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Interview: Kahaan Khaitan, Co-Founder: House of Hope

Last Sunday, Devang House hosted a group of five children for a private Organic Cooking workshop in partnership with the NGO House of Hope. House of Hope is a charity run by Kahaan Khaitan and Nikita Gupta. Here, we catch up with Kahaan to learn about his work, and what motivates him to utilize his time and energy towards spreading happiness and smiles!

What is House of Hope? How long have you been around?

It is a humanitarian project started by my friend Nikita and I together. We launched it last year with a video called “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” In the video, we sang and danced with people around Delhi. We wanted to spread the message that you can wear a Gucci dress and Armani shoes, but you’re never fully dressed without a smile.

This video went viral on Facebook - it had 20,000 views, and some Bollywood stars shared it as well.

After releasing the video, we began the project House of Hope. We work with NGOs around Delhi, with the goal of helping kids overcome trauma that they’re going through by channelizing their energies towards creative activities.

We also undertake feel-good endeavors. During the winter season, we did a clothes drive, where we collected clothes and distributed them to people at night.

Apart from this, we are raising funds for electricity access for a village near Delhi. So it is a combination of action towards social concerns, as well as engaging with the community of young children in creative ways, to overcome their trauma.

How did this start for you? You studied in the United States, and then moved back to Delhi, right?

Yes, I attended Babson College in Boston and then moved back to Delhi. I felt this need to contribute and give back to society. It was at a wedding where I spoke to a cousin sister, and she introduced me to the NGO she was working with.

Through her, I got associated with a couple of NGOs and I started working with them.

Since I’ve always been actively involved in theatre, it occurred to me to replicate theatre as a creative activity in these NGOs. Seeing the enthusiasm it was met with, after a fre months, I decided to turn the activity into a small play with the kids as actors. It really is another feeling when you go in front of a crowd and act on stage!

It was a huge success and the kids loved it!

Why are you so involved in these activities, what makes you care so much about giving back?

It wasn’t something sudden that I encountered in particular, it’s just that I saw so much need when I began visiting the NGOs. Seeing the innocent faces of kids. A couple of NGO visits really inspired me, and that’s all it took to make me want to be involved.

What do you think of Devang House and what we’re doing, does it relate to your mission at House of Hope?

What Devang House lives for is “The Joy of Being”. This positive message that you are trying to spread through health, meditation, and yoga – it’s something very new. We at House of Hope also want to spread positivity, something that society can look forward to – we also want to spread the Joy of Being. A reference to House of Hope should instantly bring a smile to one’s face. Devang House makes one smile as well. The joy that both House of Hope and Devang House are spreading is what we have in common.

What do you feel about this generation – what can they learn or do more?

There’s a lot of talk that happens in today’s times, which is a very positive start. But now, that talk needs to translate into action. People need to actively get out there and make a difference, even a small one. I understand that we’re very busy. But if we all can take some time out and contribute to society, it’ll lead to a better and happier environment to live in and we’d also derive a lot of personal satisfaction out of it.

I was directing this girl a few years back for a play, and she was very nervous and afraid; she would cry during rehearsals.

Then last year, I got a call from a number - she called to tell me that she got a full scholarship for college because of her acting. That was so amazing to hear.

When you see the happiness and contentment of the kids, a double effect comes into play – you’re touching someone else’s life and you’re making yourself happy, too.