Community Champion: Ishita Godinho
It’s not often that we look at the people around us, especially those who aren’t as privileged and try and put ourselves in their shoes. We so often are caught up in our own lives that we miss out on the opportunity to help people so that we can make their lives a little bit easier.
Ishita Godinho runs an NGO helping 80 children realize the dream of getting an education. Ishita has been involved with community work from the age of 19, helping children and families support themselves in various ways.
She’s hardworking, passionate and fiercely ambitious about her plans to help more people within the community. We have a short chat with her to know more about her journey and what she does.
How did you get involved in community work?
I started getting involved in social work four years ago when I came across some children begging at Miramar. I spoke to them and asked them where they came from and told them that I’d like to speak to their parents as they said that they did not go to school. I wanted to know the reason why and that’s how I got in touch with their community.
Where were they based?
They were from a small village in Maharashtra, but they came to Goa for better opportunities. They mostly sell balloons and other small items along the streets. They don’t really earn much and can’t afford to send their kids to school. For them, their children are another source of income. After talking to them and understanding their problem, I decided that I wanted to work with them, help the children go to school and monitor their progress.
I couldn’t do this on my own, so I started volunteering with an organization called Being Children. Through them, I started helping the kids out.
How did that transition to the work you’re doing now with Goa Outreach?
After a while I realized that while I was sending the kids to school and helping them get an education, it wasn’t a sustainable project, I had to constantly monitor and do everything. I wanted the parents to feel some sense of ownership. That’s when I started another initiative called Gypsy Kind. It was basically a Facebook page where I could promote the products that the parents were making. I also helped them develop their businesses like getting the information on how to get licenses, gave them gloves in case they were making food products etc. I was trying to empower them to do better with their businesses. Gypsy Kind gave me great joy as I could actually see parents working hard and getting more involved with their business.
I recently registered an NGO, Goa Outreach along with two of my friends. This NGO is run by a Britisher, Rob and we target children and their education. We work with children from low-income communities whose parents do not have the time or the means to invest in their education. We help them by enrolling them in schools, giving them the required supplies and also recently started with tuitions for those who need extra help. As part of this program, we have also started skill development for the mothers. We realized that most of the mothers are uneducated and are housewives while the fathers are daily wage laborers and spend most of their money on alcohol.
What motivates you to work with these communities. ?
I have seen the change over the years with the people I work with. I am someone who is very passionate about seeing results. I know everything isn’t about results but I like seeing a positive outcome from the things I do. I see the children improve in so many ways. A perfect example would be when I first met the children, they didn’t care much about hygiene, their nails were dirty, and they spoke very crassly. Now, ever since they started going to school, they’re cleaner, smarter, are more inquisitive about things. Initially, all they cared about was who do I beg from, or where do I go to play today? Now they want to learn. Also, seeing the passion that they have to do more, they come from such poor families but have such big dreams and that motivates me. I was initially very keen to get into law, but I felt very strongly about doing something to bring about positive change.
What are your future plans?
Well, I want my skill development program to take off. I want to reach out to as many people as I can because I believe that everyone is capable and should have the opportunity to do something productive. They just need a push, an avenue, and guidance to do it.
What are your challenges?
Right now, I feel my main challenge is time. I really wish I had more time. Right now, a partner Rob handles everything at the NGO. The skill development program is something I want to invest a lot of my time and energy into because it’s important to me.
If people want to volunteer and get in touch with you, how can they do that?
They can check out our Facebook page Goa Outreach, we also have a website called GoaOutreach.org. We really need volunteers to help us out with the kids, to conduct workshops on relevant social issues, health, sanitation etc.
What qualities do people require to get into the social field?
You need to be really passionate, enthusiastic, and have a lot of perseverance and not let things get you down. You need to have a vision. You can’t just wake up one day and say I want to get into the social field. You need to have a vision for what you plan to do.