Ribbons in her hair #GivingTuesday #India

 

Kajal
Kajal

Kid Speak is cute. There have been TV shows like “Kids Say the Darndest Things’” or books like “Children’s Letters to God” that always delight us and warm our hearts.  But the kind of Kid Speak we share today is the one that puts a lump in your throat and leaves you feeling heart broken and helpless.

I have made friends with school going children who live in the open at the Kalka Temple. Their parents are beggars. At night the family rolls out their beds under a narrow tin awning and in the day the same is rolled away and placed on some ledge or other with all the family’s belongings including the precious school bag. When asked why he had not gone to school, a little boy replied, “mama had to take my sister to the doctor. She has asked me to look after the bedding and make sure it does not get wet if it rains.” It was indeed a very cloudy day.

I was further enlightened when another child who had not gone to school said, ”We do not go to school when it rains as our uniforms get wet and would not dry for the next day.” I came to know that most kids have just one set of uniforms and thus the need of it drying is critical.

When I asked a little boy if he wanted toys to play with I was told almost dismissively,”I only like to study!”  Do these kids intuitively know that learning may make a difference in their lives?

When I enquired about a little girl who had a high fever I was told that she had gone to school. Before I could react another kid told me, ”You see, if she had stayed here she would have been running around; in school she will be able to rest.” Yet another lesson.

These children struggle to survive with whatever dignity they can muster. It is touching to see how a mother spends that little bit of extra time tying the ribbons in the hair of her daughter as she readies her for school on a open stretch of road or how she goes haring down to see who had brought in the tastiest offering so that the child can have a better breakfast (people bring food early mornings as offerings to the deity).

I was surprised to see a beggar woman sitting on a step with het two school going children and holding a copy book and a pencil. She was helping her kids with their homework. I asked her if she had been to school and she proudly answered, ”I have studied till class III!”.

One wonders what brought her to where she is now.

To many of us, beggars are the pesky children that knock at our car window at red lights. But that is not who they really are. They are all people with a story, a story that needs to be heard.To know more about ‘beggars’ do read this article: Oh, that pesky Beggar…why doesn’t the Police take him away?

We at Project Why are working on getting these children the extra education they need.

Hope you will join us!

 

 

To do or die #GivingTuesday #India

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This week’s blog has to be written in first person as it symbolises the very spirit of Project Why. For the past weeks as we set out to ‘makeover’ Project Why to make it presentable to a wider audience I have been asked the question about whether we want to increase our numbers and the answer has been a firm no! “Never say never” to quote Dickens’s  I should know more than anyone else as this has been the silent maxim we have followed in our quest to answer why’s. So my answer should have been worded differently: No, unless the need arises.

For the past six weeks I have been doing a daily pilgrimage to the Kalka Temple. For those who have never been to this temple it is difficult to imagine the surroundings. To reach the sancto sanctorum you have to wade through absolute filth that can range from remnants of food to dog and even human excrement; you need to navigate the sleeping bodies of beggars who lie helter skelter; you have to ward off the millions of flies that attack you. But faith conquers all and I have never felt disturbed by any of this.

What has disturbed me deeply though are the number of children of school going age that run around the place. In the morning you do meet some all dressed up in their school uniforms being taken to school by their parents but there are still too many loitering around the whole day.

You have to know Project Why to understand that we, or rather I, could not remain a mute spectator or be deterred by the cynical comment of a few. Something needs to be done to help these children. It took me no time to find out that the school- going kids had no after school support. There seemed to have been someone once but ‘she’ left and ‘she’ charged money was what one parent told me.

When I asked whether they would like us to teach the children the answer was an overwhelming yes from both parents and teachers. I then asked one mother whether we would find some place and she immediately said she would do so. I was touched by her enthusiasm but a little , too. Imagine my surprise when the very next day she came to me beaming informing me that she had talked to the person in charge of the night shelter and that the person had agreed.

From that day, every morning I am met by the children who often bring more children, all willing to attend the classes they want us to hold. I feel a tad ashamed at not having acted yet, but the process is on and if all goes well, we could begin soon. The question of not doing so does not arise. As I have always believed and stated Project Why is not ‘to question why but to do and die’.

That is what we have always been and would like to be for times to come.

We have been asked why we do not have a three year activities plan? The answer is simple: because we do not know what and when the next why will come our way.

I hope that all those who have know and care for Project Why understand what I mean.

Good touch Bad touch #GivingTuesday #India #children

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Statistics show that over 8000 children get raped in India every year. Wonder how many get sexually abused and yet the state is unwilling to include sex education in schools. Perhaps it is because it is thought that this would not make a difference.

An incident occurred recently and  showed how well planned, age appropriate and straightforward sex education could contain this shameful crime.

A young seven year old who was born and brought up outside India and thus had been taught age appropriate sexual education reacted firmly when he felt that that his body was being ‘invaded’ . Actually it was far from that as he was just being asked to have a bath and he did not want to but to his mind it was his body and we respect that thought. In ‘good touch bad touch’ classes young children are taught to take ownership of their bodies and can only be touched if it OK with them. This very simple lesson could save many children from abuse. Abusers play on fear and silence, the moment these are taken away the perpetrator loses his power.

These lessons should be taught in schools and part of the curriculum. But that is not the case in India.

Good Touch Bad Touch may be taught in schools for the privileged that have counsellors. Classes are run by professionals but came at a price. And above all parents are aware and thus able to help the child. But that is not the case in state run schools and poor homes where sex is taboo.

Child abuse is not confined to the odd criminal deranged mind. These exist but the real abuse comes from within the homes or the neighbourhood where a firm NO can do the trick.

How long will children have to wait and how many more children will be abused before the penny drops.

She begged so that children could eat

Sindhutai-Sapkal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I fist heard of Sindhutai many years ago when I was researching ‘good news’ stories for a friend. Her story was a true inspiration more so when I felt reluctant to ‘ask’ for money. I wrote about her way back in 2011 and as I reread the words I penned then, it all seems so true even today. In a nutshell you do not need to be rich to help others all you need is a big heart and Sindhutai’s is larger than any one else’s.

If you do not know her story, read it here. It is humbling and inspiring. Over the years she has been lauded and feted and things should have remained thus.

Sindhutai is all heart and people who are all heart just follow their heart; in her case from one child in need to another. Paperwork and official stamps can be overlooked as there is so much to be done. She has been trying to get her work registered for years but many hitches came along the way and she has now been asked to shut her orphanages by the State Government.

This is outrageous more so in a land where children are in need of every little bit of love they can get and she has that in abundance.

Her work is incredible and she needs to be helped.

There is a petition on line that I urge you to sign.

It seems that the petition has caught the attention of the powers that be and I hope that they will act.

If not then all that is good may just be destroyed.

 

..but for that child the world will change #GivingTuesday #India

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Clarisse and Xavier have not ‘adopted’ Utpal legally but are nevertheless his French ‘parents’, and do everything a ‘parent’ would : loving him unconditionally and being there for him. Nothing proves that better than the story of a cricketer of yesteryear who ‘adopted’ the son of their laundry man, providing all the support he needed to succeed. Succeed he did: his latest gift to his ‘adoptive ‘ parents a swank Mercedes Benz. There were no need of papers and documents to seal the relationship all that was needed was love.

A recent article stated the sad fact that adoptions numbers were decreasing in India. The reason stated is paperwork! Another reason” surrogacy. Indians parents prefer adopting babies under one and will never adopt a differently abled child or a sick one. Adoption agencies have a glut of 3 to 4 years waiting for adoption. These will become 5, 6 and then 7 and one day become 18 year old when the law of the land does not give any further protection.

This reality was brought to light when last week a member of the Child Welfare Committee asked us whether we knew families that would be able to act as foster parents to children of dysfunctional families who are institutionalised. They cannot be adopted as they have natural parents. The conditions in institutions in India are far from the enabling environment a child needs to grow in as children with criminal backgrounds are placed with children from abusive homes. The risk of the child going the wrong way looms large. The children in question were from 1 to 10. Though we promised to try we knew it would be difficult if not impossible. And yet we knew how real the danger was.

Reaching out to a child with or without papers is all about love. As someone said: the adoption process can be challenging but love is instant! There are so many children who need us to open our hearts and let them in.

Yes ‘adopting’ a child will not change the world but for that child the world will change

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