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Volunteering at a school for the blind changed my life
Volunteering at a school for the blind changed my life
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Harsh '18 explains how community service work at Landon inspired him to make an impact in India.

Harsh Singh '18 wrote this blog post about how his community service work at Landon inspired him to make an impact internationally as a volunteer at Bhosari, a school for blind children in Pune, India. Harsh — an honors student, talented musician, and varsity cross country, track and tennis athlete — has even started a fundraiser to help the school. (For more information, email him at harshvardhan_singh@landon.net.)

President John F. Kennedy once said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." This statement has inspired me — and probably many others — to be a little more generous within my community. My involvement in the Landon Community Service Club has provided many outlets to do so, thanks to our work with organizations such as Operation Smile (raising money to provide life-changing surgery for children born with facial deformities), Stop Hunger Now (packaging thousands of meals for hungry children across the globe) and Wounded Warriors (leading a drive to provide winter coats to military veterans at Walter Reed National Medical Center).

Through these experiences, I have learned that community service has an impact close to home, but its reach can extend to other countries as well. And so I asked myself: Why stop at just focusing on the community I live in? Why not challenge myself to make a direct impact in another country?

I accepted this challenge over winter break when I visited Pune, India, and volunteered at a government-mandated school for blind children. What I saw there changed my world forever.

The school's name is Bhosari. Situated in the backroad slums of Pune, the school is home to 81 boys who eat, sleep, study and live together. I spent my first day touring the facilities, and I saw all the kids organized in classrooms writing Braille in massive books, cleaning their laundry, and playing chess. The most amazing part of it all was that no matter what the boys did, they did it with a big smile.

For the next two weeks, I taught them English and played with them. The boys there thanked me for the time I spent with them, but really I felt that I should be thanking them. Working with them taught me about their way of life, the challenges they face daily, and life lessons that I believe helped me grow as a person. One of the most important of these lessons was how to overcome adversity.

Every day I saw these kids wake up at 6 a.m., get dressed, eat breakfast, and go to class without needing the help of anyone else the entire day. Even more inspiring is that once they reach high school, the students merge with the local school and compete academically and athletically with the rest of the population. It blew my mind that these kids were not only able to compete, but also able to win competitions against other students without any special treatment.

This display of character by the Bhosari students inspired me to do more than just volunteer for a few weeks a year. I created a local fundraiser to help the school and, with the help of neighbors, family and friends, have been able to raise more than $1,800 for Bhosari. This money has all gone toward a fund to build a new roof and upgrade classroom materials.

This is an ongoing project — we are still striving to reach our goal of $5,000 to fully repair the roof and provide sufficient classroom supplies — and I look forward to continuing to work on it and to once again volunteering at Bhosari on my next trip to India.

Thanks to my work at Bhosari and my community service activities at Landon, I now know this: When you give without expecting anything in return, that is when you get the most.

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