Once again it is the time of the year when I sit and look back at the months gone by and share with you plans for the future. Last year when I penned my dreams for 2020 nothing could have prepared me for what we would encounter. I thought the Project Why ship would cruise on as usual and that our main concern would once again be our search for sustainability. We had some plans in our head. Our Adopt a Teacher initiative had been well received and we were looking at fine tuning and strengthening it. We were also hoping to widen our donor base and looking for new ways to do so. Little did we know that a small invisible virus would turn the planet on its head. Come March and we were all taken hostage by Covid 19! As India went into complete lockdown, Project Why shut all its doors. An eerie silence took over our lives, and the end of the dark tunnel was nowhere in sight.
We watched silently things unfold. The plight of the migrant labour was terrifying as they lost their livelihood and homes and many began a long walk to their homes of origin. For those who stayed back, hunger loomed large. We could not remain mute. We had to do something.
The need of the hour was ‘food’! The district administration was urging people to join the effort of feeding those in need. We reached out to our donors and were overwhelmed by the positive response we got. The Savitri Foundation UK accepted to sponsor 1000 meals a day for almost two moths. The 7 trustees of Project Why UK took on the ‘I will walk 500 miles’ challenge and raised a substantial amount that helped distribute dry rations to families in need. Many individual donors reached out to support this effort.
From April 2020 to end May 2020 we were engaged in food distribution. I am deeply grateful and proud of the Project Why staff who did not think twice before accepting to lead this programme. PPE kits were provided to them, and they braved the scorching heat day after day to fulfil the mission we had set for ourselves. Kudos to all of them!
Nobody would have expected what would befall on us in June. A nagging back pain that refused to go away would lead to my being diagnosed with multiple myeloma. I must admit that upon receiving the news I was devastated. The excruciating pain and the stigma attached to multiple myeloma left me rudderless and at a complete loss. It would take weeks for me to fathom and accept what had happened. It was the overwhelming support from my family, from my project why family and from friends the world over that would enable me to regain control of my life.
The first thing that was on my mind was the future of Project Why. I convened a virtual meeting of the Board and was again deeply touched by how everyone extended their support and pledged to ensure the safety of Project Why. I stepped back from the chair, and Meenal Madhukar accepted to steer Project Why while I regained my health.
I began treatment. Chemotherapy and a host of alternative options saw me regain health and enter remission.Today I am pain free but still need to heal.
Project Why entered its Cover 19 avatar. We soon realised that schools would not reopen and that we needed to find new ways of reaching out to the children. The creche and special needs class were temporarily closed. The teachers began online classes for the older children with limited means. Many chidden did not have access to smart phones and net connections so the teachers prepared work sheets and created WhatsApp groups. They tailored classes to the needs of the students. Some teachers even took late evening classes as some children could only have access to phones after the parents came home from work. Once again the Project Why team proved its mettle and rose to the occasion. Our aim was to ensure that we reach every child possible. Teachers went to children’s home and took classes for them. Sadly some families left Delhi in the May exodus to never return. Older children were put to work by their parents. It was our endeavour to try and have them join classes again.
By the end of the year a steady pattern of online classes had emerged. We also decided to call the weaker children to the centre in small groups and take classes whilst respecting all Covid SOPs. It looks like this will be the model for the coming year too. Project Why has to reinvent itself. That is what awaits us for 2021!
We had to suspend all vocational and skilling activities. However the ladies of the vocational unit got busy making masks which were sold on the market. We even sent masks to France ad the UK.
Funding was erratic. Some of our sponsors continued to help us as usual but some scaled down their donations. We ran 4 online campaigns and they were very successful.
The end of the year brought some cheer as we got some new contacts we hope will bear fruit. On December 20th 2020 we organised a Facebook Live fund raiser. Ranjan, my better half, played a medley of Beatles song and many supporters joined from different parts fo the world. This concert opened new funding avenues. We enter the new year with hopes in our heart.
I end this difficult year with abundant gratitude. Gratitude to the team, the Board, the sponsors and supporters who stayed by us in these difficult times. I do not know what awaits us in 2021. I just know that miracles are waiting to happen.