A child’s education brings purpose for their today and hope for their tomorrow. Through their learning and the safe and supportive environment that a school brings, we are transforming one precious life at a time. If we consider the impact of all teachers and schools globally there is incredible collective transformative power found in education. As Nelson Mandela famously said ;
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. ...The power of education extends beyond the development of skills we need for economic success. It can contribute to nation-building and reconciliation.”
At ‘Project Help India’ we recognise the privilege that we have in educating the now 315 children who come to our centres 5 days a week to learn and receive a nutritious meal.
“To come to school is the biggest gift that I’ve been given.”
The kids who attend our schools do so with enthusiasm. They are respectful, cooperative and committed to their learning. They are also grateful knowing how lucky they are, because for most there is no other school to attend.
The mountain locations where Project Help works are remote, with many communities further isolated from town centres due to the mountainous terrain, poor roads, frequent landslides, extreme summer heat, monsoon flooding and dense jungle. The cost of fuel makes the daily motorbike ride into town prohibitive for most poverty-stricken families. If the school is within walking distance the kids, especially girls, are often unable to walk there for fear of animal attacks or being raped. There are similar challenges faced by the slum kids in urban areas too. Many boys and girls are unable to attend school because their parents are unemployed, requiring them to undertake labour and household chores, some are married at an early age, there is much family dysfunction, parent illiteracy, a fear of education, not to mention many are impacted by drug and alcohol addictions. To make matters worse, across 2020 and 2012 COVID forced the closure of many small schools, with teachers continuing to leave their jobs in large numbers.
I am thrilled to report that across 2020 and 2021, our students were well cared for during the pandemic. Our Director at Project help India reports;
In midst of everything, Project Help India played an important role in providing education during pandemic situations. When the children were forced to sit down at home, children from Project Help India assisted in community help programs. They assisted in ration packaging and distribution done by Project Help India to help poor and needy people which stopped many of them dying of hunger. Due to the negligence of many parents during this online period, the children across India have become addicted to phone, online games and social media and majorly pornography. This was also dealt in an orderly manner by Project Help India, by constantly providing them with interesting extracurricular work, teaching art and craft work, competition programs i.e. food cooking competitions, dance and song practice. We taught our students about their emotions and feelings, and also about the harmful affects of device addiction, pornography. We taught their parents about the need for constant monitoring of them. We also taught our slum kids about the dangers of the Kotdwara slum mafia and kept them safe from gangs, drugs and other harmful behaviours. Our community workers and teachers visited homes, monitored their lessons and welfare, keeping a constant watchful eye over them all.
All these activities have helped students to grow, socially interact, and remain in touch with their learning during the pandemic period. As all of our students belong to poor socio-economic groups, it can be duly noted that the loss of skills and learning due to pandemic is more at risk in our children than compared to others. Yet many of our students scored great results in their online and offline exams during the period of pandemic with the assistance of the teachers in our Project Help India.
With our New Centre at Village Dalernaga opening in the first week of June, Project Help India is changing lives one community and 50 kids at a time. Check out the STORY here.
 This line is from a speech commemorating the launch of ‘Mindset Network’, a group working to improve education and health in South Africa, July 16, 2003.
 Bijnor Student Quote – ‘Happy’s Story’
 2011 National Census of India (2021 Census cancelled due to COVID)
EDUCATION = the passion of a teacher
I'm now in my 15th year as a principal and during this time I have always been consistently inspired and energised by these two things;
Firstly, I am always inspired by the children who I have the privilege of working alongside each and every day. Children are a joy and each precious individual is remarkable!
Secondly, I am always inspired by the teachers, my colleagues, who I work with. At my school (Claremont College, Sydney Australia) my staff team of teachers and support staff is nothing but brilliant. They are caring, hard-working, skilled, and dedicated in all they do. Most importantly, they are passionate about the learning, the safety, the wellbeing and growth of their students.
Worldwide, all teachers have complex and challenging roles. It is exhausting work. The work of a contemporary teacher is so much more than what many of us once experienced when we were students ourselves (that’s if you're older like me) ...if only the job was as easy as standing at a blackboard in front of 30 compliant children sitting at their desks.
Over the years I've had the wonderful privilege of visiting many schools around the world. One thing that all schools worldwide have in common, are passionate teachers and passionate school support staff ...they are the lifeblood of a great school. Schools ultimately are all about relationships. In all of my travels, I guess I've never been quite so blown away by a teacher I met earlier this year in a local school in Mubende, a remote part of rural Uganda, close to the Congo border. She has 206 kids in her class ...and she is still smiling!
I honour this legendary teacher
I truly think that this teacher should receive world-wide recognition. Is there an international teaching award that we can nominate her for? (and I don't even know her name).
On the day I visited this teacher's Grade 1 classroom she had 206 students present on the roll (and some kids were absent). Some of the students could not literally fit into the classroom space. This teacher told me that she loves her job ... “but it does get challenging at times” she said. You bet it would be challenging! - this teacher is a legend (and so are all the other teachers at this same school, with most classes sizes over 150 children). Here's an 18 second movie file showing the classroom. In it the kids are welcoming me. It's beautiful but check how cramped this classroom is!
click link here - 'You are Welcome'
The Project Help teachers in Northern India
At Project Help India, our seven centres employ 11 teachers and support staff.
Meet Mrs Sushila Charles who works with slum kids in Kotdwara. She is a remarkable woman and another inspiring teacher. While her personal life is not easy, she gives everything that is humanly possible to support the academic growth and to care for the vulnerable children in her class. Here is a link to her powerful and inspiring story. Sushila's Story Here
One of the reasons why we have been able to set up our seven centres is because wages and costs are comparatively very low to Australia and elsewhere. Sushila’s salary is approximately $100 a month, and with this, she supports her husband and 2 children. This is also why Project Help India relies on the generosity of others. Would you consider making an annual tax deductible donation of $1200 to cover the salary of one of our teachers? Details for making a donation can be found easily at www.projecthelpindia.co. You can message me if you would like to talk to me about how you can help OR if you have a suggestion for how we can encourage the teachers in Mubende in Uganda, and nominate them all for an award (I am serious!).
Here I am with my wife Rowena, with Sushila and her students in the Kotdwara slums. We were there in February this year (22).
Education impacts one life at a time
I could no longer count the many kids and parents who I have had the pleasure and privilege of working alongside over my many years of being an educator. I love that my job impacts lives. I am grateful for the thousands of kids who have impacted me, humbled me, and taught me so many things about myself, others, the world and God. I consider it a gift to have learnt with these kids, and to have shared our lives together, in so many ways.
It's incredible to think of the unique gift that I have also been given in being able to share my life with some very special children in Northern India. My God!! how much these remarkable kids have shaped and changed me for the better. After meeting that first bunch in 2012, I could not walk away and not do something to help. And it's amazing to think that hundreds, possibly thousands of children now, have attended a ‘Project Help India’ school. In our 3 jungle village schools, because of their remote and dangerous location, the majority of students, especially the girls, only have access to a Project Help education. Our village centres provide the one and only opportunity for the kids to be educated, nurtured and cared for in a school setting.
Many (but not all) of our students in the cities of Kotdwara and Bijnor will attend a local government school during the day. These schools are overcrowded, and provide poor and inconsistent levels of academic tuition and generally no wellbeing programs. After school our students then head straight to one of our 3 Project Help centres where they will receive 2.5 hours of tuition as well as a free healthy meal. For our students this meal is better than they would receive at home. The kids go home at around 6pm.
In the city all of our students are slum kids and each has a challenging, often desperate home life. As we hear the story of each child we get a glimpse into some heartbreaking circumstances that are impacted and compounded by the vicious cycle of poverty. We provide our students and their families with ongoing counselling, social work support, advocacy and if needed, emergency aid (for example feeding the entire family during the COVID lockdowns in 2020 and 2021).
Priyanshu Kumar, is 13 years old and is in Grade 7. He is from a very poor family from the Kotdwara slums. Last year his father died during the COVID pandemic. Soon after this, his younger brother also caught COVID and tragically died as well. The grief of this situation impacted Priyanshu greatly and he became incredibly lonely. The pain of missing his brother resulted in him becoming withdrawn, selective mute and socially anxious. His school grades declined and he received no support or counselling for the trauma that he was experiencing.
Priyanshu’s mother is a house maid and works in many homes trying to earn enough to support herself and her son. For fear for her son’s safety, she would lock him in the house after school (he also attends a government school during the day) and into the late hours of the night, whenever she could get work. This compounded the situation making Priyanshu fearful of others and refusing to speak to anyone. Priyanshu’s teacher describes the situation;
Priyanshu says that he was really sad to stay at home but he understands his mother's concerns and that's why never threw a tantrum for this and quietly obeys her. After the death of his father all the responsibilities of a family were transferred to his mother and hence he never disobeyed his mother as he understood the burden she was carrying. His mother was also worried for him getting worse but was bound by her own conditions. When she came to know about the ‘Project Help City Centre’, she contacted the Director, Mr. Amit Samuel, and the General Secretary, Mrs. Daisy Samuel, about her conditions and her misfortune. Priyanshu was given admission and at first, he was very shy and apprehensive. However, he now attends the classes enthusiastically and also is trying to mix with the other children. He comes to the tuition on time and with neat and clean clothes which shows that he is dedicated towards his studies. While he takes time to understand his work, he shows great determination to learn.
Priyanshu and his mother both are immensely thankful to Project Help India. We are all very confident that he will reach new heights.
I am so excited that after being with us for just 2 months, Priyanshu is making many friends. He is learning and making good academic progress. The consistency of school routines and the nurture and kindness of his teacher makes him feel safe. We are excited for his future and count it a privilege to educate and care for him.
I want to be known - to be understood, respected, valued and treated kindly by the people around me. Don’t you?
Living and learning together in an inclusive ‘belonging’ community is found at the heart of any good school. This is one of the things I love about education, and why I love my job ...it’s a privilege being a School Principal.
A great school values connection and relationships, embracing and celebrating the wonderful diversity that is found in the mix of all those who form part of that community. This is why I love my school! In schools we celebrate birthdays, significant achievements, national days, religious and cultural traditions, and so much more. Schools are places of excitement as we come together to learn about each other, celebrating people and the things that are individually and collectively important to us all. A school community I believe, provides us with opportunities to teach children about how our wider community can and should be. We are providing them with a powerful model packaged with the tangible experiences to learn about how our world can be ...a world we all hope and pray for.
Our seven ‘Project Help India’ schools are filled with much cultural diversity, and we value, embrace and celebrate this. Just this week it was a privilege to share the message of the Easter story with all of our students. They especially loved the egg painting. In a few weeks we will celebrate alongside our Muslim staff and the many students from the Muslim Jungle Villages and slums, who on 1st May, will finish their Ramadan season. Then later this year in October we will celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, with those of Hindu, Muslims, Sikh and other faith backgrounds.
When we celebrate alongside one another we show that we value, respect and have an openness to learn and understand from each other’s stories. And as we do this, we find solidarity in the things that we have in common, the things that our world so desperately needs ...love, empathy, compassion, unity, safety, peace, acceptance and so much more.
Regardless of our race, religion or creed, let’s work and strive together for a world that we all pray and hope for …for our communities, our families and children, and for generations to come.
I want to thank the supporters of Project Help India for your generous giving - you are indeed changing the world by changing the lives of some very special kids in Northern India, through their attendance and education received at one of our schools. Don't also forget about the impact you can have by volunteering and helping out at your child's local school. They need all the support, and especially the encouragement they can get ...especially the teachers (and I reckon your principal too!)
If you liked this story, please share it on your social media. The link is here. It would really help us. Thank you.
I wish you a Happy Easter – may the hope, peace and love of Jesus be yours this Easter.
To receive an education is one of the fundamental rights of being human. We may take this for granted but unfortunately many children, especially girls and those with disabilities, have unequal, limited or no access to an education, let alone attend a school that provides access to a quality curriculum that is delivered by qualified, caring and loving teachers ...this is something that we can take very much for granted in the part of the world where I live and work (in the best school ever -ha!)
The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights when published and adopted in 1948 was, and continues to be, a milestone document. For the first time, the world had a globally agreed document that marked out all humans as being free and equal, regardless of sex, colour, creed, religion or other characteristics.
Sadly, it seems that our world needs to stop and recognise this more than ever before.
At one of my passion projects Project Help India, our key priority is advocacy for the right for vulnerable (all from poor and marginalised communities) to receive an education. Here are some of the beautiful faces of the 265 children who attend our 7 small centres in Kotdwara and Bijnor in Northern India. When the kids are at school their lessons include Hindi, English, spelling, maths, art, poetry, writing, drama, games, environmental care, body parts and body safety, health, hygiene and safety. It’s also an important priority for us to celebrate the cultural and religious traditions of the unique and diverse communities that are part of. We seek to give them hope for the future, to understand that they are precious individuals, and to give them skills and understanding to be contributing citizens who will flourish in life.
If you go to the OUR SETTING page on the Project Help India website you will learn more about our schools.
School is back and we are all relieved and delighted
For the past 2 weeks our 9 education centres across three states in Northern India have resumed their full delivery of classes, along with a daily meal for each child, 5 days a week. COVID has not stopped the kids from coming to school, in fact we have more students than ever! Another 100 students have started at our 2 centres in Punjab bringing our current total enrolments across the 9 centres to 542 students.
18 months of continuous lockdown for most children
With the exception of a few short weeks last week, our centres have not been fully ‘open’ since March 2020. We honour our teachers, project officers and the leadership team who despite the most difficult of circumstances have worked tirelessly to continue to care for our students and their families - feeding them when hungry, supporting mental health issues, checking in on their physical safety, not to mention providing for their ongoing learning with the delivery of worksheets and lessons when possible to their homes.
The children are smiling and great happiness fills the classrooms. Isn’t this what it’s all about! When I reflect on the core purpose of Project Help India, it starts with the kids. The COVID lockdown and the challenges that we have and will continue to face remind me of why I am so passionately dedicated to the cause of education. Globally, we must get children back to school safely and quickly. Whether it’s in Australia, or in one the remotest parts of the planet in Northern India... schools worldwide, are places of hope, health, happiness …and magic!
When I think of hope I think of children learning - equipping them with the skills for their success both for their present life circumstances as well as giving them a sense of purpose, confidence and optimism for a bright future. Hope is found where parents work hard for their family, contributing to the good of others and the strength of the community for generations to come.
When I think of health I think of children’s safety - their physical and emotional health and wellbeing, their nutrition and not going hungry. Health is found in an inclusive community where all children, regardless of their gender, creed, abilities or disabilities have equal access to the resources required for them to live and to learn well.
When I think of happiness, I think of the joy and wonder of childhood, the friendship, fun games, sports, and having a second family at school where they are loved, valued, are ‘known’ and belong. Happiness is found in a place filled with culture, art, dancing, music and curiosity – discovering and nurturing the talents and gifts of each remarkable individual child. Happiness is found in a community where children laugh with joy, bringing smiles and fond memories to the elderly who sit and watch nearby.
It’s at school where the magic happens
Please help www.projecthelpindia.co to make the magic happen. If you can, we would value your generous donation to resource our schools. We can’t wait to share some of the stories about our schools and students over the weeks to come.
Today we learned that India recorded yet another ‘record’ number of daily COVID cases – more than 400 000. It’s also very hot with temperatures over 40 degrees most days. There is little to be optimistic about. Some of our team and their family are sick. They say there’s a tangible sense of fear, anxiety and sometimes panic on the streets. We are worried for the children who come to our schools – the 380 kids we love and care for. We are concerned for their siblings, their parents and grandparents too. Every day they suffer because of poverty, and now it’s about to get a whole lot worse.
It will be worse if and when large numbers of people start to really get sick. Already there are reports in the city of Bijnor where my Charity "project Help India' works, that many people are dying. When you live in the slum there is no access to COVID testing and limited (if any) access to medical help. People are already being turned away from the local hospital…told to not come back “unless you can’t breathe or are dying.”
It’s especially confusing and scary for the children. With restrictions and longer curfew hours, many parents cannot work. Schools are closed. For kids school is their place of belonging where they are fed a healthy meal, where they are safe with their teachers who ensure for their learning and wellbeing The kids miss their friends along with the fun and games that distract them from the harsh realities of their circumstances. Slum kids are most vulnerable …they are at risk of malnutrition, illness and infections, physical and sexual abuse. They are at risk of trafficking too. It is well documented that during times of crisis, child predators strategically operate. So, for the children, Project Help India with our limited resources will try hard to;
- feed them and their family by providing cooked meals or ration packs
- keep them learning and keep them distracted with worksheets (and home visits if we are permitted)
- provide their community with COVID awareness
- direct them to medical assistance
- check in on their safety and emotional wellbeing
- provide counselling, advice and support, especially to teens and parents
- connect with them as much as possible, with messages of love and reassurance, and words of hope.
Our Disability Centre Kids
For the twelve students who attend our Disability Centre we identify these children as most at risk. Like beautiful Sadab. Consider what a precious soul she is, and how complex her life circumstances are;
12 year old Sadab lives in a slum community on the banks of the river bank in Kotdwara. Her father Mr Shamshuddin is also physically disabled. He has one hand, one leg and a lazy eye, and due to this he is paid a lot less than most. Sadab’s mother is a housewife. She has no time for paid work. Sadab has 8 siblings (5 sisters and 3 brothers). Her elder sister is extremely unwell and is bed ridden. The family struggle to support Sadab and her eldest sister financially as both of their medical fees are expensive. If there is a full COVID lock-down, their father will earn no income.
Sadab was born prematurely at just 7 months weighing only 1.5kgs. At the age of 2 her breathing stopped but doctors revived her. Up until 3 years old she was bed ridden and unable to sit or stand without the support of others. She began to walk at 5 years old. She is not able to speak, her voice is not audible and her family say she is “weak in the brain and cannot understand things easily.” They struggle to understand how to communicate with her like when she stood in the sun for several hours and her family could not get her back into the house without her screaming and crying.
Sadab’s community regard her as a curse upon her family and they feel ashamed of what others think. They wanted her to go to a good school but the schools would not admit her saying that they could not educate a “special child”. When Sadab started attending the Project Help Disabilty Centre her family told a Project help officer that;
“Project Help does hard work for us, something that not even the government is thinking for. Sadab loves to attend her classes and now there is a big change in their life. She knows how to clean herself and how to be behave.”
We know that Sadab’s behaviour was amongst other things, a reflection of not being able to express herself, and not ever having social experiences, or people beyond her family who value her. She is a beautiful girl, we love her and think that she is remarkable.
The scope and depth of our impact
During this time of crisis we are caring for our teachers, staff and their families too. This time last year, we saw how quickly drained and deflated they became. Our amazing team is busy planning coordinating and planning for many layers of contingency. There is so much to do but the heat makes for slow work as well as being susceptible to other viruses and fevers. Please pray that they stay safe and do not sick.
There are approximately 1200 families (6000 people) in the slum communities and villages who we work with. We fear the worse for how COVID might impact them over the coming days and weeks, but we are confident of this … In a society that regards the dalits (the untouchables) as the lowest of the low, we know these people. Every individual has a name. They will not be forgotten, no matter how isolated in lockdown they might become. They are valued and important to us.
We will do all we can to feed them so that they will not go hungry. We will keep track of the kids to try to keep them safe. We will check in with others who too are vulnerable and most susceptible to COVID, including the homeless and our friends, the beggars with leprosy. We will love them deeply and as relentlessly as God, trying not be overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead.
Friends in Australia and in other countries, our world is really not that big. Through Project Help India we are connected to these people. Their suffering is our suffering. Their story is our story. Many trust us and look to us for hope. Every day people knock on our office door asking for help.Your generous donations make a difference. Right now, our small steps are taken with an ever bigger imperative and purpose.
I will stay in touch with how you can continue to help the Project Help India COVID Emergency Crisis Appeal.
For now, we will all put on a brave face.
Just this week I was delighted to read about one of our students of our Project help India Disability Centre. It is with great pleasure that I introduce Suhail to you. I was moved to tears when I read his story. Our Project Help Disability Centre has given Suhail his first ever opportunity to attend a school – to be educated, stimulated by games and stories, make friends and to have people beyond his immediate family, who love and care for him.
Suhail is from a Muslim family. His father is a fruit seller and his mother is a housewife. He has 3 sisters and 4 brothers and he is the youngest of the siblings. Together, they all live in what is described as a “clumsy” slum house with just 2 bare brick rooms, on the side of a river. Suhail suffered badly of jaundice as a baby. He had various internal and external complications resulting in him being bed ridden since birth. He has never been able to sit up straight due to the twisting of his arms and legs. His mother described to our Project Officer;
"…some people in our community say that he is curse for the family and some people say he looks horrible. All the savings of the family have been used in his treatment, now we are in debt because of his medication which is still going on for his betterment. Suhail wished to go to school one day, but none of them have given him a chance to come and learn as they say they are not for a special child like him. This is his first school! He is happy that at least some one is there with whom he could talk or who spends time with him."
Suhail now attends classes each week and sometimes his teacher from Project Help visits him at home to help with his tuition and exercises. It has been said that he has changed since people have shown an interest in him and his smile reflects his happiness.
How precious is this! I just can’t imagine how a child can live for 14 years without the connection and sense of belonging and value that a school provides. His story reminds me that my hard work for the cause of Project Help is worth every effort (complete understatement!!). I thank all of our Australian supporters for your generosity. Because of this you’ve made this beautiful boy smile, and I hope it warms your heart.
Please go to www.projecthelpindia.co if you would like to learn more about my work in India, and/or to make a tax-deductible donation. DM me if you would like to support our disability education initiatives in India.
Thank you again.
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