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.
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Project WHY centres – Delhi and Dehradun – celebrate the Indian festival of Janmashtami today. Children dress up and play act as lord Krishna.
One of the greatest lessons I have learnt during the last two decades is that of survival with dignity and a smile. It has been not only a great eye opener but also taught me to review my own life in a whole new perspective. The art of survival with dignity lies in the ability to live in the now and feel abundant at all times. Over the years I have seen this many times in the generosity and kindness of those who have practically nothing but give with abandon and love. My respect for all hose I work with has grown in leaps and bounds.
The art of surviving with dignity and a smile rests in the ability to look for positives in the times of adversity. We were all privy to this last week when the Yamuna plains got flooded and all the people living on the banks of the river moved to higher grounds. This was the case with all the families of the children of our Yamuna centre. Though the water did not quite reach the centre, we closed it for a couple of days.
The floodplain was filled with water and all the vegetables growing on it were destroyed and hence the very livelihood of these families. But when you live hand to mouth, you cannot waste time on past ad future, you have to think in the now and so as soon as the water receded to waist height, children jumped in to catch fish! Some would be sold and the remaining would provide the next meal.
It is this spirit that I salute each and every time I encounter it, be it in the cup of tea and the flatbread shared offered by a gypsy family who does not know whether it will have a rood on its head the nest day orin the smile of the young boy looking to catch fish after the floods.
Three little girls aged 2, 4 and 8 died of hunger in India’s capital city! Their autopsies revealed that there was no trace of food in their bodies and that they had most probably not eaten anything for at least 8 days. The media is abuzz with the news. The political blame game is on. I wonder what will transpire. If one is to go by precedent then I guess nothing! Malnutrition deaths have been happening every day for years. The official figure is 5000. Yes you read right: 5000 children under the age of 5 die every day of malnutrition related diseases. 5000! That is 200 every hour; 3 every minute.
I have been writing about this terrifying statistic for years now, but somehow it has never seem to elicit the anger and outrage one would have expected. I presume it was because they were just remote numbers, far away from our reality. But Mansi, Shikha and Parul died in our very own city, a city where we throw food with impunity; a city where garbage cans are replete with perfectly edible fare; where food is thrown with alacrity at parties and religious festivals; a city where neighbours remain aloof; a city that seems to have lost its heart forever.
Will the deaths of these little girls go beyond the political slugfest and get us to open our eyes and maybe our hearts. There are some lone individuals and some organisations that feed the poor with love and compassion, but they are far and few.
No one should die of starvation in any self respecting society, let alone a child. Even one child is one too many!
Many countries run community soup kitchens. I guess we could do the same. It is not impossible. It just needs the will to do so. The local temple or community centre could provide the space and a handful of grocery from every home would be enough to get things on the road.
The little girls were migrants from Bengal whose father had to come to Delhi looking for work. There are many such families who come to the big city and live a hand to mouth existence. They earn daily wages, have no savings and no access to any social welfare programmes as they do not have the required papers. Losing a day’s wage can push them to the brink.
Delhi is ‘home’ to thousands of homeless people, many of them migrants. Many find work and manage to survive, some like the family of the little girls fall of the net.
It is time we a individuals, as citizens, as civil society became aware of this stark reality and opened our hearts and reached out with compassion and love.
Is this asking too much!
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A recent article on the quality of persons correcting CBSE class XII papers sent my blood running cold. One must remember that marks are of the essence and that careers depend on the marks you get. A high score guarantees you a place in Delhi University a place affordable to project why parents but it is quasi impossible for our kids to get the coveted 95+%! Not being able to afford private universities they are relegated to evening colleges, correspondence courses and open universities.
One would have hoped that the marks given are honest and deserved but a sentence in the aforesaid article is enough to make one shudder: Examiners are picked by the CBSE, from schools, but many, especially those who teach in government schools, seem to be unequipped to grade. Some students don’t end up getting the marks they deserve, while the rote learners do well. This explains how a humanities student can get a perfect store in subjects like english or psychology. Just learn the book by heart and voilà you top the batch.
My hear goes out to the child who spends time understanding the subject and writing the answer in her own words. She does not stand a chance and yet she is the one who deserves a place in the hallowed portals of a good affordable university.
The article has other aberrations. It just makes me angry and sad at the same time.
Will things ever change?