Anou’s blog  This Xmas, Adopt a Project Why Teacher

Anou’s blog
This Xmas, Adopt a Project Why Teacher

In September we launched the Adopt a Teacher Campaign. This was a new approach at fundraising whereby we asked people to ‘adopt’ a teacher as we felt that teachers are the cornerstone of our organisation and that without them there would be no Project Why! The campaign was part of our effort in finding new avenues of funding in the wake of losing our largest donor in March 2020. The reality was that if we did manage to get our 41 teachers adopted, we would be safe. Some warmed up to the idea immediately, others felt it would not succeed. True it was a shot in the dark but in our situation it was imperative to try any and everything.

A month long campaign was launched in Facebook in September and the initial response was lukewarm. We got a couple of teachers adopted but nothing to write home about. But we did not give up and this December decided to push the campaign again, as a Xmas initiative. Today 16 teachers have been adopted and this is heartwarming.

Who are the people who have reached out? Quite a motley crowd. We have some individuals, some families that have come together, some friends that have also got together, staff of an office, one Foundation that is a regular donor, one Funding Institution who is again a regular donor. Most picked up one teacher but one generous donor who choses to remain anonymous picked up four!

So even if we are not even close to the half way mark, we really feel that we will be able to meet our target.

This Xmas we urge you to ‘adopt’ a teacher. By doing this you will be reaching out to over 50 children and helping them transform their lives and fulfil their dreams. It is these very teachers who for the past years have patiently taught their students and helped them move from class to class and finish school. Some of these students were deemed failures and doomed to drop out, but with love and determination these very teachers ensured that this did not happen. Not only did they bring them back on track but even helped them do well, many even topping their class. And above all ensured that they pass out of school with respectable marks.

Today Project Why alumni are doing well and working in various fields. Some have chosen to pursue higher studies and done well. None of this could have been possible without the very teachers we are asking you to adopt today.

If we are not able to meet our goal, we may have to close one or more of our centres as we have lost our largest donor. We need to make up the shortfall by March 2020.

So please help us get all our teachers adopted by joining our Xmas initiative.

Merry Xmas to all!

 Anou’s blog  When CSKM visits Project Why

Anou’s blog
When CSKM visits Project Why

Saturday 30th November was a very special day. Students of CSKM school  were coming to visit their Project Why friends. Normally about 40 children come every year but this year over 80 wanted to come. This necessitated some adjustments and it was finally convened that the boys would come to Khader and the girls Yamuna. The boys were to be led by Utpal and the girls by Babli. They both got special permission to come. Everyone was very excited. It promised to be a fun filled day. The girls were to have lunch at the Yamuna centre and the boys were bringing their lunch with them to eat at the Khader centre. Game were being planned and gifts were being packed.The day was that much more special as our dearest Xavier Ray was there to share with us.

Come Saturday and we were all waiting for the buses to come. They reached on time and we were surprised to see the number of packets carried in. They were accompanied by two teachers Mr Singh and Mr Tiwari. The boys also carried a huge container which we presumed was their lunch! It did not take long for everyone to settle in. The children sat in mixed groups and it was game time. Everyone was having a ball. One could hear giggles and laughter, friends meeting friends and catching up. Utpal was the perfect master of ceremonies. After some time one heard music and the stage was set or dancing. We had some stellar individual performances and everyone was a winner.

But soon it was almost time for our children to leave as they had to go to school. That is when it was revealed that the chow mien they had bought was for our children; the CSKM lads would have lunch when they got back to school. They had brought plates and forks and were all set to dole the treat out to our kids. That is not all. The CSKM children had spent the past few evenings making gifts for our kids: origami birds and butterflies. These too were distributed as where the caps. And in the midst of it all it was photo time with our children. There were more goodies  – peanut candy – for the afternoon shift at Project Why and stationery that would be distributed later. In the meantime Dharmendra organised samosas and ladoos for the CSKM kids and these were distributed and eaten with relish. I was soon time to go. Everyone was a little sad to see the CSKM boys go. Goodbye Children. Till we meet again.

Another bus reached the floodplain of the Yamuna river and our Yamuna centre. These were the CSKM girls with their two teachers Vandana Ma’am and Nishi Ma’am. A warm welcome awaited them. They too carried many boxes to be given to the Project Why kids. They played games and danced and had a merry time. It was again smiles and giggles. Babli was the perfect MC ably helped by our very own Kiran, a CSKM alumni!

It was lunch time and as the Project Why children settled to have lunch the CSKM girls decided to visit the fields and go to the bank of the river. It was selfie time and the girls went overboard clicking selfies. Soon it was lunch time and the girls settled down to savour the lunch graciously sent by Kabir Suri of Azure hospitality. After which caps and stationery were distributed as well as the orgimani creations so lovingly made. But as always time flew too fast and it was time to go. ‘We love you‘ said the girls. We love you too dear children. Au revoir!

For me it was a very special day as it validated my belief that children from all walks of life are made to be together and learn from each other. I have a great respect for Dr Shakuntala Jaiman the Principal of CSKM who walks the talk and ensures that all barriers are broken. She immediately warmed up to the idea of having regular interaction between her school and Project Why, something we truly cherish.

It is not what is learnt in books that will help the children succeed in life. It is values like compassion and skills like leadership that will stand them fast. This is what is learnt when CSKM visits Project Why.

There was another special moment that happened on that hallowed day. Xavier and Utpal came together after a long time. A beautiful love story that needs to be celebrated as one of the proudest moment of Project Why















Life in the times of pollution #WATWB

Life in the times of pollution #WATWB

Usually for We are the World Blogfest, we share a positive story–one that shines light amid the darkness,

For the past two months Delhi has been in the throes of severe pollution with the Air Quality Index reaching impossible figures. This sadly happens every year around the same time due to a series of predictable factors: change in wind direction, drop in temperature, burning of crop stubble by farmers in neighbouring states, burning of crackers in the festival season and of course pollution caused by cars, construction and industrial activities and burning of garbage. All this produces a toxic cocktail and turns Delhi into a gas chamber. Sadly once things get better all is forgotten and nothing is done to ensure that things improve the next year.

So every year come October, Delhi goes into pollution mode as everyone evolves coping strategies to brave the assault.

Those who can afford it bring out air purifiers and swanky masks. Some simply leave the city. The government issues advisories that one can barely follow as few can afford to remain indoors and cease all work. Most just have to carry on our activities and hope for the best.

When things get really bad (think an AQI of 900, when less than 100 is safe) the Government kick in emergency measures: odd and even number for cars on the roads, ban on construction and industrial activities and closure of schools. As usual it is the voiceless who are the most affected. This year the authorities closed the schools on 14th November celebrated as Children’s Day. It was extremely distressing to see all arrangements go in vain. Schools remained empty, balloons and streamers fluttering in the eerie space. At Project Why we had to cancel the much awaited Sports Day much to the sorrow of all participants.

What no one realises is that closing schools does not help all children. True, the privileged ones remain within their homes in air purified spaces. But that is not the case of underprivileged children whose homes are small and polluted hovels and the child has no recourse but to ‘play’ in the open often next to revving cars. The hours s/he would have spent safely in school are now spent in the midst of pollution. And the masks distributed by the authorities remains in the school bag as NO child likes wearing a mask, and no one is there to urge them to do so. We remain open at Project Why to ensure that the children have a safe space to go.

Life does change in the time of pollution.

For the past weeks I have been driving past empty spaces, spaces where normally ad hoc labour markets emerge in the mornings with skilled and unskilled workers congregating in the hope of getting a day’s work. There are painters and carpenters, masons and plumbers and just simple labourers who wait eagerly for someone to approach them. As construction work has been stopped now for over a month these persons have got no work. Their meagre and barely existent savings have dwindled and life in the city being too expensive, many have chosen to go back to their villages waiting for the day when work will resume.This sometimes means that children are taken out of school and may not return. My heart goes out to these people who pay a heavy price for no fault of theirs.

One wonders whether it will be Action Replay in October 2020 or whether this time authorities will take some measures to preempt the situation. One can only hope and pray.

They say pollution affects the young and the old most. I shudder to think at the tiny blackened lungs of the Delhi children who will have to pay a lifelong price for having been denied to basic right to BREATHE.

A heartening piece of news in the circumstances is the invention of a device that could reduce pollution:

Given the fact that particulate matter measuring 2.5 microns is the most harmful component of air pollution, a city-based

start-up has come up with a unique device that can be attached to the exhaust pipes of vehicles to convert PM2.5 particles into coarser dust.

“Acting like a magnet, particulate pollutants get attached together and grow bigger in size becoming harmless

PM100 or PM200 particles, like soil or sand. They just fall to the ground and never enter our lungs.”

It could be a case of too little too late, and we this is only a treatment of the symptom. Much more needs to be done to beat the causes of the pollution, but in the meanwhile, let us hope this device is verified, and becomes mainstream soon!





 Anou’s blog  Tak kære børn

Anou’s blog
Tak kære børn

For the almost 10 years now students of the senior classes of Gefion Gymnasium upper secondary school Copenhagen have been visiting Project Why every year to spend some time and interact with our children. This is part of their annual study tour to India. Their teachers felt that it was important for the students to see more than just tourist spots, and learn about the real India. This year we were privileged to welcome the students and teachers of class 2 L to our Okhla and Yamuna centres. The students not only learn about India before coming but raise money for Project Why. They work in their free time in shops and restaurants, in amusement parks and football stadia, in bakeries and cinemas, babysit and clean homes to collect money for Project Why.

A big thank you to Ellen Klebak, Ellen Eva Balshev, Anna May Marsh, Emilie Kroyer Kopek, Frida, Hannah, Freya Gudkov, Frida N Vangsbo, Kamille, Otto, Clara Engmark, Sander, Thamea, Haralld, Freya Stage, Julius, Laura, Casper, Albert, Thea and Emil. We are truly grateful and deeply touched and humbled  by your love and support.

It was fun and laughter as children from two worlds came together for a few hours, blond heads mingling with dark ones, building invisible bonds of love and compassion. A few bubbles and balloons was all it took to create true magic. I watched from the wings with moist eyes.

I have tremendous respect for Gefion Gymnasium as it truly understands the meaning of education and imparts values like compassion to their students. I know that this will make their students better human beings. I hope they all fulfil their dreams .

It was wonderful to see Ask again but we missed Mette. We do hope to see them all again in 2020.

Anou’s blog A sad Children’s Day

Anou’s blog
A sad Children’s Day

Last Thursday, November 14th, was Children’s Day. In every school celebrations are planned with fervour. At Project Why we had planned a Sports Day for the Govindpuri and Giri Nagar centres and essay and painting competitions. In CSKM, Utpal’s school it was the annual fete with rides and fun activities and of course scrumptious food stalls! By the 13th evening everything was organised and everyone was looking forward to the next morning. Late in the evening an announcement was made by the anti-pollution authority: in view of the very severe pollution schools would remain closed on the 14th and 15th.

I immediately called my staff and told them to cancel the Sports Day and  some time later we got a message fro CSKM that the fete stood cancelled! So much for Children’s day.

Closing schools because of pollution may seem the right thing to do as you would think that children will spend the day within their homes with air purifiers but what about the slum kids. They do not have rooms where they can sit comfortably and breathe pure air. These children live in tiny spaces and spend most of the time ‘playing’ on the highly polluted roads where cars and trucks whizz past. A holiday means more time on the street. Closing schools does not help them in any way. It would be better if the state mandated all schools, particularly state run ones, to have air purifiers and even extend school hours! But that is not the way it is. Every thing is tailored to the needs of one side of the divide.

My heart goes out to the boarding school kids who wait for the annual fete the whole year. My heart goes out to all the persons who set up their stalls and rides in the hope of making some money that would fill up their empty coffers and who see their much awaited source of income vanish for no fault of theirs. My heart goes out to all the children of the other side of the divide who will spend their day(s) breathing in more fumes.

What makes me sad and angry at the same time is the that that this scenario happens every year, with obsessive regularity. Come September and we all start talking pollution. We vent our ire. We take out processions, write articles, rant and rave. The authorities kick in knee jerk measures that have scant effect on the pollution. Construction is stopped and hordes of workers are without income. For a daily wager it is disastrous. The ad hoc ‘labour’ markets that appear every morning at specific locations lie empty. This is where skilled and unskilled workers congregate in the hope that some contractor will pick them up for a day or more’s work. Some must have returned to their villages; others huddle in circles in the smog playing cards to while away time hoping that construction will resume soon, before their meagre savings are over.The odd even car scheme kicks in and everyone complies.  Courts intervene and admonish the authorities while passing strictures that often go unheard. And then as winter passes and the pollution dips all is forgotten till next year when the whole drama unfolds again.

How long will this continue? When will we understand the gravity of the matter, the fact that pollution kills or maims for life. That children who breathe toxic fumes will suffer lifelong ailments. When will we understand that no authority holds the magic wand to set things right. That it is for each one of us to play our part and change our mindsets. This is a million dollar question.

Children’s day 2019 was a sad one indeed. Schools were decorated with balloons and streamers but remained eerily silent as not a child entered their portals. No sound of laughter or giggles, no songs or dances. Just the stark realisation of how we adults had usurped children of their right to BREATHE. Unless we remedy to this now, we will never be forgiven.