Dare to dream

In the past years I have come up with many bye lines for project why. Because it makes that little difference is the one that seems to have stuck! Where children dare to dream, however, is my all time favourite though it made a short appearance in our lives. To me it encompasses the spirit of project why in more ways than one as I believe that if a person like me can create something like project why then nothing is impossible. I remember the early days when we began our field project in the gypsy camp now razed to the ground, I told the children there that they had to dream big dreams, dreams bigger than they could imagine.

Sanjay circa 2002

Sanjay walking in Paris for AgnesB

 He dared to dream!
One young boy heard me loud and clear. It is Sanjay the boy in the orange shirt in the picture on the right. Today he is an international model who walks for designers in Paris and of course India. He dared to dream big and maybe things did not turn quite as he had at first imagined but his success story is remarkable to say the least! He even has a movie about his life aptly entitled Bollywood Boulevard! Before he hit success he spent some time as a primary teacher at project why!

Young Anita comes with her own success story. Today she proudly teaches primary and secondary classes at our Govindpuri and in the picture above is leading her brood to an outing at the Railway museum. Would you believe me if I told you that she was one of our first students in 2002 in our creche! But that is the reality. When she passed her class XII she came to us asking us for a job. She told us that she wanted to do a B Com from the Open University but that her parents who are very poor could not afford the fees. But that was not all. Being very conservative, her father would not allow hurt to work anywhere but at project why. You guessed right, she got her job like  a shot! This year she will finish her B Com. I do hope she does a B Ed as that would allow her to become a teacher in a good school as that was always a dram, even as a little girl: to be a teacher! We would have to let her go then as our salaries as paltry! I hope her father allows her to continue working and marries her to a man sensitive enough to understand her and help her fulfil her dreams.

It is amusing but whenever you ask one of the project why's girls what she wants to be pat comes the answer: a teacher or a singer. I guess this is the only world they know: Project Why+Bollywood as even the poorest home's prize possession is a TV. When Suzie, a young and motivated volunteer asked them this very question she got the same answer.

But Suzie is a feisty woman and thought she had to widen their horizons in her own inimitable style. I requested to give me a short summary in her own words and this is what she wrote: Well I wasn’t having any of it; I decided to put together a list of 11 famous women who achieved so much throughout History, from scientists to writers to politicians, and show the girls that there is more out there for them if they put their mind to it.

We learned about Joan of Arc, Marie Curie, Jane Goodall, Anne Frank; I asked the girls to read out to each other texts about all these women and their achievements, to ask each other questions about them; we spent three afternoons, learning about Sampat Pal Devi’s gang of Pink Saris; about Mathilde Anneke’s first newspaper dedicated to women; about the work of Mother Theresa in 133 countries; about Florence Nightingale and her revolution of the world of nursing; and about how JK Rowling thought up Harry Potter on a train to Manchester… 

We made a wall hanging, with photos of all of them in chronological order, ending with a banner that read “YOU COULD BE NEXT – We can all be scientists, activists, writers, if we get an education! 

It was an amazing project and I must admit it got me thinking. Maybe we needed to add something to our teaching to help children widen their horizons and confirmed beyond doubt my belief that with education you can DARE TO DREAM!

The girls love dancing and are mean dancers. Here is proof.