In April 2022 I turn 70. A milestone in any life. A time when you feel the need to pause and look back at the years gone by. A time to look at your life with utmost honesty: the ups and downs, the successes and failures, the joy and sadness. Seven decades is a long time and I do not intend to subject you to life long reminiscences. Today I just intend to look back at the last two decades.
2000 is a watershed moment in my life as that is when Project Why began its work on the field. Project Why is undoubtedly the sum of my existence as I poured into it all that I had learnt and experienced over half a century as well as my hope and dreams: be it the lessons learnt at my parents’ knee, the joy of becoming a parent, the challenges faced at the workplace, the anger felt at all injustice, the desire to change things and so much more.
Project Why became the new challenge I embraced in my 50thyear. As my thoughts travel back I remember the little street and tiny mud house where it all began. I remember how Manu’s plight seared my soul and compelled me to find the first answer to that very resounding why. That was the beginning of an exhilarating journey where the sky was the limit. From a mere 20 we became 40 then 100 and reached 1000 in no time. We opened new centres in different locations, each to answer yet another why. Our enthusiasm was almost hubristic but somehow the Universe helped us in extraordinary ways bringing us support from the world over.
I look back at the wonderful family we became: the children, the teachers but also the plethora of people from many lands who came and volunteered with us and left an indelible mark in our hearts. Some even came back many times! A very precious legacy.
But it was not just a fairy tale. Project Why brought to the fore the many social inequities, the injustices and the ever growing gap between the privileged and underprivileged. This compelled me to raise my voice. This is how I began to blog. The attitude of the powers that be was nothing short of incomprehensible leading to ugly spats. But we overcame all.
This walk down memory lane is meant to be honest and I would be failing if I did not look at the failures, the biggest one being our inability to seed a proper sustainability option. It is not that we did not try. Our biggest attempt was Planet Why. Alas we were unable to raise the funds needed. If I look back with brutal honesty one would have to admit that the ‘success’ of our hand to mouth existence clouded our ability to see the writing one the wall. What we resorted to was crisis management. Not the best way to go.
Once again we face a crisis. True we will need to go into crisis management mode, but it is time we looked beyond. It is time to build our sustainability model. That is what I pledge to do as Project Why deserves to live beyond me.
So much for reminiscences. Time to look at the year gone by. In a nutshell 2021 was the year we seeded Project Why 2.0. It took a while as the situation on the ground kept changing. Schools barely opened and online teaching was here to stay. However the past year had taken its toll on the education of children from underprivileged homes and it became imperative for us to work a hybrid model that would address the situation. Project Why 2.0 aimed at bringing back children to school. That is what we are in the process of doing.
It was not an easy year. I end it with abundant gratitude to my team, the Board, and our supporters and funders who stayed with us in these harrowing times. Without them Project Why would not be.
I do not know what 2022 will bring us. I just know miracles are waiting to happen.