhurd.
Her husband, Alan, and daughter, Naomi were on a spiritual journey to India and were living in the Oberoi Trident hotel here, when it was stormed by terrorists.
“Life as I knew it changed that night. One of the things that emerged from that experience was my determination to create a positive outcome, by making a total commitment to honour the sacredness of life. One Life Alliance and the initiative at Cheetah camp are results of this determination,” said Scherr, who spends half the year in USA and the remaining half in Mumbai.
Scherr formed the organisation with spiritual leader, Master Charles Cannon, himself a survivor of the Mumbai terrorist attack. The organisation is dedicated to educating and inspiring people of all ages, cultures and religious affiliations in the sacredness of and respect for life.
The initiative at Cheetah camp, Empowering Lives, is a joint effort between One Life Alliance and St Andrew’s college. Twelve volunteers, all students aged between 18 and 20, have been visiting the camp every Sunday since January 8 this year. They teach underprivileged children subjects such as English, Mathematics, Basic Computers and craft to the kids, and conduct beauty-training and cooking classes for ladies between 18 to 35 years of age.
“The response has been overwhelming. Each Sunday, we have at least 200 kids attending classes while around 35 to 40 women come for the afternoon classes,” said Chinchu Thankachan, a second year B.Com student at St Andrews, who teaches English at the camp.
The volunteers said they chose Cheetah camp for the four-month long initiative because the area was untouched by other NGOs.
“The kids here don’t know what life is outside the camp. This is our effort to touch their lives, acquaint them with the world outside and motivate them to study and achieve their goals,” said Thankachan.
The children, too seem to be thrilled with their classes. “I want to become an air force pilot. It’s my father’s dream and he tells me that if I study well, I can become one some day. I have learnt English and I go home and teach it to my family members,” said 11-year-old Anjum Shaikh.
The initiative has also helped nine-year-old Ummul Khar discover her passion. While Khar said she initially wanted to be an engineer, the classes showed her another way forward. “Everyone says engineers are smart people and even I wanted to be one. But after attending the classes, I know I can become a painter and I will become famous one day.”
And it is precisely this, volunteers explain, the camp aims to do - instill faith and impart dreams.