My trip back to my homeland of India this summer was the best decision I have ever made. As a youth volunteer for Indian Muslim Relief & Charities (IMRC) in the United States for the past three years, I had been involved in its programs and fundraisers in New Jersey, collecting money for the unfortunate women and girls in India affected by communal riots, natural disasters, domestic violence and poverty. But going to India to actually meet the beneficiaries of these funds — the orphan girls and boys, underprivileged women and their families whose lives IMRC was striving to change — was something that I had always wished and expected to do later in life, not at this time with my hectic schedule as a high school junior.
With their plaited hair, checked uniforms, and dimpled smiles, you would never know that many had endured painful pasts of parental death, abuse or abandonment.
A summer internship in New Jersey would have meant spending time with smart kids from other schools on a fabricated research project that would only make my resume shine. Whatever hit me to put others before my own needs and not wait for the most opportune moment was probably the fate of luck or the curiosity of going back to my roots. So, with a group of three other girls – Zaymee, Yusra, & Sania – I prepared myself for the two-week trip with no idea what was in store for me.