City anchor: Volunteers come together to celebrate Diwali at Sofosh

For Diwali, retired school headmaster Vijay Bakshi (65) spends time with 70 children at Society of Friends of Sassoon General Hospital's (SOFOSH) child care centre Shreevatsa. She massages abandoned newborn babies with scented oil on the auspicious occasion of Dhanteras. Bakshi has been spending time with tiny tots each Diwali for the past 12 years.

Not just Bakshi but even Vaibhav Wagh and his group Yuva Vaadya Pathak have been going to Shreevatsa every Diwali to help children build doll houses and organise games. "It is our way to express gratitude during the festival," Wagh said. This year too young volunteers from the group, including college students and IT professionals, will spend time with the children during Diwali.

"The spontaneity with which groups and volunteers come together every Diwali for the last 10-12 years has been an encouraging experience," said SOFOSH director Madhuri Abhyankar. Another group Gajanan Mitra Mandal from Shaniwar Peth too has been contributing to the festive spirit by decorating the centre with lights and diyas.

"Our families come together and decorate the place, put up lanterns and other decorative items," Sandeep Shinde from the Mandal said.

Out of 100 children, 68 are at the child care centre, four new-born babies are in the hospital and the remaining are children with special needs who are kept at the other centre, Tara, Abhyankar said. On Bhau-Beej, many college students from group Sparsh visit our centre and play with the children. An aarti is performed in keeping with the tradition, she added.

Contribution of these volunteers has also motivated others. Some groups like Mehunpura Ganeshotsav Mandal has collaborated with various other organisations to raise funds to the tune of Rs 50,000 and donate to the centre. Diwali week will soon be followed by observing an adoption week.

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