A mail dropped by this morning. It simply it said:
I too want to help the slum children in our Hyderabad city, and as a first step started with a nearby slum in the outskirts. I now understand the uphill task that it is, but I won't give up.
The main problem is the motivation. How to do that? How to keep those children off the street , to the gambling( oh there are so many versions!) the fights etc..? How to convince the parents to send them to the free teaching classes?
It was from someone who had written four years back seeking information about our work. I first thought I would reply the mail in the customary manner, but as I sat down to I realised that the words conveyed had a far deeper meaning for us at project why..
First of all it meant that a milestone had been crossed as we had moved from those who began asking many 'whys' to one who could now answer the hows. And to me personally, it was a validation of my often misconstrued objective of making pwhy a model that can be replicated. And if our experience can help someone wanting to reach out to children, then I am entitled to my Eureka today.
What I would like to tell our friend is that the first step is the hardest one... often one wants to but the desire never gets translated into action..but once the first step taken, once you have locked eyes honestly with the first child, there is no going back.. you just have to remember one thing: you cannot solve all the problems that surround you, but even if one life is changed, it would have ben worth the effort.. we took the first step in November 2000, never looked back and have a fair track record as proof of our success.
Now to come to the specific hows mentioned, the answer is that there is no single rule. Remember that you are doing this work because children are on the streets, because they gamble, because parents do not understand..
Even five years down the line we still face the same problems and find solutions specific to the particular situation as we are in a land where individualism is celebrated and hence no one solution works. You can only find the right solution if you have assessed the situation correctly. Many a times we have been shocked by things once we took the time to find out. In some cases you may fail but that should not deter you. You just need to be patient, forget your ego and remember your objective. Sometimes you may even have to befriend the local goon, use humour with the kids telling them that if they want to be bad then they should aim to be an educated Don... You have to accept to enterhis world first, before you pull the child out of it..
You just have to wear down your detractor of the time by using very Gandhian methods. It is during my work in the slums that I understood the sagacity of Gandhi.
There are times when you may have to compromise; that is often the case when you deal with parents, so readjust your timings, accept to look after the younger sibling while the elder one studies.. And somethings you will have to accept quietly, hoping that the next generation will understand..
But never give up. The children have paid far too much for the mistakes of us adults, ranging from ignorance to callousness.. It is time we made it up to them.