The last donation! Sounds ominous but is is not, quite the contrary it is the harbinger of hope, and freedom.
For the past ten years we have been trying to make a difference in the lives of the less privileged and can say with pride that we have succeeded in more ways than one. We launched project why, with the aim of answering all the disturbing 'why's that came our way. With limited resources and an abundance of passion and fervor we have helped hundreds of children stay in school and complete their education, have brought smiles on the faces of a bunch of incredible special children and given them reason to live, have rescued a handful of kids who would have otherwise been condemned to join the ranks of child labour but who are now studying in a boarding school and topping their class, sponsored the surgery of a score of children with broken hearts and above all empowered almost fifty adults by giving them employment and dignity.
All this was made possible thanks to donations from people the world over who were good enough to trust and believe in us. Year after year, we shared our success stories with them in the hope that they would once again reach out to us. Whereas this seemed the only doable option in the early years, somewhere down the line came the surreptitious feeling that the pitch was becoming jaded and would not hold forever. Were they not millions the world over engaged in similar work who solicited help via donations and would not donors become satiated sooner or at best later. We needed to find another way, one that would lead us to the last donation.
Many may say, and quite rightly so, that all things must end, and that even a thriving and successful enterprise needs to come to a close. In our case it seemed that the day 'donations' would stop falling, the end would happen by force majeure. And more with us as all our fund raising was done by one person with a set of very personal skills. Me!
The unspoken and yet very loud question haunted me. What would happen to project why after I exited. Would it just be a simple swan song with a final curtain call, or would the performance continue. Would project why survive and become sustainable. This I know is the challenge every organisation like ours faces. And this I also know, is not an easy one. I weighed all options, even the one of seeing project why ebb but soon realised that this was not an option we could look at as some of the 'whys' we had answered were long term and could not be wished away. There was Manu who had been saved from a life on the streets and who now lived with us along with Anjali and Champa who also has nowhere to go; there were the seven children in school who needed support for many more years. These were the desperate cases but there was also a vibrant and spirited education and empowerment project that deserved to continue. The spirit of project why could not be wished away. Project why had to live on.
Thus began the search for a viable sustainability option, one that could take care of the lost souls as well as ensure continuity. We began to look for success stories to emulate, for organisations that had manage to become sustainable but did not find any. The one way that seemed to work was the one of setting up a corpus fund the interest of which would provide the needed sustenance. But somehow that seemed against the very spirit of project why. We wanted to be freed from the 'charity' status and be able to generate funds ourselves. This would keep us on our toes and prevent us from sinking into comfort zones. Project why had to mutate into something greater.
That is perhaps the time when someone mentioned a small project in Cusco, Peru where an organisation had set up guest houses to meet their fund requirements. It was a win win situation and somehow we felt that this was the way to go. We would call it Planet Why.
Planet Why would be a guest house with a difference, a social business generating income to support itself and enable project why to continue its mission, a place where Manu and his disabled friends would live and die with dignity, where project why alumni could be trained in a variety of marketable skills. Planet Why would offer its own brand of hospitality to travelers looking for a different experience. And above all Planet Why would be a green building, the first of its kind in Delhi. We were on cloud nine and felt nothing could stop us.
The first step was to find a find a suitable piece of land at a reasonable price. No mean task in a city like New Delhi where real estate is astronomically priced. We were lucky and located a piece of land not too far from the airport and in a still semi rural area. We shared our vision with our supporters and were fortunate to be able to purchase the land in spite of a few hiccups. It was then time to make plans and find out the costs. Needless to say they were mind boggling and way out of our league. But this did not deter us and we went bravely on the market trying to seek funding. It was not to be, as recession hit the world and all our plans went on to a back burner.
Today after two years in limbo we have decided to revive our dreams and those of the ones who depend on us. Planet Why has to see the light of day as it is the only way we can get out of the charity warp and become truly empowered.
Planet Why will not only enable us to continue our work with the less fortunate but become a real challenge for our team who will need to learn to run a successful business and thus validate all we held as true.
Once again we need you to believe in us.