As 2014 ends...

It is that time of the year when one writes a year end message, so here is my take!

2014 can best be described as a sabbatical year, when one took 'leave' from one's customary work to review achievements and failures and take remedial measures where needed. It was also a year when we took stock of our strengths, identified our weaknesses. A true SWOT Analysis moment.

 2013 had been a year when my husband's cancer compelled me to take a back seat and leave the project in the hands of my terrific staff. In hindsight this forced leave of mine was God sent as it impelled my staff to act as independently as possible as they did not want to 'disturb' me in any manner. So when earlier they would call at the drop of a hat if faced with a problem, they now looked for solutions independently and more often than not found one that bettered mine! Come to think of it, I did feel a little forgotten. All for a good cause though! This gave them increased confidence and validated yet again, my decision to employ people from within the community.

It was soon evident that the only lacuna was fund raising, a task I had appropriated for far too long and that had over the years taken on a distinct Anou imprint! The skills I used were unfortunately skills that one could not pass on to another. One could I teach my gift for the gab or my obsession with words! Fund raising was undoubtedly our biggest weakness and threatened our very existence and thus needed to be addressed urgently. The urgency was further heightened when we lost a large chunk of the monthly donation of one of our important donors. The reason for this reduction was the drop in tourism following the rape of a foreign national from the country of origin of our donor. This brought to the fore the fragility of our funding model and required some serious thinking.

It is true that most of our donations come from outside India as we have not been able to muster a donor base within India. This was not for want of trying as when Project Why was set up I had wanted to launch what I called a one-rupee-a-day campaign which enabled each and every one to be a donor. It was very naive of me, more so in a city like Delhi which seems to have lost the ability to see with its heart and who also found the one rupee idea infradig! The campaign was resuscitated a couple of times in years to come but always met with the same fate.

Many organisations get substantial funds from Corporates and Big Businesses, but this needs you to be Page 3 worthy, and a recluse like me was not up to the mark. Perhaps I should have polished my dancing shoes and got the war paint out! But that was not to be, so we had to walk another path and we did.

The husband's cancer also made me realise the true meaning of the saying: Man proposes, God disposes. No one is eternal and the wise need to accept this indubitable fact and take the right decisions. It was time that fund raising was revisited in the light of the skills of those who would be carrying the torch forward.

Rani and Dharmendra attended a week long fund raising workshop and though they learnt many finer points, they were a little weary of some of the suggestions that either required substantial investment or sounded too impersonal and thus went against what Project Why stood for. They both agreed that getting a call centre to spout a sales pitch from a written text, without ever having see pwhy, was not what we stood for. It was back to the drawing board and the need to evolve an in house model that would sensitise people around us.

There is a God, one I have oft called God of Lesser Beings but now plan to rechristen God of Project Why, who watches from the wings and appears out of the blue to help us. The visit of a long time supporter and dear friend brought into our lives the till now elusive Corporates, but these were special: they saw with their heart. And that was not all. My one in many moons appearance at a diner saw me seated next to a young man who is also a honcho but again one who sees with his heart, and he too has promised to help. So we did find a backdoor entry into the hallowed corporate portals and I did not need my war paint and high heels. I hope and pray that this will be the miracle we longed for.

I cannot end this message without sharing the update on Planet Why! Many of you know of this sustainability dream of mine where we had hoped to build a green guesthouse the proceeds of which would have run Project Why. Many of you also know that though we were able to raise the money for the land, I was not able to secure the funds to build. Some time back we had begun thinking of selling the land that had appreciated substantially and purchase a smaller plot in the vicinity of our women centre as we are on the verge of losing our tenancy. Yet for the past year we have not been able to sell our land as the property rates have fallen. I wonder whether there is another reason for the obstacles that are coming our way in this matter. We will continue our efforts and wait for the opportune moment.

I just realised that this long message has not touched upon the day-to-day activities of the project. This is because every thing has been running like a clockwork orange and without a murmur. All examinations have been passed, all Boards cleared, outings organised, workshops conducted, visitors received, volunteers welcomed! Project Why runs almost on auto pilot. All I can say is Chapeau Bas to the children and the team!

We await 2015 with bated breath. May it bring new avenues, new hope and above all the answers we seek.

December 2014