Share a Smile and make a difference

Y Maheswar Reddy recently met Sameer Hasan, a software engineer, who loves to see people smile, because of him!

He hails from Chikmagaluru, the coffee hills of Karnataka, but currently is employed as a software engineer at Bengaluru, the capital of Karnataka. Sameer Hasan waits eagerly for the weekend to spend time withpeople in need, mull a visit to the nearest mall or restaurant for merriment. Sometimes, he takes off during the working week, to pursue his mission in life, even at the cost of depleting his wallet.

It all started when he accompanied his colleagues to the Association of People with Disability (APD), Lingarajapuram in Bengaluru East. It was a visit as a part of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative of the company where he has been working.

“I casually visited the APD along with my colleagues thinking that it will be like other places I had visited in the past. I never thought that it would affect me so much’’ he recalls.

Even as his interaction with the challenged strummed his sympathetic chords, their warmth kindled something beyond sympathy in him - empathy. This was enhanced by the skill, dedication and sacrifice of the staff at the APD. He began to feel the need to do something to help them and in turn, perhaps help himself.

Thus began his journey into what he calls ISR – Individual Social Responsibility. He started a Non-Government/ non- profitable organization ‘Desire: Share a SMILE’, for the welfare of the neglected people in the society, on 3rd May, 2016.

“I started helping people who are hungry and needed clothes after my tryst with the APD. I have to thank Ananta Kotari, Radha Srinivas, Chitra Nair, and Divya K. These people made it easy for me to reach these children. They not only spared their valuable time but also extended financial assistance,’’ he explains.
Today the NGOhas 58 dedicated and committed volunteers in Bengaluru with a sole purpose to make people smile.

“We need not do great things to make people smile. We can make people smile with small and simple things. For example, we can bring smile to a child by giving him a balloon that costs hardly Rs 5. We can bring a smile to a destitute by speaking to him with compassion. These things do not require large amounts of money,’’ he says.

The volunteers of Desire: Share a SMILE spend their weekends in visiting the donors to collect groceries and old clothes. They do not accept cash except on rare occasions i.e. when the donor cannot reach the beneficiary due to some valid reasons.

“We accepted cash from donors to pay medical bills of a cancer patient. Generally, we prefer cashless donations,’’ he says.

Recently the members of the NGO did a commendable job by reaching out to a couple from Hubballi who had come to Bengaluru for the treatment of their only child. The child was diagnosed with cardiac issues. The cost of the surgery wasRs 4 lakh but the couple had only Rs 4,000. The volunteers pooled in Rs 1.40 lakh to donate to the family.

“They refused to accept it. The child’s father told us that he had sold his wife’s share of agricultural land to raise the funds for the treatment. We however, convinced him to accept it since lot of money is needed to meet post-surgery expenses. We felt very happy when the parent informed us about the success of the surgery. Now, the baby is hale and healthy,’’ he says with a smile.

Another commendable work is adoption of a blind family. The volunteers raise funds to pay house rent and supply groceries to a blind family on monthly basis. They also enable the blind couple to send their two daughters to school.

“Our Prime Minister’s famous slogan is Beti Bachao Bedi Padao but we cannot expect the PM to come to Bengaluru and send the girls to school. We helped the girls to go school,’’ he says.

It is not only the two daughters of the visually-challenged couple who are going to school but there are 43 children in Bengaluru who have benefited from the philanthropy of these volunteers.

“We have helped 43 children by providing them uniform and other accessories. We should not feel that thegirl child is a burden. Our aim is to double the number of beneficiaries next year,’’ he says.

In fact, the applaud-worthy work done by the volunteers is not confined only to Bengaluru. It has reached the people in Hyderabad and Kolkata and now is set to reach New Delhi shortly.

“Some philanthropists from Hyderabad and Kolkata contacted us seeking our guidance to start similar projects in the respective cities. We travelled to Hyderabad and Kolkata to provide guidance and assistance. Now, the social work has already been commenced in these cities. Our plan is to begin similar service in New Delhi,’’ he says.

What about personal life? “I am from a middle-class family. My father, a businessman, has helped many girls go to school. He never objected my work but advised me to think of my personal life too. As any youth, I too want to get married but I am looking for a widow.’’ he says.

A majority of the members of the NGO find happiness in helping others. They are ever ready to become symbols of hope for visually-challenged people to reach their academic goals. The members volunteer to become scribes for such students.

“I find immense satisfaction in writing exams for visually-challenged students. I know it will be tough for me to write exams for them in the morning hours and go to work in the afternoon, extending my working hours till midnight but it is worth it,’’ he adds.

The volunteers also visit orphanages sheltering HIV positive children and mentally ill people. They not only supply food to them on special occasions but also spend quality time with them.

“No one is mentally ill in the society. It depends on our perspective. I have to thank my colleagues who have stood by me like a rock. I am grateful for their support and encouragement.” he signs off with a vibrant smile.

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