Anou’s blog  56% of class VIII students can’t do basic maths: Aser Report 2018

Anou’s blog
56% of class VIII students can’t do basic maths: Aser Report 2018

The Annual Status of Education Report 2018 has been published and there is little cause to rejoice. True there are more children in school and less drop outs but most of the children who ‘pass’ out are unable to read or do basic calculations. There has been little improvement in learning outcomes. The report states that: the story today is far worse than what it was a decade ago. In 2008, 37% of Class V students could do basic maths; now less than 28% can. Children are not learning what they should.

The full report is available here.

In spite of gaining the Right to Education, it looks like not much has changed on the ground and this is extremely disturbing as education is undoubtedly the only path to meaningful social transformation. At Project Why we have innumerable examples of how education has changed lives for the better.

When Project Why began almost two decades ago, it was my hope that the day would come when the education scenario would improve and we would be able to redefine ourselves and bring new perspectives to our children. But that did not happen. We are still engaged in helping our children cope with their school curriculum and enhance their learning outcomes. We strive to give them an all rounded education that goes beyond textbooks and that can make them lifelong learners.

In the wake of the present education scenario, the work we do at Project Why is still very relevant as children have to pass their examinations with good marks in order to get access to higher education and we need to work within a system that judges a child by the marks s/he gets in a school examination. Our effort is to try and weave in as many ‘other’ skills as we can in order make them ready for the world that awaits them.

Many countries have reformed their school education to attune it to the demands of the future. Finland is an excellent example of how an education system should be run. There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town. This would be an ideal situation for India as it ticks all the right boxes.

Educationists have defined the skills every child should master to succeed in what is know as the Information Age. Some of them are: Critical thinking; Creativity; Collaboration; Communication; Information literacy; Flexibility; Leadership; Initiative and Social skills. Thinking out of the box seems to be the key to success in the future.

It is obvious that our present school system teaches none of the above. In India we have chosen to commercialise education instead of strengthening the state-run schools and make them the first choice for parents. The curriculum is dated and the emphasis on marks does not reward the creative or innovative child. Thinking out of the box is almost anathema.

At Project Why we strive to teach children to be creative, take initiative and also hone their social skills. We hope that our efforts will bear fruit and pave the way for the future of every Project Why child.

Do you think the education system in India needs to be reformed? What is the education system like where you live?

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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. Even a small amount helps us support a child’s education.

 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?

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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.

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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.