Geetanjali Chopra’s normal day doesn’t start with a cup of tea, like most of us, but with resolving problems like no milk supply at a centre or a catfight between the kids staying at the daycare and other issues because she has chosen this life.
Founder of Delhi-based NGO Wishes and Blessings, Chopra runs 20 centres for street children and aged people across Delhi. Recently, the NGO celebrated the serving of its 10th lakh meal at the Modi Mills Day Care Centre.
“I had initiated this daily meal programme under which we provide three meals a day to the homeless and destitute in December 2015. Some of these centres – homeless shelters, recovery centres, drug de-addiction centres, old age homes, and daycare centres – have kitchens and at some places we have exclusively set up our kitchens, and the food is cooked fresh. It was difficult to cover all such centres in Delhi, so we focused on the ones in dire need. Started with only 60 beneficiaries, the programme has over 550 beneficiaries, comprising 300 children and 250 elderly,” says the 41-year-old, who holds a doctoral degree in international relations.
It was a Holi celebration with visually-impaired kids that motivated her to do something for the underprivileged people. Chopra, who used to work as a fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, left a respectable career to follow her heart. Though there was resistance from the family initially, but things changed soon and there was no looking back for her.
“At Wishes and Blessings, we connect people who need help with people who can help. I started the meal programme because in the first year of inception in 2014, I realised that whatever we do to uplift them will go waste, until they are hungry. The first daycare centre, we adopted was in Nizamuddin, where children rescued from streets were kept. They were taken away from drugs, ragpicking, begging and petty thefts, and were introduced to basic civilised way of living. But they would run back to the streets because they were not being fed. And this is what forced me to start this programme,” adds Chopra.
The NGO does not have one focus area, but nine causes including skill development, infrastructure, education and hygienic food. “Though it’s not an easy task, but with a team of 16 people in the Panchsheel Park office, 5-7 people in each centre, a field staff of 40 and hundreds of volunteers – all dedicatedly working in their fields – we manage to do well,” Chopra adds.
Apart from organising fundraiser, charity popups, they have a group of High Networth Individuals, who are reached out to whenever need arises. She says, “Also, we have recently launched our merchandise comprising diaries, planners and cards that are manufactured by the children at our centres. And we are continuously on the lookout for companies for CSR.”
At our centre, Mann ka Tilak in Maidan Garhi, they have just 12 elderly people. And a centre for aged men in North Delhi is in the pipeline. “Our focus is not on quantity but quality. We want to focus on giving them a better life, instead of just accommodating more people,” she adds.