There is a popular saying —“We don’t need to have deep pockets or be rich to help the needy, the poor and the hungry, all we need is a heart!”
Well, a big heart and boundless passion for making a difference in the lives of less-fortunate people define Akash Sandipog, one of the founding members of a blossoming NGO — Dream Club.
While most of the ‘Gen Z’ is often busy Instagramming, tik-tokking, and worrying about the number of their followers, this 24-year-old and his bunch of school friends (Aniket Boghade, Jayesh Dighe, Fastrack Pawan, Pratesh Sandipog, Pranit, Priya, Malika, Priti, Priyanka to name a few strive each day to spread joy and smiles through their NGO.
Until 2019, Akash too was living like any other young lad his age, however, a life-threatening accident transformed him and completely changed his perspective on life. “In 2019, I met with a life-threatening accident; I could have died then. Before this accident, I would do my small bit of charity in whatever ways possible, but after that accident, I truly understood the real meaning of life. I realized that life is too short and anything can happen to you anytime. So, it is better to do something nice while you still can,” reveals Akash, who also works as a site supervisor with Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.
Post the life-transforming accident, Akash and his school friends got together and pledged to spend their free time doing something for society and thus was born — The Dream Club. A selfless initiative, purely driven by the idea of giving back to society, the NGO’s motto is pretty simple — Be a good human, without no reason, and each member of the NGO religiously follows this motto.
“We don’t come from any rich background. But we all wanted to do something. So, instead of celebrating our birthdays in restaurants and spending money there, we began celebrating our birthdays and other joyous occasions by donating and providing meals to orphanages,” explains Akash.
He further adds, “We first distributed snacks at the Little Angel Ashram in Madh. That is how we started. Soon, my friends and I started going there regularly to teach the kids and started conducting various activities with them. We started spending all our free time with the kids there, and it was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. We started enjoying ourselves so much that we made a pact that whenever we want to meet, we should meet at some children’s home or ashrams, and spend time there instead by doing Sewa in whatever ways we can.”
Initially, Dream Club was funded by Akash and some of his friends only. They would set aside a sum from their salaries every month and buy school books, snacks, clothes, and food supplies and distribute it at various orphanages and homes for the differently abled. Eventually, after seeing their admirable work on social media, other donors joined and slowly Dream Club’s activities started expanding. Today Dream Club is associated with several orphanages, old-age homes, and homes for differently abled children across Mumbai. Dream Club has also been awarded the TAMAS ICONIC AWARD 2022 for its commendable work.
Speaking about Dream Club’s activities, Akash says, “Our objective with Dream Club was pretty clear. We wanted to help the one in need and spread joy to as many people as possible. We began connecting with other orphanages, old-age homes, and homes for differently abled children and started identifying their requirements. Like some were in desperate need of a washing machine or bedding or books for kids, so we reached out to people in our groups, people who after seeing our posts had shown interest to help and started raising funds to provide the necessities needed by these places. Often there have been times that we all friends only have chipped in to get the stuff. But today, touchwood, we have many generous people who have joined our group and shown a willingness to help always.”
Today, Dream Club has a decent database of donors, who have become the NGO’s strong support system.
One of the core activities of Dream Club is to celebrate special occasions with children from orphanages and old-age homes. “After seeing us celebrate our birthdays and other joyous occasions with these kids and at old-age homes, a lot of people started connecting with us to do the same on their birthdays or their kid’s birthdays. So, our team then takes these people to various orphanages and homes that we are connected with today and help these people experience the joy of giving. It is a wonderful experience,” says Akash. “Sometimes Dream Club receives food, books, ration, blankets, and clothes from various donors. In that case, we identify who needs what the most and accordingly distribute it amongst them. Often, we even head to the streets and give food and toys to the kids there or distribute ration in slums.”
Hailing from a low-strata of society himself, Akash is well aware of the struggles a middle-income group face for survival. Hence, Dream Club is also actively involved in providing necessities to them as well.
What’s truly praiseworthy is the fact that despite working a 9-5 job, Akash and his friends always find the time for their activities at the Dream Club NGO. “Work is a part of life, but what you do beyond that is what matters,” says Akash wisely. He adds, “Be it spending quality time at old-age homes, providing meals to the children and at the orphanages, playing games with them, teaching them… the joy that we get by just giving our time is unparalleled.” This young and enthusiastic group was working tirelessly during the pandemic as well, distributing food and other supplies to the ones in need.
Ask Akash who is his inspiration to selflessly keep striving for bettering the lives of others. He smiles and says, “My mom — Annamma Sandipog. She is also mad,” he says jokingly, before continuing. “I have never seen a more compassionate and giving soul than hers. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t come from any fancy background. We used to stay in slums. My mom was the only earning member of the house and even then, at that time, she had adopted three kids. One of them is a chef today and two of my adopted sisters are still studying. Often, she would even give away things meant for us to other less fortunate people… She is something else. So, without a doubt she is my inspiration, she is my hero. She has introduced me to the act of giving selflessly.”
Talking about the plans for Dream Club, Akash says excitedly, “We want to continue doing what we do – spread smiles and joy, also, we are considering starting something related to education. There are so many young graduates in our city who are jobless and on the other hand, many street kids and slum kids are deprived of a good education. So, we at Dream Club are planning to employ these graduates to teach the street and slum kids. We had discussed this idea with a trust in Spain, who had come down recently, so let's see how that goes. Meanwhile, Dream Club’s permanent plan is to keep doing good work, help the ones who are in need, and spread smiles.” As an afterthought, he adds, “We hope more and more people realize the joy of giving and spend time and a little money for these kinds of causes. The world will be a much better place then.”
Well, we couldn’t agree more. May he and his tribe rise.
You can also support Dream Club and their mission by joining its community on social media, spreading awareness about the work they do or by making a donation. Visit their Instagram handle: @dreamclub_n_g_o