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.