Sonia Jolly, a lady from an affluent family, runs ‘Upkaar Hum Hain’, an NGO, at Satna, Madhya Pradesh. She has been taking care and looking after 45 girl children, entirely on her own, since 2014. She is bringing the change single-handedly. She is a role model and an inspiration to many others. Here’s an exclusive interview by Mahima, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
Last month, we celebrated my niece’s birthday at a welfare home for orphaned children in New Delhi. I had read horror stories in the past, but seeing the same is extremely haunting. Out of the 27 children there, some 20 were girls. And half had been picked up by the welfare home since they had been abandoned by their parents.
Now cut to Upkaar Hum Hain, an NGO established by Sonia Jolly at Satna, in Madhya Pradesh, which has 45 girls, who have been adopted by Sonia. Right from meals to their education and basic needs, Sonia ensures that she provides all basic necessities to these girls. It all began in 2014 with Sonia’s personal savings and today she is helped by some 38 volunteers. So let’s go over to Sonia to know how it all began and what her future plans are, in this interview.
Sonia Jolly: I never liked the idea of women being considered the weaker sex. And since I had already been doing social work at an individual level for a very long time, I realised that it was a grim reality, which needed to be changed. I started out on a very small scale, I started with the household help. Initially getting them to educate their girl child was a luxury that they couldn’t afford, so I decided to pay for their educational expense. Once the initial hurdles were crossed, I adopted a girl child and started taking care of her everyday needs. That is when it hit me that I cannot just keep sitting and acknowledging the problem, I need to address it. So Upkaar Hum Hain was established. It means that these girls are a ‘beneficence on us’since they are giving back so much love along with a chance to change the society for better.
Sonia Jolly: Sometimes you don’t wait for the change to happen, you need to be the change that the society needs. I had some objectives in my mind i.e. to educate the female child, help those in need, fight for their rights, respect them, and do my bit for the welfare of the society. Initially, I had to do some running from pillar to post to make our NGO recognised but it wasn’t such a big hassle. Also, even if I did not get the approval, I knew we had to do something for our society and my children.
Sonia Jolly: As I said earlier, sometimes you have to be the change that the society needs. Government is doing everything in its power to help us, there are so many schemes and policies in place to encourage the education of a girl child, to ensure their safety and growth, but it doesn’t always happen. There are so many cases that we hear every day where the children are being exploited, girls being beaten up or burned for dowry, elderly not getting the love and care that they deserve. So I don’t think we can put this one on government. It’s time that each of us takes collective responsibility as a society.
Sonia Jolly: When I am not Sonia Jolly, the social worker, I devote myself to the other roles that I play. I take care of my family, try to be the mother, the sister, the daughter that they need. I absolutely enjoy being a grandma, spending time with my grandson is the highlight of my day.
Mahima: Where do you see your NGO in the next ten years and how do you plan to ensure it?
Sonia Jolly: Big things are not easy. They seem easy. But when you see someone who made an overnight impact, it is usually something they were doing for many years before and I am nothing, but a fresher. Honestly speaking, I don’t have any name and fame targets for my NGO. I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew, it might seem a little odd but as of now my targets are more humane. Every child, who is a part of Upkaar Society has promised me that when they grow up they will take care of ten girls each. So practical or not, my plan surely is sustainable with the seeds I have sown today.
Sonia Jolly: The next big thing for my kids is going to be the Christmas and New Year. The shine in their eyes when they get to unwrap a present is a joy to behold. But there is also the matter of upcoming exams, some of my girls are even appearing on the boards, which even makes me anxious. So as much as I want them to have fun, I don’t want them to compromise their studies. Look at me ranting about my chicks like a mother hen (she laughs). But that is how they make me feel, I want them all to have a successful and have a blessed life.
Sonia Jolly: Once the usual things are in place at home and I am done with my morning routine, it is then that I dedicate myself to the NGO, the kids coming in from school, their coaching, school projects, other daily requirements, looking after it consumes me. It is a very satisfying feeling knowing that your actions are helping someone have a better life, it gives me a sense of calm and compassion that is as much a part of my life as the breathing itself.
And Sonia leaves me joyous with different truths of the society wherein she is following the mantra: no matter what you are doing or what you want to do, be prepared for brickbats and sacrifice, not only from self but from your near and dear ones too. Just have faith and never lose hope.
Photos sourced from the author
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A science graduate from Delhi University and MA in Mass Communication, Mahima began her career with E-Lexicon PR & Mutual PR and Hindustan Times. Soon, ANI (a collaboration with Reuters) got her aboard, where she spread her wings in TV, Print & Digital Journalism. In 2010 Rajdeep Sardesai’s flagship primetime show gave her, a dream job at CNN-IBN. From May 2017, she is a freelance journalist. She is a poet and a Sufi at heart.