2015 will go down in the annals of Project Why as a challenging yet comforting year. All ran perfectly on stage! Backstage it was a year of wake up calls and critical quests but also of new beginnings. Seems perplexing but please bear with me.
If all is not well in the wings, then how can the performance even begin one would believe? Not quite so at Project Why; 2015 was a stellar show in spite of greenrooms in disarray. Let us take it from the top.
About a year or so ago we were deprived of a large chunk of our regular donation by force majeure. The immediate effect was not blatant as there were some reserves but over the months these got depleted and in mid 2015 we faced a crisis. The coffers were empty or almost. Shutting the door was not an option.
Never before did I feel so lost and so terrified. Time took seemed to go in frenzy mode as barely had we met one month's dues, the next was around the corner. I shot out mails and SMSs. I made calls. I knocked at every door I could. Someone did hear us each time and bailed us out. Nothing short of a miracle!
This went on month after month and we are still not out of the woods but are beginning to see the light of day.
The wake up calls were numerous and varied but two stood out: the firs being the stark realisation that coffers were really empty - we had had too many cry wolf situations in the past - and the second the complete meltdown I had this summer, the result of too many months being in survival mode because of the health of my husband. Come July and I was knocked out. The real fright was my total inability to write! Writing was my only saviour and once bereft of it I was unable to carry on. It was time to pick the pieces. I did, slowly one piece at a time. For one who lives at the speed of light this was no easy task but somehow being compelled to slow down was what the doctor ordered as it allowed me to bring a new perspective in my life. This newfound wisdom was a lifeline for project why and brought some order into the backroom activities.
One of the main decisions taken in 2015 was to shift part of our funding base to India. To achieve this we adopted a multi pronged plan. A chance encounter in late 2014 revived an old dream. In the days when I was still convinced that the future of funding for causes lay in creating a large donor base that gave small amounts, I had attempted to contact people in the hospitality business in the hope that a rupee added to bills would be a sound funding option. This idea was laid to a quick rest when I was faced with the cynicism of a restaurant owner who wanted to know what would happen if someone raised an objection ten years down the line. I had no answer and beat a quick retreat.
When I met another restaurant owner who proposed to add 10 Rs per bill, I felt vindicated. This wonderful soul was someone who saw with his heart. A new world had opened for us.
Yet nothing comes easy and in spite of all the good will possible the project has not taken off. It should in the first week of 2016. That would be a real blast off for Project Why!
We also requested our few friends in the Corporate world to try and find us people or organisations that would sponsor one of our projects, hoping that if we found a bare handful,we would be home, but they drew a total blank. The flip side of this though was the fact that this was an eye opener for them and again validated my reflection that Delhi is a city that had lost its heart. Maybe the time was not ripe.
I have alway held that instinct is never wrong. Often in our rush we do not give it a chance. When Project Why began way back in 1998 with our nutritious cookie project, I was convinced that the best sustainable funding approach would be what I called the one-rupee-a-day one. The idea was to find large donor bases who would give us that one rupee. We tried hard but the results were not forthcoming and I guess we lost patience and set out on new avenues. But today we find ourselves were we were over a decade ago, once again looking for large and new donor bases. Be it the 10 rs to
a lunch or coffee bill or why not a rupee to a grocery bill: the options are mind boggling. The need of the hour is to proceed slowly and surely.
Another option that came our way was also akin to the initial instinct.
To get more visibility we decided to revamp our social networks and were able to do so thanks to a very committed young volunteer. She also looked for other funding options and we were introduced to the world of crowdfunding. We are still neophytes in the matter but hope to find our feet soon.
Thanks again to a friend we were able to tiptoe into the hallowed grounds of page 3 people and are planning a yearly event. This would be a fashion show celebrating difference. Here again we come full circe as it is our very own Sanjay the student-cum-pwhy teacher-cum-international ramp model who will help us get the show on the road!
So though 2015 was a hand to mouth year, it was also a year when we laid many foundations. 2016 will be when we get off the ground!
While we were busy backstage, the show went on flawlessly act after act.
2015 began on even keel and we thought that it would remain so till the end. But we had forgotten than Project Why functions in heart mode. In March we were told about the existence of a bunch of kids who had never been to school. They were the children of agricultural labour that tends to the vegetables fields that run along the river. These kids live with their families in bare thatched homes and help their parents in the fields. It did not take us long to reach to these children and start a centre for them. In this case there is no school in the vicinity where we could mainstream them. We also discovered that these children had no birth certificates and did not appear in any enumeration. They were simply invisible.
Today we run a 'school' from 9 am to 3 pm for around 70 kids, and thanks to a very generous friend, the children are given a hot lunch six days a week. Thanks to many friends and well wishers we were able to build a small facility for these children and provide them books, school bags and warm clothes. The Yamuna kids are incredibly bright and a real pleasure to be with.
One often tends to forget the day-to-day activities because they run perfectly. This is because of the incredible team that steers the project. One again all exams were passed, all Boards cleared, outings organised, workshops conducted and volunteers well integrated. Kudos to all!
A little reshuffling had to be resorted to to meet the needs of the moment. Our main computer centre was shifted to Okhla as we all felt that that was where it was truly needed. There are no NGOs or computer schools in this area and many wanted to learn computers. This had been on the anvil for long but could not be realised because of shortage of space. However a kind supporter gave us funds to put up a roof and thus we shifted the secondary classes on the roof and converted the secondary space into a computer centre.
2014 was not an easy year. Like the proverbial Phoenix, we had to rise out the ashes and begin to reinvent ourselves. We are still in the process of doing so and hope that 2016 we will be when
we learn to fly again.