Thursday, May 26, 2016

From Germany with Love #ThrowbackThursday # India

Project Why's relationship with Germany began way back in 2007 when Hans Emde, a rather forbidding person with a heart of gold, visited Project Why and decided to set up Project Why Deutschland e v in Köln. From that moment the doors flew open and Project Why's discovery of Germany began.

Volunteers and visitors brought their own special German touch, a far cry from the image many carry of Germans, especially in India.

We were treated to big German lads like Lukas and Enrico who most surprisingly chose to work with the tiniest of kids and who even more surprisingly wept like babies when it was time to leave. Needless to say, Lukas came back many times and Enrico sent his little brother Dario  this spring.
Then we had the ladies who walked into our hearts: Julia, Claudia, Sabine, Myla, Carla and many others. Each displayed incredible warmth and generosity and craftedbonds lasting a life time. Needless to say ALL have become staunch supporters and donors.

Project Why Deutschland walked that extra mile by making the exchange mutual when they invited Rani and Shamika to Koln in February 2009. Germany is the first country that Rani has visited, making the leap from a tiny India slum to a buzzing German city, creating memories she will carry for a life time.

That is not all. The Project Why Deutschland helped us in many more ways. They were the ones who gave to three young hearing impaired girls state-of-the-art hearing aids, allowing them to hear their first sound.

One of the qualities Germans have in abundance is meticulous organisation, a non-existent one in India! We are grateful for all those who have shared this quality with us. Eva taught English to the Okhla kids and staff, braving all odds,  Ayse brought a healing touch to the special kids and Arthur is at present painfully pouring over statistics and figures to help us document our work in a professional manner. The fact that the temperature is a scorching 45 C is proof of the extent of commitment Germans have!

Today, at a time when Project Why is in need of a long due makeover, Carla our elected mentor, is holding our hand and gently leading us into the world of reports, organigrams, budgets, projections and more; we would be lost without her. What is truly touching is that she is ever present and always smiling.

We are grateful to Hans to have opened up a new world to us. We are grateful to Julia and Claudia who are always there for us and jump on a plane to see us when needed. We were particularly touched when Claudia made a trip to Project Why, leaving her toddler behind. That is what love is all about.

Enjoy some German moments at Project Why.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

He who opens a school door, closes a prison #GivingTuesday #India

He who opens a school door, closes a prison.
Victor Hugo

The little beds in this picture take us back to a childhood fairy tale where a little girl 'dared' to  sleep on a bed only to be chased away by a family of bears. The Project Why fairy tale is a little different. These little beds are in a boarding school dorm and invite children to make these their own should they aspire to quality education.

All children aspire to quality education; it is also their constitutional right. Sadly for many the aspiration remains a dream rarely fulfilled. In India  for too many children quality education remains inaccessible. What they get is a wasted array of options all falling short, particularly for those born on the wrong side of the divide.

At Project Why we attempt to better the education imparted in State run schools to the best of our ability. We do somewhat succeed but are aware of the reality that so much more needs to be done to provide the enabling environment a child needs to bloom.

Amidst all our programmes there is a tiny one that ticks all the boxes. Seven children are being quietly educated in a boarding school on the outskirts of Delhi.

Many have been skeptical and even critical of this programme that sounds elitist and out of sync with the approach Project Why believes in. That is not quite the case.

Project Why is a firm believer in the neighbourhood state run school attended by children from diverse social strata. That was true once but over the years the advent and mushrooming of private schools that profess to teach English has seen the migration of many children till what is left in state run schools are the poorest of the poor. State run schools are no more level playing fields.

Yet the belief that children from the poorest homes can excel if given the right environment is something that Project Why believes in. When unforeseen and perilous circumstances arose and a child was in need of a safe environment, it was time to put theories to test and begin our boarding school programme, the best option to secure a enabling environment for a underprivileged child. Six others would follow.

The other question often posed, one that is ethical, was how was the selection of children made and why one and not the other. The answer to this question is that it was circumstances that led to the choice: two third degree burn survivors with dysfunctional homes; a young girl whose heart surgery was sponsored by Project Why and who instead of being in school was found working; a child who was adopted then abandoned. All were children who were at the risk of being exploited and abused.

This may not be a satisfying answer as there are millions of children in the same situation.

The only answer that can be given is that these kids were chosen by someone we like calling the God of  Lesser Beings and we were His instrument.

When you see the pictures below, you will realise that some of these kids have been with us for many years, since when they were tiny. Their destiny was linked to that of Project Why. Once we held their hands there was no going back.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Sadafulee so that Project Why children bloom

Her name is Kashmira. She lives in the US and though she has never visited Project Why in person, she had been one of its staunchest supporters. She has walked into Project Why's heart through a screen! Over the years she has supported our work financially, but more than that, her words of encouragement and love are sent before we ask for them, as if she knew intuitively that they were needed.  The precious time she devotes to our children makes her so special.

A few years back she informed us about  a jewelry crafting initiative,that she named Sadafulee - ever blooming - that she set for helping our kids. With every pearl she threaded and every knot Kashmira tied she wove dreams for little children she had never met. As she put it so well: "This venture comes from my passion for art and for helping underprivileged children. I plan to donate most of the proceeds from this store to a charity working with slum children in India. I am hoping the universe will help me grow this store to help the children to "always bloom"!

Recently when funds were needed to help Manisha get an artificial arm she was the first to take on the challenge and managed to raise much more than what was needed.

When funds were needed to help a desperate kid she decided to revive Sadafulee. Her absolutely stunning pieces are available through her Facebook Page.

We have no words to express our gratitude and love to Kashmira. The only way we can do it is by continuing the work we do with renewed commitment and energy

Thank you for being there for us, Kashmira

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much #ThrowbackThursday

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”

  Helen Keller

 How true these words are and Project Why is a proof of this. It was in very early days that Anou decided to source 100% of her team from within the community. The decision was instinctive. What was available were women with unfinished educations often due to early marriages, men who had obtained degrees from other states and could not find employment, and people in desperate conditions where a job, however small, meant food on the table. That is where most of Project Why's team comes from.

In early days there were many doomsayers who believed that this experience would be a disaster and Project Why would have to walk the trodden path. But Project Why stuck to our guns and never looked back.

Project Why's maverick team rose to meet expectations and performed with commitment, motivation and passion. These are the qualities that stand out and that are not to be found in people coming from the outside. For many, working at Project Why meant giving children the opportunities they never had. That is not all: being from the community they understand the needs and the solutions they offer are appropriate and work. They have allowed Project Why to truly address the real needs of the children.

Moreover we have a team that stays and those who left did for real reasons: relocation, marriage and in a few cases a better job- something we celebrate. Some left to start their own organisations. To be applauded!

n many cases Project Why has allowed many to climb a few rungs of the social ladder. As one staff member who is now married and a mom, told us, though she could get a better paid job in a factory, being called Ma'am on the street by her students and their parents is an honor and worth the lower salary.

Project Why has also prompted many of our staff, mostly women, to complete their unfinished studies. We are very proud of all of them. Some children who have been with us since early years are now teachers at Project Why. We have come a long way.
True, there are some challenges, mostly because all staff members have a very emotional tie to Project Why. Project Why stands with them all the way and it is this that makes the Project Why team formidable and invincible.

We invite you to meet them.

Do you have

Do you haveany words of encouragement for our staff?

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

BEIRUT CALLING #GivingTuesday #India

It has been International Month at Project Why.  First we had visitors from France, then from Japan and now hold your breath… from Lebanon!  A group of twenty young girls from the American Community School: Beirut came to visit Project Why shepherded by our dear friend Chris of Hands Up Holidays. It was truly special to have visitors from a part of the world that has ben torn by war for so long.

As their arrival was delayed ,the visit was limited to the Okhla Centre. In spite of the terrible heat twenty sparkling smiles walked in. Soon the place was filled with palpable vibes. After a short introduction the girls proceeded to meet their Indian counterparts. The visitors were all class X and XI students and being afternoon, the secondary girls were on the roof. It did not take long for the two yet unknown worlds to meet and bond.

The girls danced to Bollywood and Arabic music, each one teaching the other their moves amidst laughter and giggles. All barriers were broken; it was just a bunch of young girls having fun together. There would be card and other games and even visits to homes as the Project Why girls wanted to show their Lebanese friends where hey lived.

Time flew. It was soon time to bid farewell with the hope that one would meet again.

Thank you, Chris for this wonderful opportunity

Enjoy some precious moments of this visit

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

One year of the Yamuna centre #ThrowbackThursday

The Project Why Yamuna Centre is one year old! 

A simple look at the smiling faces in the picture is ample proof of the fact that we got it right. Only a little over a year ago Project Why came to know about the existence of the "Yamuna Kids,” a bunch of happy children who run in fields along the river amidst vegetable patches tended by their parents. And this in the middle of the concrete jungle that is Delhi. 

These are children of what is known as agricultural labour who hire these fields from the landlords at a fixed price and then make their living from the vegetables they grow. They are at the mercy of the weather gods; excess rain or extreme weather can destroy the crop. Their homes are made of straw with a plastic sheet for protection. Unlike the rich who can build unabashedly on the flood plains, these people are not allowed a single brick. 

There is no school in the vicinity; in any case their children do not appear in any census and hence do not exist. They used to spend their time helping their parents in the fields, a task they can legally do as the child labour law has recent been amended to make working in the family business ‘legal.' These kids are happy-go-lucky children living in a time warp and a bubble. The question that comes to mind is what is their future? A simple change in building laws could destroy their lives in a jiffy.

Project Why had to intervene but once again what mattered was to find a way to adapt our intervention to the reality of these children. 

An informal day-school was set up and it was decided that children would be taught according to their age and capability as some seemed to have had some non formal teaching. 

The gods conspired to make the Yamuna Centre a reality. Friends and donors pitched in and one even decided to provide a hot lunch to these kids six days a week. The lunch was a huge success. Other friends sponsored a roof, supplies and everything we could possibly need- even a toilet!

It did not take any time for the Centre to function perfectly. The Yamuna kids are probably one of the most eager kids of the Project Why family. The numbers increased till we had to put a stop as there was no space left. Today there are about ninety children studying in the centre.

Anyone coming for the first time will have a difficult time believing that the Centre is just one year old.

These are God's own kids who had never stepped out from their fields. We were surprised to learn that they had never seen India Gate. A few days back our friends from Enfances Indiennes took the children for an outing to INDIA GATE.

The Yamuna Centre is something we are very proud. Our endeavour is to ensure that we guide these children gently into the world, without them losing their deep their deep bond to Mother Nature.

What birthday wishes do you have for our Yamuna Centre?

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

有難う 御座います Yoshiki San #GivingTuesday

Yoshiki San and Doraemon
Project Why has a Japanese connection. It goes back to 2003 when Naoko  San visited the Project why with  the Japanese Volunteer Group. A connection was made, one that lasts till date.

Thus began a relationship with ladies from the land of Doraemon and a bunch of slum children from India. The ladies would come regularly and spend time with the children teaching them the magic of Japanese craft and culture. In August 2005 we all celebrated the Tanabata festival where every child wrote her of his wish on a bright paper and tied it to the bamboo stems our Japanese friends had bought. The children even learnt a Japanese Song.

For the past year the Japanese Volunteer Group has been a steady and committed support. They have been there for us at every step of the way and meet our needs constantly. Be it a water cooler, a fan, mats for the children to sit on, stationery, sweaters and socks to keep warm in winter, our Japanes friends have always called 'present' to our need. When the Yamuna centre needed a roof, they collected funds and thus provided shelter from the cold and the heat. They also give the children school bags and supplies, school books, uniforms and sweaters.

A few months ago Ayumi San, a member of the group, contacted us and told us her husband's company was willing to help us. Yoshiki San visited the Okhla centre a few weeks ago and it was decided that his company would build a shelter on the roof and provide two callers to beat the heat.

Last week Yoshiki San and his team visited the Centre and spent time with the children.

It was a wonderful morning where again many words met. The Japanese, their Indian colleagues and Project Why. Once again we were touched by the gentle mood that prevailed. Somehow whenever the Japanese come there is never a feeling of rush. Time seems to take on a different pace.

Yoshiko San and his team spent quality time with the Okhla and Yamuna children. We were pleasantly surprised to discover his drawing talent as he produced drawing after drawing of the children's faces. Then it was time for the children to showcase their talent: Sanjay showed his yoga prowess and then the boys performed a stunning dance. Yoshiko San then spoke to the children and gave them wise counsel. He told them to believe in their dreams as dreams come true but for that they needed to study hard and listen to their teachers. The morning ended with a distribution of stationery and cakes.

The guests then moved on to the Yamuna centre. It was lunch time so they decided to serve the lunch. Then it was fun time with more laughter, more sharing and more caring. All barriers were broken as one and all intermingled with ease and joy.

Then it was time for goodbyes and promises to meet again.

So また会いましょう!Yoshiki San, till meet again

Enjoy some of the very special moment of this unforgettable day here:

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