Anou’s blog  Kabir, a man who sees with his heart

Anou’s blog
Kabir, a man who sees with his heart

He is an extraordinary man. Humane, kind, gentle, unassuming, generous, compassionate. A successful corporate honcho who makes the impossible seem commonplace. But that’s just half the story. I will tell you the rest.

When I think of Kabir, I get reminded of the words of the Turkish playwright and thinker Mehmet Muran Ildan who wrote: “The first step to be a good man is this: You must deeply feel the burden of the stones someone else is carrying” or of the wise lesson of the Fox in St Exupery’s Little Prince : It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. Kabir Suri, Co Founder and Managing Director of Azure Hospitality, is a man who sees with his heart.

I met Kabir for the first time at a dinner party where we happened to be seated next to each other. No one could have imagined that this would be the beginning of a beautiful story with all the makings of a miracle. It was a chilly autumn night in 2014 and a time when Project Why had hit rock bottom. We did not have money to pay salaries for the next month and I was at my wit’s end. Needless to say it took me no time to start pouring out my heart to this gentle dinner companion who seemed willing to listen. Unlike many others in the past he did not look for a quick exit and kept on listening with interest, asking pertinent questions time and again. The dinner came to an end, and before leaving Kabir gave me his number and asked me to call him and come and meet him. The rest is history.

In spite of his busy schedule and numerous travels, we met and the first thing Kabir did was to dip in his pocket and ensure that the next month’s salaries were paid. That would have been enough to win my heart forever but there was more to come. Kabir had become Project Why’s friend forever. He made it his mission to ensure that we become sustainable and left no stone unturned to do that. He introduced us to the Savitri Waney Trust and they helped us bridge the gap for the year. They also reached out and funded two of our larger centres, Okhla and Khader, for the next two years allowing us to set our house in order and become eligible to other funding avenues.

Kabir also agreed to join our Board of Directors and is one of the most engaged members of the Board. He is actively involved in ensuring our long term sustainability.

In 2015, when I told him about the plight of the Yamuna centre children, Kabir immediately decided to provide them a hot daily lunch and has been doing so for the past three years. The children look forward to this delicious daily treat. Watching them enjoy their food is a humbling experience.

When I shared with him the wish of our Okhla children for a computer centre he immediately agreed to build a concrete roof to replace the temporary one we had and thus allowed us to set up a computer centre in the middle of the community. Today many students have been able to get good jobs thanks to this initiative and thus broken the cycle of poverty in which they were born.

I could go on speaking about Kabir and how he has changed my life and the future of Project Why. Today he is helping us ensure that thousands of children see their dreams secured.

Kabir is one the the messengers of the Universe who renew our faith in humanity and tell us that no matter what, good will always prevail. I am privileged and honoured to have him as part of the Project Why family

Have you ever been helped when you most needed it? Has a chance encounter ever changed your life?

——

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 Project Why through a small donation.

 Anou’s blog Dharmender the never say die guy #GivingTuesday#India

Anou’s blog
Dharmender the never say die guy #GivingTuesday#India

Dharmender better known as Dharmender Bhaiya, is someone I have grown to admire by the day. His story is one that needs to be told as it epitomises the spirit of Project Why. Over the years I have realised that we share a common vision and dream for the children and ladies we reach out.

Dharmendra came to Project Why way back in 2004 as a humanities teacher for the secondary classes. He left a well paid job in a multinational to follow his calling. His stint as a teacher was short lived as I soon realised that he passionately wanted to change things and was willing to walk the road less travelled. We use to spend a lot of time sharing our thoughts and in him I found a soul mate.

He soon became involved in a wide range of activities: solving problems with the community, dealing with the many detractors we had and lending his hand with every crises of problems we faced. I could see that he was born to lead. I had to find a way and it would happen earlier than expected in the most unlikely yet amazing way.

Two ladies in distress landed our way. They were both abused and from dysfunctional homes and we had to find a way to care for them. This could only be done if we ‘created’ a residential facility and it was Dharmendra who took on the challenge. The rest is history. A place was found for them and this became the springing board for what is known as the Project Why women centre. It was Dhamendra’s idea to juxtapose a children centre to our residential outreach and to also begin a vocational centre to empower women from underprivileged homes. In the span of a year, he had the women centre up and running. It had been an uphill task with our two ladies being demanding and difficult. Dharmendra would not shun from driving in the middle of cold winter nights to go and solve fights and arguments. The residential programme came to a close  once the ladies were healed and ready to move on and we felt that a residential outreach did not make financial sense unless we had a larger number of women something we did not want to do. In its place emerged the women centre, an outreach for 300 children and 120 women.

Dharmendra always has his heart open and he was the one to spot Meher when she was rummaging in a dustbin looking for food. He took on the challenge of giving her a better morrow and patiently accompanied her in her healing journey through several reconstructive surgeries. Meher never looked back. Today she is in boarding school, an impish creature you simply fall in love with.

Dharmendra runs the centre with a velvet gloved iron hand. His gentle demeanour can be extremely firm; He does not tolerate nonsense. His never say die attitude ensures that every problem that comes our way is dealt with in the best manner possible. He has earned the respect of the community he works with and ensured that they stand with us at all times. The women centre is one of the jewels of Project Why.

Dharmendra is also the one who found out the plight of the children of agricultural labour who live along the Yamuna river and conjured a way to start a centre for them. The Yamuna centre is definitely one of our most vibrant centres.

Dharmendra has always taken ownership of what he set up and is open to ideas and ready to implement them. He also comes up with his own ideas that often adds value to the work we are doing. I often find myself seeking his advise and am impressed by his innovative ideas. I have learnt a lot from him and am deeply grateful for this. It is a privilege and honour to have in my team.

He never ceases to amaze me and his latest feat was to get a community workshop organised by IGNOU (Open University) where people were told about the possibilities of learning from home at all ages. Actually this was a double whammy as it solved our problem of getting our Yamuna Centre class X kids to appear in their Board examinations. We were truly worried as these children did not attend school or have any civic papers. With one master stroke Dharmendra ensured that they would be admitted in an open program and able to sit for their exams.

It is a privilege and a blessing to have someone like Dharmendra in my team.

Have you also come across someone you have grown to admire?

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 Project Why through a small donation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My word of the year: surrender

My word of the year: surrender

When I look back at 2018, I am filled with a deep sense of gratitude. Strange as had anyone asked me during the year how things were going, gratitude was not the word that would have come to mind. You’re so bogged down by day-today chores, that you lose the ability to truly comprehend things in a larger perspective.

My life has two distinct parts: my work at Project Why and my home and family and for both, 2018 was a watershed year.

It was the year where I had to come to terms with accepting to give up the house I had built with my parents almost half a century ago.  After their demise, it had become almost my only anchor. It was the house I came to as a dreamy teenager, the one I was married in, where I became a mother and even a grandmother. Over the years the house had aged and become a liability and it made sense to bring it down. 2018 was that year. It was heart wrenching and left me rudderless for a while till I found my moorings again and realised that memories are not cast in brick and stone but live safely in your heart.Today I feel  deeply grateful for having understood this as it freed me of invisible chains I carried for far too long. I made peace with my past and was ready to move on.

On the work front, the year augured well as we were financially stable and engaged in a host of activities aimed at enhancing the quality of our work. But the sense of security was short-lived as somewhere in the middle of the year we were informed that one of our main funders would stop their commitment in March 2019. They looked after 50% of our needs.

It was a huge shock and for a while I was at a complete loss. We set out to find new avenues but things looked bleak or so they seemed.

It is only now that I realise how the universe was at work and how many people came into our lives creating a new network that would weave its magic and bring us out of the woods. We are nowhere near the end of the tunnel but I can see the light and for that I am again deeply grateful.

I realise how many miracles came my way in 2018 and feel immensely blessed.

There is one such miracle I would like to share with you.

2018 was the year that saw my darling Utpal come full circle.The little scalded child that I had brought home way back in 2005 and nursed back to health was now a confident and happy teenager, who was now back at Project Why as a volunteer teacher. Again I felt deeply grateful and realised that no matter what happened in life, it was always for the better.

So my word for 2019 is SURRENDER.

I have been blessed with so many miracles in my life that I feel that the Universe is always on my side and works in my favour. I simply need to surrender and watch more miracles unfold.

What is your word of the year? Why did you choose it?

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 Project Why through a small donation.

 

 Anous’ blog Blog Delurking Week!

Anous’ blog
Blog Delurking Week!

commentsI am almost 2000 posts old!

I’ve been blogging for more than a decade and yes I like to know how many people drop by and read what I write. I know many of you read my blogs but only some take the time to comment.

The days there are comments are truly special as I somehow feel I have connected with someone and added one more soul to my journey, one more voice to the cause I espouse. It also gives me the chance to say thank you.

It would be lovely to know where you are from, how you made it to my blog, anything to get to know you better.

You cannot imagine what a heartwarming feeling it is to read that someone has enjoyed your story and even been inspired by it.

Recently I had blogged about Sanjay who went from street  to ramp, the gypsy lad who became an international model, and having so many bloggers respond and comment was a very special feeling that I cannot describe in words. I am sharing some of the comments here:

I too like commenting on your blogs. It is my way of saying hello, well met and I look forward to the ‘like’ as it means we have connected.

So today I ask you to leave a comment on this blog. It will bring a huge smile on my face. I promise to leave no blog I read without a comment.

Don’t leave without at least saying hello.

——-

Do you believe in miracles? Do you think each life has a purpose? Have you met anyone who changed your life? Please share your experiences.

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 Project Why through a small donation.

 

 Anou’s blog Remembering Manu #GivingTuesday#India

Anou’s blog
Remembering Manu #GivingTuesday#India

For the past 8 years, come January and my thoughts turn to Manu who left us all lost and bewildered on a cold morning in January 2011. On that day I must admit, I was close to giving up, as Manu, I had come to realise, was the one who had given me the strength to pick myself up when I lay broken and bereaved and given meaning to my life once again.

Who was Manu you may wonder?

To the uninitiated a mentally and physically challenged bedraggled, half-clad beggar, the kind you pass by without a second glance. So your next question would undoubtedly be what does such a being and a middle-aged apparently well-to-do lady have in common? Nothing and everything. I could either write volumes to explain our relationship or simply use one word: love. Manu simply redefined the world love and gave it a whole new meaning.

I came to know that he had lived on this street un-cared-for and unloved and it felt like he had circled the same path over the years to ensure that the day I walked it, he would be there. When we met, we both knew we had come home. There was no looking back.

It was for Manu that Project WHY was set up in the quaint street where he had been born and where he ‘lived’. To care for him, I had to find a way of being accepted by the very people who had riled and abused him, and Project Why was the answer.

For a decade our lives were entwined. Manu trusted me implicitly and knew I would be by his side till the end. But he gave me more than I ever could give him. He gave me a reason to live and showed me that no life is useless, however wretched it may seem. Was he not the best example! Had there been no Manu, there might have been no Project Why. Today, thanks to him, thousands of children are seeing their lives change for the better.

The other lesson Manu taught me was to never say die, no matter how hopeless things may seem.

And today when one of our main donors ends their commitment in a few months, and I face the prospect of seeing two of my biggest centres, Okhla and Khader shut down, it is Manu’s gentle smile that comes to my mind. I somehow know that the clouds will lift and the sun shine again.

He was a gentle soul with a quirky sense of humour. We shared many precious moments, dancing and laughing and many meals too! Spending time with him was a blessing, an intense feeling that all was well and one was safe.

I do not know what saints look like; I think Manu was one, a true child of God.

And Project WHY has to continue to honour is memory.

Manu remains safe in my heart.

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 Project Why through a small donation.

 Anou’s blog Coming Full Circle – Happy New Year #GivingTuesday#India

Anou’s blog
Coming Full Circle – Happy New Year #GivingTuesday#India

New Year is the time when you reminisce about the year gone by and make plans for the one to come. Normally that is what I do but this year I would like to share the story of four lovely souls who have been part of the Project Why journey for many years, each with a heart wrenching story, each having beaten many odds to complete the virtuous circle.

Utpal, Babli, Meher and Manisha, four of our boarding school kids are spending their winter break volunteering at the Project Why Madanpur Khadar Centre bringing their own special touch to the children studying there. Utpal taught them dance and was actively involved in the preparation of the Xmas party where his pupils performed and where he also was an ace MC. He is now teaching the children drawing and craft, two skills he has mastered well.

Babli is  teaching class VI children and is an incredible teacher as she is patient, gentle but firm. Meher and Manisha lend their hands where needed and help the kids practice English. The four are extremely committed volunteers who beat the biting cold and never miss a day!

Watching them gives me immense joy and pride and fills me with gratitude.

They have come a long way, these four little souls and are miracles crafted by Project Why.

Utpal’s  entered our world after sustaining severe third degree burns having accidentally fallen into a boiling pan and became an intrinsic part of Project Why. He is now in class XI and a lovely lad who has taught me the meaning of unconditional love.

Babli came to us many years ago in need of an urgent open heart surgery. Thanks to a kind donor, the surgery was performed and she got a new lease of life, but we soon discovered that her education was in peril. We stepped in and Babli is now in boarding school in class XI ready to take her place in the sun.

Meher suffered terrible burns when she was just a baby. Thanks to Nina, a wonderful volunteer and to Chess Without Borders we were able to craft a future for her and get her the much-needed reconstructive surgery and admission in a boarding school. She is an impish, delightful girl who can walk into any heart.

Manisha is a quiet child, or so you may think at first sight. She comes from an extremely poor family, her mother being a rag picker as her father is often unemployed. A kind donor wanted to sponsor the education of a girl child and Manisha was the chosen one. Manisha took to school like a fish to water and has never looked back.

When these four little bruised souls landed at Project Why we saw the huge dreams they carried in their heart and the trust they had in their eyes, we knew we held their dreams in custody. We began our journey to fulfil them and though the path was difficult and the road less travelled, we feel we have come a long way and know that these stars will shine one day. For the moment they are busy helping others fulfill their dreams.

On this New Year Day we renew our commitment to these children and to all the children of Project Why and assure them that we will leave no stone unturned to see their dreams come true.

We need to come full circle.

Happy New Year!

Do you believe in miracles? Do you think that dreams can come true? Please share your experiences with us.

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 Project Why through a small donation.

 

 

 What’s new Project WHY Alumni Meet at  Khader Centre.

What’s new
Project WHY Alumni Meet at Khader Centre.

On December 22, 2018 an alumni meet was organised at Project WHY Khader centre. The informal meeting was a heartfelt gathering of former Project WHY students. It was a beautiful ride through memory lane, sharing the joys and struggles of continued learning as well as a promise of continued association with Project WHY.
We wish them all the success in the New Year!

 Anou’s blog Xmas at Project Why #GivingTuesday#India

Anou’s blog
Xmas at Project Why #GivingTuesday#India

For the past week Project Why has been in Xmas mode. At Project Why we celebrate all festivals with fervour and joy and it is heartwarming to see how children get involved. Xmas caps have been made and donned for the camera! Every centre is busy making decorations for the tree that will grace every class. There is a festive mood all around.

The Yamuna centre children were busy making a snowman. These are kids who have never seen snow or even celebrated Xmas before Project Why began its classes, but their fervour is palpable as they too set about decorating their classroom and preparing for Xmas day!


The special kids are old hands now as they have been celebrating Xmas for almost two decades. Each year they set about making new decorations for their tree and class and it is a joy to see them at work.They have wowed us many times with their creativity!

Xmas has been celebrated every year, as is every other festival, as festivals are about joy, laughter, fun and bonding. That is the common denominator. It does not matter what faith you belong to, festivals are inclusive and the best way to break barriers. This is what we strive to teach the Project Why children.

Merry Xmas

 

Auf Wiedersehen, liebe Luisa und Fabian #GivingTuesday#India

Auf Wiedersehen, liebe Luisa und Fabian #GivingTuesday#India

For the past three months, Project Why has been touched by the magic of two young souls: Luisa and Fabian.

Luisa was barely sixteen when she first visited Project Why with her mother. She was touched by what she saw and told us that she would come and volunteer after she finished school. I must admit that at that moment I thought she would forget her promise but true to her words Luisa made her plans and even convinced her best friend Fabian to come with her.

Luisa and Fabian took to the project immediately and carved their niche. Should you walk in to our Govidpuri Centre in the morning you are likely to be greeted by a upbeat German nursery rhyme interspersed with loud clapping, stomping of feet and giggles. Luisa and Fabian spend their mornings with the creche children bringing their special kind of magic to the class.

That is not all. Luisa is an ace photographer and Fabian an accomplished videographer, so the rest of they time is spent helping us document the Project. You can see them at the different locations, camera in tow and even a drone that fascinates all the children and even staff.

Fabian has worked hours into the evenings in order to edit the videos captured during the daylight hours. Due to his efforts along with Luisa, Project Why has managed to raise funds. Impressed by their documentation, donors have gone on to support parts of the Project.

The two never stop smiling and you cannot but be infected by their joie de vivre. They are always ready to help in anyway and never complain about anything. At an age where most young people prefer spending time with friends partying, these two are busy making new friends in a new land. Language is no barrier when you see with your heart.

Over nearly two decades, we have had many volunteers come to Project Why from all over the world—some as young as 14 and some over 70! Each one has left their mark and holds a special place in our hearts. They have brought their world to our children and allowed them to ‘travel’ in a very unique manner. We are grateful to each and everyone of them.

I am still amazed and touched by these young people who give up their summer vacation or time they could have spend doing anything they wanted, to come to a place like Project Why and give their time and love to children they’ve never met before. They make us believe that there are still many good people in the world and restore our faith in humanity.

We will miss Luisa and Fabian. We hope they come back soon. Till then, Auf Wiedersehen, liebe Luisa und Fabian!

Have you met youth like Fabian and Luisa? What do you think of the volunteering model at Project Why, where members of the underprivileged community are supported by people from distant countries?

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 Project Why through a small donation.

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/-

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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!