Follow Your Heart, But Bring Your Brain Along: Geetanjali Chopra, Founder Of Wishes & Blessings NGO

Last updated 30 Oct 2018 . 1 min read

unfulfilled wishes unfulfilled wishes

Born and brought up in a large joint family in Delhi, I have been an active academic for over 15 years. I have taught in India and abroad, and have published a book.

I worked as a journalist for almost two years and engaged with TV and print media. I have worked as a fellow with Centre for Policy Research for five years. I have always had a creative side - at one point I had a small hand block printing unit.

The blocks were used to make prints on paper and those were made into bags and envelopes. I've tried my hand at different things. It is only when I established my NGO, Wishes, and Blessings, that I felt I had found my calling.

In addition, I have studied a few courses in International Human Rights Law from The Hague and Utrecht University in the Netherlands. These courses enabled me to see the world from a certain perspective, albeit an academic one. This educational background and working with the Centre for Policy Research enabled me to travel the world and engage with other academics, in real life and through conferences and op-eds. I was also able to engage with numerous international NGOs.

Childhood Impact

My childhood has played a crucial role in my philanthropic side. The seeds of charity, giving back to those in need, helping those who are lesser fortunate were sowed in me at a very young age. I still remember going to a school for the visually impaired along with my grandfather.

Geetanjali Chopra with child

One incident stood out and has remained close to my heart till this very day. A visually impaired child came up to me and asked me when her birthday was. I realized that we, lost in our privilege, often take things like birthdays for granted. My first real venture into social work took place in early 2014, when I went back to the same school to celebrate Holi with the children. The joy that I experienced at that moment was, and always will be, incomparable. It was life altering and since then, I have chosen to continue on this path.

(Also Read - What I Learnt From Spending A Night Under The Flyover)

The Push To Establish An NGO

I was an active academic for a long period of time. The Centre for Policy Research is known as a prestigious organization and the job was definitely an elite one. People look up to you and ask you for your opinions. However, it felt like a routine - everyday, you sit down and analyze things that happen across the world. This isn’t to say that my job was boring. Rather, my job did not give me the inner satisfaction that I was looking for. I was happy but it felt like something was missing. I felt that I was not able to give back to the society.

This pushed me to initiate Wishes and Blessings in 2014. After setting it up, I found myself getting increasingly involved. As the months went by, people were pouring in to join and our donor base increased. I continued working with my full-time job for 2 years but as the Wishes and Blessings family grew, I made the difficult decision to quit Centre for Policy Research in 2016, so that I could give my 100% to the organization.

The universe works in strange ways and everything just seemed to fall into place. I realized that I had found my calling and a community where I belonged.

Wishes and blessings by Geetanjali Chopra

What Is ‘Wishes and Blessings’ ?

Wishes and Blessings is based on a very simple philosophy. Many of us have some unfulfilled wishes in our life and some of us are more blessed in terms of helping others fulfil their wishes.

The world is divided into people who need help and people who can help. Wishes and Blessings acts as a platform to help the underprivileged.

The aim is to fulfil wishes and receive blessings by linking donors and beneficiaries. As an organization, we cut across the spectrum of age, gender, and class. What makes us unique is that we do not focus on a cause but a philosophy of spreading happiness. To achieve this, we have 9 focus areas among which are education, health, SOS relief, and hygienic meals. We have more than 15 projects dedicated to fulfilling the goals of these causes.

Geetanjali Chopra with a Child

We are currently focussing on aiding the poor and the abandoned elderly of Delhi/NCR. Their situation is extremely desolate because there aren’t enough old age homes or shelters for those abandoned by their family or near and dear ones. We inaugurated our first home for the aged and the destitute in New Delhi in April 2018. Called Mann Ka Tilak, our aim is to give them a life of dignity and respect that they deserve. This is the beginning of a project to start a chain of old age homes across India.  

The Challenges Of Establishing An NGO

NGO’s do not have a very good name. They are viewed as black money laundering systems, as organizations that offer empty promises. Gaining people’s trust was a steep walk uphill. To counter this, we have held ourselves extremely accountable and transparent from day one.

What we also face is the lack of trust from beneficiaries. They do not seem to understand why someone would want to help them.

I do not have a degree in social work, I am not trained to be a social activist. I come from a Political Science background. So each time we have come across a problem, or a hurdle, we have had to come up with unique solutions to deal with them individually. Difficulties crop up every day, and these prompt us to think out of the box to deal with them. Your heart and your brain combined, I think, are the biggest and best strategists one can have.

Apart from that, finding support from family and friends wasn’t easy initially. I did face a few raised eyebrows from everyone. They did not understand why I wanted to leave a secure, well-cushioned job for what might seem like a shaky venture. Working with Centre for Policy Research was an engaging job - it allowed me to travel the world, interact in conferences and seminars. Leaving this for something possibly less lucrative, worried them. However, their belief in me has been unshakeable and they have been my biggest and strongest supporters.

Words Of Inspiration

Follow your heart, but bring your brain along. Sky's the limit. There is so much work to be done in the social sector, as long as you are transparent in your workings, are dedicated and ethical, there is nothing that can and should stop you.

Nirupama Kondayya
Nirupama feels that life is all about #TakingCharge, one step at a time, everyday. She truly believes that women have the potential to achieve their dreams, once they put their heart into it. She also believes that being grateful for little things has big impacts in life.

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