Nothing gives us great pleasure than seeing a child sleeping peacefully. But unfortunately, not many children enjoy the luxury of a good sleep. We see children, even infants, sleeping on platforms and other unhygienic places, and mostly with just a tattered piece of cloth for a bedsheet, says Sarfaraz Potia, President of RC Pune Cantonment, RID 3131.
This thought has been the driving force for the club, over the past 25 years, to distribute sleeping kits to little children hailing from underprivileged families under its project, Children’s Bliss.
Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW) sponsors the project while the club identifies the beneficiary children and the source for the products. Each kit contains 28 items including a mattress, mosquito net, clothing, footwear and some school supplies. The Rotarians purchase the items locally at a subsidised price. “This is our 26th year. We distributed 8,000 kits worth ₹1.52 crore among children studying in ZP schools around Pune and Sangli,” says Potia. Seven volunteers from SCAW had come down to Pune from Toronto, Canada, and interacted with the children to understand their needs and dreams.
“Pune is special for SCAW because the idea was born here for its founder Murray Dryden,” says Potia. Dryden, a former brick salesman, while on a trip to Pakistan, was moved by the sight of a child sleeping on the street and, in 1970, along with wife Margaret, started a global movement for helping children sleep better. He first travelled to Pune to purchase and deliver 50 sleeping kits for street children and today 2,000 volunteers dedicate their time and energy to sleeping children worldwide.
Potia shared an incident when Dryden’s son Dave visited an Indian village in 1992 to distribute sleeping kits for schoolchildren. “He visited a neighbouring school to see the conditions the local children faced and was left speechless when he saw a portrait of his father hanging on the wall in one of the classrooms. Dryden had been in the village the previous year to give bed kits to children. This is the impact of the project, 8,000 miles away from its home.”
The project is close to every member’s heart, says Potia. “We too share Dryden’s dream — of a world in which every child makes up refreshed and energised to a day of possibilities and promise,” he adds.