“You can do no great things, just small things with great love” – Mother Teresa
Rushil (23) recently founded Quantum of Hope (QoH), an organisation devoted to provide free dental care to underpriviliged people. In this interview, he tells us about its first mission in Anandwam (translated “Forest of Joy”), a very special place run by the NGO Maharogi Sewa Samiti, and about projects for the next future.
Rushil, we met last April in Bhubaneswar while we were both volunteering for Operation Smile. It was my first time, but not yours..
The people I have met at Operation Smile (OS) have always been a big inspiration for me. Bhubaneswar was actually my third mission. I started working with them when I was 20, and have never looked back ever since. On my first mission I remember meeting a plastic surgeon who was 84, had tonnes and tonnes of money but was still doing about 2-3 missions per year when he could have been spending his time on a beach house in Florida! During my second mission to Guwahati, I was asked to treat a few parents who were there to accompany their cleft children. This was when I realized that I wanted to provide dental care not only for cleft children but to a more general part of the population.
Operation Smile is the beginning of the story. Some months later we had met, you founded Quantum of Hope…
The idea to start QoH had already been in my mind for a while. After my third mission with OS things finally clicked – I got a donation of supplies from some dental companies, and I thought that was the best time to start. I founded QoH alone, but my friends Arun Kumar, Mudit Krishna Yadav, Anuhar Pal, Vaishnavi Chepyala and Supreet Dhillon have played a main role in making QoH work, and I consider them key figures for the success of the project.
Is Quantum of Hope already fully operational?
Yes! In July 2012, our team of five dentists carried out the first dental camp at Anandwan.
On the road to Warora, we enjoyed the lush green grasslands of rural India. It was a scenic drive, simply exhilarating! When entering the gates of Anandwan, one gets a feeling of respect and warmth, a sense of peace. After moving into our rooms and a quick lunch, we took a tour of the place with Mr Sanjay Peeche, the coordinator of the school for blind children, where we conducted the dental camp for the next five days – as well as in the school for deaf/mute children.
Anandwan is like a house of opportunity for those kids. They get access to good education, shelter, food and clothing. Most importantly, they grow up with a sense of self respect and are taught to focus on making the best use of what they have instead of worrying about what they miss. As a part of the program, we did oral screening, oral health education and dental treatment for over 150 kids. We also distributed dental kits containing a toothbrush, paste and mouthwash and taughtthem the correct brushing techniques.
During our visit, we met with Dr Vikas, Dr Sheetal and Mr Kaustabh, all members of the Amte family, who welcome anyone who goes to Anandwan for a social purpose. They are carrying forward the dream and legacy of the founder, Baba Amte, by giving meaning to the lives of those who were shunned and considered crippled outcasts by the society.
We didn’t realize how quickly time flew by until when it was already time to leave.
In less than a week, the children and people had started to feel like family. We shall relish the memories of the moments spent there and will always be hoping to return. It took the ‘forest of joy’ to make us realize that sometimes when you set out to help the world, you end up finding yourself.
Is there a moment, or a person in particular of this first camp that touched you?
We met a young boy, around 10 years old. He suffers from blindness but aspires to be a playback singer. During our breaks we would often ask him to sit with us and sing. He could sing almost all the recent Hindi songs with his beautiful and melodious voice. At Anandwan, he is getting some formal training, which I think to be fantastic. When I think at the kids there, Sadashiv Tajne’s words come to my mind: “Don’t worry about what you don’t have, find a use for what you do have”.
How much does a mission like this one costs, and where did you get the money?
We were very fortunate to be working with a fantastic group of volunteers that brought a great deal of flexibility to the group. We got most of our dental supplies as donation from various individuals and dental groups. The dental equipment we used was supplied by a dental college in Nagpur, which conducts as well many outreach camps in India. Our travel from the airport, food and stay was very graciously taken care of by the Amte family. We as volunteers had only to pay from our pockets for local transport within the country. However we are looking for sponsors for our next projects who will be willing to help us with travel expenses so that we can explore more remote locations.
I just launched a fundraising campaign for MaerAchol for supporting their running costs. QoH is something very different – in your case, what kind of support do you need?
We would love for any support on our fundraising, publicity and donation fronts. Anybody who is interested to donate toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouth washes or dental floss can send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would highly appreciate any fund to help us to cover travel expenses for on site missions. Last but not least, we ask your help to spread the word about our work, for example by sharing our Facebook page or this article.
What would you say to someone who would like to start his/her own social project but is still hesitating?
The only thing I would like to say is always keep trying, if things are not working right now they eventually will and it will be for the good. Have faith and trust in your idea and associate the right people with you, those who share the same passion as you. I’ll like to quote these lines: “People rarely want to be part of the process, only the outcome. Fortunately, the process is where you find out who’s worth being part of the outcome.”
Planning other missions soon?
Yes, in fact we are. At the moment we have already supplies, local volunteers and hospital/work sites for missions in South India, Nepal and Rwanda, but as far as we don’t find funds to cover for tickets for Rwanda and Nepal we are obliged to keep things on hold.
Our next mission is going to be around February 2013 in India, and we are still working on the logistics for the other sites.
Well then, let’s keep in touch for the next missions! Good luck!