One life many masters: Pushpa, Giving wings to my dreams #givingTuesday#India

One life many masters: Pushpa, Giving wings to my dreams #givingTuesday#India

Pushpa is an incredible woman of substance and yet nothing about this diminutive, ever-smiling woman reveals her indomitable strength. She too is one of the many masters that Project Why brought into my life. She has taught me patience, determination, resilience and serenity.

Pushpa came to Project Why a decade and a half ago looking for an opening as a teacher. I warmed up to her immediately and offered her a job. She belongs to the very community she serves. Sometime later, Sophiya, another teacher, told us about the plight of children in Okhla, the area where she lived, and how they were targets of multiple predators looking for easy prey. There was no school in the area and no organisation that could care for them. I knew what had to be done but did not know how. Pushpa was quick to offer to assist Sophiya find a way to start a centre to help these children. I had no idea what it would entail. The area in question was an industrial one, with factories and small slum clusters tucked in between.

The two ladies began classes in Sophiya’s house in the morning and set out to seek greener pastures in the afternoon. A few weeks later they both came to me and said they had found a ‘place’ and wanted me to go with them ‘see’ it. After a bumpy drive we reached what could be at best described as a garbage dump and I was a tad crestfallen as I could not see how it could be transformed into anything close to a children’s centre, but Pushpa in her soft voice told me that it was possible and that all it needed was a little ‘sprucing’ up! What I did not know at that moment was that the two ladies had already spoken to the local police and local politicians and obtained permission to ‘use’ the space. I was clean-bowled by their spirit of enterprise and nodded my agreement. Trucks of garbage were removed, truckloads of earth brought in, and lo and behold a few bamboo sticks and some bright blue plastic sheets was all that was needed to begin our work.

What ensued was a battle of wits between the local baddies and my two strong ladies. Every weekend the fragile structure was brought down and ever Monday the two ladies would erect it again till the day when the breaking stopped. They had won the war!

Today the Okhla centre is a beautiful space with incredible energies. It reaches out to over 350 children and employs 12 staff from within community. It has primary and secondary classes and a computer centre too!  runs like a clockwork orange under the firm but gentle hand of Pushpa. No one can imagine the trials and tribulations she went through from cleaning ‘poop and puke’ to standing up to the local goons. She has never lost her smile even when faced with the biggest adversity.

Pushpa is an example to all of us. She is respected by the staff, the children and the community. She runs her centre with determination and pride and epitomises what Project Why stands for, in all the ways that count.

Pushpa has truly given wings to my dreams.

Have you met a teacher like Pushpa? Been taught by a teacher like her? What do you think of the teaching model at Project Why, where members of the underprivileged community are empowered and supported so they can teach and empower the community in turn?

To support the work of dedicated teachers like Pushpa, please consider collaborating with us! We welcome visitors, volunteers and anyone who can give us advice on how to improve our practices and processes. Check out our Facebook page for information on the events that are held at Project Why.

You can also support teachers like Pushpa through a small donation.

 Anou’s blog  Giving Wings to the Dreams of a Sewing Circle #GivingTuesday #India

Anou’s blog
Giving Wings to the Dreams of a Sewing Circle #GivingTuesday #India

Last week we launched our very first online fundraiser, to give wings to Renu’s dreams and help her empower more women just as she empowered herself by joining the Project Why Sewing Circle over six years ago. Today Renu is keen on enhancing the resources of her sewing circle and asked for new specialised machines knowing that these would help her students get jobs in the garment industry. This fundraiser is just for that!

But that is not where the story ends as the fundraiser has engendered its own set of miracles and brought together many people from the world over who have teamed up to make it a success.

First and foremost I would like to thank Damyanti Biswas who came up with the idea of this fundraiser. Corinne Rodrigues and Shailaja Vishwanath gave her the support she needed for a blogathon, a concept I knew little about. Many bloggers have since written about Renu’s dreams in order to take Project Why to new heights: find their stories in the links on this post.

Kasturi Patra and Shalini Baisiwala found time from their busy schedule to come and see us at Project Why. Kalpanaa Misra visited us too and took some lovely pictures.  Our deepest gratitude to them. And a special thank you to Kasturi Patra for having helped create the video for the fundraiser.

Proeject Why Sewing circleA big thank you to Fabian Baggeler for being our videographer and photographer and for working long hours to get things ready on time.

We would also like to express my gratitude to the Ketto team who were most helpful in sending the fundraiser online in record time! A special thank you to Akshay and Zaid from Ketto for making this fundraiser go on for GivingTuesday!

I am deeply grateful to the Project Why team under the able stewardship of Dharmendra Beniwal and Rani Bhardwaj for having motivated the team to take ownership of the fundraiser. It is their long term dreams that we hope to fulfill with help from each one of you.

A huge vote of thanks to all those who donated and shared and helped us reach 70% of our target in a short time. You all have already come together to raise 61,000 Rs out of a target of 77,000 Rs that would support Renu’s Project Why Sewing Circle. Please continue to support and share the fundraiser . No amount is too small, and every little bit would help make Renu’s dreams become a reality.

What do you think of women empowering each other to lead independent lives? Do you have a sewing circle in your community? Do you know of a sewing circle that works with underprivileged women? Would you like to volunteer at Project Why and teach the sewing circle a few useful skills?

If you’d like to receive posts from Project Why, please subscribe via email on the sidebar. To keep in touch with all the events big and small, like the Project WHY page on Facebook.

And if journeys like that of Renu interest you, please consider supporting the Project WHY Sewing Circle Fundraiser, where we’re trying to keep the dreams of a few brave women alive.

 What’s new  Change of INR Bank Account

What’s new
Change of INR Bank Account

Due to unforeseeable circumstances we have had to change our India Rupees Account from Citi Bank to Kotak Mahindra Bank.

The new account details are:

Account Holder: SRI RAM GOBURDHUN CHARITABLE TRUST

Savings Bank account no:-  5812679017

IFSC : KKBK0000201

MICR code: 110485029

Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd, Deenar Bhavan

44 Nehru Place,

New Delhi-110019

 What’s newFrom street to ramp, the wisdom of the free spirit#WATWB

What’s new
From street to ramp, the wisdom of the free spirit#WATWB

Education can make a quantum difference in a person’s life.

For We are the World Blogfest I want to share the story of a boy who used his education to go from the streets of New Delhi to top Parisian ramps.

I came to know of this Blogfest through my dearest friend Damyanti and warmed up to the idea immediately as we need stories to renew our faith in humanity. At times, we lose the ability to revel in the joy of happy occurrences around us. We’re simply too busy living our daily life. I would like to share the story of a young man born on the roadside who went on to become a star and broke many stereotypes we are often locked in.

A series of serendipitous events brought Sanjay into my life again and I realised how much this strapping, drop-dead gorgeous young man had actually taught me.

We go back a long time Sanjay and I. It must have been in 2004 that we opened a small centre for the children of the Lohar Basti, a community of gypsy ironsmiths that lived on the pavement of a busy main road, a stone’s throw from Project Why’s centre.They unfortunately got relocated in 2010.

Education Sanjay Padiyar Project WhyI had been moved by the spirit and infectious joie de vivre of this nomadic community and by the bright-eyed kids that ran with alacrity on the busy road, making my heart miss many beats. A few weeks after we began classes for the smaller children, we were approached by a handful of teenagers who wanted us to teach them too. Some were in school, other had dropped out but all seemed very eager to learn. (I would come to know much later that the reason these lads joined was the presence of young foreign volunteers!). We accepted the request and soon had a group of secondary students as part of this outreach programme. Sanjay was one of them. He would go on to pass his class XII Boards.

The awkward teenager grew into a handsome lad, and I would joke with him telling him he should become a model and we would then raise a lot of money for Project Why. Little did I know that the winds have ears and that a miracle was on its way.

Sanjay joined Project Why as a teacher and taught in our Okhla centre for some years. He was loved by all students and it looked that he had settled in. But the heavens had other plans for him. A French film maker in search of a positive story decided to document Sanjay’s life and in the course of many a conversation Sanjay revealed his dream to go to Bollywood. He would not make it to the silver screen but would break into the fashion world and even walk the ramp in ParisBollywood Boulevard is the film documenting his story.

When I look back at years gone by and at what is ‘our story’, I realise he taught me that dreams do come true, but wisdom lies in always keeping one’s feet firmly planted on the ground.

Education Project WhySanjay did not let success go to his head. He did fulfill his dreams but is now back in India working in a guest house and hoping one day to find his place behind a camera to tell the story of another dream.

Do you have a dream? Does Sanjay’s story resonate with you? Sanjay wants to study under a documentary or fashion photographer. Would you be able to put him in touch with a photographer who needs an assistant?

If you’d like to receive posts from Project Why, please subscribe via email on the sidebar. To keep in touch with all the events big and small, like the Project WHY page on Facebook.

And if journeys like that of Sanjay interest you, please consider supporting the Project WHY Sewing Circle Fundraiser, where we’re trying to keep the dreams of a few brave women alive.

One life, many masters #GivingTuesday#India

One life, many masters #GivingTuesday#India

At times it takes a borrowed pair of eyes to revive your ability to see with your heart. This is exactly what happened during the recent visit of Damyanti, a dear friend and staunch supporter. She enabled me to revisit Project Why with my heart wide open, something I had not done for a while as I was too busy with day-to-day vicissitudes. It is amazing how each time I take a step back and look at my prodigal child, I fall under the spell of its incredible magic. This time it was the realisation that Project Why had brought into my life many masters, each teaching me a new lesson of life.

One such master I realised was our incredible computer teacher Mithu!

Mithu was struck by polio at a young age and due to inadequate intervention lost the use of his legs. He came to us as a teenager prompted by one of our teachers who hoped that he would resume the studies he had abandoned somewhere along the way, but that was not to be. In spite of our best efforts he was not interested in sitting for his Xth Boards. His attention and heart had been hijacked by the computer that sat in the room. Mithu had found his calling. It would take us some time to understand it but once we did there was no looking back. Today Mithu is a stellar computer teacher at our Okhla Center.

Damyanti decided to document his story and as I watched it I felt the world turning on its head and found myself at the receiving end. For too long I had donned the mantle of Anou Ma’am and been the one everyone looked up to. But tables have turned and it was time to look at what I had received.

I realised how much Mithu had taught me, though till now I had not acknowledged it. Mithu is the epitome of ‘joie de vivre’ and lives life King Size. So what if he does not have legs he can use, he has never stopped short of experiencing things. In the video he even candidly and happily admits to playing ‘football‘!

That is when I realised what Mithu had taught me: the true art of living and never giving up. It had taken me more than a decade to understand this though in hindsight I realise that much of what my journey has been is thanks to the example set by this young man who once long ago said to me: let me stand on my two feet when I had offered him the use of a wheelchair.

And as I let my thoughts wander, I see that Mithu is not the only master Project Why has blown my way, there are many more whose stories remain to be told.

Do you also believe that anyone can be a teacher? Have you had an ‘unlikely’ master? Share you story here.

To support the work of dedicated teachers like Mithu, please consider collaborating with us! We welcome visitors, volunteers and anyone who can give us advice on how to improve our practices and processes.

You can also support teachers like Mithu through a small donation.