Sophiya is one of our oldest staff members. She came to us way back in 2001 or 2002 when we were still finding our feet and trying to answer the many whys that came our way and looking for people who would give wings to our dreams. Sophiya had been involved in community work and seemed the ideal person to help us understand the needs of our beneficiaries. Moreover I was impressed by her gentle demeanour, her kind smile and the inner strength that seemed to emanate from her and was keen to have her join our team. She did and there was no looking back.
Sophiya joined as a primary teacher and was loved by all our students. She has also stepped up whenever needed and was always eager to help. Sophiya never considered her role in Project Why as a ‘job’ but was an integral part of our vision and mission. In 2004 she told us about the plight of the children in the Okhla neighbourhood she lived in. This was an industrial area with small cramped tenements tucked away between factories that spewed all kinds of venom. There were no schools in the vicinity, no parks for the children to play in and absentee parents that led to children being on their own and ready targets for lurking predators. Sophiya wanted us to start a school in that area and was willing to leave no stone unturned to achieve that.
She offered her home to begin our school as she felt that beginning work would help us gain the support of the community and even authorities. With the help of Pushpa she set out to find a suitable space and also seek permission form the local administrative and political authorities. She did both! You cannot underestimate the power of this quiet, resilient lady!
After much searching a garbage dump was located and Sophiya was confident that it could be transformed into a happy place for children. I must confess that when I first saw it I was far from convinced. How wrong I was.
In no time we opened our ‘centre’ with a couple of bamboo poles and a bright blue plastic sheet. The rest is history. Sophiya and Pushpa weathered every storm, bore every slander but never gave up. Today the Okhla Centre is a vibrant school where over 350 children are busy crafting their morrows. Sophiya is back to teaching her primary kids.
We have known each other for almost two decades Sophiya and I! Over the years I have learnt to admire her quiet but firm ways, even her occasional stubbornness which is so much part of who she is. I realise how much she has given to Project Why and am deeply grateful to her. Sophiya is undoubtedly an unsung hero.
Today the very centre and school Sophiya created with so much love and pain is in danger of being closed. We have launched an online fundraiser campaign to save it and hope you will join it too.
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!