It was a humid sunny day when I curiously headed towards the XX Observation Home, eager to gain
insights into the lives of the children residing there. As I approached the imposing gates and high
walls, an eerie silence enveloped me, as if the place were deserted. Little did I know that this would be
one of the most impactful experiences of my life.

Once inside, I joined my team, who had just returned from a similar assessment at the YY Observation
Home. Their stunned expressions hinted at the gravity of what I was about to witness. I remained
committed to being a non-judgemental facilitator, open to imploring their perspectives and
experiences. As each child narrated their story, I found myself holding my breath, my heart racing
with every word. So much so, that many times I just listened, forgetting all about taking notes! Stories
of drug abuse, robberies, and peer pressure unfolded before me, as I stood witness to the harsh
realities of their lives.

The COVID-19 pandemic had disrupted their routines, some children could never return to school and
instead indulged in unlawful activities. Yet, amidst the darkness, there was a glimmer of hope – many
expressed a keen interest in developing skills like gardening, baking, and air conditioning repair, to
name a few.

On the second day, we interacted with the staff members, who poured out their frustrations and fears.
One teacher, his voice trembling with emotion, recounted a horrific attack by the children, leaving him
fearing for his life. The room fell silent as he fought back tears, and I found myself at a loss for words.
The staff pleaded for better security, more resources, and training to handle such volatile situations.
They spoke of forced homosexuality among the children and the detrimental effects that it may have.
As the needs assessment drew to a close, the staff’s and children’s requests for reformative
programmes and wellbeing echoed in my mind. I left the observation home with a mind-boggling set
of questions, but also a renewed sense of purpose, hope and dream for a bright future for all these

As I left, I couldn’t help but pause and take in my surroundings one last time. Who could pass up the
chance to capture a memory at a place that had given me an experience unlike any other in my
lifetime! An experience packed with raw emotions, diverse perspectives, profound realizations, and
mind-numbing questions overarched by a deep sense of hope, all within a matter of just a few days!

Written by Shanmuga Priyan, Associate at NalandaWay Foundation. He is very keen and feels
immense pleasure in uplifting many young buds through holistic education.