There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million. – Walt Streightiff
For We are the World Blogfest I want to share the story of the education of a bunch of children who took it upon themselves to change their futures.
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.
At times, we lose the ability to revel in the joy of happy occurrences around us. We’re simply too busy living our daily life. I would like to share the story of a bunch of children who motivated us to set up the most dynamic and endearing centre of Project Why: the Okhla Centre.
It was way back in 2004 that we were told about the plight of a children living in the Okhla Industrial area, in tiny tenements tucked in between factories, close to the railway tracks. Most did not go to school as there were no schools in the vicinity and their parents were too busy eking out a living. They roamed around the area and were often targeted by mafias who would use them to steal from the goods trains or push drugs.
Our best effort to find a suitable place to begin a centre met with scant success. But we were determined to reach out and provide education to these children who were eager to have us come to them. Finally we found a garbage dump that we reclaimed and set up our centre with 4 bamboo sticks and one bright blue plastic sheet. Two extraordinary women: Sophia and Pushpa took on the challenge of ensuring the centre ran no matter what. It was the eagerness of the children that propelled us not to give in.
Slowly more and more children would appear from nowhere and want to join the centre. We knew that there was no going back as Project Why became one of the wonders in the eyes of many children. The centre continued to thrive day by day and grow in leaps and bounds. From a flimsy structure that was pulled down ever week by our detractors and set up every time by our brave ladies, the centre acquired brick walls and we had over 100 children studying from class I to V. New teachers joined the initial duo and it was soon a well settled centre providing primary education. We thought it would remain so but when the year came to an end, the class V children insisted we open a class VI. We had no option but to do so. It was their school as they had taken ownership and we had to follow.
Today the Okhla centre has a class XII!
But kids dream, and they dream big. They wanted a computer centre as no centre existed in the area. God listens to children. Thanks to the kindness of Kabir Suri of Azure Hospitality, we were able to build a proper roof, shift secondary classed on the terrace and open a computer centre for the children.
Today the centre welcomes over 300 children who are taught by a dedicated band of 12 teachers.
True, the school is in a garbage dump and the surroundings are far from pretty, but walk into the door and you reach the happiest place you can imagine. A visit to the Okhla centre always lifts my spirits up. A sure feel-good shot! If not for these incredible children, this centre for education would not have happened.
At every step the God of lesser beings ensured that someone came by and helped us fulfill the wishes and dream of these children. Our gratitude to all of the donors.
Today we are praying for another miracle. The Okhla centre funding is coming to an end in march 2019.
If we are not able to come up with a solution, the centre is in danger of closing. We are looking at various initiatives to bridge the gap but above all at long term sustainability to ensure that these wonderful children continue to have their happy place. It is they who wanted it and they who deserve it. We will simply follow.
Do you believe all children have a right to education and see their dreams come true? Can education liberate children from the vicious cycle of poverty? If you ever stop by in Delhi, or if you live here, would you like to visit the Project WHY Okhla centre? Will you support our funding efforts for this centre?
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.