Bringing back the smiles that COVID stole!

Sticking together has been one of humanity’s greatest strengths so far, and when family members had no other go but to isolate themselves from each other when infected by covid, the only thing that was growing was the vacuum.

When a successful Coimbatorean Vidya Thathamangalam, who works in Toronto, Canada found that one of her friends here and her child needed her emotional support, she tried to engage virtually and did her best to knock the sorrow out, especially from the child.

Vidya’s efforts bore fruit in a just a few sessions, and the spirit of the kid elevated to a level than it was before her intervention. Bringing smiles in that sad face created a spark in her mind. Vidya felt that children undergoing quarantine either because of catching covid, or due to one of their family members getting infected, may be affected by loneliness and deprived of smiles & support.

She felt that she can help kids get their lost smiles back by just being there for them during this pandemic, and engaging them for 30-45 mins with some fun filled activities. She thought of kick-starting an aptly named initiative called – Bring a Smile.

From Left: Rtn.Vidya, Rtn.Abbisree Maruti, Rtn.Madhumitha, Rtn. Ishita Bhansali and Rtn.Reshma

Though not omnipresent, Vidya felt that her Rotary Club friends in Coimbatore can enable her to reach many children who would be in need of her help in various parts of India.  When she disclosed the concept of her initiative to her fellow Rotarians at Rotary E-Club of Metro Dynamix Abbisree Maruti, Ishita Bhansali, Madhumita and Reshma, they readily agreed to come onboard.

The initiative kicked off in May 2021 but before Vidya could design posters to circulate them via Instagram and Facebook, and recruit enough number of volunteers, the word got out and parents started approaching her.

She prepared a Google Form on which parents can fill & pick the schedule and activity their child could be interested in, like art, story telling,yoga, creative writing, dance etc.

The program was developed to help children who are deprived of their parents’ company, the opportunity to talk to someone who can make them feel this is not the end of the world. Vidya and her friends here felt that Coimbatore would be the place to launch this initiative first.

While Vidya was managing the project and co-ordinating with potential volunteers, the four core-team members coordinated with parents, and enquired how they can help.

The team today has 200 volunteers and counting. Some of them are child psychologists, artists, dancers, musicians, engineers, parents and grandparents.

Only after thorough studying of the volunteers’ demeanor and their understanding of the initiative, they are brought into the session to interact with the children. “For us, the safety of children comes first”, underlined Vidya.

“We made very good progress, and children were eagerly looking for our sessions.” Vidya says that this is what keeps them go ahead.

3 kids belonging to Karunya Mane Children’s Home in Mysuru got affected by Covid, and they were in isolation, and because of that this summer was going even a lot more sombre for them.

The home’s management came across the program, and they enrolled the children to take part in it. “We grabbed the opportunity, registered our kids who were very lucky to be entertained. They are so looking forward to their next session…We cannot express enough appreciation to the members of the Rotary Club for the thoughtful concept,” said the management in a testimonial.

It has been only two weeks, but already the team has geared up to help more children in India. As of now, Kids from Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Punjab and even from Nepal are refreshing their spirits and enjoying the benefits of this program., Vidya shared.

“If it was not for my team in Coimbatore, I could not have taken this program to many people who would be needing our help”, she underlined. She credits Rotary E-Club of Metro Dynamix for providing her the platform to network with such like-minded friends, who have taken a nice idea and helped her turn it into a fruitful initiative.