Project Why - Panorama 2012

2012 is coming to a close. It is time to reflect and ponder about the year gone and ask one's self as candidly as possible whether we really walked the talk. 2012 was pwhy's 12th year on the field, more than ample time to make the difference we set out to make more than a decade ago. I will in this post highlight some of the important moments of 2012 and view them in the light of the mission we gave ourselves when it all began. I would also beg your indulgence in case thing are not in chronological order, but isn't that expected of a project that has always followed its heart.

Project Why has always endeavoured to keep in sync with the reality that surrounds us and put in perspective for the children we nurture. Thus I cannot but begin this narrative with today, a day when a whole nation mourns the death of the  braveheart who suffered the worst form of assault imaginable. Since that terrifying night I have been following the story with horror and dread, more so because the barbaric perpetrators come from the same social strata as the children we teach. This makes our responsibility and task that much more critical and compels us to look back at the gone years and assess the work we have done in a whole new manner. True our mission as stated time and again was and has been to provide quality education support to children from slums and give them the required skills to excel in school and in life. But was our definition of quality education broad enough? We always followed the Delors 4 pillars - learning: to know, to do, to be and to live together. But did we emphasise enough on the 'live together'? Were we not swayed by the 'to know' as every parent across the board is? But it is not the moment to delve on what we cannot change. Today the people want to see a new India, one that is safe for all its citizens, one where every man learns to respect women, where laws are strong and justice delivered. Where little girls are taught how to protect themselves and sex talk is not taboo. Yes we need a change in mindsets as well as laws and mindsets can only be changed one day at a time starting at a young age. So as 2012 ends, we at project why have taken certain resolves.

We strongly believe that one of the best ways to get boys and girls to learn to accept and respect each other is that they grow together. We would like to see all state run schools become coeducational. However till that day comes we have no option but teach boys and girls at different times. However since last week we have decided that on all holidays boys and girls will come together to the project and interact in every way possible. It is heartwarming to see that though there was some reluctance and hesitation, particularly from the boys, within no time the children were working together as pals and chums.

Several workshops on self esteem and gender biases were held along the year. We will ensure that these are held with more often in the new year. We also plan to hold gender bias and sex education workshops for the staff as we realised that coming from traditional backgrounds, they are hesitant and uneasy and need to be taught how to address this issue with children of different ages.

We alas live in a society where the girl child is still in danger and needs to learn to protect herself. Therefore we are launching regular 'good touch', 'bad touch' classed for all our primary girls. We also plan to have awareness programmes with the parents and hope these will be useful.

The horrific rape that shook all of us was also discussed with the older children. They were then asked to write their feelings. I will share this with you in a subsequent post.

Now let me briefly share the main happenings of the year gone by. As always the children did us proud   and the project why results for all centres and all classes was 100%. Hats off to all children and their teachers. I guess we have by now fulfilled one of our main objectives: to contain drop out, mainstream children and ensure good results.

This year we held several workshops in all our centres: a  work shop on self esteem in our Okhla and Khader centre as we have realised that children from underprivileged homes have poor self esteem. A workshop on the girl child was also held at our Khader centre. A workshop for the teachers of the special section was held in September to introduce new approaches in teaching.

Our main workshop however was a workshop on Right to Education, held with the support of an eminent jurist and that ended in a postcard campaign whereby the children wrote of the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court about the situation in their school. The children were charged up and wrote unabashedly about the violence and abuse by their teachers, the lack of facilities be it toilets or desks, the overcrowding of classes and the poor quality of teaching. These cards were included in a PIL with the judges demanding immediate action. Action was taken but the suspension of 2 teachers named by the student resulted in a huge problem for us as the teachers belonged to Khader village where our centre is located. Our landlord almost threw us out. It is the extremely wise and diplomatic skill of our coordinator Dharmendra that saved us from this explosive situation. Our children were also targeted in school but tempers calmed down and today the schools are functioning a tad better. This was  a lesson for all: bringing change is never easy. It needs courage and staying power.

For the women centre, it was a musical year as they had a western music workshop run by Diya, a young student from Singapore. A group of 8 children were introduced to western music and tried their hand at the guitar, the keyboard and bongos! In January 2012, Praveen one of our extremely talented student, began professional singing classes. His dream is to enter a singing reality show! More power to him.

2012 was also dancing year for the project children. It was decided to run dance workshops for all children, including the special ones.  And even though their performance would not meet  Bolshoi standards, the children had great fun and laughed to their hearts' content.

We hope to have the children perform somewhere in 2013.

Everyone is invited!

This year it was the Okhla children who had the chance to get behind a camera thanks to the workshop run by one of our summer volunteers. You can see the pictures they took here.

We managed a few outings in spite of paucity of funds. The Govindpuri children went to the Science Museum, the Red Fort, the Children's Park and India Gate. It was still open to the likes of you and me then. The special children went to Delhi Haat and Lodhi garden.

A group of children from Khader were taken to a movie and to an outing at the mall by some supporters.

As always we celebrated festivals: Republic Day, Independence Day, Gandhi Jayanti, Children's Day, Diwali, Teacher's Day, Eid and Xmas. On these days children often put up their own show with dances, exhibitions, speeches and song.

The star this year was undoubtedly our very own Santa.

We also had our share of visitors from all corners of the planet and of course our volunteer who make a huge difference as they bring a little of the world into our planet! We thank all of them warmly!

Some statistics and facts now: we are now a family of 1000! And to say that when we began we were a mere 40! We have a team of 45 and each one of them is precious and deserves to be saluted. The computer centre, library and secondary were shifted around. Secondary classes were started in our Govindpuri centre which now goes to class VII.

We would like to share two very special events.
Preeti from the special section has now been admitted to the Open school and is preparing for class X  and Shamika our special section in charge got the Karamveer Chakra award.

We are proud of you girls!

Our boarding school kids are well and growing by the day. They are good in their studies and participate in many activities: skating, yoga, dancing, music. I wish we could give this opportunity to every child.

Over 200 women completed their sewing and beauty courses this year. many of them have got employment and some of them even opened their own beauty parlours, two of them in the village. More power to you.

Planet Why remained frozen this year. All our efforts came to naught and we are now seriously thinking of alternatives. However our special children and Khader children kept the sustainability light alive.

The special children now make dream catchers that are on sale and our Khader chiildren made beautiful greeting cards that can be purchased on line. We hope these enterprises grow by leaps and bounds.

But all this would not have been possible without those who have believed in us and trusted us through the years. We hope you will continue to help us make a difference. To everyone a big thank you.

Happy 2013.