Anou's blog

Anous’s blog
Let us celebrate

The class X and XII results are out and it is time to celebrate. Over 40 Project Why kids have cleared their boards and I am proud of each and every one of them. I am proud of the ones that got the sought 90% but also of those who just passed! It is true that marks make a difference in the present education scenario and that if you are not in the top percentile you may not get access to higher education in the college of your choice but have you ever thought of how unfair the grading system is to the child! Only those who have the ability and capability  to learn by heart can accede to those high marks. But does that mean that those who can’t are less capable?  And more so the child is judged on her or his performance on the five days of the examination! Do you call this fair? I don’t.

I recently came across a post on social media, that said the following:

Congratulations , for getting that 90% and more marks….

Congratulations for getting 60 % and more…..

Congratulations for getting 33% percent and more….

Congratulations for getting less than 33 %….

It’s an exam of education not LIFE…..

Please celebrate whatever results your kid has got. 

These words were a real eye opener as one does not realise how hurt a child can be if he is constantly reminded of his poor performance and also as the author says that this is just an exam of education not of life!

Another social media post is a letter written by a mother to her son who had secured 60%! A lesson in parenting indeed. She wrote: Super proud of my boy who scored a 60% in Class 10 board exams. Yes it is not a 90, but that doesn’t change how I feel. Simply because I have seen him struggle with certain subjects almost to the point of giving up, and then deciding to give his all in the last month-and-a-half to finally make it through! Here’s to you, Aamer. And others like you – fishes asked to climb trees. Chart your own course in the big, wide ocean, my love. And keep your innate goodness, curiosity and wisdom alive. And of course, your wicked sense of humour.” Every word rings so true. No education system should rob a child of his innate values.

Do we realise what we ask children to give up just to reach those hallowed marks! I think this is something we should mull on. We ask them to give up all that is fun in life, all that makes them children, all that makes them creative, curious and unique. It is a lot to ask.

I have my battles with my darling Utpal who tells me stubbornly that he does not like to learn what he does not understand, that we wants to skate and paint and read books and dance and volunteer at Project Why. He never got high marks in his class X but on the other hand developed so many skills and talents in the last two years and above all learnt compassion. I know he will do his best in class XII and that is all I should ask of him as I celebrate every step of his journey.

It makes one wonder about what one truly needs to teach a child in order to make him or her a good human being. We need to teach compassion and tolerance above all and that is not found in school books. We need to teach leadership and the ability to work and live with others; we need to teach problem solving and thinking out of the box. This is what is needed to succeed in life.

Today I celebrate every Project Why student who has passed her or his Boards  as I know that each one did its best. Every child is unique and that is what we need to celebrate.

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Anou’s blog
Music to my ears

The class XII results are out and once again I am flummoxed at the results. 499/500 in humanities! 99.9% in subjects like English, history, psychology etc. I fail to understand how one achieves that except if the paper was entirely a multiple choice one and that is no the case. A couple of years ago a topper had admitted that she has learnt all the books by heart. My heart went out to the poor child and to all those who like her mug up the text book word for word. But that seems to be the way to go, or so it seems. I feel sorry for the children who have been usurped of their right to play, have fun, be creative, think out of the box, develop extra curricular skills and so on. To ‘succeed’ you have to excel in rote learning. Any child who cannot do that cannot get admission in the prized colleges and universities. Sadly the 99 percentile is something Project Why children cannot achieve as they run the race with many handicaps and try as we do, we cannot give them all that their peers from better homes have.

Quite frankly in my opinion a 99% obtained by rote learning does not define an intelligent child and does not open doors to carriers in today’s world.  What is needed in the Information Age are skills like creativity and imagination, critical thinking, problem solving, initiative etc. A far cru from rote learning. This is the antithesis of the education system our children follow and which is rooted in the colonial past where what was required were pen pushers willing to obey orders. Education as we know it needs to be turned on its head.

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon an article about a proposed change of pattern in grading class X and XII examinations. The article was music to my years as it talked about a possible revamp of the examination pattern with a view to discourage students from rote learning! The new pattern would test students on their analytical skills and reasoning abilities instead of blind copy pasting of textbook text. The plan has been submitted for approval and it is hoped that the changes would be effective in 2020. This is a huge step in the right direction and I do hope it will lead to more changes in the education system itself. Way to go!

Follow us along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and we will follow you back. Let us take a few steps together on this journey of education and empowerment.

Anou’s blog
There is always room for hope #GivingTuesday

There is always Room for Hope is the title of the book I wrote when battling my partner’s cancer. Writing helped me cope with the elephant in the room and hope was what I held on to with both hands and my heart. And somehow we managed to survive and ultimately win the battle against all odds. This was six years ago. With life resuming its normal course I had forgotten about those terrible days.

It is only this morning when I sat on my balcony after yet another sleepless night wondering where we would be next month, next year, next…., that the title of my book suddenly appeared in my mind and I once again understood that in the darkest hour, hope was the only lifeline you could cling to. And hence, today, when all seems dark in the horizon I need to hang on to hope like never before.

Project Why’s life is a stake as in spite of all our efforts and prayers, the miracle we sought is nowhere in sight. We are again on life support and need to find a long term solution to continue our work or else look for the honourable way out, if way out there is. My blood runs cold at the very thought as every part of Project Why is like a child to me and I do not want to be face with Sophie’s choice. Yesterday we received a rejection from a funding institution; many of our appeals have gone unheard and unanswered; the situation is grim to say the least.

And yet amidst all this, hope remains alive.

When I look back at the last two decades I recall the umpteen times when we have been at the edge of despair and yet never gave up hope. And each and every time a miracle, for want of a better word, occurred making me believe that there was someone, the God of Lesser beings, who intervened and ensured we remain on track. I must confess that there were times when we were almost hubristic in our approach, making promises and commitments that defied all reason. But somehow we knew in our hearts that we would be able to stand by them: we never gave up hope.

Today I have over a thousand children with dreams in their eyes who believe that we can fulfil them. I have a team of almost 50 souls who depend on us to feed their loves ones. So how can I give up hope?

I did not give it up when a scalded baby landed in my arms and today he is a lovely teenager who walks in your heart or when a little girl was found rummaging the garbage dump for foods, her body burnt her fingers fused and today she is an impish young girl who you cannot help but fall for.

I did not give it up when broken hearts came to us for repair; I did not give it up when bulldozers raised my happy place to the ground, I did not give it up when a bunch of boys were riled by their principal who branded them as gutter snipes, I did not give it up each time a mother came with a prayer that needed to be answered. I never gave up because I knew that no matter how dark the night, there was hope at the end of it when the sun would rise again.

So today again I need to hold on to hope as tight as I can, and believe in my heart that the sun will rise again tomorrow. I just need the strength to go through the night.

Some of the inmates of our heartFixHotel

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Anou’s blog
A little ray of sunshine #GivingTuesday

Seeing this picture today warmed the cockles of my heart, brought a huge smile on my face and sent me down memory lane. The girl in the striped Tshirt is none other than our darling Kiran! She has just finished writing her class XII examinations and while waiting for the results is ‘volunteering’ at our Yamuna centre where she teaches English to children of all classes. She is a diligent and committed teacher, what else would she be? Kiran has always been a serious child, way beyond her age and my companion in arms in the early project why years. She was born the year we began Project Why. I actually held her in my arms when she was just a few days old. A year or so later she would be joined by Utpal and the three of us would be inseparable. The fact that she was born on my mother’s birthday gave her the right to call me Anou!

Kiran was always a serious and quiet child, who would surprise you by her mature almost adult ways. As a child her preferred drink was a ginger ale! She was to the manor born and a pleasure to be with. In those days I would tuck Kiran on one hip and Uptal on the other and set off on many expeditions. They both joined the same play school and it was my duty to fetch them at noon. Then the three of us would swing by the momo shop (momos were rare in those days) and gorge ourselves before heading back. Once when we were walking to Project Why we passed by mounds of food thrown on the ground after a wedding party. Kiran looked upset and looked up at me and said: they could have fed it to the cows! When it was time to admit her to school, we all lived the ‘admission nightmare’ together and I could understand first hand what millions of parents went through each year!

Kiran’s favourite class at Project Why was always the special needs section. From a very young age she warmed up to these very special kids who became her friends and each summer she would spend her holidays ‘volunteering’ in that class. And each summer holiday homework was a bane we had to live with together.

When Utpal went to boarding school at the age of 4, she was heart broken. She made it a point to come to every PTM as she missed her little soul mate. She was over the moon when we decided to send her to the same boarding school as her pal after she completed her class X. They spent two great years together.

Next month she will get her results and decide what she wants to opt for as a career. I know that she will shine in whatever she chooses to do as she is an extremely bright child who can withstand all challenges and find her place in the sun.

She is our little ray of sunshine.

Follow us along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and we will follow you back. Let us take a few steps together on this journey of education and empowerment.

Anou’s blog
The courage to continue #GivingTuesday#India

My friend and supporter Damyanti Biswas has asked to be a guest on her blog every second Friday of the month. The first post was up last week and was entitled When at the Edge of a Precipice, What Gives You the Courage to Go on?

It talks about Project Why and how over the years we have been faced with obstacles and challenges and come out of it each time simply because we never gave up. It makes me ask myself whether courage was something I always had in me, or whether, as much else in my life, it was something Project Why gifted me. The answer is undoubtedly the later.

True I had in my life before Project Why shown the ability to overcome fears, but the courage I refer to today is the one that makes you stand for your beliefs without wavering, in the face of all adversity, and know you have to go on no matter what. You can call it crossroads, or standing at the edge of a precipice and knowing you have to jump even if you do not have a parachute. You just have to create your own.

In the twenty years of running Project Why I have found myself in this position many times and each and every time found the courage to carry on. I have lost count of the number of instances when the reasonable option was to stop and even walk away. For me that was never an alternative. And that is how we grew from a small family of two scores to one off over thousand members; that is how scores of broken hearts were repaired and moribund children given the hope of life; that is how every challenge was met and solutions found.

Today I ask myself where did I draw the strength and find that ‘courage’ in spite of so many setbacks. Or let me take it a step further: was it really courage or as someone said the fear of falling! I do not know. Maybe it was/is the fear of facing myself on judgement day if such a day exists. There was no alternative.

And the ‘courage’ – let us call it that – came and comes from all the souls who have entrusted me with their dreams. Every child that enters the portal of Project Why does so with the hope of changing its life. It is a pact we make and each has to stand by it. And to do that means not to give up.

Today I am again at the edge of a precipice. Project Why is on life support with some centres only funded for a few months. We now need to look for people willing to support our work long time. It is daunting indeed but we have the courage to continue!

 

A birthday to remember #GivingTuesday#India

Last week I celebrated my 67th! I had made no special plans barring a small celebration at home with the family and two friends. A day before I was asked if I would visit the Project the next day and I said I would try to. The request to visit came from all centres and everyone was so insistent that I had no option but to say yes.

I woke up early as I normally do and was pleasantly surprised to see birthday messages both on my phone and on Facebook! The first one I saw was from Utpal, sent at the dot of midnight from my home as he had taken leave from school to be with me on this day. I was touched by the number of people who had sent loving messages from across the world. Before Project Why I barely got a few calls as the recluse I had become after the demise of my parents had but a handful of people to remember my birthday. But here I was today, flooded with messages from New Zealand to the west coast in the US via every country I could think of. I was overwhelmed. The only child today had a family as large as the planet!

After having answered some messages I set out to visit Project Why as promised. First stop was Govindpuri. I had barely entered when I was greeted by a loud Happy Birthday from our one and only Seema. I walked up the stairs and entered the creche where the children were ready to sing for me. I felt choked with emotion and sat down to catch my breath. It was then time to move up to the office where I was greeted by balloons and a loud happy birthday from all the teachers of the centre. There was a cake, and presents, and flowers everything that makes a birthday special. We chatted for a while and then it was time to move to the next destination: Khader.

Here again I was greeted by loud wishes. The boys were waiting upstairs and wished me by singing the ubiquitous birthday song. I was again moved to tears as I realised what a big and loving family I had. It was cake time again and the teachers had even made a piñata filled with confetti. Utpal and Babli were there too, Utpal the perfect master of ceremonies. Time to move on to Okhla.

I was still in the scooter when I got a call from Utpal telling me he was going Live on Facebook as the boys had prepared a play for me and were disappointed that I had left so thanks to technology and our whiz kid I saw the play on the way to Okhla. At Okhla there were children waiting to wish me, a birthday card and a gift made i house and lots of love and laughter. I was over the moon. It had been such an unexpected and joyful celebration, one that I would remember in times to come.

In the afternoon I was made to tune in to another Live on Facebook and watch the show the Khader girls had organised. I must admit it was a very gratifying experience. The day ended with a small party at home with scrumptious food provide by my dear friend Kabir and more song and merriment. More messages had come by then and I ended the day by replying to all of them. I went to sleep my heart filled with the love I had received throughout the day.

I realised how much Project Why had given me over the years: a wonderful team that was more than family, a wonderful network of friends some I had never met but who showered me with so much trust and love, and more than a thousand children who had chosen me to secure their dreams.  I felt elated and humbled at the same time and could not help from asking myself what had I done to deserve so much.

 

I am busy being grateful #GivingTuesday #India

For the past two decades I’ve been busy, being grateful.

Ever since the day I met Manu and was shaken out of the torpor I had allowed myself to sink in after my parents’ demise, I was blessed with abundant miracles that I could not have imagined existed. The biggest one was Project Why. It set me on a journey that was replete with wondrous occurrences, leaving me speechless and filled me with gratitude. Words like Miracles and Angels became commonplace. True, there were a few setbacks along the way but these paled in the wake of the blessings and bounty that came my way.

When I decided to give Manu a ‘home’ I had absolutely no idea of how that would pan out. But a miracle was being conjured. I use to buy shoes from a shop in a nearby market and had befriended the lady who owned the shop. I would stop by for a cup of coffee or a cool drink and chat with her. I shared my predicament with her en passant, more as a conversation piece than a plea for help and fell off my chair when she asked me to look for space that she was willing to buy for us. That a little mud jhuggi  on the very street Manu roamed was for sale was another miracle. We had our first ‘centre’ and there was no looking back. The shoe lady and Manu had laid the foundations of Project Why.

I always wondered if this is what Angels looked like. I lost touch with the shoe lady as her shop soon closed but she remains in my prayers each and every day. As for Manu, his spirit is what gives me the strength to carry on.

Miracles and Angels have abounded in Project Why. It would take volumes to write about each one of them and many lives to express the extend of my gratitude . Many of you know Utpal the little fellow who landed in my arms via a boiling wok and became my master in unconditional love.

There are all my special needs children who are my never-fail feel-good shot. My amazing team who gave wings to all my dreams, even the most outrageous ones and all the wonderful people who have reached out and given us  love and support to make Project Why a reality. What is extraordinary is that many of them have not even seen us and yet they believed in us and gave with abandon. What would you call them but Angels? True they do not have wings but have something more precious: the ability to see with their heart. I am deeply grateful to each one of them.

Last week saw yet more miracles.

miracles and angelsThe first one was the success of our fundraiser where 155 souls came forward to help us save our Okhla centre. It was truly overwhelming and humbling. My heartfelt gratitude to each one of them and to Damyanti Biswas who has never stopped believing in us.

The second one was a picture sent by one of the teachers that showed the results of the end of year exams.

Many of our kids have once again secured top positions in their schools. This has been happening every year and has been the validation of all that we believed in and stood for. With a little help from our Angels and lots of love, these children can move mountains.

So here I am, busy being grateful! If you’re ever in Delhi, please visit us for a chat and a cup of tea. We love visitors, and teachers and children at our centres are friendly and enthusiastic hosts.

Follow us along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and we will follow you back. Let us take a few steps together on this journey of education and empowerment.

Anou’s blog
With a little help from my friends #WATWB

A few weeks back we launched a fundraiser to help four teachers of Project Why save their school from closing.

This school has an incredible story. It was set up more than 15 years ago by two incredible women Pushpa and Sophiya to help children who were being abused by predators, looking for hands to steal and push drugs.

These children were from an industrial area bereft of any school and were left to their own devices by parents too busy surviving. The catch was, that in this area, there was no place to start a centre as barring factories and tiny settlements in empty spaces there was no space that could be used. This did not deter our formidable duo and they found a space that was a garbage dump. Where others saw squalor and filth, they could see a school and hope. It took their determination and a few trucks of mud to reclaim a space large enough to start a school under a plastic sheet held by four bamboo poles. There was no looking back.

Today over 350 children come to our Okhla Centre where classes from I to XII are held and many have graduated and gone on to take their place in the sun. Along the way a computer centre run by incredible Mithu was set up to ensure that the children have IT skills. The secondary section is spearheaded by Naresh who has the ability to turn failures into toppers! It is a win-win situation.

Today this school has lost its main funder and is at risk of closing down. To keep it open and give us time to find a long term solution, it is critical that we are able to pay the salaries of our staff for the next few months and that is why we launched this fundraising campaign.

We are nearing the end of the campaign and have managed to raise the funds. This was made possible by the wonderful way in which old and new friends came together and reached out with their support. The magic of the Internet allowed us to reconnect with many old friends and supporters and I am so touched by how each and everyone responded with so much love and generosity.

What was also overwhelming was the number of new friends  we made during this campaign.

With help from our dear friend Damyanti Biswas, we were able to organise a Blogathon that helped us reach out to more people and I was touched beyond words by those who blogged for our cause, and shared the campaign on their networks allowing us to reach out to a wider audience. Many of them contributed generously to our cause and thanks to each one of them our Okhla school may get the breather it so needs.

With the help of old and new friends we have been able to do what may have seemed impossible: Save our Okhla School.

I have no words to express my gratitude. The fundraiser closes in 2 days, but anything extra raised will go to Our Okhla Centre.

CLICK HERE to support the Project Why #HelpMithuSaveSchool Fundraiser.

For tax-exempted donations from the USA, please CLICK HERE.

 

 

Anou’s Blog
A meeting to remember #GivingTuesday

It had been ages since I attended a Parent’s Meeting in any of the Project Why Centres, so when the Okhla staff asked me to come and be part one I immediately accepted. I was curious to know what parents thought of our work and how they perceived us. The meeting was scheduled for 10 am and I reached a little after that wondering how many would come as this was morning, and most were busy either at work or in their homes. Imagine my surprise when I walked in to find the place teeming with mothers all dressed up in their best attire, some with babies at their hip, each wearing a huge smile on her face.

We settled down to business. The question that was looming large was whether they were happy and satisfied with our work. The answer was a loud resounding YES! Many chose to share their experience. One mother said that her children had been studying for over 10 years now, all five of them. One had passed out and was in college and one, the elder daughter was married. When I looked at her a little perplexed she was quick to say that her daughter was 20 and had completed her school. She had understood that education was important and would make her a better mother. Another mother shared that it was only because of our presence that her children were able to pass their exams with good marks. They would have dropped out otherwise as the family could not afford the much needed tuition. Because of Project Why children were now busy, not roaming streets and prey to abuse. All mothers felt that things had changed since we began our work in 2007.

As they talked, I was filled with so much gratitude and emotion. Gratitude to Sophiya and Pushpa who had found about the plight of these children and decided to urge me to reach out to them, and emotion at the magnitude of what a little effort on our part could do. A recent alumni meeting had showed us how far our children had gone and how they had broken the cycle of poverty in which they were born.

One mother was very grateful that even after having all our computers stolen, we had not given up and packed our wares as many would have done, but replaced the computers and carried on our work. All others were very happy that their children were acquiring computer skills. The one thing that warmed my heart was that all mothers present and the two fathers said that they had realised that education was the only way out for their children.

One mother asked whether we could start sewing classes for them as they too wanted to learn a skill. The thought has seeded and who knows, with the right support, the Sewing Circle of Okhla may soon see the light of day.

After I had left, I was surprised when a teacher came rushing to ask me to come back. I was perplexed not knowing what to expect. As I reentered the room the ladies started applauding. That is what they had called me back for. Tears welled up in my eyes.

That this centre may close as we have lost its main funder and are desperately trying to find a new one is nothing short of heartbreaking.

We have started a small fund raiser to help us tide over the next months. But the miracle I pray for is a generous donor who would take over the whole centre and understand what a huge difference a little help can make in the life of these children.

Anou’s blog
Exams at Project Why #GivingTuesday#India

March is exam month in India and every child is busy studying! I remember when my children were young, come exam time and the whole house went into exam mode. The TV was disconnected, everyone almost tiptoed around the house, favourite meals were cooked, coffee was made late into the night and we were all ever present to the needs of the child preparing for her exams. Parents were as tense as the children, if not more.

For Project Why children it is an altogether different ballgame.

These children come form homes where parents do not care about exams at all. They live in one room cramped tenements where the TV blares regardless, where life goes on as usual with the drunk father coming and being abusive and the meal prepared by the mother may be kicked to the ground and the family would sleep on an empty stomach. In such homes studying for an exam is close to impossible and yet our children do the best they can, sometimes huddling in a corner and making themselves small so as not to disturb others.

That is why at Project Why we ensure that during exam time, children have the space and support they need. Teachers give extra time even if it means going beyond the stipulated closing time or even on a holiday or Sunday. Children are encouraged to ask questions and clear their doubts and mock tests are taken regularly to assess the preparedness of each child and take remedial measures where needed.

And year after year the children have done us proud, as they have cleared their exams with respectable marks, many even topping their classes. I have a profound admiration for these children who run the race with many handicaps and yet come out winners. Hats off to all of them and to their teachers who leave no stone unturned to ensure that each child passes.

In a few days, the results will be out and children will move to the next class. Most of them will come with sweets to share with all of us. And though it has been almost two decades, I still feel a sense of immense pride and joy every time a child comes to me and tells me she has passed! Exam time at Project Why is truly a blessed moment.

 

Anou’s blog
The experience of going Live on Facebook #GivingTuesday

March 8th was International Women’s Day. It was also the day I was asked by my friend Damyanti to do a  Live on Facebook and share the story of the women of Project Why, the women who had inspired it, helped set it up, run it and manage it.  I must admit that I had never truly given a thought to the role of women in Project Why. It had always been an education programme for children!

I was very nervous about going live. Till date I had been interviewed on camera and even ‘talked’ about Project Why in front of an audience, but it had always been known ground. Going Live on a social media platform was nothing short of daunting. And that too on Women’s day which meant that the discourse had to be different. Simply talking about our skilling programmes for women was far from enough.

I sat with my thinking cap on and took a walk down memory lane trying to see what role women had played in enabling Project Why. It is then that it struck me that actually Project Why was inspired by the life of one woman, Kamala, my mother, whose life and spirit imbues every aspect of the work of the last two decades. That it is education that I chose to make its centrepiece, came from the importance Kamala gave to education and the way she fought to get an education for herself. That I decided to select a staff of women from the community, came from her fight for women’s rights and her belief that every woman had the right to make her own choices. That I am my mother’s daughter is validated by Project Why!

Project Why is steered primarily by women, women no one believed in, women no one would have given a second thought to. It is such women that run it today. Every single one has walked that extra mile and proved her worth in more ways than one. They have guided me and counselled me and stood by be at every step. Just like Kamala, I believed in them and felt that I had to help them find their voice and make their own choices.

Today almost 40 women run Project Why. Thousands have been skilled and become financially independent. Thousands of girls have entered its portal and left as determined young women who would live their dreams and become equal partners and super moms.

This is the story I would share on the famous Live, I decided.

Easier said than done. For the next days I tried to write a script but was unable to as I sounded flat. I wrote some points and walked around the house rehearsing what I would say but mumbled and fumbled. I slept fitfully and was up before dawn on that morning. When faced with the camera I almost froze and the first lines sounded terrible but then I do not know what happened. I think it was Kamala’s spirit that took over and I shared my story from deep within my heart and the words flowed with ease. It was soon over and I was told it had gone well. For me it had been an incredible experience: that of my sharing my life with the world. I felt humbled.

Today Project Why is at crossroads, its future in peril. If I am unable to find funding, part of it may shut down. I know I have to once again draw strength from the spirit of Kamala and do everything I can to save it.

I owe it to her, I owe it everyone woman who has reposed their faith in me.

If you’ve read so far, please consider making a small donation to the Project WHY Okhla school established by Pushpa and Sophiya, whose quiet perseverance not just established the school, but help run it today.

CLICK HERE to support the Project Why #HelpMithuSaveSchool Fundraiser.


For tax-exempted donations from the USA, please CLICK HERE.

What’s new
Write Tribe Festival of Words: Project Why takes over Daily (w)rite!

From March 4 to 10th, Project Why will be participating in the Write Tribe Festival of Words by taking over Damyanti Biswas’s Daily (w)rite!

It is an honour to be part of this Festival and to talk to a new audience about Project Why. I hope all my readers will join me in this exciting journey.

festival of wordsThe posts are based on word prompts and the schedule is as follows:

  1. 4 March – Forgive
  2. 5 March – Miracle
  3. 6 March – Serenity
  4. 7 March – Nurture
  5. 8 March – Influence
  6. 9 March – Trust
  7. 10 March – Grief

So look forward to this exciting venture at the Write Tribe Festival of Words, with trepidation and a little nervousness.

Please read, comment and share the posts–a little love would would go a long way with our outreach efforts! Tag us if you do: you can find Project WHY on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 

Anou’s Blog
What is essential is invisible to the eye #GivingTuesday#HelpMithuSaveSchool

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye wrote Antoine de St Exupery in the Little Prince. These words were the ‘secret’ the Fox revealed to the Little Prince. Somehow they seemed to have been seared in my heart long before my I read this wonderful book and an eternity before Project Why came into being. I remember have been asked by a friend to write the 1000th post of his blog and I decided to write about childhood dreams and the courage to go back to them and see them fulfilled. What I shared was a memory of when I was just a toddler and had created a ruckus when my grandmother had refused to give a coat to the man with the dancing bear. I only stopped waling when the man was given a coat on that cold winter day. Randy Pausch in his Last Lecture defines life as being a platform to fulfil childhood dreams and we need to have the courage to go back to that child at least once in our lives and see whether we have been true to it. I may have worn many hats in my life but the one that truly reflected the child I was was that of the Founder of Project Why! The Fox is right, it is only with the heart that we see rightly and somehow this maxim defines Project Why in more way than one.

At first sight it may seem that I am limiting myself to what Project Why does on a day-to-day basis and yes there have been many ‘coats’ given along the way. But that is not where it ends. It is said that you attract who you are and over the past two decades I have been overwhelmed by the number of people who see with their hearts and who have reached out to help us in ways beyond imagination. Today I would like to salute them all and share some of their stories that sound almost like fairy tales.

Many years ago a man came into our lives. He visited Project Why and unlike most did not hand over a donation but left silently. We were a little perplexed but soon forgot the whole incident. A few weeks letter I received a mail informing me that he had been so touched by the Project that he had felt he needed to do something larger than hand out a cheque. He had set up an organisation in his country with the sole purpose of supporting Project Why long term. The man in question is Xavier Ray and his organisation Enfances Indiennes! There was no looking back. But that is not where it ends. Xavier has stood by us through thick and thin and been a rock each time we have faced a challenge. He has also invested himself in more ways than one even taking on the role of parent to our darling Utpal! Talk about seeing with your heart.

Another person who saw with his heart and even read between the lines was Kannan Iyer. I had applied for funds to Asha for Education but found that we did not tick all the boxes and fell short of many of the required stipulations. I followed my heart and simply wrote that we were at least worth a visit. The person who came was Kannan and he saw with his heart and became a very successful Ambassador for Project Why as he was able to convince his Board to help us. Again there has been no looking back.

Hans Emde came all the way from Germany and visited our Project. He too saw with his heart and decided to set up an organisation in Germany to help Project Why. Project Why Deutschland brought into our lives wonderful people like Julia Wuppermann and Claudia Huetwohl who have again stood like rocks with us at all times.

Age does not matter when you see with your heart. Harriet Page was a teen ager when she came to Project Why to spend a short week with her parents. She was so touched by the Project that she made it her mission to help us long time. From organising bake sales in her school to raising funds in incredible ways she has never stopped helping us. Now a young lawyer she is helping with setting up Project Why UK.

Carla Berke was an expat living in Delhi for a few years and helped us immensely in making us understand the need of organising ourselves. She gave us our first much needed makeover. She helped us in a multitude of ways and is the mom of one of your youngest and most ardent supporter Malte! When the family visited Delhi recently for a holiday one of the highlights of their trip was to share a biryani with the staff of our Okhla Centre.

When things look really bad God sends you an Angel. We have had many at Project Why and feel blessed. One of them is Kabir Suri of Azure Hospitality. He came into our lives when we were in dire straits and helped us weather the storm and has taken upon himself to help us stand on our own feet. We are deeply grateful.

Project Why has been a journey of discovery of people who see with their hearts. It is thanks to each one of them that we have been able to carry on our work for two decades now. I feel overwhelmed and humbled at the amount of love I have received over the years. To have so many people reach out and give wing to my dreams is extraordinary to say the least and restores faith in humanity. And it never ends. Recently Damyanti Biswas who has been a friend for over a decade and also my staunchest supporter and the mirror to my soul, took on the mission of saving Project Why at a time when we have lost one of our big donors and  launched a Blogathon and once again I was amazed by the kindness and warmth of people I had never met but who reached out to help our fundraiser. My deepest gratitude to every one of them.

It will take volumes to write about every soul that has seen with her of his heart and helped Project Why. I just want to thank each and every one. Without you we could not have been.

Find Project WHY on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  We need your help to share the Project Why story with your friends and family on the hashtag #HelpMithuSaveSchool.

Each share can bring us three times the donation.

Add in a little to the fundraiser–with small contributions from a big crowd, we can get together to help keep this wonderful dream alive!

 

Anou’s blog
The Why behind @projectwhydelhi #WATWB

we are the world blogfestFor We are the World Blogfest I want to share the story of how Project Why came to be. I came to know of this Blogfest through my dearest friend Damyanti and warmed up to the idea immediately as we need stories to renew our faith in humanity. Project Why I think is such a story.

For the past weeks Project Why has been in the social media news courtesy the Mithu fundraiser and the Show the Love Save a School Valentine’s Blogathon.

Many teachers like Pushpa, Naresh, Sophiya and of course Mithu have shared their stories and their pleas to the save the Okhla Centre.

This seems to be the opportune time to share with you why Project Why came into being.

Manu: We are the world blogfest

Manu: one of the WHYs of Project WHY

Project Why is almost 20 years old.

But its genesis lies way before that in the almost irrational love for India nurtured in a child born in a faraway land by her profoundly Indian parents.

Yes, I fell in love with India when I was but a child listening to stories tenderly recounted by a freedom fighter’s daughter and an indentured labour’s grandchild! They were my parents.

True by the time I was born my father was a senior diplomat but somehow the stories they told me seared my heart never to leave me. The feeling of owing a debt for all that I had received was ingrained in me way before I set out to create Project Why.

It is difficult to write about one’s self but my dear friend and mentor D.V Sridharan caught the essence of WHY Project Why beautifully in a write up on his site GoodNewsIndia.

Yes, there were many whys to Project Why.

The disturbing sight of children begging, the anger of seeing children work and not be in school, the plight of Manu an abandoned beggar left to roam the street, a child crying for having been beaten in school, a child dropped in a boiling pan by an alcoholic mother, another barely breathing because of a hole in her heart and yet sharing her dream of wanting to be a ‘police’.

Each of these, a deafening why that needed to be answered and was in what is known today as Project Why. Yes, Project Why came into existence to answer all the disturbing whys that I encountered, and serendipitously gave me the way of paying back the burden of the debt I felt I owed.

We are the World Blogfest Blogathon Valentines DayBut along the way things changed as I felt the tables turning. Project Why was not about giving but about receiving, and receiving in ample measure. The idea of paying back the debt was replaced by an abundance of love given to me unabashedly, the kind of love I never knew existed and could not imagine how I would pay back. I simply feel overwhelmed and humbled and the fear of seeing Project Why come to an abrupt end for want of funds keeps me awake night after night.

I know that once again a miracle will have to be conjured to save Project Why and make it live beyond me. That would be the only honourable thing to do, the only way to honour my debt and be able to sing my swan song.

In order to give us some some breathing space to be able to come up with a long-lasting solution we have launched an online fundraiser campaign to save it and hope you will join it too.

Find Project WHY on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  We need your help to share the Project Why story with your friends and family on the hashtag #HelpMithuSaveSchool.

Each share can bring us three times the donation.

Add in a little to the fundraiser–with small contributions from a big crowd, we can get together to help keep this wonderful dream alive!

 

Anous’ blog
With a little help from my friends #GivingTuesday#HelpMithuSaveSchool

I get by with a little help from my friends sang the Beatles. I have got by for the past two decades with more than a little help from my friends. If Project Why exists today and has made a huge difference in the lives of so many children it is because of that little help from my friends. And what is extraordinary is the number of friends from across the globe that have reached out and lent their hand.

There is another side to the Project Why story that is often left untold and that is the story of the network of wonderful souls who have come together to help fulfil my dream to change lives of children many do not even see. Every time we have been in trouble friends have appeared and pulled us out. Project Why has proved over and over again that there is good in the world, you just have to look for it with your heart.

Once again as we face closure Damyanti has redefined the meaning of love for us by launching a Blogathon to honour the ones you love by helping save a school built on love and compassion. I am humbled and overwhelmed by the number of people who have reached out, many I have never met, many who do not know us but were touched by the story of the incredible teachers who steer our Okhla Centre.

A huge thank you to Vidya Sury, Sunita Rodrigues Saldhana, Shilpa Garg, Holly Jahangiri, Mahati Ramya, Sunita Rajwade, Stuart Nager, Abhijit Ray, Lisa Buie-Collard, Aesha Shah, Sahana Ahmed Corinne Rodrigues, and so many other who have pledged to blog about us through February.

How can I even begin to thank every single one who has reached out to us. I do not have the words. I can only hope that they read between the lines at what is left unsaid.

The only thing I can do is tell what would happen if the school closed down.

Some incredible people would lose their only source of income and also the job of their dreams, for be it Mithu, Sophiya, Pushpa or even Naresh they would never have become teachers if not for Project Why.

At Project Why we do give wings to the most impossible dreams. If Okhla was to shut many vulnerable children would fall prey to lurking predators and be abused and hurt. Many children would drop out of school as their parents are unable to afford the crucial extra tuition needed to succeed. Their dreams of becoming an engineer, a computer geek, a teacher, of joining the army or opening a dance school would come crashing down. This is no doomsday picture. This is the stark reality of the children of Okhla.

So you can understand how grateful I am to all those who have reached out and donated and to those who will help us make this campaign a success.

My gratitude is paltry compared to the joy in the eyes of every child that passes an examination or gets selected in a job interview. That is the true measure of the little help my friends are giving me.

————

Find Project WHY on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  We need your help to share the story of Project WHY with your friends and family on the hashtag #HelpMithuSaveSchool.

Each share can bring us three times the donation.

Add in a little to the fundraiser–with small contributions from a big crowd, we can get together to help Sophiya keep her wonderful school alive!

Help save Okhla Centre: . #HelpMithuSaveSchoolFundraiser

 

Anou’s blog
You’re simply the best, Naresh Sir #GivingTuesday#HelpMithuSaveSchool

I have written many times about Naresh our one of a kind Math teacher! And yet each time I set about writing another post I do it with immense joy and pride. I met Naresh even before the idea of Project Why seeded in my mind. He was the son of Mataji, the healer who helped give a direction to my life. He was in his early twenties, recently married, had completed his BA and was looking for a job. His mother asked me to help try find him one and I feel a tad ashamed to say that I did, in a fancy shoe store. Needless to say he lasted a day!

In the meantime Project Why came to be in its first avatar, spoken English classes, and my interaction with Naresh was minimal. Our English classes had students of all ages and amidst them a group of class X students. One day I saw deep welts on the arms of one of them and was told that he had been beaten in school. I was furious and decided to go to the school to protest but was met by a posse of grim looking school teachers who instead of being apologetic for beating a child, decided to deride the boys in front of us telling us that there was no hope for them and that they would all fail. Without thinking I retorted that I would ensure they all pass!

naresh Bhardwaj teacher with students

Math teacher Naresh with some of his students

We had no space, no teacher, no funds, no resources but knew something had to be done as the examination was two months away. That is when I was told that Naresh use to take tuition classes and loved teaching. I asked his help telling him that I had no money to pay him yet but would try and get some as soon as possible. Naresh immediately agreed and it was at that moment that I saw how much he loved teaching and taking on a challenge. The only time the students had was 7.30 in the morning and the only space we had was on the roadside. But classes stared in earnest and needless to say ALL students passed their examinations. The year was 2002.

Our secondary section was set up and till date Naresh has ensured that all students clear their Boards.

I soon realised that Naresh was not your ordinary teacher who looked at teaching as a job or even a career. He was passionate about his teaching and for him every child that came to him had to shine. He would give more than his 100% taking classes late in the evening and even willing to give up his morning lie-in to take classes at the crack of dawn during exam time. Every student of his was special.

Needless to say the students too love their Naresh Bhaiya who is also a mentor and a friend. Today his students stand tall, as many of them say Naresh Sir has given them the confidence they never had and the motivation to reach for the stars. Many of his students have reached unimaginable heights: from working at offices to joining the army.

Naresh never shied fromm learning, and took extra classes to be able to teach class XII and accountancy so that he could give his beloved students his very best.

When the Okhla Centre began its senior secondary classes and there was no Math teacher available, Naresh agreed to take on the task and divide his time so that these children could be taught in the best way possible. Naresh never lets a child down.

Naresh is endearing and infuriating at the same time. He is a maverick and does not like rules and regulations. But should you decide to chide him, all he has to do is smile and you are disarmed. And his talent does not stopped at Math. He is a very skilled artist, a born entertainer, a great cook and the life of any celebration. He is simply the best.

teachers to save Okhla school blogathonToday Naresh may lose his Okhla children as the centre may close for want of funds. Please join our Valentine’s Blogathon  to support Naresh and save his school.

It is Valentine Week, a week when one celebrates love and honours it. This year would you consider honouring the one you love by helping us save our Okhla school?

If you’re a fellow blogger, please consider joining the Valentine’s Day Blogathon. Write one or more posts to talk about love, any kind of love at all, and about honouring the ones you love.

All we ask is at the end of your post, you mention the fundraiser, link to it, and add the graphic above. We will start off a linky list where you can add all your posts.

You can support the #HelpMithuSaveSchool fundraiser to save the Okhla school HERE.

If you’re not a blogger, send in a small amount to support the fundraiser, and share it on social media so others can do the same. Every bit adds up. Let us celebrate this Valentine’s day with an unconditional love for education.

 

Anou’s blog
An Unconditional Love for Education

I learnt about the importance of education at my mother’s knee as she shared with me her passion for learning. That small town girl born in times where women were not educated and married in their teens had such an incredible and almost illogical love for education that she left no stone unturned to fulfil her desire to learn. From hunger strikes to mellow her Gandhian father to accepting every condition thrown her way, she never faltered and went on to acquire every degree in sight. It is education that allowed Kamala to break all barriers and and the freedom fighter’s daughter would go on to become a- Ambassador’s lifelong partner .

I realise today that with every story she shared she was imbuing me with her love for learning and crafting the person I would become as well as paving the road I would walk on. I often tend to forget how much I owe her and how much she has influenced the way Project Why has gone. It is her never-say-die attitude in the face of adversity that propelled me to never give up even if the challenges were daunting. I knew there was always a way, you just had to find it or simply create it.

That is how over the past two decades now, Project Why has overcome every challenge no matter how insurmountable it may have seemed. When Sophiya told us about the plight of the Okhla children I knew that a way had to be found and education had to be brought to these kids even if the only space was a garbage dump. Today I am reminded of St Exupery’s word when he said: “A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind.” That is how one felt when one first saw the Okhla garbage dump. We all saw a school teeming with happy children learning and laughing and that is what the Okhla centre is today!

I now see the spirit of Kamala in all the incredible women who impart their love for education to the Project Why children. I see her in Pushpa, in Sophiya, in every one who has been part of this journey. I see her spirit in all the young girls who come and learn at Project Why. I see the same hunger in their eyes and I know that they are on their way to fulfilling their dreams.

Today, when our Okhla Centre is in danger of being closed, it is her spirit that once again propels me to do everything possible to ensure that this does not happen and I know that she is watching us and conjuring the miracle we need.

Kamala’s love for education was unconditional. My fight for saving Okhla has to be unconditional too!


It is Valentine Week, a week when one celebrates love and honours it. This year would you consider honouring the one you love by helping us save our Okhla school?

If you’re a fellow blogger, please consider joining the Valentine’s Day Blogathon. Write one or more posts to talk about love, any kind of love at all, and about honouring the ones you love.

All we ask is at the end of your post, you mention the fundraiser, link to it, and add the graphic above. We will start off a linky list where you can add all your posts.

You can support the #HelpMithuSaveSchool fundraiser to save the Okhla school HERE.

If you’re not a blogger, send in a small amount to support the fundraiser, and share it on social media so others can do the same. Every bit adds up. Let us celebrate this Valentine’s day with an unconditional love for education.

 

Anou’s Blog
Help Save a School Founded in a Dustbin

Sophiya is one of our oldest staff members. She came to us way back in 2001 or 2002 when we were still finding our feet and trying to answer the many whys that came our way and looking for people who would give wings to our dreams. Sophiya had been involved in community work and seemed the ideal person to help us understand the needs of our beneficiaries. Moreover I was impressed by her gentle demeanour, her kind smile and the inner strength that seemed to emanate from her and was keen to have her join our team. She did and there was no looking back.

Sophiya joined as a primary teacher and was loved by all our students. She has also stepped up whenever needed and was always eager to help. Sophiya never considered her role in Project Why as a ‘job’ but was an integral part of our vision and mission. In 2004 she told us about the plight of the children in the Okhla neighbourhood she lived in. This was an industrial area with small cramped tenements tucked away between factories that spewed all kinds of venom. There were no schools in the vicinity, no parks for the children to play in and absentee parents that led to children being on their own and ready targets for lurking predators. Sophiya wanted us to start a school in that area and was willing to leave no stone unturned to achieve that.

She offered her home to begin our school as she felt that beginning work would help us gain the support of the community and even authorities. With the help of Pushpa she set out to find a suitable space and also seek permission form the local administrative and political authorities. She did both! You cannot underestimate the power of this quiet, resilient lady!

After much searching a garbage dump was located and Sophiya was confident that it could be transformed into a happy place for children. I must confess that when I first saw it I was far from convinced. How wrong I was.

In no time we opened our ‘centre’ with a couple of bamboo poles and a bright blue plastic sheet. The rest is history. Sophiya and Pushpa weathered every storm, bore every slander but never gave up. Today the Okhla Centre is a vibrant school where over 350  children are busy crafting their morrows. Sophiya is back to teaching her primary kids.

We have known each other for almost two decades Sophiya and I! Over the years I have learnt to admire her quiet but firm ways, even her occasional stubbornness which is so much part of who she is. I realise how much she has given to Project Why and am deeply grateful to her. Sophiya is undoubtedly an unsung hero.

Today the very centre and school Sophiya created with so much love and pain is in danger of being closed. We have launched an online fundraiser campaign to save it and hope you will join it too.

Find Project WHY on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  We need your help to share Sophiya’s story with your friends and family on the hashtag #HelpMithuSaveSchool.

Each share can bring us three times the donation.

Add in a little to the fundraiser–with small contributions from a big crowd, we can get together to help Sophiya keep her wonderful school alive!

Help Sophiya save her Okhla Centre. #HelpMithuSaveSchoolFundraiser

 

 

Anou’s Blog
Help Mithu save his school at Project Why #GivingTuesday #HelpMithuSaveSchool

MEET MITHU MANDAL, COMPUTER TEACHER: OKHLA CENTRE, PROJECT WHY, NEW DELHI

Mithu Mandal lost his legs to polio at the age of 3, and was never interested in a formal education.

At Project WHY, he not only learned about computers, but became good enough to teach children how to use them.The Project Why Okhla centre where he teaches, supports the education of 350 children, quite a few of whom also learn computers from Mithu. Without this centre, Mithu would not have a job.

 

In the coming year, this centre is about to lose its funding and faces a very real possibility of shutdown, which is why we’ve now launched the #HelpMithuSaveSchool fundraiser.

PROJECT WHY ACTIVITIES

Project WHY is a flagship programme of Sri Ram Goburdhun Charitable Trust, which provides educational support to underprivileged children. This non-profit, after-school support programme goes beyond academics, to include life skills and all-around development.

Project WHY reaches out to 1200 children and 160 women.

Since 2005, Project WHY runs a computer education programme.  Mithu started as a student, worked his way up to being a teacher’s aide, and then took over as the computer teacher.

WHY THE PROJECT WHY OKHLA CENTRE SHOULD REMAIN OPEN

The Okhla education centre began its activities in 2004 to address the problems of an extremely vulnerable group of children who were targeted by drug and other mafias.

Space was not easy to find and the only option was a space near a garbage dump. It was ‘reclaimed’ and classes began under a plastic sheet held by bamboo poles. The centre is the result of hard work from its staff and founders, who have faced everything from littering, to assault from criminal elements in order to keep it running for all these years.

Today, the Okhla Centre has a stable structure, and Mithu runs its computer programme. It helps retain children in school, offering primary and secondary education along with the computer classes.

The centre is an important component of the neighbourhood, keeping crime, drugs and negative elements at bay and replacing it with education and employment.

WHAT IS NEEDED

To give us time to find a sustainable source of funding, the Project WHY Okhla centre needs:

 1.   4 Staff honorariums for 6 months:        379, 104    (5,330 USD)
2.    Electricity for 6 months:                            9, 000       (125 USD)
3.    Learning aids and stationery                  15, 000       (210 USD)
4.    Laptop for Mithu                                      33, 700       (475 USD)
5.    Internet                                                      3, 000         (45 USD)
6.    Bank fees for fundraiser                          48, 379
 
      (680 USD)

————————————————————————————
Total                                                               488,183    (6, 865 USD)
———————————————————————————–

WHY YOU SHOULD DONATE

▪    Computer education has changed Mithu’s life, and he’s passing on his expertise to others who are gaining the skills essential at a modern workplace.

▪    The teachers Mithu Mandal, Pushpa Kumar, Sophiya Tirkey, Naresh Bhardwaj belong to the underprivileged community, so when you donate towards their salaries, you’re directly donating to the community and not a non-profit overhead. Over the coming weeks, we will be sharing their stories, each just as inspiring and full of spirit as Mithu’s.

▪    Children gaining secondary education at the centre will be going in for higher education, and staying away from life on the streets.

▪    The laptop will be given to Mithu. This will enable him to take courses, which he will use to improve his teaching curriculum.

Donate online to the Fundraiser

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE DONATION PROCESS

▪    If you’re donating from India, your donation is 50% tax deductible under section 80G.

▪    If you’re donating form the USA, France, or Germany, you can make tax-deductible donations via these avenues.

Mithu teaching at Project WHY

DONOR FEEDBACK AND COMMUNICATION

▪    The entire expense account would be put up on the Project Why website once the amount is raised. You can check out an account of our previous fundraiser.

▪    Join the Project Why family by supporting Mithu, so he can help others in his community. No amount is too small, and every little bit would help keep Mithu’s workplace, the Project WHY Okhla Centre, safe from a shutdown.

▪    Read the Project WHY story at www.projectwhy.org.

Find Project WHY on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and please help share the story to your friends and family on the hashtag #HelpMithuSaveSchool.

Each share can bring us three times the donation.

Add in a little to the fundraiser–with small contributions from a big crowd, we can get together to help Mithu keep his wonderful school alive!

Donate to #HelpMithuSaveSchoolFundraiser

Anou’s blog
56% of class VIII students can’t do basic maths: Aser Report 2018

The Annual Status of Education Report 2018 has been published and there is little cause to rejoice. True there are more children in school and less drop outs but most of the children who ‘pass’ out are unable to read or do basic calculations. There has been little improvement in learning outcomes. The report states that: the story today is far worse than what it was a decade ago. In 2008, 37% of Class V students could do basic maths; now less than 28% can. Children are not learning what they should.

The full report is available here.

In spite of gaining the Right to Education, it looks like not much has changed on the ground and this is extremely disturbing as education is undoubtedly the only path to meaningful social transformation. At Project Why we have innumerable examples of how education has changed lives for the better.

When Project Why began almost two decades ago, it was my hope that the day would come when the education scenario would improve and we would be able to redefine ourselves and bring new perspectives to our children. But that did not happen. We are still engaged in helping our children cope with their school curriculum and enhance their learning outcomes. We strive to give them an all rounded education that goes beyond textbooks and that can make them lifelong learners.

In the wake of the present education scenario, the work we do at Project Why is still very relevant as children have to pass their examinations with good marks in order to get access to higher education and we need to work within a system that judges a child by the marks s/he gets in a school examination. Our effort is to try and weave in as many ‘other’ skills as we can in order make them ready for the world that awaits them.

Many countries have reformed their school education to attune it to the demands of the future. Finland is an excellent example of how an education system should be run. There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town. This would be an ideal situation for India as it ticks all the right boxes.

Educationists have defined the skills every child should master to succeed in what is know as the Information Age. Some of them are: Critical thinking; Creativity; Collaboration; Communication; Information literacy; Flexibility; Leadership; Initiative and Social skills. Thinking out of the box seems to be the key to success in the future.

It is obvious that our present school system teaches none of the above. In India we have chosen to commercialise education instead of strengthening the state-run schools and make them the first choice for parents. The curriculum is dated and the emphasis on marks does not reward the creative or innovative child. Thinking out of the box is almost anathema.

At Project Why we strive to teach children to be creative, take initiative and also hone their social skills. We hope that our efforts will bear fruit and pave the way for the future of every Project Why child.

Do you think the education system in India needs to be reformed? What is the education system like where you live?

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Please consider collaborating with us! We welcome visitors, volunteers and anyone who can give us advice on how to improve our practices and processes. Check out our Facebook page for information on the events that are held at Project Why.

You can also support Project Why through a small donation. Even a small amount helps us support a child’s education.

Anou’s blog
Kabir, a man who sees with his heart

He is an extraordinary man. Humane, kind, gentle, unassuming, generous, compassionate. A successful corporate honcho who makes the impossible seem commonplace. But that’s just half the story. I will tell you the rest.

When I think of Kabir, I get reminded of the words of the Turkish playwright and thinker Mehmet Muran Ildan who wrote: “The first step to be a good man is this: You must deeply feel the burden of the stones someone else is carrying” or of the wise lesson of the Fox in St Exupery’s Little Prince : It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. Kabir Suri, Co Founder and Managing Director of Azure Hospitality, is a man who sees with his heart.

I met Kabir for the first time at a dinner party where we happened to be seated next to each other. No one could have imagined that this would be the beginning of a beautiful story with all the makings of a miracle. It was a chilly autumn night in 2014 and a time when Project Why had hit rock bottom. We did not have money to pay salaries for the next month and I was at my wit’s end. Needless to say it took me no time to start pouring out my heart to this gentle dinner companion who seemed willing to listen. Unlike many others in the past he did not look for a quick exit and kept on listening with interest, asking pertinent questions time and again. The dinner came to an end, and before leaving Kabir gave me his number and asked me to call him and come and meet him. The rest is history.

In spite of his busy schedule and numerous travels, we met and the first thing Kabir did was to dip in his pocket and ensure that the next month’s salaries were paid. That would have been enough to win my heart forever but there was more to come. Kabir had become Project Why’s friend forever. He made it his mission to ensure that we become sustainable and left no stone unturned to do that. He introduced us to the Savitri Waney Trust and they helped us bridge the gap for the year. They also reached out and funded two of our larger centres, Okhla and Khader, for the next two years allowing us to set our house in order and become eligible to other funding avenues.

Kabir also agreed to join our Board of Directors and is one of the most engaged members of the Board. He is actively involved in ensuring our long term sustainability.

In 2015, when I told him about the plight of the Yamuna centre children, Kabir immediately decided to provide them a hot daily lunch and has been doing so for the past three years. The children look forward to this delicious daily treat. Watching them enjoy their food is a humbling experience.

When I shared with him the wish of our Okhla children for a computer centre he immediately agreed to build a concrete roof to replace the temporary one we had and thus allowed us to set up a computer centre in the middle of the community. Today many students have been able to get good jobs thanks to this initiative and thus broken the cycle of poverty in which they were born.

I could go on speaking about Kabir and how he has changed my life and the future of Project Why. Today he is helping us ensure that thousands of children see their dreams secured.

Kabir is one the the messengers of the Universe who renew our faith in humanity and tell us that no matter what, good will always prevail. I am privileged and honoured to have him as part of the Project Why family

Have you ever been helped when you most needed it? Has a chance encounter ever changed your life?

——

Please consider collaborating with us! We welcome visitors, volunteers and anyone who can give us advice on how to improve our practices and processes. Check out our Facebook page for information on the events that are held at Project Why.

You can also support Project Why through a small donation.

Anou’s blog
Dharmender the never say die guy #GivingTuesday#India

Dharmender better known as Dharmender Bhaiya, is someone I have grown to admire by the day. His story is one that needs to be told as it epitomises the spirit of Project Why. Over the years I have realised that we share a common vision and dream for the children and ladies we reach out.

Dharmendra came to Project Why way back in 2004 as a humanities teacher for the secondary classes. He left a well paid job in a multinational to follow his calling. His stint as a teacher was short lived as I soon realised that he passionately wanted to change things and was willing to walk the road less travelled. We use to spend a lot of time sharing our thoughts and in him I found a soul mate.

He soon became involved in a wide range of activities: solving problems with the community, dealing with the many detractors we had and lending his hand with every crises of problems we faced. I could see that he was born to lead. I had to find a way and it would happen earlier than expected in the most unlikely yet amazing way.

Two ladies in distress landed our way. They were both abused and from dysfunctional homes and we had to find a way to care for them. This could only be done if we ‘created’ a residential facility and it was Dharmendra who took on the challenge. The rest is history. A place was found for them and this became the springing board for what is known as the Project Why women centre. It was Dhamendra’s idea to juxtapose a children centre to our residential outreach and to also begin a vocational centre to empower women from underprivileged homes. In the span of a year, he had the women centre up and running. It had been an uphill task with our two ladies being demanding and difficult. Dharmendra would not shun from driving in the middle of cold winter nights to go and solve fights and arguments. The residential programme came to a close  once the ladies were healed and ready to move on and we felt that a residential outreach did not make financial sense unless we had a larger number of women something we did not want to do. In its place emerged the women centre, an outreach for 300 children and 120 women.

Dharmendra always has his heart open and he was the one to spot Meher when she was rummaging in a dustbin looking for food. He took on the challenge of giving her a better morrow and patiently accompanied her in her healing journey through several reconstructive surgeries. Meher never looked back. Today she is in boarding school, an impish creature you simply fall in love with.

Dharmendra runs the centre with a velvet gloved iron hand. His gentle demeanour can be extremely firm; He does not tolerate nonsense. His never say die attitude ensures that every problem that comes our way is dealt with in the best manner possible. He has earned the respect of the community he works with and ensured that they stand with us at all times. The women centre is one of the jewels of Project Why.

Dharmendra is also the one who found out the plight of the children of agricultural labour who live along the Yamuna river and conjured a way to start a centre for them. The Yamuna centre is definitely one of our most vibrant centres.

Dharmendra has always taken ownership of what he set up and is open to ideas and ready to implement them. He also comes up with his own ideas that often adds value to the work we are doing. I often find myself seeking his advise and am impressed by his innovative ideas. I have learnt a lot from him and am deeply grateful for this. It is a privilege and honour to have in my team.

He never ceases to amaze me and his latest feat was to get a community workshop organised by IGNOU (Open University) where people were told about the possibilities of learning from home at all ages. Actually this was a double whammy as it solved our problem of getting our Yamuna Centre class X kids to appear in their Board examinations. We were truly worried as these children did not attend school or have any civic papers. With one master stroke Dharmendra ensured that they would be admitted in an open program and able to sit for their exams.

It is a privilege and a blessing to have someone like Dharmendra in my team.

Have you also come across someone you have grown to admire?

Please consider collaborating with us! We welcome visitors, volunteers and anyone who can give us advice on how to improve our practices and processes. Check out our Facebook page for information on the events that are held at Project Why.

You can also support Project Why through a small donation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My word of the year: surrender

When I look back at 2018, I am filled with a deep sense of gratitude. Strange as had anyone asked me during the year how things were going, gratitude was not the word that would have come to mind. You’re so bogged down by day-today chores, that you lose the ability to truly comprehend things in a larger perspective.

My life has two distinct parts: my work at Project Why and my home and family and for both, 2018 was a watershed year.

It was the year where I had to come to terms with accepting to give up the house I had built with my parents almost half a century ago.  After their demise, it had become almost my only anchor. It was the house I came to as a dreamy teenager, the one I was married in, where I became a mother and even a grandmother. Over the years the house had aged and become a liability and it made sense to bring it down. 2018 was that year. It was heart wrenching and left me rudderless for a while till I found my moorings again and realised that memories are not cast in brick and stone but live safely in your heart.Today I feel  deeply grateful for having understood this as it freed me of invisible chains I carried for far too long. I made peace with my past and was ready to move on.

On the work front, the year augured well as we were financially stable and engaged in a host of activities aimed at enhancing the quality of our work. But the sense of security was short-lived as somewhere in the middle of the year we were informed that one of our main funders would stop their commitment in March 2019. They looked after 50% of our needs.

It was a huge shock and for a while I was at a complete loss. We set out to find new avenues but things looked bleak or so they seemed.

It is only now that I realise how the universe was at work and how many people came into our lives creating a new network that would weave its magic and bring us out of the woods. We are nowhere near the end of the tunnel but I can see the light and for that I am again deeply grateful.

I realise how many miracles came my way in 2018 and feel immensely blessed.

There is one such miracle I would like to share with you.

2018 was the year that saw my darling Utpal come full circle.The little scalded child that I had brought home way back in 2005 and nursed back to health was now a confident and happy teenager, who was now back at Project Why as a volunteer teacher. Again I felt deeply grateful and realised that no matter what happened in life, it was always for the better.

So my word for 2019 is SURRENDER.

I have been blessed with so many miracles in my life that I feel that the Universe is always on my side and works in my favour. I simply need to surrender and watch more miracles unfold.

What is your word of the year? Why did you choose it?

Please consider collaborating with us! We welcome visitors, volunteers and anyone who can give us advice on how to improve our practices and processes. Check out our Facebook page for information on the events that are held at Project Why.

You can also support Project Why through a small donation.

 

Anous’ blog
Blog Delurking Week!

commentsI am almost 2000 posts old!

I’ve been blogging for more than a decade and yes I like to know how many people drop by and read what I write. I know many of you read my blogs but only some take the time to comment.

The days there are comments are truly special as I somehow feel I have connected with someone and added one more soul to my journey, one more voice to the cause I espouse. It also gives me the chance to say thank you.

It would be lovely to know where you are from, how you made it to my blog, anything to get to know you better.

You cannot imagine what a heartwarming feeling it is to read that someone has enjoyed your story and even been inspired by it.

Recently I had blogged about Sanjay who went from street  to ramp, the gypsy lad who became an international model, and having so many bloggers respond and comment was a very special feeling that I cannot describe in words. I am sharing some of the comments here:

I too like commenting on your blogs. It is my way of saying hello, well met and I look forward to the ‘like’ as it means we have connected.

So today I ask you to leave a comment on this blog. It will bring a huge smile on my face. I promise to leave no blog I read without a comment.

Don’t leave without at least saying hello.

——-

Do you believe in miracles? Do you think each life has a purpose? Have you met anyone who changed your life? Please share your experiences.

Please consider collaborating with us! We welcome visitors, volunteers and anyone who can give us advice on how to improve our practices and processes. Check out our Facebook page for information on the events that are held at Project Why.

You can also support Project Why through a small donation.

 

Anou’s blog
Remembering Manu #GivingTuesday#India

For the past 8 years, come January and my thoughts turn to Manu who left us all lost and bewildered on a cold morning in January 2011. On that day I must admit, I was close to giving up, as Manu, I had come to realise, was the one who had given me the strength to pick myself up when I lay broken and bereaved and given meaning to my life once again.

Who was Manu you may wonder?

To the uninitiated a mentally and physically challenged bedraggled, half-clad beggar, the kind you pass by without a second glance. So your next question would undoubtedly be what does such a being and a middle-aged apparently well-to-do lady have in common? Nothing and everything. I could either write volumes to explain our relationship or simply use one word: love. Manu simply redefined the world love and gave it a whole new meaning.

I came to know that he had lived on this street un-cared-for and unloved and it felt like he had circled the same path over the years to ensure that the day I walked it, he would be there. When we met, we both knew we had come home. There was no looking back.

It was for Manu that Project WHY was set up in the quaint street where he had been born and where he ‘lived’. To care for him, I had to find a way of being accepted by the very people who had riled and abused him, and Project Why was the answer.

For a decade our lives were entwined. Manu trusted me implicitly and knew I would be by his side till the end. But he gave me more than I ever could give him. He gave me a reason to live and showed me that no life is useless, however wretched it may seem. Was he not the best example! Had there been no Manu, there might have been no Project Why. Today, thanks to him, thousands of children are seeing their lives change for the better.

The other lesson Manu taught me was to never say die, no matter how hopeless things may seem.

And today when one of our main donors ends their commitment in a few months, and I face the prospect of seeing two of my biggest centres, Okhla and Khader shut down, it is Manu’s gentle smile that comes to my mind. I somehow know that the clouds will lift and the sun shine again.

He was a gentle soul with a quirky sense of humour. We shared many precious moments, dancing and laughing and many meals too! Spending time with him was a blessing, an intense feeling that all was well and one was safe.

I do not know what saints look like; I think Manu was one, a true child of God.

And Project WHY has to continue to honour is memory.

Manu remains safe in my heart.

Please consider collaborating with us! We welcome visitors, volunteers and anyone who can give us advice on how to improve our practices and processes. Check out our Facebook page for information on the events that are held at Project Why.

You can also support Project Why through a small donation.

Anou’s blog
Coming Full Circle – Happy New Year #GivingTuesday#India

New Year is the time when you reminisce about the year gone by and make plans for the one to come. Normally that is what I do but this year I would like to share the story of four lovely souls who have been part of the Project Why journey for many years, each with a heart wrenching story, each having beaten many odds to complete the virtuous circle.

Utpal, Babli, Meher and Manisha, four of our boarding school kids are spending their winter break volunteering at the Project Why Madanpur Khadar Centre bringing their own special touch to the children studying there. Utpal taught them dance and was actively involved in the preparation of the Xmas party where his pupils performed and where he also was an ace MC. He is now teaching the children drawing and craft, two skills he has mastered well.

Babli is  teaching class VI children and is an incredible teacher as she is patient, gentle but firm. Meher and Manisha lend their hands where needed and help the kids practice English. The four are extremely committed volunteers who beat the biting cold and never miss a day!

Watching them gives me immense joy and pride and fills me with gratitude.

They have come a long way, these four little souls and are miracles crafted by Project Why.

Utpal’s  entered our world after sustaining severe third degree burns having accidentally fallen into a boiling pan and became an intrinsic part of Project Why. He is now in class XI and a lovely lad who has taught me the meaning of unconditional love.

Babli came to us many years ago in need of an urgent open heart surgery. Thanks to a kind donor, the surgery was performed and she got a new lease of life, but we soon discovered that her education was in peril. We stepped in and Babli is now in boarding school in class XI ready to take her place in the sun.

Meher suffered terrible burns when she was just a baby. Thanks to Nina, a wonderful volunteer and to Chess Without Borders we were able to craft a future for her and get her the much-needed reconstructive surgery and admission in a boarding school. She is an impish, delightful girl who can walk into any heart.

Manisha is a quiet child, or so you may think at first sight. She comes from an extremely poor family, her mother being a rag picker as her father is often unemployed. A kind donor wanted to sponsor the education of a girl child and Manisha was the chosen one. Manisha took to school like a fish to water and has never looked back.

When these four little bruised souls landed at Project Why we saw the huge dreams they carried in their heart and the trust they had in their eyes, we knew we held their dreams in custody. We began our journey to fulfil them and though the path was difficult and the road less travelled, we feel we have come a long way and know that these stars will shine one day. For the moment they are busy helping others fulfill their dreams.

On this New Year Day we renew our commitment to these children and to all the children of Project Why and assure them that we will leave no stone unturned to see their dreams come true.

We need to come full circle.

Happy New Year!

Do you believe in miracles? Do you think that dreams can come true? Please share your experiences with us.

Please consider collaborating with us! We welcome visitors, volunteers and anyone who can give us advice on how to improve our practices and processes. Check out our Facebook page for information on the events that are held at Project Why.

You can also support Project Why through a small donation.

 

 

Anou’s blog
Xmas at Project Why #GivingTuesday#India

For the past week Project Why has been in Xmas mode. At Project Why we celebrate all festivals with fervour and joy and it is heartwarming to see how children get involved. Xmas caps have been made and donned for the camera! Every centre is busy making decorations for the tree that will grace every class. There is a festive mood all around.

The Yamuna centre children were busy making a snowman. These are kids who have never seen snow or even celebrated Xmas before Project Why began its classes, but their fervour is palpable as they too set about decorating their classroom and preparing for Xmas day!


The special kids are old hands now as they have been celebrating Xmas for almost two decades. Each year they set about making new decorations for their tree and class and it is a joy to see them at work.They have wowed us many times with their creativity!

Xmas has been celebrated every year, as is every other festival, as festivals are about joy, laughter, fun and bonding. That is the common denominator. It does not matter what faith you belong to, festivals are inclusive and the best way to break barriers. This is what we strive to teach the Project Why children.

Merry Xmas

 

Auf Wiedersehen, liebe Luisa und Fabian #GivingTuesday#India

For the past three months, Project Why has been touched by the magic of two young souls: Luisa and Fabian.

Luisa was barely sixteen when she first visited Project Why with her mother. She was touched by what she saw and told us that she would come and volunteer after she finished school. I must admit that at that moment I thought she would forget her promise but true to her words Luisa made her plans and even convinced her best friend Fabian to come with her.

Luisa and Fabian took to the project immediately and carved their niche. Should you walk in to our Govidpuri Centre in the morning you are likely to be greeted by a upbeat German nursery rhyme interspersed with loud clapping, stomping of feet and giggles. Luisa and Fabian spend their mornings with the creche children bringing their special kind of magic to the class.

That is not all. Luisa is an ace photographer and Fabian an accomplished videographer, so the rest of they time is spent helping us document the Project. You can see them at the different locations, camera in tow and even a drone that fascinates all the children and even staff.

Fabian has worked hours into the evenings in order to edit the videos captured during the daylight hours. Due to his efforts along with Luisa, Project Why has managed to raise funds. Impressed by their documentation, donors have gone on to support parts of the Project.

The two never stop smiling and you cannot but be infected by their joie de vivre. They are always ready to help in anyway and never complain about anything. At an age where most young people prefer spending time with friends partying, these two are busy making new friends in a new land. Language is no barrier when you see with your heart.

Over nearly two decades, we have had many volunteers come to Project Why from all over the world—some as young as 14 and some over 70! Each one has left their mark and holds a special place in our hearts. They have brought their world to our children and allowed them to ‘travel’ in a very unique manner. We are grateful to each and everyone of them.

I am still amazed and touched by these young people who give up their summer vacation or time they could have spend doing anything they wanted, to come to a place like Project Why and give their time and love to children they’ve never met before. They make us believe that there are still many good people in the world and restore our faith in humanity.

We will miss Luisa and Fabian. We hope they come back soon. Till then, Auf Wiedersehen, liebe Luisa und Fabian!

Have you met youth like Fabian and Luisa? What do you think of the volunteering model at Project Why, where members of the underprivileged community are supported by people from distant countries?

Please consider collaborating with us! We welcome visitors, volunteers and anyone who can give us advice on how to improve our practices and processes. Check out our Facebook page for information on the events that are held at Project Why.

You can also support Project Why through a small donation.

One life many masters: Pushpa, Giving wings to my dreams #givingTuesday#India

Pushpa is an incredible woman of substance and yet nothing about this diminutive, ever-smiling woman reveals her indomitable strength. She too is one of the many masters that Project Why brought into my life. She has taught me patience, determination, resilience and serenity.

Pushpa came to Project Why a decade and a half ago looking for an opening as a teacher. I warmed up to her immediately and offered her a job. She belongs to the very community she serves. Sometime later, Sophiya, another teacher, told us about the plight of children in Okhla, the area where she lived, and how they were targets of multiple predators looking for easy prey. There was no school in the area and no organisation that could care for them. I knew what had to be done but did not know how. Pushpa was quick to offer to assist Sophiya find a way to start a centre to help these children. I had no idea what it would entail. The area in question was an industrial one, with factories and small slum clusters tucked in between.

The two ladies began classes in Sophiya’s house in the morning and set out to seek greener pastures in the afternoon. A few weeks later they both came to me and said they had found a ‘place’ and wanted me to go with them ‘see’ it. After a bumpy drive we reached what could be at best described as a garbage dump and I was a tad crestfallen as I could not see how it could be transformed into anything close to a children’s centre, but Pushpa in her soft voice told me that it was possible and that all it needed was a little ‘sprucing’ up! What I did not know at that moment was that the two ladies had already spoken to the local police and local politicians and obtained permission to ‘use’ the space. I was clean-bowled by their spirit of enterprise and nodded my agreement. Trucks of garbage were removed, truckloads of earth brought in, and lo and behold a few bamboo sticks and some bright blue plastic sheets was all that was needed to begin our work.

What ensued was a battle of wits between the local baddies and my two strong ladies. Every weekend the fragile structure was brought down and ever Monday the two ladies would erect it again till the day when the breaking stopped. They had won the war!

Today the Okhla centre is a beautiful space with incredible energies. It reaches out to over 350 children and employs 12 staff from within community. It has primary and secondary classes and a computer centre too!  runs like a clockwork orange under the firm but gentle hand of Pushpa. No one can imagine the trials and tribulations she went through from cleaning ‘poop and puke’ to standing up to the local goons. She has never lost her smile even when faced with the biggest adversity.

Pushpa is an example to all of us. She is respected by the staff, the children and the community. She runs her centre with determination and pride and epitomises what Project Why stands for, in all the ways that count.

Pushpa has truly given wings to my dreams.

Have you met a teacher like Pushpa? Been taught by a teacher like her? What do you think of the teaching model at Project Why, where members of the underprivileged community are empowered and supported so they can teach and empower the community in turn?

To support the work of dedicated teachers like Pushpa, please consider collaborating with us! We welcome visitors, volunteers and anyone who can give us advice on how to improve our practices and processes. Check out our Facebook page for information on the events that are held at Project Why.

You can also support teachers like Pushpa through a small donation.

Anou’s blog
Giving Wings to the Dreams of a Sewing Circle #GivingTuesday #India

Last week we launched our very first online fundraiser, to give wings to Renu’s dreams and help her empower more women just as she empowered herself by joining the Project Why Sewing Circle over six years ago. Today Renu is keen on enhancing the resources of her sewing circle and asked for new specialised machines knowing that these would help her students get jobs in the garment industry. This fundraiser is just for that!

But that is not where the story ends as the fundraiser has engendered its own set of miracles and brought together many people from the world over who have teamed up to make it a success.

First and foremost I would like to thank Damyanti Biswas who came up with the idea of this fundraiser. Corinne Rodrigues and Shailaja Vishwanath gave her the support she needed for a blogathon, a concept I knew little about. Many bloggers have since written about Renu’s dreams in order to take Project Why to new heights: find their stories in the links on this post.

Kasturi Patra and Shalini Baisiwala found time from their busy schedule to come and see us at Project Why. Kalpanaa Misra visited us too and took some lovely pictures.  Our deepest gratitude to them. And a special thank you to Kasturi Patra for having helped create the video for the fundraiser.

Proeject Why Sewing circleA big thank you to Fabian Baggeler for being our videographer and photographer and for working long hours to get things ready on time.

We would also like to express my gratitude to the Ketto team who were most helpful in sending the fundraiser online in record time! A special thank you to Akshay and Zaid from Ketto for making this fundraiser go on for GivingTuesday!

I am deeply grateful to the Project Why team under the able stewardship of Dharmendra Beniwal and Rani Bhardwaj for having motivated the team to take ownership of the fundraiser. It is their long term dreams that we hope to fulfill with help from each one of you.

A huge vote of thanks to all those who donated and shared and helped us reach 70% of our target in a short time. You all have already come together to raise 61,000 Rs out of a target of 77,000 Rs that would support Renu’s Project Why Sewing Circle. Please continue to support and share the fundraiser . No amount is too small, and every little bit would help make Renu’s dreams become a reality.

What do you think of women empowering each other to lead independent lives? Do you have a sewing circle in your community? Do you know of a sewing circle that works with underprivileged women? Would you like to volunteer at Project Why and teach the sewing circle a few useful skills?

If you’d like to receive posts from Project Why, please subscribe via email on the sidebar. To keep in touch with all the events big and small, like the Project WHY page on Facebook.

And if journeys like that of Renu interest you, please consider supporting the Project WHY Sewing Circle Fundraiser, where we’re trying to keep the dreams of a few brave women alive.

Would You Help Renu Empower a Sewing Circle in Need? #GivingTuesday #projectwhydelhi

In New Delhi, like elsewhere in India. women are the target of domestic violence and abuse, and survival becomes the biggest challenge they face. Often, nonprofits like Project Why step in to try and empower them to take on the challenge head on by giving them the skills needed to become change makers within their household. This is what we strive to do at our Khader women’s centre. The Project WHY sewing circle is part of this effort.

The Project WHY Sewing Circle has changed the lives of scores of women, but none more so than for Renu Karotia, the sewing teacher.

Six years ago, Renu’s husband lost his job following a work accident. the family lost their home and incurred huge debts. Being unskilled, Renu had very few options. After she joined the Project Why sewing class, she soon started taking small sewing jobs at home. It was a struggle to put food on the table every day.

Project Why New Delhi nonprofitWhen Project Why lost its sewing teacher, we felt that Renu had the skills to take on the job. Though hesitant at first, she grew into the job and is now very proud of her students. She has enrolled her children in the centre. She is slowly paying back her debts and knows that she holds the key to her future.

The sewing circle of Khader began its activities over 10 years ago in Madanpur Khader, one of the many villages that dot New Delhi. Since then over 1000 women have been trained by Project Why as part of its women empowerment programme.

This programme was initiated with the belief that women were true agents of change and that giving them the means  to earn a livelihood would go a long way in transforming the lives of their families. This held particularly true in an environment where men often drank and domestic violence was prevalent. At Project Why they not only learnt a skill but also to read and write, thus helping them to become small entrepreneurs!

The sewing circle of Khader has been a resounding success. Over 80% of the women have found some form of  gainful activity be it within their homes or even outside.

Today we are looking at honing their skills further and for this we need the following:

Iron                                                   1000/-

Interlocking machine                      4400/-

Pico machine                                   5600/-

Ironing board                                   2000/-

Cutting table                                    4000/-

6-month salary for Renu             60,000/-

 ————————-
Total amount needed:               77,000/-

This would enable them to find employment in the garment industry where such skills are needed.

Please help spread the word about a fundraiser for Renu’s sewing circle by joining this linky list:



Renu is a woman who braved tough circumstances to not just earn a living, but also empower others to do the same.

Support her journey through THIS FUNDRAISER.

If you’re donating from India, your donation is 50% tax deductible under section 80G, and the entire expense account would be put up on the Project Why website once the amount is raised.

Join the Project Why family by supporting Renu, so she can help other women like herself. No amount is too small, and every little bit would help make Renu’s dreams become a reality.

SHARE the Fundraiser after you’ve made a donation: each share leads to at least three donations!

You can donate in different currencies like USD and Pounds. Just change the currency at the top right of the screen.

 Do you think a society is served best by educating and empowering its women? Would you support Renu as she works to empower other women in need?

One life, many masters #GivingTuesday#India

At times it takes a borrowed pair of eyes to revive your ability to see with your heart. This is exactly what happened during the recent visit of Damyanti, a dear friend and staunch supporter. She enabled me to revisit Project Why with my heart wide open, something I had not done for a while as I was too busy with day-to-day vicissitudes. It is amazing how each time I take a step back and look at my prodigal child, I fall under the spell of its incredible magic. This time it was the realisation that Project Why had brought into my life many masters, each teaching me a new lesson of life.

One such master I realised was our incredible computer teacher Mithu!

Mithu was struck by polio at a young age and due to inadequate intervention lost the use of his legs. He came to us as a teenager prompted by one of our teachers who hoped that he would resume the studies he had abandoned somewhere along the way, but that was not to be. In spite of our best efforts he was not interested in sitting for his Xth Boards. His attention and heart had been hijacked by the computer that sat in the room. Mithu had found his calling. It would take us some time to understand it but once we did there was no looking back. Today Mithu is a stellar computer teacher at our Okhla Center.

Damyanti decided to document his story and as I watched it I felt the world turning on its head and found myself at the receiving end. For too long I had donned the mantle of Anou Ma’am and been the one everyone looked up to. But tables have turned and it was time to look at what I had received.

I realised how much Mithu had taught me, though till now I had not acknowledged it. Mithu is the epitome of ‘joie de vivre’ and lives life King Size. So what if he does not have legs he can use, he has never stopped short of experiencing things. In the video he even candidly and happily admits to playing ‘football‘!

That is when I realised what Mithu had taught me: the true art of living and never giving up. It had taken me more than a decade to understand this though in hindsight I realise that much of what my journey has been is thanks to the example set by this young man who once long ago said to me: let me stand on my two feet when I had offered him the use of a wheelchair.

And as I let my thoughts wander, I see that Mithu is not the only master Project Why has blown my way, there are many more whose stories remain to be told.

Do you also believe that anyone can be a teacher? Have you had an ‘unlikely’ master? Share you story here.

To support the work of dedicated teachers like Mithu, please consider collaborating with us! We welcome visitors, volunteers and anyone who can give us advice on how to improve our practices and processes.

You can also support teachers like Mithu through a small donation.

 

 

 

Don’t worry; be happy #GivingTuesday#India

Dont’ worry, be happy, sang Bobby Mc Ferrin way back in 1988. The lyrics of this song came back to me as I stumbled upon an article about Delhi schools introducing ‘ Happiness classes’. Wow what a wonderful idea particularly in a system where schools are associated with tedious classes and rote learning and every one is obsessed by marks. So happiness classes are a welcome breath of fresh air.

Now instead of jumping straight into learning subjects children will meditate, hear stories, learn to be mindful and engage in fun activities for one whole period in the morning. This will help the kids reclaim their right to be children, ignite their creativity and make them better human beings. This is truly a leap in the right direction.

When Project Why opened its doors almost two decades ago, its main aim was to create a ‘happy’ place for children from deprived homes, a place where they could reclaim their right to be children and learn in a fun filled environment. True that the reality of the day made studies the main focus, but Project Why never forgot that studies alone do not suffice and always strived to give its children space to bloom and thrive. Creative activities, story telling, outings, and the morning positivity prayer where children sit quietly to experience mindfulness have always been part of our curriculum. This is essential to seed the right values and teach children gratitude and respect. So knowing that we were on the right path all along is a huge boost to our morale and we can all continue singing: Dont worry, be happy!

Do you think ‘happiness classes’ are a step in the right direction? Do you think that children have a right to play and have fun while studying? 

 

 

 

 

 

Breathe and exhale #GivingTuesday#India

Come November and the pollution levels in Delhi run amok.This happens year after year, and year after year knee jerk measures are taken to be forgotten when pollution levels drop. Crisis management is what we thrive on. Long term measures are not the preferred route.

November brings its heady toxic mix of stubble burning and festive crackers laced with unfavourable weather conditions and thus aggravates the situation forcing upon us the short term measures we have now become used to. Construction has been stopped for 10 days, stone crushing and other polluting activities have been halted. Crackers sale is prohibited till Diwali day and then too burning of crackers have been limited my the Supreme Court for two hours on the festival night.

The air quality is extremely hazardous and Delhi feels like a gas chamber. Political blame game is at its peak as citizens are coping in the best way the can. The privileged simply chose to leave the city for healthier spaces in or even outside India, those who cannot leave sit in their homes with state-of-the-art air purifiers and travel in air conditioned vehicles. But there is a vast majority who have no option but to carry on their activities as it is a matter of survival. They do not have the luxury of taking off or sitting in a air purified home. They just have to breathe and exhale whatever quality the air is hazardous or unhealthy.

And for many all the measures taken to better air quality translates into loss of work and livelihood. With construction work at a halt, thousands of daily wage labourers have no source of income and will have to dig in their meagre resources to survive till the ban is lifted. My heart goes out to them. Theirs will be a dark Diwali.

The question that begs to be asked is why do we have to face this situation year aft year and what can be done. We seem to believe that it is for the government to weave a magic wand and clear the air. None of us is willing to assume responsibility and see what each one of us can do. Climate change will affect us all. The day will dawn when there will be no place to run and when all the money in the world will not be able to buy us a whiff of fresh air.

Charity begins at home it is said. It is also said one must lead by example. So let us do some soul searching and see whether we are playing our part. How many of us have given up using plastic bags? How many of us segregate our garbage? How many of us carpool? How many of us use public transport? How many of us save water?  Not many. We all behave like ostriches, wishing that things will improve on their own. But that is not the way things happen.

Why do we need the highest court in the land to tell us not to burn crackers? Can each one of us not take this wise decision ourselves? The same goes for plastic and water and all other environment related issues. We need to be proactive and take matters in our hand. We need to raise awareness and teach our children to be environment conscious. That is what we strive to do at Project Why each and every day.

 

Anou’s Blog
Project Why’s incredible eight #GivingTuesday#India

As always it was a joy to visit our incredible eight at the Boarding school last week! How time has flown and how they have grown. Our boarding school programme has been our greatest challenge and our greatest achievement. Most of these children would probably never have finished school as the odds they faced in their lives would have seemed unsurmountable. Two third degree burn survivors, one open heart surgery survivor and others from dysfunctional and marginal homes.

The genesis of this programme needs to be revisited. Our boarding school programme would have probably been restricted to one or two kids at most, had a potential donor not landed into our lives and wanted to sponsor the education of 5 children in a boarding school. We were thrilled at the thought and children from extremely deprived homes were selected. To ensure that they would not be ‘lost’ in their new school, we ran a one year residential programme for them, our own kind of prep school! But things do not quite work out the way one hopes and one fine morning the ‘sponsor’ backed leaving us bewildered, saddened and at a loss. There was no way we could ‘send’ the children back to their old lives and yet on the other hand, the challenge of finding resources to ensure they complete their education was daunting. We did the only honourable thing: took the challenge head on!

The children kept their side of the deal and have done us proud. We kept ours finding new sponsors, some who were kind enough to make a long time commitment, and others who would help us with one year commitments. Today five of the children are fully sponsored, and three still need kind souls to see them through.

Kiran will pass out in 2019, Utpal and Babli in 2020 and all of them will have graduated by 2023. We still have a log way to go.

But it has been worth every minute. The pride and joy of seeing them grow and become confident young teenagers cannot be described in words. You need to meet them so see how incredible they are!

 

What tomorrow needs #GivingTuesday#India

One of the challenges we face at Project Why is to provide quality and meaningful education. In the present educational scenario in India where only marks count, this challenge becomes even more daunting as though it is important to try and ensure that our children get ‘good’ marks in order to get admission in an affordable college, it is also imperative to prepare them for the rapidly changing work scenario. According to a report by the World Economic Forum 65 percent of the jobs elementary school students will be doing in the future do not even exist yet!

The question that comes to mind is: what then are the skills required for the future and how can they be taught to the children now.

Education specialist Tony Wagner has identified 7 such skills and they are a far cry from what is being taught specially in India.

The first skill is: critical thinking and problem solving. We need to teach children how to ask questions. This is what will bring innovation as only by being critical of what is, can we be able to bring about change. Now in a scenario where rote learning is essential, this is indeed a huge challenge.

Next is the ability to collaborate across networks and lead by influence. With the growth of remote and non-permanent workers leading will not be the commanding from the top, but the ability to lead by influence or example. Indeed a big challenge again

Now comes the ability to adapt and continually re-learn. Again a far cry from what education teaches today.

Next come initiative and entrepreneurship and of course the ability to communicate orally and in writing followed by assessing and analysing information a daunting task indeed.

And last but not the least is curiosity and imagination, rekindling the child like awe that is lost far too early, more so in India when the 3 Rs begin at the tender age of 4!

Most of these skills are contradictory to what is taught in schools today and yet if we want our children to succeed in the future it is essential to inculcate them slowly but surely.

At Project Why, we are taking baby steps in this direction by giving our children time to be innovative, to think out of the box, to develop their imagination and creativity and to better their communication skills. We hope that our efforts will go a long way in shaping their tomorrows.

Anou’s Blog
Kiran A ray of sunshine #GivingTuesday#India

She was born a few weeks before Project Why saw the light of day and has been our ray of sunshine all the way along. Kiran is undoubtedly an intrinsic part of Project Why. She turned 18 yesterday. What a journey it has been.

I remember carrying her in my arms as I set upon crafting my dream. Somehow, in early days she was always by my side, joined a year later by Utpal who would become her lifelong friend.

Today she is in class XII, a lovely young woman at the threshold of fulfilling her destiny.

Looking at her takes me down memory lane as her life mirrors Project Why’s journey. Like her we too find ourselves at the threshold of a new chapter as we take our first but determined steps towards sustainability.

We have come a long way since early times when we were both in our infancy and when everything seemed possible. Step by step and day by day we grew and gave wings to our dreams. We faltered at times but always picked ourselves up, dusted our bruised selves and carried on with grit and determination.

Today I look back and share some of the moments we lived to together. How can I forget the day I was introduced to the word jometry, the moniker used by many children in slums for the ubiquitous pencil box; or the day when we both fell upon mounds of thrown food after some religious feeding frenzy and the little wise 6 year old quipped: why don’t they give it to cows! How can I forget the anxious times when we were seeking admission and the nightmare we had to go through at the hands of wily predators looking for a quick buck. How can I forget the days this little girl spent ‘volunteering’ with her friends in the our special section or the cake we baked as part of her holiday homework as her home did not have an oven! Holiday homework was a hardship we shared year after year.

Kiran is without doubt our little ray of sunshine!

Happy birthday girl! May all your dreams come true.

 

 

Anou’s blog
The world became one #GivingTuesday#India

For the past years, come October a group of class XI students from Gefion Gymnasium Copenhagen and their stellar teachers Mette and Ask visit Project Why and share some precious time with our children. This is part of their annual study tour to India. They come laden with gifts, smiles and a generous donation that is the fruit of their labour,

This year again they visited our Yamuna centre and gave wings to the dreams of their Indian friends. For a few hours blond heads mingled with dark ones and all barriers were broken. The world became one.

They prepare for their journey all year along working in different places: from baby sitting to cleaning houses, from working in super markets to serving in cafes, from working in shops to running dance workshops, giving true meaning to values like compassion and giving. Their donation is undoubtedly priceless. We feel deeply grateful and humbled.

I have great admiration and respect for this school that has truly understood the meaning of education and imparts the right values to their children. They teach them to build bridges and not walls, something all education system should do.

On behalf of the Project Why children and team I would like to than Lasse, Estelle, Nicholas, Sophie, Olivia, Daniel, Esther, Naja, Siw, Helena, Line, Lija, Ida, Niklas, Laerke, Svend, Addie, Caroline, Tobias, Johannes, Elvis, Freja, Luna, Sarah and Karla for their generosity and love. May you always be successful and may your dreams come true.