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Guest Column - Why ProjectWhy

Devi Lakshmi Kutty

 ProjectWhy answers so many whys for so many people ….it lets children dream, hope and aspire…and answers the incessant drone within us when we see a child begging on the road, a disabled child who is not educated or a toddler who is not cared for

 Good News India (www.goodnewsindia.com) introduced me to Anu and ProjectWhy, the name intrigued me and I read fascinated .I wrote to Anu and her reply dropped into my mailbox even before I could think why? Anu explained Projectwhy to me, her inspiration, her motivation and extended an invitation to visit Pwhy. I was in Delhi last January and spent a week with the Pwhy team and got hooked to them, Manu the lost man who is the raison’d etre of Pwhy, Rani who is Anu’s Lady-Friday and Shamika who inspired Anu to ask the question why?

 I met and became friends with Shipra the dignified teacher who joined Pwhy to contribute to the community, Manju the pretty vivacious woman who discovered that she could teach, Savitri, the slim, smiling 10th pass girl who liked children and the emotional Sitaram who ferries the children on his cycle rickshaw and ever-present Radheshyam who is the Man-Friday and the historian at Pwhy (a 5 yr history of which he remembers every detail, every person). I spent a week with them, sharing their communal lunch of Dhal-roti-sabji, waiting for hot chai from amah in the bitter January cold, helping setup classrooms in the sun for the children.

The children were a delight, hungry for affection, trotting up cheerfully with ‘good morning maam’ some bundled up against the cold others barely protected (leading to a scramble with us rummaging the clothes bags for socks and sweaters). Who do I talk about, Sivam who sees the world through voices or Sanju the speechless-smiling-spark or the Preeti the 19 yr old who looks 9, each one of them a symbol of courage, joy and the will to survive. It was a beautiful week full of joy, friendship and laughter where I re-learnt that happiness is a state of mind.

Anu began Pwhy to support children on Delhi’s streets, children living in the slums, poor, destitute, victims of crime, disabled or just unlucky, children who had no future and no present. They were not educated till their parents thought them old enough to go to the nearest government school if they thought it worth at all to send them….

 This prompted Anu to start pre-primary classes in the slums for the young children and the classes are full with new children joining almost every day. The teachers are from the slums where Pwhy has established itself. Anu trained them to handle children and the office work. Young men and women with high school diplomas, without jobs, with a desire to support themselves while helping the community. Every child who is part of Pwhy is enrolled in a school after they complete the pre-primary and Pwhy keeps track of their progress

I saw a new pre-primary class come into being on an erstwhile rubbish dump in Mazdoor camp Okhla the polluted industrial underbelly of Delhi. Pushpa and Sophiya two smart staffers at Pwhy decided that their effort and skill should be used in their own neighborhoods. They scouted for space ,negotiated with slum lords, cajoled policemen and got ‘consent’ to use an erstwhile dump to run their pre-primary class.

To the perplexed reader, why Rs 30 from each parent: the Pwhy philosophy is to make every beneficiary pay something for the school so that the parents are committed and do not let the children drop out. But does this Rs 30 pay for everything and can every student afford to pay Rs 30? The answer to both these questions is ‘No’, that’s where we come in with our Rs 30 each. Each of us can help Pwhy by contributing Rs 30 a month (or Rs 360 a year which translates to 8 dollars per person per year) .I am sure every one of us can do it .That’s what Pwhy’s ‘Just one rupee a day ‘campaign is trying to do. Read about the one rupee festival and donate here http://herewego.wikispaces.org.

Pwhy is a planet of hopes and dreams for the 500 odd children and the 40 odd staff members; already established at Lohar camp, Tilak Khand and Mazdoor camp Okhla, a new center at Sudhar camp and growing as we read. All they need from us is a helping hand to keep their planet going and growing……..

 Would you like to help? You can sponsor a class or a group; the details are on the link http://www.projectwhy.org/expenses.htm . Do you want to know more, please read about Pwhy at www.projectwhy.org  or email Anu at anouradha.bakshi@gmail.com  or email me at l.sreedevi@gmail.com


Devi Lakshmi Kutty currently lives in US and volunteers with organizations in India and US

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