Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much #ThrowbackThursday

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”

  Helen Keller

 How true these words are and Project Why is a proof of this. It was in very early days that Anou decided to source 100% of her team from within the community. The decision was instinctive. What was available were women with unfinished educations often due to early marriages, men who had obtained degrees from other states and could not find employment, and people in desperate conditions where a job, however small, meant food on the table. That is where most of Project Why’s team comes from.

In early days there were many doomsayers who believed that this experience would be a disaster and Project Why would have to walk the trodden path. But Project Why stuck to our guns and never looked back.

Project Why’s maverick team rose to meet expectations and performed with commitment, motivation and passion. These are the qualities that stand out and that are not to be found in people coming from the outside. For many, working at Project Why meant giving children the opportunities they never had. That is not all: being from the community they understand the needs and the solutions they offer are appropriate and work. They have allowed Project Why to truly address the real needs of the children.

Moreover we have a team that stays and those who left did for real reasons: relocation, marriage and in a few cases a better job- something we celebrate. Some left to start their own organisations. To be applauded!

n many cases Project Why has allowed many to climb a few rungs of the social ladder. As one staff member who is now married and a mom, told us, though she could get a better paid job in a factory, being called Ma’am on the street by her students and their parents is an honor and worth the lower salary.

Project Why has also prompted many of our staff, mostly women, to complete their unfinished studies. We are very proud of all of them. Some children who have been with us since early years are now teachers at Project Why. We have come a long way.
True, there are some challenges, mostly because all staff members have a very emotional tie to Project Why. Project Why stands with them all the way and it is this that makes the Project Why team formidable and invincible.

We invite you to meet them.

Do you have

Do you haveany words of encouragement for our staff?

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BEIRUT CALLING #GivingTuesday #India

It has been International Month at Project Why.  First we had visitors from France, then from Japan and now hold your breath… from Lebanon!  A group of twenty young girls from the American Community School: Beirut came to visit Project Why shepherded by our dear friend Chris of Hands Up Holidays. It was truly special to have visitors from a part of the world that has ben torn by war for so long.

As their arrival was delayed ,the visit was limited to the Okhla Centre. In spite of the terrible heat twenty sparkling smiles walked in. Soon the place was filled with palpable vibes. After a short introduction the girls proceeded to meet their Indian counterparts. The visitors were all class X and XI students and being afternoon, the secondary girls were on the roof. It did not take long for the two yet unknown worlds to meet and bond.

The girls danced to Bollywood and Arabic music, each one teaching the other their moves amidst laughter and giggles. All barriers were broken; it was just a bunch of young girls having fun together. There would be card and other games and even visits to homes as the Project Why girls wanted to show their Lebanese friends where hey lived.

Time flew. It was soon time to bid farewell with the hope that one would meet again.

Thank you, Chris for this wonderful opportunity

Enjoy some precious moments of this visit

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One year of the Yamuna centre #ThrowbackThursday

The Project Why Yamuna Centre is one year old! 
A simple look at the smiling faces in the picture is ample proof of the fact that we got it right. Only a little over a year ago Project Why came to know about the existence of the “Yamuna Kids,” a bunch of happy children who run in fields along the river amidst vegetable patches tended by their parents. And this in the middle of the concrete jungle that is Delhi. 
These are children of what is known as agricultural labour who hire these fields from the landlords at a fixed price and then make their living from the vegetables they grow. They are at the mercy of the weather gods; excess rain or extreme weather can destroy the crop. Their homes are made of straw with a plastic sheet for protection. Unlike the rich who can build unabashedly on the flood plains, these people are not allowed a single brick. 
There is no school in the vicinity; in any case their children do not appear in any census and hence do not exist. They used to spend their time helping their parents in the fields, a task they can legally do as the child labour law has recent been amended to make working in the family business ‘legal.’ These kids are happy-go-lucky children living in a time warp and a bubble. The question that comes to mind is what is their future? A simple change in building laws could destroy their lives in a jiffy.
Project Why had to intervene but once again what mattered was to find a way to adapt our intervention to the reality of these children. 
An informal day-school was set up and it was decided that children would be taught according to their age and capability as some seemed to have had some non formal teaching. 
The gods conspired to make the Yamuna Centre a reality. Friends and donors pitched in and one even decided to provide a hot lunch to these kids six days a week. The lunch was a huge success. Other friends sponsored a roof, supplies and everything we could possibly need- even a toilet!
It did not take any time for the Centre to function perfectly. The Yamuna kids are probably one of the most eager kids of the Project Why family. The numbers increased till we had to put a stop as there was no space left. Today there are about ninety children studying in the centre.
Anyone coming for the first time will have a difficult time believing that the Centre is just one year old.
These are God’s own kids who had never stepped out from their fields. We were surprised to learn that they had never seen India Gate. A few days back our friends from Enfances Indiennes took the children for an outing to INDIA GATE.
The Yamuna Centre is something we are very proud. Our endeavour is to ensure that we guide these children gently into the world, without them losing their deep their deep bond to Mother Nature.
What birthday wishes do you have for our Yamuna Centre?

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有難う 御座います Yoshiki San #GivingTuesday

有難う 御座います Yoshiki San #GivingTuesday

Yoshiki San and Doraemon

Project Why has a Japanese connection. It goes back to 2003 when Naoko  San visited the Project why with  the Japanese Volunteer Group. A connection was made, one that lasts till date.

Thus began a relationship with ladies from the land of Doraemon and a bunch of slum children from India. The ladies would come regularly and spend time with the children teaching them the magic of Japanese craft and culture. In August 2005 we all celebrated the Tanabata festival where every child wrote her of his wish on a bright paper and tied it to the bamboo stems our Japanese friends had bought. The children even learnt a Japanese Song.

For the past year the Japanese Volunteer Group has been a steady and committed support. They have been there for us at every step of the way and meet our needs constantly. Be it a water cooler, a fan, mats for the children to sit on, stationery, sweaters and socks to keep warm in winter, our Japanes friends have always called ‘present’ to our need. When the Yamuna centre needed a roof, they collected funds and thus provided shelter from the cold and the heat. They also give the children school bags and supplies, school books, uniforms and sweaters.

A few months ago Ayumi San, a member of the group, contacted us and told us her husband’s company was willing to help us. Yoshiki San visited the Okhla centre a few weeks ago and it was decided that his company would build a shelter on the roof and provide two callers to beat the heat.

Last week Yoshiki San and his team visited the Centre and spent time with the children.

It was a wonderful morning where again many words met. The Japanese, their Indian colleagues and Project Why. Once again we were touched by the gentle mood that prevailed. Somehow whenever the Japanese come there is never a feeling of rush. Time seems to take on a different pace.

Yoshiko San and his team spent quality time with the Okhla and Yamuna children. We were pleasantly surprised to discover his drawing talent as he produced drawing after drawing of the children’s faces. Then it was time for the children to showcase their talent: Sanjay showed his yoga prowess and then the boys performed a stunning dance. Yoshiko San then spoke to the children and gave them wise counsel. He told them to believe in their dreams as dreams come true but for that they needed to study hard and listen to their teachers. The morning ended with a distribution of stationery and cakes.

The guests then moved on to the Yamuna centre. It was lunch time so they decided to serve the lunch. Then it was fun time with more laughter, more sharing and more caring. All barriers were broken as one and all intermingled with ease and joy.

Then it was time for goodbyes and promises to meet again.

So また会いましょう!Yoshiki San, till meet again

Enjoy some of the very special moment of this unforgettable day here:

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Things never get back to the day they were #ThrowbackThursday

There’s no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way they were wrote Dwight D. Eisenhower.
One of the most difficult moments we have had to face at Project Why was the death of a child. But sadly children die. Over the years we have lost children, too many. Some may live on in the memories of their loved ones, but in poor homes, where life is a battle to survive, grieving is a luxury you may not have. And children rarely get their place on the wall with the customary garland draped on it. According to religious custom they do not even get a decent funeral and are buried on the riverbed with no grave or dumped in the river with a boulder tied to their little wrapped bodies.

We would like to share their tiny life stories in the hope that these become their obituaries.

Sonu contracted polio at a very young age. His family was very poor and did the best they could which was not much. His legs froze in a sitting position and would remain so. He had to be carried everywhere. He was one of the first students in our Special Class and we loved his gentle ways. He always spoke softly and never wanted to bother anyone. It must have been terrible for him to ask for the help he so needed.  One day he caught a fever that he was unable to recover from. He died in the very fetal position he had braved the world in, without a sound, tiptoeing gently out of this world

Rohan and Puja were two delightful cousins studying in our crèche. One evening they went to the temple next to their home, never to return. A day later one of their shoes was found near an open drain at some distance of their house. The approach to the drain was across a vast expanse of open land dotted with thorny bushes and trees. To reach it you had to cross a busy road that even adults fond difficult to negotiate. The children had definitely been abducted and murdered.

In spite of Project Why’s best efforts, the case was closed and the deaths deemed to be an accident. The life of two tiny slum kids is not worth fighting for.


Arati was 3 when she first came to Project Why with her two older siblings. She had lost her mother and her father was a drunk. She lived in a home so tiny that her father who was six feet tall had to sleep with the door open and his feet hanging out.

She joined our crèche and was happy. One summer morning she came to class licking a bright pink candyfloss. She was in good spirits and went to class as usual. Sometime later she felt sick and was vomiting.  We tended to her and she was soon back to her normal self.  Later that night she got high fever and was taken to the local doctor who recommended she be taken to the hospital a good 40 minutes drive away. She never made it.

What killed Arati? The pain of losing her mother, poor nutrition, inadequate care, an abusive father who beat the children mercilessly, the quack unable to treat her, the long drive to the hospital or simply the total lack of love, one we were unable to make up for.


Rajani was a special child. She was 11. She was the granddaughter of Tau, the head of the Lohar Camp where we held classes. She was beautiful but was mentally challenged. No one in her clan understood why she could not walk or talk or be like children her age.  Her mother simply left her with her grandmother who spoilt her silly. She was very shy, almost wild. It took a long time to persuade the grandparents to send her to Project Why. She did come and soon began to interact with other children and started learning basic living skills. But God had other plans for her. He took her away one fine morning, leaving us more than a little lost.

Anil was born with a congenital heart defect. Every breath he took was an effort and he could barely retain any milk. He needed surgery and we managed to raise the funds but the little soul gave up before we could help him.

She tiptoed on to our planet quietly almost as if she wanted no one to notice her lest we let her walk into our hearts. She would slink softly behind her loud mother, hiding her face lest you lost yourself in her huge melting eyes. She would sit in a corner patiently waiting for us to finish whatever we were doing. Sandhya knew she was a temporary guest.

Sandhya was what they call a blue or cyanotic baby, where the heart is malformed and the blood deprived of oxygen. Since 1944 a simple surgery called a BT Shunt can repair the damage. For Sandhya’s family the cost was exorbitant, but friends pitched in and she was operated upon. However she did not make it. Maybe she knew that hers was not a life worth living in society’s eyes.


Saheeda was a beautiful young girl. She was hearing challenged and in a country like India where inclusion is not practiced, she was never able to go to a regular school and build a future. She was one of our students and though sometimes a little stubborn, she was pure delight. She had learnt stitching and was all set to begin a beauty course which would open new doors to her.

We had gotten her a state-of-the-art hearing aid and she was discovering new sounds and learning to speak.

One day she went to the village and contracted fever and was hospitalized but was not getting better. The state of medical facilities in our villages is rather poor. Her family brought her back and admitted her in a hospital in Delhi but it was too late. Once again God had other plans.

Nanhe was one of us for six year during which his incredible smile made us forget our worries and woes. He could not speak, barely walked but was able to lighten up the darkest room.

Nanhe was born with a simple mind and a broken body where everything seemed wrong. In his short life he lived with excruciating pain and was subjected to humiliating investigations, painful jabs and uncounted operations. But he never lost his smile.

One may wonder what a little broken soul like Nanhe could mean to us, how a little seemingly useless being could become such an important part of one’s life. It is once again a matter of looking with one’s heart. Nanhe was undoubtedly an Angel that the God of Lesser Souls sent our way. His message was simple and clear: no matter what, life is still beautiful and no matter how bad it looks, it is still worth a smile. And the little chap lived by the book; even in his worst moments of pain, he never lost his smile. And when you looked at him smiling you suddenly felt uplifted. No matter where and when, in a hospital ward where he lay or in his tiny hovel Nanhe smiled.

Today he smiles in heaven.


It did not take long for everyone to fall in love with little Sohail, with his huge head, tiny body, shrill voice and incredible smile. He had hydrocephalus, a condition when fluid builds up in the skull and causes the brain to swell and leads to brain damage. Sohail had difficulty in maintaining his balance and walked awkwardly. Yet he loved dancing and would do so leaning against a wall. He was a clever imp!

His parents talked of an operation, actually the placing of a shunt to drain the fluids. This operation was not without risk as it could leave him paralysed. A date was fixed but as is always the case in India, the day given was a year away. In the meantime we began alternative therapies which helped him walk better. We had high hopes.
But that was not to be. A simple fall in his home was all it took for his soul to fly away.


One death we mourn every day is that of Manu, the challenged beggar who was the reason for Project Why to begin. If there was one meaning to his wretched life, it was to teach us all that no life however miserable is worthless and every life has a mission. His was to set up Project Why. This would take more than two decades of wandering in filth, two decades of being riled and abused, two decades of walking the same beat so as not to miss the moment when that person would come and the two would meet.

Manu would live another decade beyond that tryst. His presence would take care of the faltering steps, the doubts and uncertainties, the moments when giving up seemed an option. All it took to get on course was his smile. Any giving up would be an insult to his life.

One day Manu knew it was time to go. The foundations were strong and the edifice would last. It was time for him to report back to his Maker.

For us it was time to honour his memory and ensure Project Why would endure.

God Bless these little souls. Each one marked our lives and made is better people.

May they Rest in Peace

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