The Optimist Citizen

A group of friends who left their jobs to become genies for hundreds of underprivileged children in Delhi

Our lives have always pivoted on numerous wishes and desires. From Travelling around the world, meeting our favourite celebrity, skydiving, to buying the sports car of our dreams; all of us have created a metaphorical bucket list to tabulate our list of desires. But, what do you think are the bucketlists of children living on the streets of New Delhi? Shocking as it may seems for most of us, but all the children want there is a ride on a bicycle of their own, just for a day. Why not try to fulfil these wishes, bringing happiness in the lives of thousands, instead of just mentally scribbling our own, often meaningless, wishes, thought Rida Ali. And this was the thought that paved the way for BUCKETLIST.

“The idea wasn’t conceived easily”, confesses Rida. All she knew was that she wanted to work with children. But, she was clueless on where to start. After working briefly with The World Wildlife Foundation and Dhriti, an organization that helps social entrepreneurs, Rida realized that if she’s helping so many social entrepreneurs, why doesn’t she start something herself?

Rida Ali with the children of Bucketlist

But, the thought of simple, linear, often rote teaching to children seemed meaningless. She wanted to add a unique value in their lives. During this tumult in her thoughts, Rida came across a video uploaded by noted NGO “Water is Life” and it was then that idea of ticking off bucketlists occurred to her. “The wishes I heard were eye opening. They were nowhere close to the extravagant wishes we often cultivate. All that the children wanted was a ride in a car or clean clothes to wear. The wishes were simple, which made them all the more important.” says Rida.

When asked about the most common wishes that come their way, Rida says a lot of the children want to visit a zoo, or travel in a plane. One wish that particularly stood out to her was asked during the Christmas celebration, when a boy told Santa that what he wanted was a bed of his own to sleep in.

The first time she realized how much of a difference Bucketlist is making to these children’s lives, was when during a dress rehearsal for a play, little Shivani hugged Rida tight and told her that she would never have been able to do this if they hadn’t come to her community. “The moment was touching, and it motivated us to take Bucketlist further”, remembers Rida.

After initially fulfilling these bucketlists, Rida decided to take Bucketlist to the next level by teaching these children life skills and developing their personality through performing arts and storytelling. Bucketlist now uses stories as Bibliotherapy, which is deciphering a child’s personality through the way he relates with a story or a character. The children are also made to act out scenes from movies and take part in performing arts and crafts. Through art therapy and Bibliotherapy, Bucketlist aims at building life skills and personalities.

Recently becoming a part of the Changelooms Fellowship program, Rida says being a Changelooms fellow has helped her realize how important team communication is. “You learn that you should communicate with your team not only about strengths, but also about weaknesses”, she says. With three running programs, Bucketlist has no immediate plans of expansion. Apart from “Genie in a Bucket”, “, Raising a Reader” and “Bucketeers”, Bucketlist is also focusing on sports by teaching the children rugby, with their new project, “Streets to Field”.

Rida believes that one act of kindness can go a long way, and encourages everyone to be kind to these children, instead of being indifferent. “One moment, one wish fulfilment may not only change the lives of these children, but can also change your life”, she concludes.


This story has been published in collaboration with MASH Project.


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