Many years ago I added a tag line to my email signature. It was : “I am busy being grateful”. This was because of the miracles big and small that came my way as Project Why and I embarked on am incredible journey that is still enfolding. The tag line sat quietly on my screen as we travelled on.

Last week I was reminded of these words written so long ago and realised that subconsciously they had remained as new and pertinent as when I first wrote them. Project Why could not be without the deep gratitude I felt at every instant.

So who am I grateful to? First and foremost to all those who have reached out and helped me, from the big donors who reach out and adopt a centre to the tiniest donation of a child’s pocket money to help the surgery of another child.

This year I feel blessed as we welcome all our major donors.

Last week Mr Trivedi and his daughter Shelly and son-in-law Andres celebrated Republic Day with us at the Yamuna centre. The Trivedi Family Foundation sponsors our Yamuna and Khader centres. Thanks to their generous support we are able to help over 400 children dream big! My heartfelt gratitude to this wonderful and compassionate family.





In February we welcome Adish and Asha Jain of the Asha and Adish Jain Foundation. They sponsor the Okhla centre; another 350 children. And that is not all. Adish Jain has committed to support Okhla as long as it exists. How can I not be eternally grateful.

And there is more. In February we welcome Kiran Frey and Pradeep Sethi and their daughter Nina from Chess without Borders. Thanks to them Meher who had suffered terrible burn injuries when only a few months old underwent restorative plastic surgery to enable her to get back the use of her hands and then went to boarding school to complete her education. Today she is preparing for entrance to medical school. More gratitude.

In March we await the visit of Hans Emde and his family from Project Why Germany. They have supported our work for more than a decade now. We are deeply grateful again. Few months ago we had the visit of Xavier Ray from Enfances Indiennes who have been with us for more than two decades and stood by us unwaveringly. Chapeau Bas!

We feel blessed that all our main funders visited or are visiting us this year.

My gratitude also goes to a very special being that I call the God of Small Beings. She/he has walked with me every step of this journey and never left my side. It is she who has ensured that we do not falter or miss a step and always guided us in the right direction. It is also this very special God who has woven one miracle after the other. I would like to share one.

In February 2003 a toddler fell into a boiling pan and sustained third degree burns. He would then go and to lose his dysfunctional family and be left all alone. It is this very special God who crafter a future for him. Little Utpal was healed, went on to complete his school and then college and is now in Mumbai living his dream: making serials.

This is only one of the many Project Why miracles.

So you now understand why I AM BUSY BEING GRATEFUL!

I feel blessed.

A year gone by

A year gone by

2023 was a rewarding year as we finally emerged from the aftermath of the pandemic and could proudly say that we were back to pre covid times. The children had made up for the losses incurred during the pandemic and were back on track! Classes were once again full and he chatter and  laughter of the children filled every corner of the centres as well as the recesses of our heart. It was pure unadulterated pleasure. So this year I decided that my message will be a bird’s eye view of the year gone by so that each one of you can get a taste of Project Why.

Let us begin with academics. The year saw classed filled to the brim and little and not so little heads studiously bent over open books or listening with bated breath to what the teachers were saying. This year teachers went outside the box and came up with new teaching methods. There was a lot of practical teaching and children learnt how to identify chemicals and other scientific experiments. Visual learning was another tool teachers used with the help of movies and the Internet. Debates and quizzes were organised every month to help the children deepen their knowledge. Outings to local parks helped the children learn about nature and were excellent prompts for drawing and painting. June 10th was a special day as it saw the reopening of our early education programme that we had to close because of the pandemic. We were all thrilled to see our tiny tots back and once gain hear their laughter and giggles.

Of course regular reading and writing practice were a daily routine and assessments were held every quarter. Remedial measures were taken when needed. Children performed well in their respective schools and did us proud as they always do. All board examinations were cleared with success with many children doing exceedingly well. Everyone got promoted to the next class. PTMs were conducted across all centres to ensure that parents become part of their children’s learning journey.

But is was not all studies. This year we could finally resume our educational outings and the children visited India Gate, Doll Museum, Bharat Darshan Park, Bal Bhawan, Railway Museum, Waste of Wonder and Children’s Park. They all had a great time. In-house creative  pursuits were the order of the day. The children learnt how to make decorative items with waste material. They also tried their hands at wall paintings,cloth painting and spray painting and unleashed their creativity.

A summer camp was organised in all centres and the children had great fun. They engaged in indoor and outdoor games, learnt fireless cooking and partook in a host of creative activities. They of course completed their holiday homework.

At Project Why we celebrate all festivals and commemorative days: New Year, Diwali, Xmas, Republic Day, Women’s Day. Word Health Day, World Environment Day to name a few. Children make drawings, write slogans and essays and engage in spirited debates, These celebrations help children increase their knowledge in a fun way. The special needs children made Rakhis and Diyas and sold them at Azure Hospitality and CSKM school.

Several workshops were organised. Dr Gulabani led a 16 days workshop to help teachers deal with children who have problems and difficulties in learning. This was a very successful initiative held over 16 Saturdays. Modicare Foundation held its yearly workshop on teen and adolescent issues and ETPA Foundation held story telling activities. These workshops are very useful and a good way to network.

It was also a year of repair and maintenance. We repaired the roofs of Khader and Yamuna as they had been severely damaged by rain, built a much needed toilet in Okhla and built a classroom in Giri Nagar. This was thanks to the generosity of our supporters.

But it was not all fun. 2023 had its sombre moments too. We lost a student from Okhla in a road accident and severe floods damaged our Yamuna centre and the homes of all our kids. Many reached out to help. The Rotary Club gave tents and sleeping bags and Azure Hospitality provided hot lunches to over 150 persons during 10 days, Avantika led a blanket drive that yielded or 650 blankets that were distributed before the cold set in. Clothes too were collected and distributed. We are grateful to each and everyone who reached to to help the flood victims.

Teachers had their fun time too. A day visit to Agra was organised with the support of Enfances Indiennes and was enjoyed by one and all. The staff of all centres visited the Yamuna centre had lunch with the children and engaged in a lot of fun activities with them. Teachers visited CSKM school and shared their ideas and teaching methods. It was rewarding experience. And finally they enjoyed a picnic lunch with Xavier Ray at the Nehru Park.

This year saw many visitors. Mr Ashok Trivedi, Mrs Anju Trivedi and Ms Shelly Trivedi were chief guests at our Republic Day function at Khader. Mr Trivedi hoisted the national flag and addressed the children. Mr Trivedi also visited the Yamuna centre and shared lunch with the children. Mr Adish Jain and Mrs Asha Jain visited the Okhla centre interacted with teachers and a few students and had lunch with the staff. Mr Jain has adopted the Okhla centre ‘forever’!

A group from Enfances Indiennes led by its President Xavier Ray and Hans Emde President of Project Why Germany also visited us this year. They spent quality time with the children and shared lunch with them.

We were really blessed to have many of our main funders visit us this year and very proud of showcasing our work to them.

This was a short glimpse of 2023, a year when things fell back in place after the dreaded pandemic.

I would like to thank all our supporters as well as my incredible team and terrific board without whom none of this would be possible.

We look forward to 2024 and all the miracles that will unfold.

Happy 2024



Another rite of passage

Another rite of passage

I am just back suitcase shopping. Not for me though! I do not travel.

Come Monday Utpal will board a train and leave for Mumbai to fulfil his dream of working in the movies. The stage is set for him as Mrinal and Abhigyan wait for the shooting of their next serial. My mind goes back to 2006 when I had gone suitcase shopping for him as he was going to boarding school. He was 4. We bought a little red bag and filled it not just with the things on the list given to us by the school, but also with a plethora of dreams yet to be revealed and fulfilled. Today one of these comes true.

Over the past years as he moved from class to class we packed many suitcases for him never forgetting to tuck in the yet unfulfilled dreams.

If his going to school the first time was a rite of passage for the two of us, today as he moves into the adult world is yet another one we both have to go through.

I remember when he left for school the first time, I wept like a baby, a mix of feelings gushing through my mind, and my heart being ripped wide open. Was I doing the right thing in sending such a tiny tot to a big boarding school. The mind jumped in to quell the heart: it was for his good; education was what would make the dreams come true.

The primary years ended and we moved to secondary school, then the final examination and results. School days were over. Then came college in another city a few hundred kilometres from here. His BA in hand, Utpal came to Delhi for his internship and then secured a job in a digital media start up. But that was not in the dream box.

I was happy having him at home, seeing him every day. It was comforting but as I said not part of the dream. I was quite happy the way things were but not the God of small things to whom all dreams were entrusted. He had to make them come true. So the universe conspired to make things happen and they did at lightning speed: a phone call or two and before we knew it Utpal had a job offer and even a place to stay for the initial days. It was time to go.

The last few days have been busy shopping, packing, cooking special treats. No one is saying anything. Each quietly counting the days till the suitcases are ready to move and our little Utpal with them.

The coming  days will be hard. Keeping a brave face is hard. The half packed suitcase in the room stares at me and I feel my throat constrict and my eyes well up.And I am not the only one. Though no one says anything. There are so many things I want to say but can’t. I find myself patting his cheek or giving him a furtive hug and walking away.

I know I have to let him go as that is the only way he will be able to find his wings and fly and let him go I will as there is no other option. I know that when it is time to leave the house, I will send him off with a smile and the right words but I also know that when the car is gone and one has stopped waving goodbye, I will break down and weep.

But suitcases with dreams have a destiny to fulfil.

I will simply pray everyday to the God of small things to take care of my darling child and walk with him always.

So help me God

So help me God

Since July 2020 when I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma I have been compelled to stay away from my beloved Project as I was immuno compromised and that mixed with the Covid pandemic was a heady toxic cocktail. Over the past three years I have been to the project a handful of times. However I keep in close touch with the Project thanks to the innumerable pictures posted every day in the famous Project Why WhatsApp group.

Pictures of children studying diligently, of children playing, singing, dancing, painting with fervour, of visitors dropping by, Pictures of the meals at the Yamuna centre; pictures of celebrations. Sometimes children are prompted to share their thoughts and dreams as was the case recently when a group of children were asked what they want to be when they grow up. The answers were heartwarming: engineer, teacher, IAS officer, police officer, bank manager and even artist. The list is endless, the dreams are big for only if you dream big can you aspire to see your dreams come true.

We at Project Why strive to give wings to all these little big dreams and hope to make as many as we can come true. And we have seen many come true over the last two decades.

When I see the pictures of these children holding their dreams for all to see my heart fills with joy, my eyes go moist and my throat constricts. I feel blessed but also overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task but nowhere ready to give up.

Over the past two decades I have felt the presence of a very special God, the God of lesser beings as I chose to call him or her! This very special God has helped me at every stage and brought so many miracles in our lives. It is to this God that I pray everyday to give me the strength to soldier on no matter what.

Soldier on I will.

So help me God.

A year gone by

A year gone by

2022 turned out to be a rewarding year after many months spent wondering how we would carry on. The pandemic had been a huge blow though we managed to stay the course even on choppy seas. Thanks to all our well-wishers, friends and supporters who never stopped believing in us, we continued our work in spite of all the challenges, with Project Why looking a far cry from the vibrant space it was packed with children and replete with smiles and laughter. The small masked groups of children sitting far from each other, the sanitization between each class, the online classes for the few who had the resources to take them, in no way reflected the spirit of Project Why. To say the least, these were sad times.

But the clouds lifted slowly in the beginning of 2022 and by April 2022 we were almost back on course. At the end of 2022 classes were again jam packed with long waiting lists! But the pandemic had taken its toll on the education graph of our children. Two long years without proper studies, when children got promoted without any teaching having been done. Suddenly a student who was in class VI in 2020 was now in class VII! Needless to say, she was completely lost. It was a huge challenge for our teachers but Project Why teachers are one of a kind and took on the challenge head on. A lot of planning had to be done, but in no time new methods of teaching were adopted, new groups made according to the level of the children and work began in earnest. By the end of 2022, the teachers were pleased to see that most of the gaps had been bridged and were confident that the remaining would be by the close of the academic year in March 2022.

By the end of 2022, the Project Why family was back to its strength of 1200 and we were all happy and relieved. It was not all studies. We resumed our fun activities too. The children went for outings to different places: the crafts museum, the rail museum, the garden of five senses and the Red Fort. On children’s day 45 children were treated to lunch by Azure Hospitality at several outlets of their Dhaba restaurant chain. It was a unique experience. The staff were treated to a day long outing at Pratapgarh Farms courtesy Enfances Indiennes. A wonderful day of fun and bonding.

As always, the children did us proud. Everyone passed their school and Board examinations and two of our students from Okhla got into Delhi University cracking the new All India Entrance Examination. This motivated us to look at beyond class XII. We decided to begin career counselling and also started Spoken English classes and coaching for competitive examinations for Government jobs. These classes are taken by a Project Why alumni and are open to Project Why alumni and the community. The classes are free of cost.

We celebrated all festivals with fervor and fun. The children sang and danced, made posters and wrote slogans and sweets were distributed to all. 2022 was also the return of our volunteers, with Felix, a young volunteer from Germany spending six weeks at the Yamuna centre. We are expecting more volunteers in the coming year.

It was a year when the Gods were kind to us.

In January 2022 we were in a precarious situation on the funding issue. Things looked gloomy as we were short of funds and did not know where to go. But then the Universe sprung into action. The better half introduced us to the Trivedi Foundation who generously accepted to support the Khader and Yamuna centres for a year. Meenal Madhukar, one of our board members brought Mr. Adish Jain into the picture. He and his wife Asha visited the Okhla centre and decided to adopt it for ‘as long as it existed’! That was a huge moment for us. Another board member introduced us to Avantika Chopra who decided to help us full on. She led a crowdfunding initiative with the Fuel-a-Dream platform and managed to raise over 24 lacs. She also helped us increase our visibility in India something we were always wanting to do. She brought in the Max India Foundation who decided to adopt our Giri Nagar centre. We have now inducted Avantika to our Board as an Advisor.

Our regular donors continued their unstinted and generous support be it Enfances Indiennes, Project Why UK or Asha for Education. And to our utmost delight Project Why Germany came back after a short break during the pandemic. We are grateful to each and everyone of them. Their valued contributions allowed us to fill in the gaps and at times undertake much needed repairs. They are the ones who have allowed us to continue our work for over two decades now.

We hope that the Trivedi Foundation and the Max India Foundation will continue their support in 2023.

We will continue to work towards sustainability as only then can I be sure that Project Why will live beyond me. With each passing day my team is taking on more responsibilities and is now communicating with donors. I wait with bated breath for the day I become redundant.

We move into 2023 with renewed fervor and faith.

My eternal gratitude to my team, my Board and all our donors, well-wishers and supporters who stay the course. Without them Project Why would not exist.

Miracles are again waiting to happen in 2023.

Anou’s blog I am busy being grateful

Anou’s blog
I am busy being grateful

I have a lot to be grateful for! We survived the pandemic almost unscathed. Thanks to our die hard supporters we were able to ride the storm and find our way back to days gone by after two years of uncertainty.

Schools have now reopened and we are inching back to a new normal. The children are back and the centres are once again humming with activity. The sound of children laughing albeit behind masks is nothing short of heart warming. New patterns have emerged with smaller groups and longer hours but that is a small price to pay. Everyone is thrilled and ready to go.

The gods too are smiling and showering us with their choicest blessings. After years of a hand to mouth existence, where every end of month found me gnawing at my nails wondering how we would meet the expenses of yet another month, we finally were able to secure some long term funding. Two of our centres, namely Khader and Yamuna were adopted for at least a year and Okhla was adopted for as long as it would exist. And to crown it all, a crowdfunding initiative yielded far more than anticipated. Our long term funders continue to be by our side. We can breathe easy, at least for some time. This is a first for Project Why. I am enjoying every minute, at least for the time being. I know that the search for funds will have to resume and we are ready for that when the time comes.

But today I want to express my gratitude to those who ensured that this year will be an easy one. Khader and Yamuna was adopted by the Trivedi Foundation thanks to the unrelenting efforts of my life partner. Okhla was adopted by the Jain Foundation thanks to our dear board member Meenal and the fundraising effort was made possible by the dynamism and never say die attitude of Avantika and her band of friends. To all of them I say ‘Chapeau Bas’!

We may have to face another upheaval as Delhi schools may shift to a single shift mode thus making our present model of boys in the morning and girls in the afternoon redundant. Children will only be free post lunch and the team is busy working out a new pattern. We may have to change timings and run the centres till late evening. But we are ready for that too.

We will also have to find new activities for the mornings where the centres, barring Yamuna, will be empty. Many ideas are being mooted: sewing classes, spoken English classes, adult literacy classes etc. This will take a little time to set up but I am sure that by the end of the summer vacation we will be ready to go.

New and exciting times await us and I am looking forward to them.

For now I am simply busy being grateful.