The Yamuna Project, the al fresco dining and a little about giving

The new project that was inaugurated last week has been christened! It's Godfather is none other than our staunchest supporter and the name he chose was: The Yamuna Project. I am so glad he did as I got a bit lost and over the top with options like: 'in the fields' or 'by the riverside'! Today was a special day as thanks to a wonderful soul who truly sees with his heart: the Yamuna Project children had their first lunch. This person  I must ask him whether I can use his name - has promised a hot lunch six days a week for these lovely kids. On the menu today was kidney beans curry, potato and cauliflower curry, rice and chapatis. The food was delicious as was duly reported to me by Xavier who had a bite, and he is a connoisseur of Indian food.

So this little project that landed in our arms thanks to our kind landlord is well on its way and I hope that many will support it. These children are undoubtedly from the end of spectrum. They do not even exist on paper. They world is limited to a 1 km radius.

 I can keep saying that I will not increase the size of pwhy; someone else decides its destiny. The location of this project is idyllic if you set aside the stark reality that surrounds it. You lunch under a tree, in the midst of green fields, with a breeze flowing from the river and the chirping of birds. It is the best al fresco dining experience. I hope I will be able to spend some time there.

But I had to give it a miss today as we had some visitors and potential donors coming to see Okhla. They were extremely kind and very appreciative of our work and wanted to help but there was a catch: they belonged to an organisation that has its set of rules and specific areas where they can help and sadly as always we were not a perfect match.

They very kindly offered to give a 'scholarship' to one child per class. This once again brought to the fore my reluctance and I must say that of my team too, to the idea of singling out one child. In my humble and responsible opinion sponsorships are not ideal for the beneficiary though rewarding to the donor. I let my team battle it out and decided to spend some time with the secondary kids. On the spur of the moment I asked them how they felt about one kid being singled out and the concerted reaction was a big NO! I told them that to me each one of them was excellent in his or her own way and thus deserved the best. If one was good in her or his studies, then the other was good in drawing, singing or sports, and what about the one who was always willing to help. It was the right time to talk about the danger of dividing, be it a class, a family or society. That was the first step to its destruction. The children agreed and many gave their opinion. It was a rewarding experience.

Donors often do not understand the finer points and even dangers of what to them is a gesture of kindness. Wanting to reward one child entails many possible scenarios. First of all in our case as pwhy is free it would be difficult to put a 'tag' on the cost of a child. At best a school bag, some clothes, books...a treat! But then ask yourself how the other children would feel. And ultimately the beneficiary may find herself isolated by her peer group. But that is not all. Should we accept the offer we would have a posse of angry mothers at our doorstep the next morning asking why their kid was not given the bag etc. And then in a jiffy all that ails India would spew out: caste, religion, state of origin, you name it.

Till date I have been blessed by donors who have trusted me implicitly and in some cases even convinced their Board of Directors to bend rules as they felt that the money given was always used with utmost honesty. They have never questioned my decisions but lauded them. And that is the way I want it to remain as that is the spirit of project why, one that I have kept alive with utmost love.

So instead of helping one child per class, it would be so much better and wiser to sponsor the salary of one teacher: that would mean helping 40 kids! But then in the lexicon of organised donor agencies, the word salary is anathema. Never mind if the teacher in question comes from the same social strata as the children she teaches and her salary keeps her kitchen fire going.

Giving has to be for the right reasons. There are many quotes on 'giving' but the one that has always touched me is Jack London's: A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.