What does a birthday celebration mean to you? Is it something you look forward to? Has it become something like for me, is mostly an annual reminder that you are getting older …something you would perhaps rather forget?
Over these past few weeks my team (Project help India) in Northern India, through their work has had the privilege of bringing tears of joy and happiness to some special peoplw who have celebrated their birthday. The birthday stories of Tamanna (one of our teachers) and Abhishek (one of our students) give us a beautiful and powerful glimpse into the very heart of what it means to be human… you are loved, valued, appreciated and your identity – ‘who you are’ is honoured and celebrated. There is dignity in this, something that we can very much take for granted in the midst of our many western comforts.
At 'Project Help India' our cause is simple and powerful. It is love in action, and our mission is to bring love, hope, dignity and purpose to the poor.
Abhishek’s first ever birthday cake
Abhishek is a student of our city centre. He caught polio as a child and lost the use of his right hand. Abhishek’s mother and father have no work or income due to COVID. The family lives in a dirty rented single room in the slum, with no electricity. To make matters worse, due to their son’s disability the family is treated by many like Abhishek is a curse. Abhishek’s father is an alcoholic and he is violent at home. He spends any income on liquor. Domestic violence and an empty stomach are Abhishek’s constant companions. Through the ongoing lockdown, Project Help has regularly given the mother counselling, and regular food supplies so that they have something to eat.
One day at our Project Help school the children were asked to give their birthday. Abhishek was quiet, saying he did not know his birthday. When we checked with his mother, she said this was true. She also did not know the date and the family had never celebrated a day. So, on 14th January, when our Director Amit had his birthday, all attention was turned to Abhishek. He cried when we surprised him for his twelfth birthday and he cut a cake for the very first time. You can see this beautiful moment captured on video here. (skip to the two-minute mark for English).
Our teacher, Tamanna’s birthday
Tamanna is one of our dedicated teachers who works in our Slum Disability Centre. Tamanna is from a very poor Muslim family, and like Abhishek, she has never celebrated her birthday. The priority for her family has always been to pay for the children’s school fees, so there has never been any money left for gifts or a cake.
Just yesterday (30th January) we celebrated Tamanna’s 24th birthday with a special party for the whole staff team. There were lovely speeches, prayers, gifts, a delicious meal and of course, a birthday cake. As Tamanna cut a birthday cake for the very first time in her life, she burst into tears of joy and happiness. Gipsa, our Administration Officer writes:
"It always fills every staff member with pride and blessed feelings to be a part of an organisation who always thinks about their employees in the best way, bestowing the best of their love, care and affection on each one of us. Project Help is not an organisation but a real family. It always fulfils the dreams of happiness of their staff members. May God bless Project Help abundantly, and we pray for Tamanna’s better future."
We need your help to keep the cakes and tears coming
My work at Project help India really needs your help to keep some of our projects going this year. Due to the additional resources that we are directing towards our COVID response, we are very much aware that many of our ongoing projects are financially challenged. Could you consider joining our story by giving a small weekly donation? A donation $10 or $20 a week makes a significant difference to the lives of the poor…and will definitely contribute to keeping the birthday cakes and happy tears coming across the year.
It's cricket season here in Australia and last week I was fortunate to be at the fourth day of the India vs Australia test match at the SCG. I love being at the game each year, especially because I always sit with my son. How sad and disappointing that this game was marred by racist jeers yelled by some spectators. Racism is ugly. I am so embarrassed and disgusted that this happened in my home town. I apologise to my Indian friends and families for this. Racism is something I work hard to fight both as an educator and in my social justice work in India.
Just this week however, I was so proud of my Indian friends and the team at Project Help India, for your wonderful efforts to help the youth in Pokri. I wish I could have been with you and hopefully soon I can travel to work alongside you again. At least I can share this inspiring story that centres around the awesome game of cricket...
Cricket in India, is a national obsession. The first cricket match in India was recorded in 1721 when a group of British sailors gathered to play in Western India. Today, cricket is the most popular sport in the country and celebrity cricketers are amongst the wealthiest and most idolised members of Indian society.
Cricket in India is played in the largest of arenas across the country, on the streets and sidewalks, on open fields and in empty building blocks. When you travel through India, you see children and adults alike playing cricket on every street - in the scorching summer heat and during the heavy monsoon rains. The poor will use sticks as cricket stumps and a fence paling for a bat. It is no different in the most remote of places …like the mountain village of Pokri for instance, located in the lower foothills of the Indian Himalayas, 50 kilometres from Kotdwara where ‘Project Help’ is based.
This week it was a game of cricket that connected Pokri with our Project Help story
Pokri is arid and quite barren. It is very hot in summer and absolutely freezing in winter. The people here have limited access to life’s most basic needs. They rely on the fruits and vegetables grown in their gardens. Some rice, wheat and basic supplies can be bought at a price from the local government grocery store. The people in Pokri have no access to medical care and the standard of a child’s education is very poor. Their lives are at the mercy of the seasons and the vicious impact of poverty.
Yet, there is a strong sense of community in Pokri. Life’s pleasures are few and simple. It is often the shared experience of cricket that brings youth and young people together. The game also brings joy and happiness. Here in Pokri a cricket match on the side of the road is no less important for the young people, as is watching the current India vs Australia test match on an old television or from a mobile phone.
So, this week, our Director, Mr Amit Samuel was invited to Pokri to officiate a cricket competition. Gipsa, our Administrative Officer writes;
The young boys of this village and nearby places are blessed with good games and athletic skills, so this year they have organised a cricket tournament, in which a lot of local teams have taken part. These boys choose Mr. Amit Samuel (Founder and President of Project Help India) as their chief guest to inaugurate their cricket tournament, as they think that Mr. Amit Samuel is an inspiration for the youth because of his dedication towards the underprivileged people of the society. Today (15th January) Mr. Amit Samuel did the inauguration for the cricket tournament by ribbon cutting ceremony. These youth club members have honoured Mr. Amit Sir with flower garlands, a shoulder cloth and a small memento.
Amit delivered an inspiring message for the people and assured the youth that in the coming days he will do something to help them. Amit Samuel noticed that these young boys have really brilliant skills of playing cricket and they have amazing athletic skills.
We count this as a big day when the young boys and girls are getting inspiration from Mr. Amit Samuel. These young people, the next generation of community leaders are wanting to learn from Amit and Project Help. We see this as a powerful and authentic way for our work to continue to expand.
Our vision is to continue our work in Pokri and other similar small mountain villages. We plan to provide programs for youth educating them about the dangers of alcohol and drugs, anti-human trafficking awareness, hygiene, women’s health, along with the many other things that contribute to empowering people and growing a healthy and hopeful community.
And of course, we look forward to the second annual cricket tournament. Before then we will explore the possibility of sponsoring a team of these young athletes to participate in a cricket tournament in one of the large regional cities ...who knows where this may lead, but it's an exciting prospect.
To achieve our goals for everything we will do at Project Help in 2021 we are setting an ambitious (and somewhat audacious) target of raising $100 000 (AUS). This will equate to approximately a 25% increase in our 2020 expenditure. This might be unrealistic, but our heart and hopes are big, and this is why we are reaching out to you for help. We could achieve this amount if 100 people each give $20 (tax deductible) a week across the full year …so please spread the world. Your donation will help the young adults of Pokri Village. Can you ask friends or work colleagues to help us? Please share this story on your social media - especially to those who love cricket. If you can make a donation that would be wonderful too. You can do this at www.projecthelpindia.co
Samuel (left) - a student filled with hope for his future
Neelam (centre)- a teacher armed with purpose for her students and village
Sunita (right) - a mother with her dignity restored
At Project Help India, our cause is simple and powerful. It is love in action.
Our mission is to bring love, hope, dignity and purpose to the poor.
Over these past few weeks, I have received 3 separate stories about 3 people -a student at one of our schools, one of our teachers, and the other, a mother from the slum community where we work - each a direct beneficiary of our work and mission. It is such a privilege to share these 3 beautiful stories with you. This blog is a little longer than usual, but I’m sure you too will be delighted to read such heart-warming stories, each filled with hope and happiness, at a time when we hear mostly sad and depressing news about the world around us. Thank you for making this love in action possible. Your love, help and generosity is inextricably intertwined in each one of these three stories. So, go make yourself a cup of tea, and enjoy the read!
Samuel – a story of hope
Samuel attends our Malluwala School in Punjab. He is 13 years old. His father, Yunas and mother, Paramjeet, are both laborers and earn only enough to survive. Samuel is a 6th class student. He struggled with his school work and needed extra support and attention in class. This was not at all possible in the local government school where the student-teacher ratio is very poor. Two years ago Samuel and his two elder sisters Reetu and Kirpa joined our school. Initially he was not able to study and he was incredibly shy and quiet. He would not interact with anyone in the class, not even with fellow classmates.
Samuel’s teacher called his parents and his mother came to meet us. We discussed with her how Samuel presented in class and everyone was extremely worried about his learning and future. Our teachers started paying extra attention to him, so that Samuel could be a more confident student. Within two or three months he started improving and began to open up and talk about his problems with teachers. Now he is becoming good in studies and his parents are satisfied. He has started taking part in other activities as well. On India's Independence Day we asked students to sing a patriotic song in front of everyone. Samuel came forward to sing a solo. His grades are improving and he is now up there with our brightest of students. He is very confident in making decisions and we believe he will continue to advance in his studies.
Neelam – a story of purpose
Neelam is 21 years old. She is doing her final year of teacher training before graduation. Neelam’s father Mr. Charan Singh is a daily wage labour. Her mother Mrs. Vaijayanti is cook in our Jungle village Bagnala. Neelam has three sisters and one brother, and they all are students in a government school in Kotdwara.
Neelam belongs to the Bogsa tribe, living in the dense forest Bagnala about 15 kilometres away from Kotdwara. Neelam says she has faced many challenges in her life. She is the first girl in her village to ever receive an education. In her village the people believed that it is shameful to send girls out of their homes. Neelam and her family would be teased and taunted; “girls are born to get married and do housework, not to study” her neighbours would say. “Why teach girls! Teaching girls is of no use,” many would tell her. Neelam however, was determined to study and somehow, she managed to get to school each day, which was 13 kms away from her home. This was scary, because of the jungle all around. There are wild animals and the fear of leopard and wild elephants is a normal risk. There were also bad people not of good character on the route to the school, who could harm Neelam. Despite these things, Neelam never gave up and the support of her family never faded. Neelam graduated from senior school. She received an education!
Neelam never wanted anyone else to face such problems to get education. She wanted the children of her village to receive an education so she approached Project Help and asked if they could set up a school and she would be the teacher. With her quiet determination and humility, Neelam proved everyone wrong, especially the many who thought that educating a girl to be shameful. Neelam herself helped people to understand that education is as necessary and as basic as the food we eat. By her individual efforts, and as an employee of Project Helps Neelam now teaches 44 students in her village. She has been doing this for 5 years. She works hard, she loves her teaching and she is dedicated to the care and wellbeing of her students.
Neelam says that earlier before she met with Mr. Amit Samuel (Director of Project Help India) her family was suffering from some curse. From his birth, her brother Priyanshu, was continuously ill with no doctor able to cure him. But once when Mr. Amit Samuel visited her house in the year 2015 and prayed for the family Priyanshu recovered from his weakness within a month and the family observed many changes in him. He is now 9 years old, and a fine, fit boy.
For Neelam the best part of ‘Project Help’ is attending the annual SHINE Conference. Neelam says she has attended the Conference for the last two years and has enjoyed it a lot. She says that SHINE Conference is equally useful and knowledgeable for her and her community. She came to know a lot of facts about her body after attending this conference. She further says it becomes easy for her to make the ladies of her village understand the importance of hygiene and health awareness. Neelam has brought 50 ladies and girls from her village to Kotdwara for the conference. This is an amazing achievement, because the men in her village believe that ladies are objects to be hidden, and they should never be allowed to leave the home. But the men now know and respect Neelam so they send the ladies to the conference. Neelam says “SHINE Conference is of much need for the ladies of her village as they know nothing about the facts that are discussed in the Conference.”
Thanks to Neelam, the women are learning for themselves, empowered in the new knowledge and awareness they have of the value and importance placed on themselves and their daughters. There is now a new awareness for a new generation of girls and young women in the village. Even the boys that Neelam teaches are having their minds and attitudes changed about girls and their sisters.
We think that Neelam is one of the most inspirational women ever, and we are so proud that she is a member of the 'Project Help’ team.
Sunita – a story of dignity
Mrs. Sunita Devi, a mother of three, from the Kotdwara slums works as domestic help. Her husband works as a daily wage labour in a paint shop. This week she came to Project Help office in Kotdwara with an urgent appeal to help. Sunita says it’s her daughter’s wedding and she has no food supplies for the function. Due to the Coronavirus spread and the lockdown of four months, all of her savings are now finished. It is the ultimate humiliation and loss of dignity to host a wedding with no food for your guests.
Sunita said she had heard from many people that Project Help India helps the needy people, so she too came to receive help from us. Listening to her story, Mr. Amit Samuel immediately supplied some dry rations and all the other food supplies that she needed for the wedding. The Project Help team also offered lots of blessings and good luck for the special day. Project Help will also provide a lovely wedding gift for the bride and groom.
The family is now so grateful to Project Help India. Sunita was speechless when she received the food, and she did not even have the words to repay her thanks. She prayed for the team and Australian sponsors and gave them a lot of blessings from the bottom of her heart.
Thank you for your generous help and support
Please do not underestimate the SIGNIFICANT difference that you have made in these 3 people’s lives, and many more people too. My team is doing a brilliant job making every dollar count, and go where it is most needed. You can make a tax deductible donation simply by clicking one of the DONATE buttons at www.projecthelpindia.co.
In an era with the most incredible technology, knowledge, economic development and financial resources we believe that poverty is a moral outrage.
Poverty is not solely an economic issue, but rather a multidimensional phenomenon that encompasses a lack of both income and the basic capabilities for people to be able to live in dignity.
In Australia, 13.6% of the population, or 3.24 million people, live below the poverty line. This includes 17.7% of all children in Australia (about 800 000 children under the age of 15). More than one in eight adults and one in six children live below the poverty line in Australia.
In the United States, 11.8% of the population, or 38.1 million people, live in poverty.
In India, 4% of the population or 53 million, live in extreme poverty on less than $2AUS a day. These people have limited or no access to social benefits or services.
Possibly, the country presently most impacted by poverty is Nigeria, with an overall population of about 191 million, the rate of extreme poverty is much higher – 44% are estimated to live in poverty.
Experts have identified that the eradication of poverty is possible
The World Bank projects that it is possible to end extreme poverty by 2030. However, this would take a heroic effort. Globally the number of people in poverty will have to decrease by 50 million each year. That is the equivalent of about a million people each week for the next 15 years.
Surely, this is our moral imperative.
The heroic efforts of Project Help India
Thanks to your support, our teams in Kotdwara, Bijnor and now in Punjab are working incredibly hard to help the poorest of the poor. We do this by responding to people’s immediate needs such as their hunger, and perhaps even more importantly through our holistic programs These programs don’t just provide a healthy meal but aim to get to the root of the cause bringing generational impact and long-lasting change.
As well as a healthy meal we provide dignity and hope for the future.
Just in these past 7 days, 'Project Help India' has…
- Educated and fed 450 children
- For the United Nations ‘International Day of the Girl Child' on 11th October, we raised awareness of the needs of girls and young women. Forty girls, aged 13 to 19 years attended a special seminar which focussed on the importance of them each receiving an education. This seminar was attended by local dignitaries, members of the police including Deputy Superintendent Mr Anil Joshi, and we received attention in the local newspaper.
- We provided educational awareness through our World Food Day program on 16th October. See videos here.
- We had some fun …celebrating Neelam’s Birthday. He honour Neelam for her remarkable efforts teaching the children at our Bagnala Village Centre. Neelam has an inspiring story which shows how with courage and determination, the vicious cycle of poverty can be broken. We will share her story with you soon.
If you are interested to learn more about poverty
The World Poverty Clock provides a very interesting interactive website that helps you to look at poverty data that has been adjusted to include the impact of COVID-19. If you are a data geek, we highly recommend that you check this out.
How you can help Project Help India
You can make your tax deductible donation by clicking HERE. As you click the link, scroll to the bottom of the page, then click the ‘SUPPORT THIS PROJECT NOW' button. Ensure that you are donating to (WYG-IND-PHI-2020). Please also email me to tell me of your donation because unfortunately, due to privacy legislation, Entrust cannot give us the names and details of our donors).
OR if tax deductibility is not required, your EFT donation can be made at
BSB: 062 230 (Commonwealth Bank Randwick)
Account: 1134 1909
Account Name: Project Help India
Please write your name in the reference section so that we can thank you. OR reply and tell me that you have made a donation.
Please share the Project Help India story on your social media.
With love and sincere gratitude
Three words, desperation, love and hope are central to the story of being human. At times we may feel like we have nothing left, desperate, with no sense that things can get better …at this point a hand reaches to help and provide, to touch and show that you are loved and there is hope.
At Project Help India we are working incredibly hard to be that hand that reaches to help, intervening with love at times when people are most desperate. Unfortunately, with COVID, too many people are desperate and we just can’t help everyone. This is why we are asking for your continued financial support during these most desperate of days.
It took more than five months for India to reach the bleak milestone of a million cases of the novel coronavirus. The next million came in just 21 days. The third million was faster still: 16 days. The increase in cases is unlikely to ebb any time soon, experts say, as a galloping outbreak spreads to new parts of the country and political leaders continue to reopen the economy. Last week, India recorded the highest one-day jump in new cases – more than 77,000 – anywhere in the world since the pandemic began. The virus has now spread throughout India, the world’s second most populous country, reaching even isolated indigenous tribes. The pandemic has also crippled economic activity – experts believe the economy contracted by 20 per cent in the three months to June – with only faint signs of recovery.
So, what can a small charity like Project Help do in such a huge country? We provide love and hope to desperate people, that’s what we do. We extend our hands to connect with people’s lives, connecting with their story. We show them love by helping them.
Here are three powerful stories from this week;
Project Help has intervened to help a community of people in Chandigarh, in the state of Punjab. Thanks to the generosity of a wonderful family in Sydney, an entire school community of 97 children and 4 teachers have been given a lifeline. Their school has been saved and the children continue to be educated and fed, at a time when the childrens' very poor parents who are suffering daily with minimal opportunities for work, are unable to provide for their family.
In Kotdwara we receive calls from desperate people on a daily basis. Due to positive COVID cases, areas within Kotdwara have been completely shut off from the rest of the town. Our Project worker writes about two women who we have recently helped;
This lady is Mrs. Hazrati (above left), she lives in Lakdi Padao that has been sealed since last 24 days. Her husband committed suicide due to the lockdown and depression he was facing due to the loses he faced during this COVID-19. Now this lady goes to other houses to do some domestic chores and get some money but now due to the area seal that is also not possible. So she informed us and Project Help team went to her locality and distributed her the essential food supplies. She broke into tears after receiving the help.
Today Mrs. Urmila (above right)came crying to our office of Project Help asking for some help, she said that they had nothing to eat as her husband have no work and she too, has no earning source. Due to Corona Virus spread people are not allowing the domestic help to come to their house and therefore they have no earnings and hence nothing to eat. Urmila is of 30 yrs. Urmila is wife of Mr. Kishanpal (38 years), he is a daily wage labour. Urmila is mother of 2 children Abhishek (12 years) and Aditya (11 years). Urmila’s life is full of challenges. Her elder son Abhishek is a polio sufferer. He is helpless from his right hand. He is poor in studies too. Urmila says she is ignored by her in laws family because of Abhishek, as her family thinks Abhishek’s condition is a result of some curse. Urmila is living in conditions that could hardly be called liveable. She lives in a dirty slum in a rented single room where there is no proper electricity facility. Urmila is now provided with food supplies and other necessities. She broke into tears after receiving the packets, she was so happy that she started praising Project Help.
When you look closely at the logo of our charity Project Help India, you will see our hand, your hand (thank you), reaching with love and bringing hope to the desperate circumstances of beautiful people. Let’s never forget that all of this is a two way transaction. We too are blessed when we give and connect with another human …family, friends, neighbours, strangers and those you may never meet in some remote part of India.
Love for today is hope for tomorrow.
I can’t help but have a bounce in my step at the moment. The sun is shining and Spring is in the air. It is such a privilege to have a job where I work with children every day. I never want to take this experience for granted. Children are filled with energy, hope and optimism. Their sincerity, curiosity and sense of wonder are such gifts, and each of us as adults need more of this enthusiasm for life. I understand what Jesus meant when He said;
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3). The Passion Translation refers to the “the wide-eyed wonder of a child” – how beautiful is this?
28th August is ‘Daffodil Day’ here in Australia. I love daffodils. For me, they represent the end of winter. Spring has sprung, the sun is shining, we have longer days and there is warmth in the air. Recently in our newsletter I wrote that “Winter is a season of recovery and preparation” (Paul Theroux) – but now we are on the cusp of Spring. Even with much uncertainty, we are entering a season of optimism, growth and hope. We must boldly fight for hope, and be determined, confident and intentional in working toward our ‘hopes’ for the future. Spring represents, for me, a season of having faith and believing that life will, (not might), bring many new possibilities. This week, I have been personally challenged by a powerful thought, which for me will become my 2020 Spring mantra;
We can’t accept God’s invitation to help create a new story unless we are willing to take action. We become partners with God when we act in unfamiliar, untested ways. Those new actions will be guided by a preferred future that embraces:
- resilience in place of growth
- collaboration in place of consumption
- wisdom in place of progress
- balance in place of addiction
- moderation in place of excess
- vision in place of convenience
- accountability in place of disregard
- self-giving love in place of self-centred fear
I would also add, relationships and respect in place of division.
As broken-hearted as God must be over what we have done to the gift of creation, God still has a dream… God dreams that humans seek spiritual rather than material progress. God’s dream envisions a just world at peace because gratitude has dissolved anxiety and generosity has eclipsed greed. God dreams of a time when love and mutual respect will bind humanity together, and the profound beauty of creation will be treasured. Let us embrace God’s dream as our own. Suddenly, the horizon of our hope comes nearer. As we live into God’s dream, we will rediscover who we truly are and all of creation will be singing. God’s Dream for Creation – Centre for Action and Contemplation
At Easter, we celebrated the resurrection life that Jesus brings. The season of Spring reminds us that now is the time to embrace the promises and benefits of a faith-filled, resurrection life.
I have already mentioned that today is Daffodil Day. As one of the first flowers of Spring, the daffodil symbolises rebirth and new beginnings, as well as hope for the future. I am mindful that we have families in our school community who have loved ones fighting an ongoing battle with cancer. My prayers are with you for good health, healing and a full recovery.
How about buying a bunch of daffodils this weekend for someone you know who is going through a tough time OR making a donation to the Cancer Council? Daffodil Day is a day to remember all those whose lives have been touched by cancer. It’s a day to honour them, and to invest in cancer research so we can ensure a cancer-free tomorrow comes sooner rather than later.
Let’s show our children that life is fabulous, that hope is not a vague sense of what we would like to see happen, but rather, hope is surety in Christ and the life that He gives. Hope is marked by determined action and courageous choices… may these things characterise our families and school community, where we embrace God’s dream as our own.
Through the centuries Clare (Clare of Assisi, 1194-1253) has continued to be a beacon of light to women and men who long to love Christ with an undivided heart, to serve others generously, and to live simply in a world that glorifies material possessions. If we have too many clothes in our closets, too much money in the bank, too many things cluttering our lives, Clare can help us find the one thing necessary—God who will liberate and fill our emptiness with divine love. Our conversion process may take time—sometimes years—but we will experience freedom and joy when we live with a loose grasp on material things, when we are willing to share our possessions as well as our time and energy with those in need. . . .
How often do we take a deep breath and appreciate—really appreciate—the air we breathe? How often do we savour the food we taste and smell the flowers along our path? When was the last time we listened to our child, laughed with a friend, embraced our spouse? It is true that the best things in life are free, but we are often too distracted or too busy to see the simple treasures of life right in front of us. - (Richard Rohr 1st July)
This week is International Refugee Week. Through my work with ‘Project Help India’ we are committed to respond to the needs of those who are displaced, like the family whose house is shown in the photo. If you have a spare moment, look closely at the images above and below. I took the photo about a year ago in the city of Haridwar, near to where I spoke to a roadside gathering of children and parents as part of ‘Operation Freedom’, a police led community program which aimed to stop kids from street begging and to get them enrolled into schools. I was embarrassed to take this photo but I was captured by what I was looking at. Heart broken and crying, I just stood there, imagining the life and circumstances of this incredibly poor family.
…But look at the photos. You are looking at a home made out of rubbish, located in a car park, 100 metres from the "mighty" Ganges River. There would be at least 6 people living here. Imagine if this was your home, what hopes would you have for your future? If you were the father, what dignity and sense of worth would you have as you thought about your ability to provide and care for your family. If you were the mother, what confidence and what fears would you have for the health, education and safety of your children? These thoughts, feelings and fears are the reality for countless millions of refugees today.
Statistics tell us that there are approximately 200 000 refugees in India. However, if you stretch the definition, there are countless millions upon millions, who, impacted by the vicious cycle of poverty, are displaced - forced to move from their home to relocate from rural villages to look for work in the city. Many of these people, including children, live on the streets or in slums with little or no access to adequate sanitation, health care, education and advocacy. Because of the caste system in India, these people are ostracised and targeted. At ‘Project Help India’ we work alongside these most vulnerable people, providing schooling, nutritious meals, health check-ups, counselling and delivering short courses to up-skill young people for employment. Our parenting awareness programs teach mothers and fathers about the very real dangers of their children being exploited and trafficked. These most vulnerable children often disappear or have been sold by their parents who believed a lie that their child would have a better future rather than endure their present circumstances. It’s all incredibly sad…but with your help we are making a difference, and bringing love, dignity and purpose to the lives of some of the most vulnerable people on the planet.
During COVID-19 the numbers of people in India who are currently testing positive, is rapidly on the rise. We have grave concerns for the well-being and safety of many, and we are preparing for an influx of more displaced people over the coming months.
This ‘World Refugee Day’ we can have awareness, empathy, compassion and make a difference. Your donation to ‘Project Help India’ will be used to help some beautiful families who are displaced, and who live a life that is so terribly different from all of our Western comforts. With the Australian tax-year finishing in just 10 days, your donation is tax deductible…it’s a perfect time to help us to help others. Go to www.projecthelpindia.co
Recently, I have noticed an emerging and consistent theme in the conversations I’ve had with friends, colleagues and many others. Just this week I was on a Zoom meeting, catching up with friends from around the world (literally); friends from India, Kong Kong, the Netherlands, Italy, South Africa and England, and this is what they had to say…
“I’m worn out”
“I’m feeling run down”
“Not another Zoom meeting!”
“I wish I knew where this is all heading”
“This COVID is catching up with me.”
“I’m just over all of this”
This meeting really was a collection of individuals from around the globe, and the feedback of us all feeling ‘tired and fatigued’ was powerfully consistent. My friend from Mumbai said that the situation in his country is very depressing at the moment, especially in the densely populated slums. Over 15 000 people are diagnosed with COVID-19 a day in India. There is little hope for an easing of their current lockdown restrictions. The communities I work with are becoming less optimistic with worry, fear and fatigue creeping into the tone of their voice. How’s that for perspective! We are so blessed to be living in Australia.
With these thoughts, I offer the simple perspective of “let’s hang in there together”-keeping our eyes on the coming school holiday break, we need to stay patient and positive, yet be sensitive to the fact that many in our community are fatiguing and people need help. You yourself may need help, and I encourage you to reach out and connect with others.
Over these past three months our school has communicated a consistent message about how we can stay resilient and strong. Research highlighting five ways to promote wellbeing in challenging times is certainly worth revisiting as we start to feel a sense of fatigue. This research identified five behaviours that people can undertake to stay emotionally, socially and psychologically healthy. These behaviours are;
- connecting with others
- being active
- being aware and present in the moment
- ongoing learning, and;
- giving and helping others.
My School Counsellor (Ms Catherine McKersie) wrote an excellent article which summarises this research here.
“Giving and Helping Others Performing acts of kindness to others has shown to have benefits for your own well-being. Research has shown altruistic behaviour activates the area of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust and means your brain releases endorphins. Giving your time, giving your words, giving your attention to listen to someone at this time can mean so much to that other person. But it can also be good for you. Reaching out to someone can mean taking a risk. If you let someone know you are worried about them and ask them how they are going - even if they say they’re ok, your gesture has let them know someone cares enough to reach out and try to make that connection." Ms Catherine McKersie’s (School Counsellor)
Here at Claremont, we are mindful that this research applies to children, as much as it does to adults. Our teaching, activities, opportunities for involvement and other educational priorities will continue to focus on these five points right up to the final bell next Friday afternoon. One focus this coming week will be the act of helping others, and being mindful of those who are in need and less fortunate than ourselves. I am delighted that our Year 6 student leaders are organising a number of charity fundraising activities for us next week, to help the Salvation Army ‘Red Shield Appeal’ culminating in our school uniform free ‘Go Crazy Mufti day’ next Friday. Whilst the students' fundraising target is $400, I encourage our parents community to dig deep and to be generous. Rather than just giving your children some extra gold coins, encourage your children to have a baking or craft sale this weekend or to do some extra jobs around the house, so that they are actually making a conscious and deliberate act to earn some gold coins for their Mufti Day. I believe that this is where a sense of satisfaction, a healthy mindset, and healing can be found. In other words, it is good to be ‘strategic’ in our generosity, and there are many benefits not just for the recipient.”
I am excited for all that next week has to offer and am confident that our school is very well positioned to handle whatever challenges, big or small, might be ahead for us all. We can more than just “hang in there” - we can have an excellent week filled with new opportunities for learning, nice surprises, growth, lots of fun, and much happiness together, empowered by knowing that our loving and merciful God is with us each and every day.
Jesus said - “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. Simply join your life with mine. Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle, humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me. For all that I require of you will be pleasant and easy to bear.” Matthew 11:28-30
Mr Doug Thomas
As we continue to make sense of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, this week we have also been confronted with and tried to make sense of the ugly face of racism seen in the USA, and indeed across the world. I expect that you share with me the feelings of anger and sense of horror in response to this situation. The #blacklivesmatter movement has become an urgent and necessary voice for change.
How timely, that this week in Australia it is ‘Reconciliation Week’ as we continue to work for healing, justice and a more tolerant and inclusive nation. It is so important that as a school we are teaching children to understand and apply these principles, values and attitudes to their lives… and equally that we are teaching the children through the modelling and personal example of our own lives. Surely, this is one of the most important starting points in a child’s education. It is also at the heart of being ‘inspired for life’, following Jesus’ example and His teachings, living and working towards peace in our world.
I believe that all that #blacklivesmatter movement represents, is foundational to a healthy community and is something that we must constantly reinforce and advocate for in our society. For the past five years, this has been a clearly stated priority for our school (think of our International Day last year and our annual support of the White Ribbon Day). At our Parent Vision 2020 Evening in February I spoke about the importance of us being a school community that demonstrates authentic love in action. 2020 was to be a year “framed by God’s love”. Little did I realise that what I spoke about and followed up in the newsletter that week, what was in store for us this year. Here is an excerpt from our Newsletter, 14th February;
May we be a school that is characterised by anti-racism, tolerance, an understanding of differences, inclusion and respect for one another. May we be a school that celebrates the many rich cultures and traditions, reflecting our diverse multicultural backgrounds. Let’s start and finish all we do with gratitude and appreciation and have a sense of excitement about the opportunities and possibilities for all we will do and achieve together over 2020. In these days of rapid change, I believe that we will need each other more than ever.
Back in May 2018, I wrote;
“I cannot stress enough that we do not tolerate racism at Claremont College, and we will not hesitate to respond to any issues should they arise within our school community. It was good to recognise and celebrate the diverse cultural backgrounds within our school community, and to reinforce the important message that each one of us is created in God's image, and we are loved and precious in His eyes."
I wish to highlight the wonderful ‘Reconciliation Week’ acknowledgement to country video that some of our students have created this week, along with the many student work samples from across the school (K-6). Thank you to our teachers for inspiring the children in their learning. You can watch the video HERE.
Please join with me in striving for and working towards the creation of a school community that is a safe place for all, which embodies the values of kindness, compassion and collaboration and that in itself, becomes a change agent for making this world a place that we are all proud to belong to, sowing the seeds for a brighter future for our children and all people.
‘Peacemakers who sow in peace, reap a harvest of righteousness.’ James 3:18