the ripple effect

When I decided to start project why many years ago a host of supposed well wishers came out of the wood work to dissuade me to do so. There were the hard core cynics, the gentle detractors and the over anxious friends and relatives. I guess they were all stunned by my decision to sink a large chunk of my newly acquired legacy to as they said: help the poor!

The arguments used to discourage me were varied: what difference can you make in a country as big as India; you know nothing about running an NGO; you will waste you resources and be disappointed; you must be mad; what would your parents say if they were here; you are hijacking your children's future; you cannot change things, it is a big bad world and you will not survive and so on.

At that time I must admit I had no defense to proffer. All I had was a deep intuitive feeling that what I was setting out to do was right and a stubborn nature that would ensure that I do it ans succeed. It was imperative that I do so and prove my detractors wrong. I set out on my journey with just one thought in mind: if I could change one life it would be worth it.

In the past ten years we have changed many lives and I will not subject you to a string of examples or try to blow the pwhy bugle. But I can say without hesitation that I have been vindicated on all counts. But what really struck me today as I looked at the two little sisters in the picture above was that when you change a life you set in motion what can best be called a ripple effect. Let me explain what I mean. Kiran and Komal are the nieces of Rani, a young woman who today practically runs our field operations in Govindpuri. She first joined pwhy as a unpaid volunteer way back in 2000 but soon graduated to the princely honorarium of 500 rs a month. A school drop out - not for academic reasons far from that but because she was beaten for not paying her fees and her mom decided that enough was enough - she joined us as part time volunteer but slowly she just became indispensable! Today she practically runs project why. Along the way the managed to pass her class X, XII and is now doing her BA second year. Along the way she also became computer savvy and even crossed the seven seas to go and root for pwhy! You must admit her life did change. But that is not all. Along the way two beautiful little girls were born in her family and that is when the ripple effect set in motion.

Today K and K are both in an upmarket school, the kind you and I would send our kids too. Tre admissions are not easy when you have a slum address but Rani never gave up. She wanted to give her little nieces everything she never had. The very best. But it was not easy. However all hurdles were overcome and the two little girls are now in school and doing exceedingly well. What is amusing is that we are all a part of this exciting journey helping with home work when needed or with the inane holiday projects children are subjected to. I must admit that when I watch them laughing and giggling I feel terribly proud and wonder what would have happened had I meekly listened to my detractors of yore years.

So today let me be a little cheeky and address all the barbs thrown at me a decade ago: you can make a huge difference even in a country like India; even if you know; nothing about running what is called an NGO, you can do so if you do not lose heart, your resources are never wasted if they can bring a smile on the face of a child; I guess one had to be a little mad to walk the road less travelled; my parents are surely proud and have walked with me every inch of the way; my children's future was never hijacked but got better; things changed as the ripple effect set in and the world is not so bad when you learn to look with your heart. I have not only survived but thrived!