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

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

March is exam month in India and every child is busy studying! I remember when my children were young, come exam time and the whole house went into exam mode. The TV was disconnected, everyone almost tiptoed around the house, favourite meals were cooked, coffee was made late into the night and we were all ever present to the needs of the child preparing for her exams. Parents were as tense as the children, if not more.

For Project Why children it is an altogether different ballgame.

These children come form homes where parents do not care about exams at all. They live in one room cramped tenements where the TV blares regardless, where life goes on as usual with the drunk father coming and being abusive and the meal prepared by the mother may be kicked to the ground and the family would sleep on an empty stomach. In such homes studying for an exam is close to impossible and yet our children do the best they can, sometimes huddling in a corner and making themselves small so as not to disturb others.

That is why at Project Why we ensure that during exam time, children have the space and support they need. Teachers give extra time even if it means going beyond the stipulated closing time or even on a holiday or Sunday. Children are encouraged to ask questions and clear their doubts and mock tests are taken regularly to assess the preparedness of each child and take remedial measures where needed.

And year after year the children have done us proud, as they have cleared their exams with respectable marks, many even topping their classes. I have a profound admiration for these children who run the race with many handicaps and yet come out winners. Hats off to all of them and to their teachers who leave no stone unturned to ensure that each child passes.

In a few days, the results will be out and children will move to the next class. Most of them will come with sweets to share with all of us. And though it has been almost two decades, I still feel a sense of immense pride and joy every time a child comes to me and tells me she has passed! Exam time at Project Why is truly a blessed moment.


 Anou’s blog The experience of going Live on Facebook #GivingTuesday

Anou’s blog
The experience of going Live on Facebook #GivingTuesday

March 8th was International Women’s Day. It was also the day I was asked by my friend Damyanti to do a  Live on Facebook and share the story of the women of Project Why, the women who had inspired it, helped set it up, run it and manage it.  I must admit that I had never truly given a thought to the role of women in Project Why. It had always been an education programme for children!

I was very nervous about going live. Till date I had been interviewed on camera and even ‘talked’ about Project Why in front of an audience, but it had always been known ground. Going Live on a social media platform was nothing short of daunting. And that too on Women’s day which meant that the discourse had to be different. Simply talking about our skilling programmes for women was far from enough.

I sat with my thinking cap on and took a walk down memory lane trying to see what role women had played in enabling Project Why. It is then that it struck me that actually Project Why was inspired by the life of one woman, Kamala, my mother, whose life and spirit imbues every aspect of the work of the last two decades. That it is education that I chose to make its centrepiece, came from the importance Kamala gave to education and the way she fought to get an education for herself. That I decided to select a staff of women from the community, came from her fight for women’s rights and her belief that every woman had the right to make her own choices. That I am my mother’s daughter is validated by Project Why!

Project Why is steered primarily by women, women no one believed in, women no one would have given a second thought to. It is such women that run it today. Every single one has walked that extra mile and proved her worth in more ways than one. They have guided me and counselled me and stood by be at every step. Just like Kamala, I believed in them and felt that I had to help them find their voice and make their own choices.

Today almost 40 women run Project Why. Thousands have been skilled and become financially independent. Thousands of girls have entered its portal and left as determined young women who would live their dreams and become equal partners and super moms.

This is the story I would share on the famous Live, I decided.

Easier said than done. For the next days I tried to write a script but was unable to as I sounded flat. I wrote some points and walked around the house rehearsing what I would say but mumbled and fumbled. I slept fitfully and was up before dawn on that morning. When faced with the camera I almost froze and the first lines sounded terrible but then I do not know what happened. I think it was Kamala’s spirit that took over and I shared my story from deep within my heart and the words flowed with ease. It was soon over and I was told it had gone well. For me it had been an incredible experience: that of my sharing my life with the world. I felt humbled.

Today Project Why is at crossroads, its future in peril. If I am unable to find funding, part of it may shut down. I know I have to once again draw strength from the spirit of Kamala and do everything I can to save it.

I owe it to her, I owe it everyone woman who has reposed their faith in me.

If you’ve read so far, please consider making a small donation to the Project WHY Okhla school established by Pushpa and Sophiya, whose quiet perseverance not just established the school, but help run it today.

CLICK HERE to support the Project Why #HelpMithuSaveSchool Fundraiser.

For tax-exempted donations from the USA, please CLICK HERE.

 Anou’s Blog  What is essential is invisible to the eye #GivingTuesday#HelpMithuSaveSchool

Anou’s Blog
What is essential is invisible to the eye #GivingTuesday#HelpMithuSaveSchool

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye wrote Antoine de St Exupery in the Little Prince. These words were the ‘secret’ the Fox revealed to the Little Prince. Somehow they seemed to have been seared in my heart long before my I read this wonderful book and an eternity before Project Why came into being. I remember have been asked by a friend to write the 1000th post of his blog and I decided to write about childhood dreams and the courage to go back to them and see them fulfilled. What I shared was a memory of when I was just a toddler and had created a ruckus when my grandmother had refused to give a coat to the man with the dancing bear. I only stopped waling when the man was given a coat on that cold winter day. Randy Pausch in his Last Lecture defines life as being a platform to fulfil childhood dreams and we need to have the courage to go back to that child at least once in our lives and see whether we have been true to it. I may have worn many hats in my life but the one that truly reflected the child I was was that of the Founder of Project Why! The Fox is right, it is only with the heart that we see rightly and somehow this maxim defines Project Why in more way than one.

At first sight it may seem that I am limiting myself to what Project Why does on a day-to-day basis and yes there have been many ‘coats’ given along the way. But that is not where it ends. It is said that you attract who you are and over the past two decades I have been overwhelmed by the number of people who see with their hearts and who have reached out to help us in ways beyond imagination. Today I would like to salute them all and share some of their stories that sound almost like fairy tales.

Many years ago a man came into our lives. He visited Project Why and unlike most did not hand over a donation but left silently. We were a little perplexed but soon forgot the whole incident. A few weeks letter I received a mail informing me that he had been so touched by the Project that he had felt he needed to do something larger than hand out a cheque. He had set up an organisation in his country with the sole purpose of supporting Project Why long term. The man in question is Xavier Ray and his organisation Enfances Indiennes! There was no looking back. But that is not where it ends. Xavier has stood by us through thick and thin and been a rock each time we have faced a challenge. He has also invested himself in more ways than one even taking on the role of parent to our darling Utpal! Talk about seeing with your heart.

Another person who saw with his heart and even read between the lines was Kannan Iyer. I had applied for funds to Asha for Education but found that we did not tick all the boxes and fell short of many of the required stipulations. I followed my heart and simply wrote that we were at least worth a visit. The person who came was Kannan and he saw with his heart and became a very successful Ambassador for Project Why as he was able to convince his Board to help us. Again there has been no looking back.

Hans Emde came all the way from Germany and visited our Project. He too saw with his heart and decided to set up an organisation in Germany to help Project Why. Project Why Deutschland brought into our lives wonderful people like Julia Wuppermann and Claudia Huetwohl who have again stood like rocks with us at all times.

Age does not matter when you see with your heart. Harriet Page was a teen ager when she came to Project Why to spend a short week with her parents. She was so touched by the Project that she made it her mission to help us long time. From organising bake sales in her school to raising funds in incredible ways she has never stopped helping us. Now a young lawyer she is helping with setting up Project Why UK.

Carla Berke was an expat living in Delhi for a few years and helped us immensely in making us understand the need of organising ourselves. She gave us our first much needed makeover. She helped us in a multitude of ways and is the mom of one of your youngest and most ardent supporter Malte! When the family visited Delhi recently for a holiday one of the highlights of their trip was to share a biryani with the staff of our Okhla Centre.

When things look really bad God sends you an Angel. We have had many at Project Why and feel blessed. One of them is Kabir Suri of Azure Hospitality. He came into our lives when we were in dire straits and helped us weather the storm and has taken upon himself to help us stand on our own feet. We are deeply grateful.

Project Why has been a journey of discovery of people who see with their hearts. It is thanks to each one of them that we have been able to carry on our work for two decades now. I feel overwhelmed and humbled at the amount of love I have received over the years. To have so many people reach out and give wing to my dreams is extraordinary to say the least and restores faith in humanity. And it never ends. Recently Damyanti Biswas who has been a friend for over a decade and also my staunchest supporter and the mirror to my soul, took on the mission of saving Project Why at a time when we have lost one of our big donors and  launched a Blogathon and once again I was amazed by the kindness and warmth of people I had never met but who reached out to help our fundraiser. My deepest gratitude to every one of them.

It will take volumes to write about every soul that has seen with her of his heart and helped Project Why. I just want to thank each and every one. Without you we could not have been.

Find Project WHY on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  We need your help to share the Project Why story with your friends and family on the hashtag #HelpMithuSaveSchool.

Each share can bring us three times the donation.

Add in a little to the fundraiser–with small contributions from a big crowd, we can get together to help keep this wonderful dream alive!


 Anou’s blog  The Why behind @projectwhydelhi #WATWB

Anou’s blog
The Why behind @projectwhydelhi #WATWB

we are the world blogfestFor We are the World Blogfest I want to share the story of how Project Why came to be. 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. Project Why I think is such a story.

For the past weeks Project Why has been in the social media news courtesy the Mithu fundraiser and the Show the Love Save a School Valentine’s Blogathon.

Many teachers like Pushpa, Naresh, Sophiya and of course Mithu have shared their stories and their pleas to the save the Okhla Centre.

This seems to be the opportune time to share with you why Project Why came into being.

Manu: We are the world blogfest

Manu: one of the WHYs of Project WHY

Project Why is almost 20 years old.

But its genesis lies way before that in the almost irrational love for India nurtured in a child born in a faraway land by her profoundly Indian parents.

Yes, I fell in love with India when I was but a child listening to stories tenderly recounted by a freedom fighter’s daughter and an indentured labour’s grandchild! They were my parents.

True by the time I was born my father was a senior diplomat but somehow the stories they told me seared my heart never to leave me. The feeling of owing a debt for all that I had received was ingrained in me way before I set out to create Project Why.

It is difficult to write about one’s self but my dear friend and mentor D.V Sridharan caught the essence of WHY Project Why beautifully in a write up on his site GoodNewsIndia.

Yes, there were many whys to Project Why.

The disturbing sight of children begging, the anger of seeing children work and not be in school, the plight of Manu an abandoned beggar left to roam the street, a child crying for having been beaten in school, a child dropped in a boiling pan by an alcoholic mother, another barely breathing because of a hole in her heart and yet sharing her dream of wanting to be a ‘police’.

Each of these, a deafening why that needed to be answered and was in what is known today as Project Why. Yes, Project Why came into existence to answer all the disturbing whys that I encountered, and serendipitously gave me the way of paying back the burden of the debt I felt I owed.

We are the World Blogfest Blogathon Valentines DayBut along the way things changed as I felt the tables turning. Project Why was not about giving but about receiving, and receiving in ample measure. The idea of paying back the debt was replaced by an abundance of love given to me unabashedly, the kind of love I never knew existed and could not imagine how I would pay back. I simply feel overwhelmed and humbled and the fear of seeing Project Why come to an abrupt end for want of funds keeps me awake night after night.

I know that once again a miracle will have to be conjured to save Project Why and make it live beyond me. That would be the only honourable thing to do, the only way to honour my debt and be able to sing my swan song.

In order to give us some some breathing space to be able to come up with a long-lasting solution we have launched an online fundraiser campaign to save it and hope you will join it too.

Find Project WHY on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  We need your help to share the Project Why story with your friends and family on the hashtag #HelpMithuSaveSchool.

Each share can bring us three times the donation.

Add in a little to the fundraiser–with small contributions from a big crowd, we can get together to help keep this wonderful dream alive!


 Anous’ blog  With a little help from my friends #GivingTuesday#HelpMithuSaveSchool

Anous’ blog
With a little help from my friends #GivingTuesday#HelpMithuSaveSchool

I get by with a little help from my friends sang the Beatles. I have got by for the past two decades with more than a little help from my friends. If Project Why exists today and has made a huge difference in the lives of so many children it is because of that little help from my friends. And what is extraordinary is the number of friends from across the globe that have reached out and lent their hand.

There is another side to the Project Why story that is often left untold and that is the story of the network of wonderful souls who have come together to help fulfil my dream to change lives of children many do not even see. Every time we have been in trouble friends have appeared and pulled us out. Project Why has proved over and over again that there is good in the world, you just have to look for it with your heart.

Once again as we face closure Damyanti has redefined the meaning of love for us by launching a Blogathon to honour the ones you love by helping save a school built on love and compassion. I am humbled and overwhelmed by the number of people who have reached out, many I have never met, many who do not know us but were touched by the story of the incredible teachers who steer our Okhla Centre.

A huge thank you to Vidya Sury, Sunita Rodrigues Saldhana, Shilpa Garg, Holly Jahangiri, Mahati Ramya, Sunita Rajwade, Stuart Nager, Abhijit Ray, Lisa Buie-Collard, Aesha Shah, Sahana Ahmed Corinne Rodrigues, and so many other who have pledged to blog about us through February.

How can I even begin to thank every single one who has reached out to us. I do not have the words. I can only hope that they read between the lines at what is left unsaid.

The only thing I can do is tell what would happen if the school closed down.

Some incredible people would lose their only source of income and also the job of their dreams, for be it Mithu, Sophiya, Pushpa or even Naresh they would never have become teachers if not for Project Why.

At Project Why we do give wings to the most impossible dreams. If Okhla was to shut many vulnerable children would fall prey to lurking predators and be abused and hurt. Many children would drop out of school as their parents are unable to afford the crucial extra tuition needed to succeed. Their dreams of becoming an engineer, a computer geek, a teacher, of joining the army or opening a dance school would come crashing down. This is no doomsday picture. This is the stark reality of the children of Okhla.

So you can understand how grateful I am to all those who have reached out and donated and to those who will help us make this campaign a success.

My gratitude is paltry compared to the joy in the eyes of every child that passes an examination or gets selected in a job interview. That is the true measure of the little help my friends are giving me.


Find Project WHY on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  We need your help to share the story of Project WHY with your friends and family on the hashtag #HelpMithuSaveSchool.

Each share can bring us three times the donation.

Add in a little to the fundraiser–with small contributions from a big crowd, we can get together to help Sophiya keep her wonderful school alive!

Help save Okhla Centre: . #HelpMithuSaveSchoolFundraiser


 Anou’s blog You’re simply the best, Naresh Sir #GivingTuesday#HelpMithuSaveSchool

Anou’s blog
You’re simply the best, Naresh Sir #GivingTuesday#HelpMithuSaveSchool

I have written many times about Naresh our one of a kind Math teacher! And yet each time I set about writing another post I do it with immense joy and pride. I met Naresh even before the idea of Project Why seeded in my mind. He was the son of Mataji, the healer who helped give a direction to my life. He was in his early twenties, recently married, had completed his BA and was looking for a job. His mother asked me to help try find him one and I feel a tad ashamed to say that I did, in a fancy shoe store. Needless to say he lasted a day!

In the meantime Project Why came to be in its first avatar, spoken English classes, and my interaction with Naresh was minimal. Our English classes had students of all ages and amidst them a group of class X students. One day I saw deep welts on the arms of one of them and was told that he had been beaten in school. I was furious and decided to go to the school to protest but was met by a posse of grim looking school teachers who instead of being apologetic for beating a child, decided to deride the boys in front of us telling us that there was no hope for them and that they would all fail. Without thinking I retorted that I would ensure they all pass!

naresh Bhardwaj teacher with students

Math teacher Naresh with some of his students

We had no space, no teacher, no funds, no resources but knew something had to be done as the examination was two months away. That is when I was told that Naresh use to take tuition classes and loved teaching. I asked his help telling him that I had no money to pay him yet but would try and get some as soon as possible. Naresh immediately agreed and it was at that moment that I saw how much he loved teaching and taking on a challenge. The only time the students had was 7.30 in the morning and the only space we had was on the roadside. But classes stared in earnest and needless to say ALL students passed their examinations. The year was 2002.

Our secondary section was set up and till date Naresh has ensured that all students clear their Boards.

I soon realised that Naresh was not your ordinary teacher who looked at teaching as a job or even a career. He was passionate about his teaching and for him every child that came to him had to shine. He would give more than his 100% taking classes late in the evening and even willing to give up his morning lie-in to take classes at the crack of dawn during exam time. Every student of his was special.

Needless to say the students too love their Naresh Bhaiya who is also a mentor and a friend. Today his students stand tall, as many of them say Naresh Sir has given them the confidence they never had and the motivation to reach for the stars. Many of his students have reached unimaginable heights: from working at offices to joining the army.

Naresh never shied fromm learning, and took extra classes to be able to teach class XII and accountancy so that he could give his beloved students his very best.

When the Okhla Centre began its senior secondary classes and there was no Math teacher available, Naresh agreed to take on the task and divide his time so that these children could be taught in the best way possible. Naresh never lets a child down.

Naresh is endearing and infuriating at the same time. He is a maverick and does not like rules and regulations. But should you decide to chide him, all he has to do is smile and you are disarmed. And his talent does not stopped at Math. He is a very skilled artist, a born entertainer, a great cook and the life of any celebration. He is simply the best.

teachers to save Okhla school blogathonToday Naresh may lose his Okhla children as the centre may close for want of funds. Please join our Valentine’s Blogathon  to support Naresh and save his school.

It is Valentine Week, a week when one celebrates love and honours it. This year would you consider honouring the one you love by helping us save our Okhla school?

If you’re a fellow blogger, please consider joining the Valentine’s Day Blogathon. Write one or more posts to talk about love, any kind of love at all, and about honouring the ones you love.

All we ask is at the end of your post, you mention the fundraiser, link to it, and add the graphic above. We will start off a linky list where you can add all your posts.

You can support the #HelpMithuSaveSchool fundraiser to save the Okhla school HERE.

If you’re not a blogger, send in a small amount to support the fundraiser, and share it on social media so others can do the same. Every bit adds up. Let us celebrate this Valentine’s day with an unconditional love for education.