Dr. Geetanjali Chopra is the founder of an Indian based nonprofit – Wishes and Blessings. She envisioned Wishes and Blessings to be a platform for connecting donors with beneficiaries with the aim of spreading happiness and making dreams come true. Her work focuses on bridging the gap that exists between the blessed and the unfortunate. The philosophy behind the enterprise was simple- many of us have unfulfilled wishes while some of us are more blessed and can help others fulfill their wishes; in return of which they receive blessings. Hence the name Wishes and Blessings.
Dr Geetanjali Chopra completed her schooling from the Convent of Jesus and Mary, New Delhi, her BA from Lady Shri Ram College for Women & her Masters, M.Phil, and Ph.D from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. In addition, she has undertaken courses in international law from the Hague and Utrecht University in Netherlands. Professionally, she kick-started her career in the field of Journalism, and later moved on to academics. She finally followed her lifelong dream and pursued a career in the field of social service, a decision taken completely from the heart at the cost of leaving a successful career and raised eyebrows from loved ones; this step was the foundation towards making her childhood dream come true. Her purpose and passion lie in helping the lesser privileged with an aim to spread blessings and fulfill wishes. She strongly believes that everyone can make a difference, if given a chance.
When asked what her inspiration was, she says, “I did have a vague idea as a child that I wanted to spread happiness. I only knew formally that I wanted to start an organisation in 2014. I used to accompany my grandfather to a school for the visually impaired to celebrate special occasions. I continued this tradition and in 2014 I celebrated Holi with the children of the very same school. These were visually impaired children, their life was a black canvas, and there they were, playing with colours. Till that point in my life I hated Holi; the Holi of 2014 changed my life. They were completely at ease, completely enjoying themselves. The joy and happiness that the children felt was infectious. I have never felt such unadulterated bliss. It was then that I decided that I wanted to work towards this, towards bringing colour and happiness into the lives of people who need it the most.”
What makes Wishes and Blessings unique is that it does not focus on just one or two causes. The NGO has over 9 focus areas, and more than 16 projects dedicated to aiding the underprivileged. Some of these are- Sponsor a Childhood, Daily Meals Programme, Birthday Manao.
1. The Daily Meals Programme: An empty stomach is breeding ground for social evils. It is only when basic needs like food and shelter are met that other important things like education can be focused on. Under this programme, Wishes and Blessings feeds many underprivileged men, women, children and elderly. In the current phase, 450 underprivileged and homeless are fed 3 hot and nutritious meals a day, thus preventing them from resorting to petty theft and begging to fill their stomachs.
2. Sponsor a Childhood: Wishes and Blessings provides the opportunity to make a valuable difference in the lives of underprivileged children who have been denied the most basic right, the Right to Education. Under this programme, donors are invited to become special bhaiyas and didis of differently abled, underprivileged and orphaned children. Education is of prime importance, and via the sponsorship these children have access to all the resources necessary to build a stable and secure future for themselves.
3. Birthday Manao: Everyone loves celebrating their birthdays, but this ends up being a luxury for the underprivileged, many of whom don’t even know what a birthday is. Birthdays call for a celebration and the organisation make a sincere effort to celebrate the birthdays of all children they work with. Under Birthday Manao, they celebrate the birthdays of visually impaired children by hosting joint birthday parties for all children born in the same month. The children cherish the attention and importance they receive, resulting in a high self esteem and sense of belonging.
4. Elderly care: One of their more recent projects has been care for the elderly. Under this cause, the team inaugurated the Wishes and Blessings first old age home on 25th April, 2018. Called ‘Mann ka Tilak’, the shelter is meant to give a home to abandoned elderly women of Delhi/NCR. Many of these women have been thrown out of their homes by family, and have no money or belongings to call their own. These ammas find a new family and a new place to call home at Mann ka Tilak. What makes Mann ka Tilak unique is that all facilities are provided completely free of cost. This is to ensure that the ammas live a life of dignity and respect, a life they truly deserve. Mann ka Tilak is the first of a chain of old age homes that will be set up across India to help the abandoned elderly age gracefully.
5. Unlimited Educational Supplies: Quality education requires a certain superiority of educational material. Wishes and Blessings works with donors to help provide basic educational material to our children. Along with basic supplies they also provide specialised supplies to cater to the needs of differently able children.
6. Journey to a New Class: It is not enough to send children to school. Everyone loves new things, and it is unfair that these children have to set off on a new adventure with hand-me-downs. To overcome this problem, Wishes and Blessings launched the Journey to a New Class project whereby they provide school going children with new books, uniforms, shoes, bags, bottles, tiffin boxes and stationary items at the start of every academic session. This ensures that they feel at par with their classmates and boosts their confidence. This project is also an incentive for our children to study hard and perform well.
7. Festive Celebrations: India is known for its diverse range of festivals. Our beneficiaries have very rarely experienced the joy and excitement that comes with celebrating festivals. Wishes and Blessings celebrates all major festivals, including Eid, Gurpurab, Christmas and Diwali.
8. Special Treats: Wishes and Blessings invites donors to celebrate their special days and events with our beneficiaries by hosting special treats for them. These treats include excursions to museums, exhibitions, movies and/or shopping experiences.
9. Sponsor a Teacher: Teachers are the backbone of our society. There is a significant lack of teachers in charity aided schools, as a result of which underprivileged children are not exposed to the best that the country can offer. Through this project Wishes and Blessings aims to provide charitable educational institutions with quality teachers. This way they ensure quality education as well as creating employment opportunities for the skilled.
How can you help?
There are multiple options for someone who is interested in making a difference in society.
• Be a Lightier: Wishes and Blessings runs an internship programmed called Youth Lights. This is a forum for young minds to gain the opportunity to research and provide innovate solutions for major problems. School and college going children are encouraged to initiate original projects and, in the process, develop leadership, problem solving and oration skills.
• Become a Change Maker: 2 Saturdays of every month are used to hold fun and exciting workshops for our beneficiaries. The workshop is led by a team of volunteers, many of whom meet each other for the first time at these events. The day is full of fun interactions- the beneficiaries meet new people and volunteers engage with people from multiple backgrounds. Our beneficiaries learn new things and form new bonds, and volunteers go home with a bank full of happy, unforgettable memories.
• Celebrate with our beneficiaries: Sharing the happiness is spreading the happiness! Celebrate your birthday, anniversary or even a festival with our beneficiaries. Such treats can include fun excursions to monuments, exhibitions and museums, movie and meal treats and/or shopping experiences. Whether it’s an anniversary, birthday, promotion or any occasion, come share you happiness with underprivileged people and see the happiness and smiles multiply.