Helping Hands Organisation India
Commonwealth Point of Light 90. Jolly Johnson
Jolly Johnson, representing India, is the founder of the Helping Hands Organisation (H2O), growing an army of volunteers in Kerala, from 12 to 12,000 people in the last six years.
Under Jolly’s leadership, H2O has built a centre for disabled children where volunteers run a number of therapy sessions, vocational training and family counselling. Their civic awareness and action program engages schools, neighbourhoods and cities in ‘acts of active citizenship’ – rescuing children from bonded labour, working on village sanitation projects and engaging hundreds of vulnerable older people through regular befriending visits. Their flood-rehabilitation programme started soon after Kerala’s devastating floods in 2018 and is currently helping 150 families whose homes were destroyed by delivering medical supplies, educational items and rebuilding houses.
Jolly was presented with her award by His Royal Highness Prince Charles on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen, as Head of the Commonwealth, during his Royal Tour of India in November 2019 (pictured below).
The British Deputy High Commissioner of Chennai, Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford, said:
“By inspiring over 12,000 youth volunteers to help the most vulnerable aged and differently-abled children across Kerala, Ms Jolly Johnson has shown the way to thousands of other youth studying or working in India who are keen to freely give of their time, their effort in a noble cause. I hope the Points of Light award helps her and her team at H2O go on to inspire millions of youth across the world who can learn from her sincerity, her commitment over several years, to making a difference.”
“When I started H2O in 2012, one of the first beneficiaries I cared for, along with my student volunteers, was Thankkamani (at the time a 45-year-old with Autism spectrum). She lay on a bed of ants, rotting food, unclean, with no one to care for her professionally. Today she is no more, but I would like to dedicate this award to her, and children and others like her with Autism or from underprivileged backgrounds in India – they are the true warriors, fighting stigmatisation daily. And to my volunteers, who despite their tender age, understand the need for social work – I am truly blessed. Thank you, for this recognition of my work and those of my volunteers and most importantly, this acknowledgement of the wonderful beneficiaries who call H2O their second home today.”