Dr Geetanjali Chopra, Founder & President of Wishes & Blessings, recently joined NewsX for an exclusive conversation as a part of its special series, NewsX India A-List where she spoke about her journey, inspiration behind Wishes and Blessings and endeavour of reaching out to those in need.
Talking about her NGO, Dr. Chopra said, “Wishes & Blessings is an NGO that i started in April 2014. As the name suggests, it’s a platform for connecting people who have unfulfilled wishes with people who can actually help them fulfill those wishes and get blessings in return. Essentially, it is a platform for connecting people who need help with those who can help. Often it is seen that people who need help don’t really know where to go and people who want to help also don’t know how to find those people who need help, so Wishes & Blessings becomes the platform for connecting these two people and overseeing that the whole process of help-giving and help-taking is actually sustainable and fruit-bearing.”
On her journey so far, Dr. Chopra expressed that it has been a roller coaster ride. “I wasn’t born with the idea of Wishes & Blessings; it wasn’t something I always wanted to do as a child. In fact, just like anybody else I had my fair share of trials and tribulations, trying my hands at various careers, starting from a journalist to radio jockey to writing to teaching to traveling the world, doing research but the kind of satisfaction and happiness I have found with Wishes & Blessings is next to none,” she said.
Opening up about how she came up with the idea, Dr Chopra said, “The idea of Wishes & Blessings was rooted in my childhood. While it wasn’t something I was born with, it was something that just grew up as a part of me. While growing up there were several instances that made me believe I wanted to do something larger than just living for myself and the opportunity came in 2014, when I met a group of visually impaired children who voiced a peculiar request to me that they wanted to play Holi. I was completely shocked by the idea of young children who can’t see saying that wanted to play Holi with me and that became the seed for Wishes & Blessings. I ended up playing Holi with them and that Holi changed my life. Thus, I often say that visually impaired children gave me my vision for life.”
Talking about how Covid-19 impacted Wishes & Blessings, Dr Chopra said “Covid has been a silver lining for Wishes & Blessings. It’s made us realise our potential. Before the pandemic set in, there was very little that we were doing. However, as soon as the lockdown was announced, our work and our involvement on the field grew more than 100 times over. Before 25th March, we were feeding 600 people on a daily basis, but by April, this number had gone up to 9000. So more and more people joined the Wishes & Blessings family, both in terms beneficiaries and donors. The donors came forward because they believed in us, because we were transparent that we wanted to help people. A lot of also beneficiaries joined the family. Before the lockdown, Wishes & Blessings was essentially a Delhi-NCR organisation but by the 15th of April we had presence in seven states. The fact that we were able to reach out to so many people across the country and actually provide a ray of hope was the biggest silver lining Covid-19 gave us.”
Speaking about the success of the NGO, Dr Chopra said, “I think success is relative. For me, just the very fact that a crying person or a person without hope, starts smiling or has this little bit of hope in life is the biggest success story. In Covid times, I think the biggest success story for us is expanding to tribal villages in Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand and to places and people I had never heard of or seen. How Wishes & Blessings actually became a household name and we were able to reach out to help in the times where movement was restricted, is a big success story for us. On a more micro-level, being able to take in new admissions into our old age home was a very big success story for me personally. When the whole pandemic was going on people were more bothered about what it was doing on the medical front or on the economic front but an often ignored segment were people who were suffering in their own homes through domestic abuse and in those times we got two new ammas into our home. These ammas were being beaten black and blue by their children and grandchildren and how the team actually executed was a personal success story for me.”
Sharing her inspiration and what drives her to work every single day, Dr. Chopra said, “I think my biggest inspiration is my beneficiary group. When you go out in the field and people who don’t know you personally come up and look up to you, hug you and bless you, that is the biggest inspiration which drives you to go on and on. One particular incident I always talk about is a seven-year-old child, Ashna who has always been my inspiration. He is a street child living in one of my street to school homes. For the longest time I thought Ashna was a boy because she loved dressing up like a tomboy and you couldn’t really tell whether she was a girl or a boy and every time I used to go to this center, this child would always run to me, hold my hand, be with me and not leave me till the time I would leave the center. On one particular instance, I remember I was extremely upset because and I came to know that one of the children who I had rescued from the street and gotten into a daycare center had taken to begging. So I was extremely upset with this entire group and I was standing at the center with a swollen face and scolding these kids and suddenly this group of children, about 20 of them, started laughing and I was even more livid because here I am on the brink of breaking down on how could you do this to me and these children are laughing and I asked them ‘what do you think is so funny ?’ They pointed towards my back where I saw little Ashna standing. So when I was scolding these children I had one of my hands on my waist because I was really angry and I saw this little girl imitating me, having her hands on her waist, she was looking up at me and I asked ‘what do you think you’re doing?’, and she said ‘I want to become like you’ and that gave me goosebumps then and it gives me goosebumps now because here is somebody who’s actually looking up to you and wants to become you. So you know that there is somebody, somewhere who looks up to you as inspiration and you have to live up to that role. So whenever I falter, I only think of Ashna and it just gives me immense strength to go on.”
When asked how can each individual can contribute to Wishes and Blessings. She said, “Wishes and Blessings is a platform that caters to people right from the time they are born till their very last stages. The youngest beneficiary in our centers is about three months old while the oldest one is 92 living in our old age home. Any time and every time, you have something excess at home, things that you’re not using, clothes especially because it’s winter now, please do reach out to us and we would put your goods to good use. The point I’d like to make here is that every time somebody hears the word NGO, they think that ‘oh there’s another person after their money’. It’s not about money all the time, yes money is important, but more than money it’s your time and dedication towards making a difference. In case you want to volunteer or spend some time to make your life more meaningful, get little bouts of happiness by spending time with street children, the elderly, and the abandoned reach out to us. We are on the internet, Facebook and Instagram are the best ways to reach out and we also have a website wishes and blessings.net. Do give us a shot and I can assure you that you will feel good about yourself if nothing more.”