Jennifer Helfand: “I knew that Mumbai Smiles would be one of my stops on a journey to India”
We invite you to read this experience shared by Jennifer Helfand, a woman who determined to leave her mark on this world to move forward and eradicate injustice, has traveled to India and has included Mumbai Smiles on her itinerary. Thank you Jennifer!
We wanted to leave her text in its entirety written in Spanish and English, because it comes from her soul and that essence is what we want to keep.
I knew that Mumbai Smiles should be one of my stops on a journey to India
I first dreamed of visiting India in 2001 after I watched a movie, Lagaan: a Bollywood movie about, among other things, the power we all have to end injustice. By the time I arrived in Delhi in January 2023, I was at a moment in my life when the injustice in this world weighed heavy on my soul. One of the things that impelled me to finally visit India was the book, Mumbai Smiles – the journey that changed my destination, a gift from a friend. The book spoke about a profound transformation and hope: both as individuals and as a society. I knew that Mumbai Smiles would be one of my stops on a journey to India.
Whatever my expectations were, Mumbai Smiles exceeded them. Komal, the project manager of Awareness activities and an incredible woman, met me near one of the educational projects, and from there we started our visit to see two more projects: the Smiling Bus in Powai, and a preschool in Chheda Nagar. I was greeted so warmly by the teachers and students, it was clear that “smiles” is the perfect word for this NGO. I learned about the programs and communities in much more depth, along with the changes that these programs foster, from helping women escape and heal from the horrific cycle of poverty and abuse, to offering children the possibility of a radically different life. Then I had time to sit, talk to, and play with the children. The art projects they showed me were as vibrant as their smiles. In the class with the youngest children, they didn’t recite the alphabet and colors: they sang them at the top of their lungs, with the joy that should be synonymous with learning.
For anyone interested in visiting, as it’s called here, incredible India, I highly recommend visiting Mumbai Smiles’s work in person. It will not only fill you with hope and a desire to take action, but, will leave you with an understanding that we are all capable of more than we realize, and that love truly is the most powerful way to affect change.