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.

Would You Help Renu Empower a Sewing Circle in Need? #GivingTuesday #projectwhydelhi

Would You Help Renu Empower a Sewing Circle in Need? #GivingTuesday #projectwhydelhi

In New Delhi, like elsewhere in India. women are the target of domestic violence and abuse, and survival becomes the biggest challenge they face. Often, nonprofits like Project Why step in to try and empower them to take on the challenge head on by giving them the skills needed to become change makers within their household. This is what we strive to do at our Khader women’s centre. The Project WHY sewing circle is part of this effort.

The Project WHY Sewing Circle has changed the lives of scores of women, but none more so than for Renu Karotia, the sewing teacher.

Six years ago, Renu’s husband lost his job following a work accident. the family lost their home and incurred huge debts. Being unskilled, Renu had very few options. After she joined the Project Why sewing class, she soon started taking small sewing jobs at home. It was a struggle to put food on the table every day.

Project Why New Delhi nonprofitWhen Project Why lost its sewing teacher, we felt that Renu had the skills to take on the job. Though hesitant at first, she grew into the job and is now very proud of her students. She has enrolled her children in the centre. She is slowly paying back her debts and knows that she holds the key to her future.

The sewing circle of Khader began its activities over 10 years ago in Madanpur Khader, one of the many villages that dot New Delhi. Since then over 1000 women have been trained by Project Why as part of its women empowerment programme.

This programme was initiated with the belief that women were true agents of change and that giving them the means  to earn a livelihood would go a long way in transforming the lives of their families. This held particularly true in an environment where men often drank and domestic violence was prevalent. At Project Why they not only learnt a skill but also to read and write, thus helping them to become small entrepreneurs!

The sewing circle of Khader has been a resounding success. Over 80% of the women have found some form of  gainful activity be it within their homes or even outside.

Today we are looking at honing their skills further and for this we need the following:

Iron                                                   1000/-

Interlocking machine                      4400/-

Pico machine                                   5600/-

Ironing board                                   2000/-

Cutting table                                    4000/-

6-month salary for Renu             60,000/-

 ————————-
Total amount needed:               77,000/-

This would enable them to find employment in the garment industry where such skills are needed.

Please help spread the word about a fundraiser for Renu’s sewing circle by joining this linky list:



Renu is a woman who braved tough circumstances to not just earn a living, but also empower others to do the same.

Support her journey through THIS FUNDRAISER.

If you’re donating from India, your donation is 50% tax deductible under section 80G, and the entire expense account would be put up on the Project Why website once the amount is raised.

Join the Project Why family by supporting Renu, so she can help other women like herself. No amount is too small, and every little bit would help make Renu’s dreams become a reality.

SHARE the Fundraiser after you’ve made a donation: each share leads to at least three donations!

You can donate in different currencies like USD and Pounds. Just change the currency at the top right of the screen.

 Do you think a society is served best by educating and empowering its women? Would you support Renu as she works to empower other women in need?

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.

 

 

 

Don’t worry; be happy #GivingTuesday#India

Don’t worry; be happy #GivingTuesday#India

Dont’ worry, be happy, sang Bobby Mc Ferrin way back in 1988. The lyrics of this song came back to me as I stumbled upon an article about Delhi schools introducing ‘ Happiness classes’. Wow what a wonderful idea particularly in a system where schools are associated with tedious classes and rote learning and every one is obsessed by marks. So happiness classes are a welcome breath of fresh air.

Now instead of jumping straight into learning subjects children will meditate, hear stories, learn to be mindful and engage in fun activities for one whole period in the morning. This will help the kids reclaim their right to be children, ignite their creativity and make them better human beings. This is truly a leap in the right direction.

When Project Why opened its doors almost two decades ago, its main aim was to create a ‘happy’ place for children from deprived homes, a place where they could reclaim their right to be children and learn in a fun filled environment. True that the reality of the day made studies the main focus, but Project Why never forgot that studies alone do not suffice and always strived to give its children space to bloom and thrive. Creative activities, story telling, outings, and the morning positivity prayer where children sit quietly to experience mindfulness have always been part of our curriculum. This is essential to seed the right values and teach children gratitude and respect. So knowing that we were on the right path all along is a huge boost to our morale and we can all continue singing: Dont worry, be happy!

Do you think ‘happiness classes’ are a step in the right direction? Do you think that children have a right to play and have fun while studying? 

 

 

 

 

 

Breathe and exhale #GivingTuesday#India

Breathe and exhale #GivingTuesday#India

Come November and the pollution levels in Delhi run amok.This happens year after year, and year after year knee jerk measures are taken to be forgotten when pollution levels drop. Crisis management is what we thrive on. Long term measures are not the preferred route.

November brings its heady toxic mix of stubble burning and festive crackers laced with unfavourable weather conditions and thus aggravates the situation forcing upon us the short term measures we have now become used to. Construction has been stopped for 10 days, stone crushing and other polluting activities have been halted. Crackers sale is prohibited till Diwali day and then too burning of crackers have been limited my the Supreme Court for two hours on the festival night.

The air quality is extremely hazardous and Delhi feels like a gas chamber. Political blame game is at its peak as citizens are coping in the best way the can. The privileged simply chose to leave the city for healthier spaces in or even outside India, those who cannot leave sit in their homes with state-of-the-art air purifiers and travel in air conditioned vehicles. But there is a vast majority who have no option but to carry on their activities as it is a matter of survival. They do not have the luxury of taking off or sitting in a air purified home. They just have to breathe and exhale whatever quality the air is hazardous or unhealthy.

And for many all the measures taken to better air quality translates into loss of work and livelihood. With construction work at a halt, thousands of daily wage labourers have no source of income and will have to dig in their meagre resources to survive till the ban is lifted. My heart goes out to them. Theirs will be a dark Diwali.

The question that begs to be asked is why do we have to face this situation year aft year and what can be done. We seem to believe that it is for the government to weave a magic wand and clear the air. None of us is willing to assume responsibility and see what each one of us can do. Climate change will affect us all. The day will dawn when there will be no place to run and when all the money in the world will not be able to buy us a whiff of fresh air.

Charity begins at home it is said. It is also said one must lead by example. So let us do some soul searching and see whether we are playing our part. How many of us have given up using plastic bags? How many of us segregate our garbage? How many of us carpool? How many of us use public transport? How many of us save water?  Not many. We all behave like ostriches, wishing that things will improve on their own. But that is not the way things happen.

Why do we need the highest court in the land to tell us not to burn crackers? Can each one of us not take this wise decision ourselves? The same goes for plastic and water and all other environment related issues. We need to be proactive and take matters in our hand. We need to raise awareness and teach our children to be environment conscious. That is what we strive to do at Project Why each and every day.

 

 Anou’s Blog  Project Why’s incredible eight #GivingTuesday#India

Anou’s Blog
Project Why’s incredible eight #GivingTuesday#India

As always it was a joy to visit our incredible eight at the Boarding school last week! How time has flown and how they have grown. Our boarding school programme has been our greatest challenge and our greatest achievement. Most of these children would probably never have finished school as the odds they faced in their lives would have seemed unsurmountable. Two third degree burn survivors, one open heart surgery survivor and others from dysfunctional and marginal homes.

The genesis of this programme needs to be revisited. Our boarding school programme would have probably been restricted to one or two kids at most, had a potential donor not landed into our lives and wanted to sponsor the education of 5 children in a boarding school. We were thrilled at the thought and children from extremely deprived homes were selected. To ensure that they would not be ‘lost’ in their new school, we ran a one year residential programme for them, our own kind of prep school! But things do not quite work out the way one hopes and one fine morning the ‘sponsor’ backed leaving us bewildered, saddened and at a loss. There was no way we could ‘send’ the children back to their old lives and yet on the other hand, the challenge of finding resources to ensure they complete their education was daunting. We did the only honourable thing: took the challenge head on!

The children kept their side of the deal and have done us proud. We kept ours finding new sponsors, some who were kind enough to make a long time commitment, and others who would help us with one year commitments. Today five of the children are fully sponsored, and three still need kind souls to see them through.

Kiran will pass out in 2019, Utpal and Babli in 2020 and all of them will have graduated by 2023. We still have a log way to go.

But it has been worth every minute. The pride and joy of seeing them grow and become confident young teenagers cannot be described in words. You need to meet them so see how incredible they are!

 

What tomorrow needs  #GivingTuesday#India

What tomorrow needs #GivingTuesday#India

One of the challenges we face at Project Why is to provide quality and meaningful education. In the present educational scenario in India where only marks count, this challenge becomes even more daunting as though it is important to try and ensure that our children get ‘good’ marks in order to get admission in an affordable college, it is also imperative to prepare them for the rapidly changing work scenario. According to a report by the World Economic Forum 65 percent of the jobs elementary school students will be doing in the future do not even exist yet!

The question that comes to mind is: what then are the skills required for the future and how can they be taught to the children now.

Education specialist Tony Wagner has identified 7 such skills and they are a far cry from what is being taught specially in India.

The first skill is: critical thinking and problem solving. We need to teach children how to ask questions. This is what will bring innovation as only by being critical of what is, can we be able to bring about change. Now in a scenario where rote learning is essential, this is indeed a huge challenge.

Next is the ability to collaborate across networks and lead by influence. With the growth of remote and non-permanent workers leading will not be the commanding from the top, but the ability to lead by influence or example. Indeed a big challenge again

Now comes the ability to adapt and continually re-learn. Again a far cry from what education teaches today.

Next come initiative and entrepreneurship and of course the ability to communicate orally and in writing followed by assessing and analysing information a daunting task indeed.

And last but not the least is curiosity and imagination, rekindling the child like awe that is lost far too early, more so in India when the 3 Rs begin at the tender age of 4!

Most of these skills are contradictory to what is taught in schools today and yet if we want our children to succeed in the future it is essential to inculcate them slowly but surely.

At Project Why, we are taking baby steps in this direction by giving our children time to be innovative, to think out of the box, to develop their imagination and creativity and to better their communication skills. We hope that our efforts will go a long way in shaping their tomorrows.

Anou’s BlogKiran A ray of sunshine #GivingTuesday#India

Anou’s Blog
Kiran A ray of sunshine #GivingTuesday#India

She was born a few weeks before Project Why saw the light of day and has been our ray of sunshine all the way along. Kiran is undoubtedly an intrinsic part of Project Why. She turned 18 yesterday. What a journey it has been.

I remember carrying her in my arms as I set upon crafting my dream. Somehow, in early days she was always by my side, joined a year later by Utpal who would become her lifelong friend.

Today she is in class XII, a lovely young woman at the threshold of fulfilling her destiny.

Looking at her takes me down memory lane as her life mirrors Project Why’s journey. Like her we too find ourselves at the threshold of a new chapter as we take our first but determined steps towards sustainability.

We have come a long way since early times when we were both in our infancy and when everything seemed possible. Step by step and day by day we grew and gave wings to our dreams. We faltered at times but always picked ourselves up, dusted our bruised selves and carried on with grit and determination.

Today I look back and share some of the moments we lived to together. How can I forget the day I was introduced to the word jometry, the moniker used by many children in slums for the ubiquitous pencil box; or the day when we both fell upon mounds of thrown food after some religious feeding frenzy and the little wise 6 year old quipped: why don’t they give it to cows! How can I forget the anxious times when we were seeking admission and the nightmare we had to go through at the hands of wily predators looking for a quick buck. How can I forget the days this little girl spent ‘volunteering’ with her friends in the our special section or the cake we baked as part of her holiday homework as her home did not have an oven! Holiday homework was a hardship we shared year after year.

Kiran is without doubt our little ray of sunshine!

Happy birthday girl! May all your dreams come true.

 

 

 Anou’s blogThe world became one   #GivingTuesday#India

Anou’s blog
The world became one #GivingTuesday#India

For the past years, come October a group of class XI students from Gefion Gymnasium Copenhagen and their stellar teachers Mette and Ask visit Project Why and share some precious time with our children. This is part of their annual study tour to India. They come laden with gifts, smiles and a generous donation that is the fruit of their labour,

This year again they visited our Yamuna centre and gave wings to the dreams of their Indian friends. For a few hours blond heads mingled with dark ones and all barriers were broken. The world became one.

They prepare for their journey all year along working in different places: from baby sitting to cleaning houses, from working in super markets to serving in cafes, from working in shops to running dance workshops, giving true meaning to values like compassion and giving. Their donation is undoubtedly priceless. We feel deeply grateful and humbled.

I have great admiration and respect for this school that has truly understood the meaning of education and imparts the right values to their children. They teach them to build bridges and not walls, something all education system should do.

On behalf of the Project Why children and team I would like to than Lasse, Estelle, Nicholas, Sophie, Olivia, Daniel, Esther, Naja, Siw, Helena, Line, Lija, Ida, Niklas, Laerke, Svend, Addie, Caroline, Tobias, Johannes, Elvis, Freja, Luna, Sarah and Karla for their generosity and love. May you always be successful and may your dreams come true.

 

 

 

 

 Anou’s blogThe highest result of education is tolerance #GivingTuesday#India

Anou’s blog
The highest result of education is tolerance #GivingTuesday#India

The highest result of education is tolerance wrote Helen Keller. These words came to mind at a time when once again the future of Project Why is at stake. One of our main source of funding is coming to an end in March 2019 and should we not be in a position to find an alternative, we may have to think of curtailing many activities come March 2019. True we are busy looking for alternatives and also praying for miracles, but once again the Damocles sword hangs upon our head and we need to brace ourselves for whatever be the outcome.

I have been finding myself going down memory lane and wondering whether we have achieved what we set out to. Defining Project Why has always been a challenge as it does not fit in any box, so I simply asked myself what is the one thing that defines education to me and whether we have been able to impart it to all the children who have been part of our story. That is how Helen Keller’s words came to mind. Tolerance is undoubtedly the yardstick to measure any meaningful education, and if we have been able to impart that one value we can say that we have achieved our goal.

In today’s world tolerance is by far what we need to instil in every young mind. Tolerance is what builds bridges. Tolerance begets compassion. Tolerance teaches respect . In a land of so many divides, it is crucial that children be taught tolerance. I hope that Project Why children will always be tolerant and spread the message of tolerance where ever they go.

 

 Anou’s blogMy heart missed a beat #GivingTuesday#India

Anou’s blog
My heart missed a beat #GivingTuesday#India

Last Saturday my heart missed a beat. A call informed me that our Yamuna centre was in danger of being closed as authorities were clearing the banks of the river and ominous looking bulldozers and tractors accompanied by large posses of policemen and officials had descended on the flood plain and were busy razing fields and structures.

Not knowing what would transpire, we decided to move the more expensive items that were in the centre. One by one all that had brought the outside world to these free spirited children was packed and taken away: the computers, the solar panels, the water filter, the music system… everything that the children had so loved for the past years. It was their hopes for a better tomorrow, their dreams for a brighter future, their aspirations and their right to be children. It was heart wrenching. We decided to leave the structure and basic learning aids in place. We were not ready to give up yet. We would play the waiting game.

On Sunday, Dharmendra our centre manager visited the centre and children and many parents came to him asking for the centre to remain opened. They being survivors felt that things would fall in place. I guess they had encountered many such occurrences in the past. For us it was a fist and I must admit scary!

Come Monday and over 60 kids turned bright and early with a smile on their face. You can see them in the picture above. I visited them and felt a pinch in my heart as they sat books opened studying attentively in spite of there not being any light or fan or their favourite computers and music system! The centre did look a little desolate but for the moment we had no option but to wait and see what happened before bringing everything back.

The Yamuna children are undoubtedly our most spirited and lovely ones. They are generous and large hearted, always smiling and willing to do anything you ask them. They are  bright and have an unfathomable hunger to learn. Five of them have made up for lost years and are ready to sit for their class X exams this year. We have to stand by them in every way possible.

But Saturday’s incident had brought to light the fragility of this centre. True some people have papers but the Damocles sword hangs on their heads and should it fall then they have no option but pack up their belongings and move on. The question is where? Back to their villages or somewhere else in the city? No one knows.

We will continue our work as long as we can.

 

 Anou’s blog To stand out in the crowd #GivingTuesday #India

Anou’s blog
To stand out in the crowd #GivingTuesday #India

The Yamuna children are busy learning about ‘vegetables’! This is oxymoronic to say the least. These kids can teach us more than any book can. They know how to grow vegetables from seed to fruit. But here they are, book in hand, learning vegetable names conscientiously. I wish the class could have ben turned on its head, and the children would have been the one teaching us about vegetables, about how they are planted, when they are planted, how long do they take to grow, how often they need to be watered and so on. How much richer the class would have been.

This simple picture set me thinking about the value of the education we are imparting to our children. Call it serendipity, but the same morning I had a long conversation with one of Popples’ teachers about the importance of giving creative space to a child. She had complained about him spending time on making posters for competitions in lieu of completing his written work. I argued that the child would learn much more creating a poster than learning an answer by rote! I do not know whether I convinced her. I hope I did. Needless to say I did not chide the child.

Creativity is sadly absent from today’s curricula. Children have back breaking time tables and are meant to learn many things that they will never use in their lives. Everything you once had to learn is available at the swipe of a screen. So why do we still need to clutter minds.

My heart goes out to our children who live in a land where you are assessed on marks obtained for mugging school books by heart. This can only be done by hijacking and usurping all your rights as a child: the right to play, daydream, run in the park, play with your friends, read a book other than your school, book, question and argue! What are we doing to our children.

A recent study revealed that boredom makes you creative. How many parents allow their children to be bored to just daydream! When I look at the time table of a child today, I shudder: school, tuition, homework, music class and so on. Where is their time to be bored and hence be creative and have a chance to stand out in the crowd!

 Whats newProject WHY raises funds for Kerala Floods

Whats new
Project WHY raises funds for Kerala Floods

Through the month of August 2018, all our Centre’s children keenly monitored the floods and rescue operations in the state of Kerala.  The Centre Managers  explained the causes of flooding and encouraged our children to come up with ways to help the flood victims. A collection of funds ensued at all our Centre’s. Our Yamuna Centre that had its own experience of living with floods (as the children’s homes are close to the banks of Yamuna river) were the first to raise INR 2500. All contributions will be donated to the relief operations headed by Goonj.
 Anou’s blog Be astonished #GivingTuesday#India

Anou’s blog
Be astonished #GivingTuesday#India

“Live for cause which is bigger than yourself! Be Astonished by your own existence.” Deepak Chopra. These words resonated deeply. For the past two decades I have strived to live a life larger than myself though I still have a long way to go to truly astonish myself.

The day I decided to step out of my comfort zone and start looking with my heart was a watershed moment and I have never looked back. I have been treated to the most amazing and astonishing experiences and have been taught innumerable lessons in compassion by the most unlikely teachers. The children of Project Why have been my masters in unconditional love and hence Project Why has become my true spiritual journey.

More than anything else, it has made me discover who I truly am and compelled me to take an inward journey and dig deep to spaces yet unknown. And at each step a miracle was conjured to make me want to take the next step.

Project Why has been a teacher taking me gently by the hand and proving me time and again that beauty and kindness exist in the most unlikely places; showing me that dreams come true if you truly believe in them.

The latest lesson came form a bunch of incredible kids who proved that giving is not, as many think, the prerogative of the privileged. When we decided to collect funds for the survivors of the Kerala flood, I would have never imagined that my Yamuna kids, the very ones who had lost everything in the recent Yamuna floods, whose fields lie barren and water logged, who survive by catching and selling fish, would be the ones to bring in the most money in the shortest time. My 80 Yamuna kids collected a whopping two thousand seven hundred rupees in three days. This was undoubtedly a huge lesson in compassion and big heartedness. It turned on its head all our misconceived beliefs and was a most humbling experience. My gratitude to all these wonderful little souls, who never stop smiling, for once again being my masters!

God bless you all.