My bête noire and also my most rewarding challenge is and has been garnering funds for project why. I call it my bête noire because I have or at least had till age 50, found it infra-dig to talk money, let alone solicit for it. So when I was handed over the task of fund raising for project why, and knew that I and only I had to do it, it was a serious challenge. This was not a matter of writing off one of the innumerable loans I have handed out with alacrity. This was to keep project why going. I never knew what a hydra headed monster it would turn out to be and how it would test my very spirit and soul. Over the years I have discovered to my chagrin that it is easier to get donations for tangible projects that show immediate results or to get them for individual cases rather than a multitude of beneficiaries. It has been unbelievably easy to raise funds for let us say a open heart surgery, but raising the same sum to run a class for a month is a herculean task. Project Why works with education in all hues and education is long haul.
Once again I am faced with trying to conjure from my invisible hat, a ‘rabbit’ that would ensure that my children can continue their journey with us till they have grown wings to fly on their own. So I ask myself the question: what is it that I am asking money for. I thought it would be hard to find an answer, but it came to my mind in a brightly lit flash. I am soliciting support so that Munna can continue laughing and little Ashu can continue enjoying his chocolate in the messiest of manners. Munna is a mentally challenged young man who has been with us for almost a decade and who would spend the his days wandering the streets of the slums and become an easy pray to all kinds of predators. And Sneha would roam unsafe and filthy lanes with danger lurking at every corner. Munna and Sneha need to be safe and happy long haul. But that is not all. If Munna did not have the project why family then he too could be one day brutally beaten as was the case yesterday in Calcutta when a handicapped beggar was brutally thrashed. As for Sneha, her coming to project why may ensure that she gets enrolled in a school and gets a proper education. After all let us not forget, she is just a girl.
But that is not all. I am asking money so that my children can run in green parks and get drenched in sunlight something that never enter their dark and tiny airless homes. So that they can play and compete against each other and of course laugh till they cry. The lives of slum children is not easy. They have to deal with violence in school as well as at home. Playing is not an easy option for them. We try our best to give them back a part of their usurped childhood. Playing is again long haul, is it not? So yes, I beg for money so that my kids can run and play to their hearts delight.
And above all the money I need helps children get a sound education. In Delhi today state run schools are in a poor conditions and in site of promised made with now tiring regularity nothing much changes on the ground. Children pass from class to class with little knowledge. We have students who have spent years on school benches and who can barely read. Parents are not able to afford private tuition and even if they do, it is often for the boys and rarely for the girls. The hours our children spend at project why enable them not only to learn, but also to top their classes and win scholarships and contest. However, learning again is a long term process and how can one possibly leave them in the lurch midway. They keep their side of the deal by presenting me with glowing report cards regularly; then how can I not keep mine by ensuring that our doors remain open.
Then there are dreams. Dreams that need to be fulfilled. Dreams of breaking the cycle of poverty in which most of my kids are born. Dreams to work in a big and brightly lit office and not have to push a vegetable cart in the scorching summer or freezing winter. Dreams of becoming a teacher or a computer engineer. And for those dreams I need to ask for more to be able to run skill imparting classes, computer centres, beautician training courses and even sponsoring singing, dance or art classes. Today many of our kids have fulfilled their aspirations and are working in the very offices they sought. Two of our alumni have opened their own beauty parlour and another has his own dance academy. Project why is about making dreams come true and what I ask is help to do just that!