One never knows when eureka moments might pop up, and you serendipitously discover a higher calling and a mission. This is what happened to Sangeeta Mehra, of the famed Mehrasons Jewellers family, when she decided to set out on a path to change the lives of children living on the streets.
Mehra was a very successful fashion designer and entrepreneur, with 100 workers in her factory 15 years ago. Today, she is Spread A Smile charity’s most passionate and prominent Ted Talk speaker, sharing her life’s mission. About the kind of work she does through her charity, she said, “It’s some cosmic energy that seems to flow through me. I am just the medium. I just follow the guidance from the divinity.”
She started with five underprivileged children who were begging near traffic lights. She said, “Initially I would give them money on my way to work. I had no solution or a plan in my mind, except the realisation that I was making them beggars for life.”
So one day in an epiphany, Mehra decided to take them home, bathe them, feed them and dance with them. The simple pleasures of life that we take for granted were the dreams that were about to come true for those children. Today, Spread A Smile has changed the lives of 300 children who have triumphed in spite of the most daunting circumstances— ranging from pot addiction, gambling and stealing to having parents who were alchoholics and drug addicts.
With no roadmap other than her dedication to the cause, she became an angelic presence for these kids.
Every child has a different story. Mehra explained, “From sexual harassment and abuse, myriad problems exist. They lack love and direction. Often children are abused by their own mothers because these poor mothers are single or widowed, and are struggling to survive themselves. We have a lot of sex workers’ kids as well. I work with six traffic signals and 12 schools.”
The charity’s work is intense, driven and focused. Their aim is to provide food, clothing and ensuring that the kids make it to school and diligently finish school work.
But there has been a set of challenges along the way. Mehra highlighted, “Our biggest struggle has been consistent attendance in school. Many of these children sleep on the roads and footpaths. So it’s about discipline, transformation and mastering them towards self-empowerment.”
Mehra is also working with over 85 women from slums who are now being taught skills and craftsmanship so that they are empowered through employment. They are deployed in making gift bags, crochet mats, candles and also bake muffins and cookies.
On how these 15 years have unfolded for Mehra, she said, “I have lived in a bubble most of my life. This is the real world and I feel blessed to be the chosen one and be a part of these people’s lives. It’s not really what I am doing for them. It’s my high. It’s what they do for me.”