A picture is worth a thousand words, but a memory is priceless #ThrowbackThursday

A picture is worth a thousand words, but a memory is priceless #ThrowbackThursday

Someone said: “a picture is worth a thousand words, but a memory is priceless.You don’t just take a picture with a camera, you take it with your heart”.
The story of the Project Why Okhla Centre is the story of two women: Sophiya and Pushpa. Sophiya and Pushpa must have worked for less than one year as primary teachers in our Giri Nagar programme when Sophiya came hesitantly to me and told me about the plight of children in the vicinity of her home.

She lived in the tiny tenements that are tucked away between factories in the industrial area of Okhla. In those areas most parents work long hours and children are left to their own devices, becoming targets for lurking predators who find them easy prey to steal and to push drugs.

Needless to say Project Why was on board! The problem was that in such areas there are no empty spaces to rent or use and it was left to the ladies to find space.

The two ladies were back the next day, huge smiles on their faces and the news that they had found a space and even got permission from the local cops and politician. It was a garbage dump close to the railway line.  No problem. We would reclaim it.

Another problem. The local mafia, who could see their resources dwindling, turned heaven and earth to make us leave. Every Sunday the rickety structure was brought down and every Monday our ladies would re-build it again.
We eventually erected a loose brick structure around the school and how proud everyone was! They took it upon themselves to paint the school every year at Diwali, contributed 5 rupees each and provided the labour. The school could turn from bright pink, to blue to green! 

There were a few problems though as sometimes we found our school broken. 
But that did not deter us and classes continued till funds were found to rebuild the school.
The show never stopped. Okhla kids have a lot of fun and have one things in abundance: SMILES
One day the children told us they wanted to learn how to use computers. This was a difficult demand as there was no safety in our fragile structure. However, a young man from the local mafia came forward and offered his protection. Since that day we have had no problems. And the children got their computer!
Last year a kind donor gave us sufficient funds to add a proper ceiling and thus have a roof that could be used as space for teaching and would allow us to have a proper computer centre. The centre took on a new avatar. This is how it looks now
and look at the new computer centre!
Classes are now held both downstairs and on the new roof under the shade of a huge neem tree. 
The sky is the limit. 
Okhla is our biggest success story.  Many of our kids have have now passed their exams and some are pursuing higher education.
But above all, there are many lessons to be learnt, the biggest one being that nothing is impossible if you have the will, the determination and the ability to see with your heart.
It feels good to take a walk down memory lane. One should do it more often.
I feels good to take a walk down memory lane. One should do it more often.
Please join Project Why on its 
You can also follow us on Twitter  
Even the smallest donation makes a difference. 
Support Project Why here

Spair Grace soup and Lemon Grace Tea  #GivingTuesday

Spair Grace soup and Lemon Grace Tea #GivingTuesday

Spare Grace, Lemongrace, Red Cabies  and Badycon were the words proudly displayed by the local vegetable shop now catering to the growing expat clientele. To the uninitiated this translates as asparagus, lemongrass, red cabbage and baby corn!

India is a land with a multitude of languages but English has become the administrative language and is quickly becoming a vernacular language as well. Today, even the poorest parents understand the necessity of English for their child to succeed, and as a result signs reading “ENGLISH MEDIUM”  dot the city.

So do all Indians speak good English then? The answer is no.

English medium schools in poorer areas often do not employ teachers who speak English- at least not a form of English a fluent speaker would recognise.

The job market today requires a working knowledge of English and the students at Project Why rely on our resources for their English education. Project Why relies on the resources of our dedicated volunteers and on workshops.

Recently we bid farewell to Eva who taught the Okhla teachers and children for  one year. Her intervention went a long way in building confidence in the teachers. The importance of volunteers able to teach English cannot be stressed enough.

n January 2016, Damyanti held a week-long spoken English workshop under the aegis of the Book Council of Singapore that culminated in a bi-lingual poetry and story reading event. The use of pod casting has helped us continue this venture and we have regular in-house reading events.

Project Why has adopted these measures to help teach our children English. What ideas do YOU have for expanding English literacy?

Do you think English is a skill that spells success?

Do you think children from deprived homes should learn English?

Can YOU come to Project Why to help teach our children?

Please join Project Why on its 
You can also follow us on Twitter  
Even the smallest donation makes a difference. 
Support Project Why here
Celebrating Project Why What have you celebrated this week #socialgood

Celebrating Project Why What have you celebrated this week #socialgood

Sometimes you do not have to look far to find things to celebrate. You simply have to look with your heart. I sometimes kick myself for not taking time to simply stop and savour things around me, more so because I’m blessed to have Project Why which is a constant source of celebration. This week I did just that by slowly browsing the pictures taken in the last seven days.

There was much to celebrate, from the birthday party of a young girl who has chosen to mark her special day year after year by giving a special treat to the students of our special section.

A treat indeed as the differently-abled children are taken to Dilli Haat and given the lunch of their choice not to forget the birthday cake. And there are return gifts, too. It is fun time when all differences are forgotten and it is just a bunch of old friends having fun together.

Let us shift gears and peek at the little ones. Silence please, kids at work. Some are creating,

while others are busy learning so that they can have a better future.
At the women centre, a bunch of ladies are busy learning how to operate computers.
These are women who would never have got this opportunity were it not for Project Why. They know this, and that’s why there is absolute concentration and application. They’re making up for lost time.  In another space young girls are busy studying as they too know that it is a matter of taking destiny in their own hands.
At the Okhla centre it is farewell and welcome time. We say goodbye to Eva, a volunteer from Germany who has been teaching spoken English to the staff and children of the centre and who was loved by one and all.

and welcome back to Alyssa, a volunteer from the US who has come back to Project Why to share her knowledge with our children. Thank you ladies. 
I feel overwhelmed with gratitude and blessed. Life is a celebration provided you are willing to look with your heart.

Please join Project Why on its 

You can also follow us on Twitter  
Even the smallest donation makes a difference. Support Project Why here

Do Indian Children have the right to dream? #GivingTuesday #India

Do Indian Children have the right to dream? #GivingTuesday #India

Child labour is cheap. A child is submissive, and can be made to work under poorly lit and poorly ventilated spaces.
A child can be used for stitching, embroidering, weaving rugs and carpets, making matchsticks and firecrackers, and rolling beedis in backbreaking conditions.

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 is being amended and is now in Parliament. According to Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, two of these amendments may defeat the very purpose of the Act. 

The first is the one allows children below 14 to work in family enterprises.

Helping out after school is acceptable when it is truly a family business, but what stops anyone from exploiting this law? Anyone can claim a child as ‘family’ in the Indian poor classes, and even if a child is truly family, it is hard to ensure he or she will be sent to school once this amendment comes into force. Most of the children that land up in big cities are often brought by ‘uncles’ from the village who turn out to be middle men and traffickers. When Project Why opened our Yamuna centre we were faced with parents coming during class and asking for the child as she/he was needed to pluck vegetables. It took us a long time to get make the parents understand.

Another amendment is even more detrimental to child rights.  At present, Child Labour law prohibits employment of a child in 18 occupations and 65 processes. The proposed new amendment reduces the prohibited occupations to three: Mines, Inflammable substances and Explosives. So the children under 15 working in ‘family-run’ businesses like domestic work, bead-making, carpet-weaving will be legal.

The question that needs to be asked is whether the child making beedis in his family business will be able to go to school? The only caveat one can think of is to define ‘family’ and limit it to parents and legal guardians, but in India, where the record of implementation is very low, that seems impossible.  Children can help their families and even learn their skills but this should not come in the way of their health, education and leisure time. But these options aren’t available to the poorest of the poor.

Sanjay, a  Project Why alumni, a gypsy ironsmith’s son, and a Project Why teacher, today walks the ramp in the world’s fashion capital, Paris. That was possible because his family allowed him to study and work in a trade other than theirs. Sanjay made his dream come true.

Project Why is a place where children are given the RIGHT TO DREAM.

Do you think that  every child has the right to dream, and dream BIG? In a country like India, should children under 14 be allowed to help in family enterprises? Should any child, under or above 14 be allowed to work in factories making matchsticks or firecrackers or as domestic help?

Please join Project Why on its 
You can also follow us on Twitter  
Even the smallest donation makes a difference. 
Support Project Why here

Have You Heard about This Extraordinary Boy Named Utpal? #socialgood

Have You Heard about This Extraordinary Boy Named Utpal? #socialgood

There is so much to celebrate at Project Why each and every day, but this week was a very special celebration: Utpal’s 14th! To the uninitiated it would have looked like any birthday with cakes and candles and singing and cheering. However, Utpal is a very special child.

He came into my life 13 years ago when he was barely one year old. His first birthday was nothing short of a nightmare: he accidentally fell into a boiling wok and sustained third-degree burns.
He was given up for dead but there is a God of lesser beings, who had a plan to change the destiny of this child born in a dysfunctional family to an alcoholic mother. A moribund bundle landed in my heart via my arms and two lives changed: mine, and his.

But his ordeal was not over. It took three more years of living in a violent and turbulent environment before Project Why stepped in once and for all. At age 4 he went to boarding school. When he turned 7, I became his legal guardian.
Utpal, or Popples as I fondly call him, is a survivor and a braveheart. At an age when children are pampered, this boy had to deal with the trauma of his mom going awol. But he bounced back, and is all set to enter class IX.
Utpal is now your regular teenager. I guess years of living with his Maam’ji – the name he has given me – and being spoilt, have taken their toll! He has tantrums and demands but it is all part of the game. On the other hand, he is extremely kind to others and has a way with smaller children. He is also a born leader and very clever with his hands. He loves tinkering, is a serious student and has a great sense of humour.
So it was wonderful to see him with his pals happy as a lark but also the perfect host. Every one was given cake, including the guards. That’s Utpal for you.
As for me I feel grateful, humbled and blessed.
What was your week like? What were you grateful for? Would you like to support Utpal and other children like him? To do so, get in touch here.

Please join Project Why on its 

You can also follow us on Twitter  
Even the smallest donation makes a difference. Support Project Why here