We all, after a packed day at university, hopped on to our university’s point no 1. I, along with two of my friends, secured the front seats as the point wasn’t too teemed. Shortly afterwards, we set off! We were headed to Dar-ul-Sukun and reached at its main gate in a couple of minutes. The red board with ‘Dar-ul-Sukun’ engraved on it made it easily detectable from afar.

Currently running under the administration of Sr.Ruth Lewis, Dar-ul-Sukun strives to yield meaningful and lasting changes in the most neglected citizens of this country by empowering people with disabilities, their families and communities regardless of caste, colour, creed, religion, gender, age, type and cause of disability. Sr.Gertrude Lemmens, a Dutch nun, laid its foundation on February 17, 1969. Dar-ul-sakoon envisions a society where all abandoned children and people with disability get preferential status in access to due health care, education, food, shelter and employment opportunity to live an integrated and dignified life. 

After getting done with the identification and other formalities, we left the office area and trod to the main buildings. On speculating, we were told how people from different age groups had been allotted on different floors. We entered into the children’s section which, undeniably, was the most exuberant of all. The floor had two main halls, well painted with jubilant colour and immaculately maintained; an ICU was also present for infants requiring intensive care.

Playing in their unique ways, the children seemed carefree and oblivious to their surroundings. We were met with many flamboyantly confident and some endearingly shy kids there. After construing our new faces trustworthy, they cut the distance and greeted us with their welcoming bright eyes. Some even wanted us to hold their toys and play with them. The floor was employed with quite many care-givers, who were proficiently sufficing for the children’s needs.

They were being fed, cleaned, clothed by the selflessly toiling, soft-hearted staff members. We also witnessed the nursing staff who’d come to kids and feed them with their prescribed medicines with all the love and affection the innocent children desired and deserved. Worth mentioning here is the organization’s special attention to these children’s schooling. Children are taught according to their needs and varying cognitive abilities. After taking a snippet from this floor, we made our way to the other floors that were allotted to adult males and females. We were pleasantly astounded after discerning the disability-friendly, latest infrastructure and its duly done maintenance. The premises were cleaned par excellence with all the essential facilities and services installed and delivered.

After visiting all the floors, we made our way out to the huge ground which was empty on our arrival but was now filled with children, adults and elderly. We were made aware that every day at 5 pm, everyone gathers there and enjoys their time under the bare sky. We noticed how senior citizens, from the old home, were seated in a group rejoicing the sight of children playing with each other. Few adults were adorably grooving to the beat of ‘Gulabi Ankhein’ playing on the speaker. Some children were cycling and some were playing with their toys. It was a captivating sight to behold! Our first day came to an end here. 

We had signed up for volunteering there for a few weeks. Every day, after our classes at our university, we would hop on to our point and head to Dar-ul-Sukun. We would play with the children, make them write, draw, colour, and sometimes (try to) feed them their food. Some of them bonded with us very well that they wouldn’t leave us anywhere alone and would escort us everywhere we go. I vividly remember an adorably innocent man, who was in his thirties, accompanying us everywhere we go. We were especially overwhelmed by his sharpness and inviting attitude. He would take us to all his dear people and secret places. We would also visit the old home and listen to the stories of elderly living there. It wasn’t pleasant listening to them while they recollected the miseries and turmoils they had undergone; but lending them an ear and giving them what they yearned to get the most, our time, was more than worth our while. 

One fine day, upon our arrival, we saw the staff decorating the building on account of forthcoming Christmas. We seized the opportunity and gave a hand in the work. We decorated the already lush hall with colourful ribbons, carols, garlands and other Christmas goodies. Our taxed faces, evidently beaming with smiles, were indicative of us getting to decorate our first ever Christmas tree! On our last day, our gloomy faces were quite well mentioning our reluctance to leave the place. We, for the last time, met everyone and bid our farewell. In an attempt to preserve the people, we spent these few days with, and the associated memories; we took plenty of pictures to treasure for always.

These days, few in number, though quite heavy with the plethora of oozing experiences, bestowed us with a fresh, empathetic, and compassionate perspective to look at the world and its people by fading out the blur lining our lens of privilege. Seeing abandoned children and adults that should have rather been loved and embraced, was tragically crushing to the core. 

Organizations like Dar-ul-Sukun by serving abandoned, destitute and orphaned, disabled and non-disabled children with love and care are enabling them to live independent lives.

As Audrey Hepburn said, “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”

Submitted by Savaira Rehman