HealthWell-BeingSelf-Starter: Dr Geetanjali Chopra On Running An NGO Built On Trust &...

Self-Starter: Dr Geetanjali Chopra On Running An NGO Built On Trust & Transparency

A Non-Governmental Organisation paves the way for the underprivileged. It makes an effort to fulfil their wishes, however small and insignificant it may be to others who are more fortunate than them. Financial support usually serves as the backbone of such organisations, but that is a challenge due to trust deficit. But this is not all. Volunteering is also an intrinsic part of the process as it offers a transparent understanding of how an NGO works.

In conversation with The Channel 46, Founder & President of NGO Wishes And Blessings, Dr Geetanjali Chopra, helps us understand the day-to-day functioning of such an organisation and how you can be a supporter in so many more ways than just making a financial contribution. 

1. What is your educational and professional background?

Most people know me as Dr Geetanjali Chopra. Given the prefix that comes with my name, people tend to mistake me for a medical doctor but I’m actually a PhD holder in International Relations. Being born and brought up in Delhi, I have been fortunate enough to study in some of the most prestigious institutions in the country, including Lady Shri Ram College and Jawaharlal Nehru University. I further undertook diploma programmes from the Netherlands and Italy.

With a decade long experience in research, academia, journalism and a prestigious career at the Centre for Policy Research, I’ve tried my hand at radio jockeying, acting, teaching, and handicrafts before I embarked on my journey as a social entrepreneur and worker. Eventually, I went on to establish my NGO—Wishes And Blessings—in 2014. 

2. What prompted the idea for Wishes And Blessings?

Visually impaired children gave me a vision for life. My grandfather and I would often visit a school for visually impaired children on numerous occasions. Traditions like these stayed with me and moulded me towards being compassionate to the needy and less fortunate. During one such event, a little girl came up to me, tugged my arm and asked me when her birthday was. Her innocent yet heart-rending words shocked me and lingered in my mind for a long time. Moments like these eventually became the driving force that led me to work on my desire of fulfilling their wishes, to be a blessing and be blessed by others in return. Since then, I decided to serve the underprivileged and never look back.

3. Did you always know you wanted to work in the non-profit space?

No. Growing up, I did feel immense satisfaction in my small yet meaningful ventures in helping the underprivileged by volunteering in schools and colleges as I continued to carry on the tradition of visiting visually impaired children from time to time. I could have never imagined then that 10 years down the line, I would give up my academic career to uplift the less fortunate, dedicating my life to be a full-time social worker.

A moment that stood out and deeply impacted me was when a group of young visually impaired girls came up to me and expressed their desire to play Holi. It made me wonder how such a seemingly small thing as playing Holi would be one of their biggest wishes.

Looking back, I remember feeling immense joy and contentment witnessing the contagious happiness that radiated in the eyes and spirit of the children as they played with the colours. That was a striking point that began to shape my vision and laid the foundation of my mission—to establish an organisation to help those in need.

4. What was your first milestone, and how did you get there?

Setting up Wishes And Blessings as an NGO and getting it registered was the first out of the numerous milestones in my journey. It was successfully registered on the 25th of April in 2014. I decided to leave my career and academic life behind to follow my heart and work for the plight of the poor and unfortunate. It was a big turning point when the entire concept of the organisation became concrete. That was the formal start of the journey of Wishes And Blessings. 

5. What are some challenges faced by the organisation and how do you overcome them?

The past 8 years have been a roller coaster ride. We face a multitude of challenges every single day. People would assume the more significant challenge would be the procurement of funds, but the trust deficit, which is prevalent both from the point of view of the donors and beneficiaries, is the biggest challenge we face. People have a lot of apprehensions when making donations to or working with NGOs. Therefore, we ensure to maintain complete transparency about our operations.

Another major challenge is managing and executing projects, given the diverse pool of donors and beneficiaries we are affiliated with. One way to deal with such issues is by addressing these challenges one at a time, along with a stellar commitment of our team and volunteers. In doing so, we are gradually gaining people’s trust.

6. How do you engage with people to create awareness about the work you do?

Simply reading and hearing about the work in my opinion, does not do justice. I have learned that one needs to experience social work to be a part of it. They need to volunteer and get out there to get a better picture of the ground reality in the fields and missions we undertake. Wishes And Blessings always welcomes people to participate in its on-ground activities and ongoing projects to allow them to witness how the organisation works towards bringing about a change.

We have set up our volunteering wing—Squad For Change (SFC)—that offers non-conventional volunteering opportunities to guide the youth. The volunteers support Wishes And Blessings on various digital platforms by writing blogs, articles, sharing campaigns and are provided with the opportunity to attend exciting workshops and sessions on awareness.

Additionally, we are active on multiple social media platforms, where we regularly share updates on our projects. We use these platforms to raise awareness on important issues and special days by creating campaigns and encouraging people to instil and carry on the mantle of making a change in the lives of the underprivileged.

7. What do you have in store for the future of Wishes And Blessings?

As an overseer of the organisation, it is a continuous endeavour to make a meaningful difference in the lives of all the beneficiaries, donors as well as other individuals associated with the organisation. Currently, we have an active presence in 8 states across India. We hope to continue expanding to a much larger scale across the country and beyond in spreading happiness and working towards the vision of eradicating the word ‘underprivileged’ from society.

8. What are your tips for anyone who wants to volunteer by providing support for Wishes And Blessings?

I would encourage the volunteers to join us and get first-hand experience of our work as we embark on our mission to spread happiness and make dreams come true. One should follow one’s heart but also remember to carry one’s brain along. A perfect balance of idealism and practicality is essential to contribute to the effective functioning of the organisation.

Without active participation from people who are in a position to give, an NGO will not be able to function effectively for the less fortunate. So, here’s your chance to #BeALittleMore for them and contribute to their welfare in whatever way you can.

You can also read about 10 Easy Yet Meaningful Ways You Can Support NGOs.

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