Sowing my passion into education and making a difference in my school and in the world...
Life in India is full of extremes, and just this month in July we have seen the harsh impact of this. Only a few weeks ago, the temperature in Kotdwara was over fifty degrees. Since then, we have been deluged with the extreme rain from the seasonal monsoon. Each day we come face to face with the impact of extreme poverty. Sickness and death is a reality of life and whilst it’s easy to get ‘used’ to this, our mission and projects focus on combating poverty. We will not settle for accepting this, knowing that our efforts can have significant impact in the lives of children, families and communities.
Check out July-in-pictures to see just how much has been achieved. It's amazing! Just in this month of July, the work of ‘Project Help India’ continues with purpose and momentum as we provide opportunities for;
- improving children’s health and nutrition
- education and learning
- social work and counselling
- emergency crisis care
- creating community and a sense of belonging
- environmental responsibility
- community impact through drug awareness
- individual lives changed
- a brighter tomorrow and hope for the future
- experiencing God’s love
Thank you to all of our supporters. It is simply because of your generosity that all of this is possible. We also thank our teams in Kotdwara and Bijnor for their tireless work. ‘Project Help India’ has 14 paid staff. We honour their innovation, problem solving, determination, sacrificial efforts, care and compassion. What you have achieved in just these past 4 weeks is truly remarkable. You inspire me!
Love Doug :-)
YOU CAN BE PART OF OUR STORY
1. Donate - Your tax deductible donation can be made at Here.
Scroll to bottom of page and ensure that you are donating to (WYG-IND-PHI-2019)
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 we can thank you.
2. Share this Story - Please like and share our latest blog on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. BLOG - Extreme-living-extreme-action-July-in-pictures
Thank you - it was a community effort
Our "Well-being Challenge' on the last day of Term was a significant event for our school community. We received a mention in the 'Daily Telegraph' with Claremont also receiving a special shout-out from Ben Fulham on Radio 2GB, praising the kids for their 10000 burpees, and our fund-raising efforts of approximately $28000. Our local members of Parliament Matt Thistlethwaite (Federal MP) and Marjorie O'Neill (State MP) joined us. We thank them for their support and encouragement, especially by coming along to our event at Grant Reserve.
Through this challenge we have demonstrated the power of us coming together for such an important cause, the Prince of Wales Hospital - our local hospital that helps our older teens, our parents, grandparents… all of us really. This was more than this however, as we have demonstrated that our wellbeing is a community responsibility. We have also demonstrated how remarkable our school community is. Go Claremont College!
Thank you children, thank you teachers and staff and thank you parents. We have shown that we are here for each other, and especially for our kids. I started this year reminding us of that fabulous verse that says;
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13).
I believe that our community and the society we live in really does need more love. We live in a time where so many people seem to be angry, criticising, blaming and having a go at each other… we must not forget the power of love and shining the light on all that is good in this world and in each other. Our Wellbeing Challenge has been such a fantastic experience, a highlight for me as Principal.
As for my other personal challenge...I continue to push myself at the gym 5 mornings a week. I have reached 7000 burpees and 7000 push-ups (give or take a few).
Together, 400 members of my school community - kids, teachers and parents completed 10000 burpees all at once. The Kindy kids were amazing and really go into it.
The ‘Claremont Health, Fitness and Well-being Challenge’
We are excited to launch the ‘Claremont Health, Fitness and Well-Being Challenge’ which will culminate in a celebration event on the last day of Term 2 at Grant Reserve on Friday 28th June. As a school we will be raising money for the new ICU Ward at our local Prince of Wales Hospital. Our fundraising target is $10 000 and we ask all parents and your extended families, work colleagues and friends to get behind such an important and worthwhile cause. Our theme is ‘Locals Helping Locals’. All of us certainly benefit from living in close proximity to our local hospital and we want to support and encourage the amazing people at the Prince of Wales who work so tirelessly for our community. This is our opportunity to get behind you and help fund the new hospital which will certainly be a blessing to our local neighbourhood (and beyond) for generations to come.
Ten thousand burpees and push-ups! Perhaps a world record?
Did you know that the world record for the most burpees is 7295 in 12 hours!
As part of the fund-raising campaign, I have set myself the personal challenge to complete 10 000 burpees and 10 000 push-ups (but not all in one go). I started the challenge back in February and I am just a little over the halfway mark. While I have not set myself a completion date, and I am certainly not going to break any world records, I am hoping to finish on the 28th June at our Celebration Event. My body is already full of lots of aches and pains from doing this, so I am not going to do anything stupid.
On our Celebration Day, we are going to break our own Claremont record, by all doing ten thousand burpees at once. 400 teachers and children will each do 25 burpees at once, totalling 10 000, and we think we can break this record in just a few minutes. We hope that many parents will also join us for what will be lots of fun. We are also hoping that the media will be present as well, so that we can share the message of Claremont’s involvement in the local community.
My personal connection
Many of you know that this year my family was impacted by the tragic death of my son’s girlfriend, Marli in January. Marli had just graduated Year 12 at Brigidine College and she had the world before her. Marli died of a drug overdose at a party. She had never taken drugs before and she paid the highest price for a very unforgiving mistake.
It has certainly been a challenging journey for my son as he makes sense of this loss and comes to terms with his grief. He is definitely not ‘over’ this, but he is making good progress. Gulliver has channelled his energy into his passion by surfing 1000 waves, and he too is raising money for the Prince of Wales Hospital, through his cause ‘1000 Reasons for Marli’. I am so proud of his determination and courage in what has been such a difficult time for him. You might have seen the article in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ on Friday 31st May.
Individual well-being goal setting
The tragic loss of Marli, has certainly evoked a lot of soul searching and contemplation about how we make sense of loss and deal with grief. My faith has certainly been a source of strength and comfort. As a father it has been very difficult to watch my son grapple with his emotions and come to terms with all of this. Gulliver’s surfing challenge has given him a purpose that has helped him to channel his energies and grief into doing something positive, especially so that Marli’s death was not in vain. We all take comfort in this verse:
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.
As an educator, I have thought deeply and hard about how we prepare children for the challenges of life. Drug education, even in the early years of a child’s education is certainly necessary. I strongly believe that this is a community issue with schools, parents, police and other health professionals collaborating and working to solve problems together. The conversations we have with our children about difficult issues and concepts must be had starting in the early primary years, and not just left until the teen years when they are directly facing the challenges. I also believe strongly that we must be equipping and empowering our children to talk to each other, and to have the skills to support their peers, to be role models and ‘upstanders’ willing to intervene and help others (as opposed to being ‘bystanders’ who watch, keep silent and do nothing).
Therefore, as we embark on our Wellbeing Challenge, we have aligned this initiative and our fundraising with our Peer Support Program. Lead capably by our Year 6 and Year 5 students, all children (K-6) are currently participating in four Peer Support sessions that focus on;
mindfulness - gratitude and appreciation
kindness and generosity.
Across our Peer Support Program all children will talk about setting an individual goal based on one of the four themes. Their peers will then support, encourage and inspire one-another as they work to achieve these goals. We encourage you to talk to your child over the coming days about what might be their goal (realistic and achievable). This is where our fundraising efforts will connect with individual goals, by asking your friends and family to sponsor them and to encourage them to achieve their well-being goal.
Four weeks until the end of Term 2
With four weeks until the end of the term, the ‘Claremont Health, Fitness and Well-being Challenge’ will also be incorporated into the children’s PE, Sport and Health lessons. We will also link key messages into our Chapel teaching theme for Term 2 which is all about being ‘Inspired for Life’.
Thanks for reading, and getting on board with these exciting and important initiatives and ideas. Please consider if your business can make a tax-deductible donation, offer prizes or should you have any creative ideas for how you can get involved, please do not hesitate to contact the school.
Tomorrow (Thursday 18th April) my wife and kids, and 10 other Australians are heading to Kotdwara to present and be a part of our SHINE19 Women's Empowerment Conference. We are super excited and full of anticipation for the many lives we will impact. Our bags are all but packed totalling about 350kg of luggage ... including 1000 toothbrushes, 1000 fans, 900 mirrors and lipsticks for our 800+ delegates, 350 packets coloured pencils, textas and tennis balls for the 260 children in our centres, teaching resources for our new Disability class, gifts for teachers and many others, not to mention just a small amount of space for our clothes and personal items.
Please pray for us, for our safety, good health and that our hard work and efforts would encourage and make a long lasting difference in the lives of many people.
Rachna is hoping to attend SHINE. She lives in a slum community in the city of Bijnor which is 50km from Kotdwara. Rachna has 2 children, a daughter Sanchi (aged 6) and a son Raghav (aged 4). Both children attend a ‘Project Help India’ education centre, which is the first ever school that they have attended. Rachna’s husband is a labourer, and the family live below the poverty line. Both parents are thankful for the gift of a Project Help education which also provides a meal each day for the kids, as well as the opportunity to attend SHINE, if the family is able to juggle Rachna being away from the home for the day.
My family, 8 other Aussies and a South African will be heading to Kotdwara in North India in just three weeks time, for ‘Project Help India’s second women's SHINE19 conference. This conference is an important aspect of the 'Project Help India' vision, and we can't quite believe that another year has come around. Compared to last year, the number of delegates has doubled, spanning two days and receiving registrations from close to 900 women.
Most of our delegates are women who live in slums, in terrible poverty. These women can't afford to pay, so we are not charging them. We want to bless them and give them an experience they will never forget. Teenage girls from local high schools will also be attending as well as women who are community leaders, because our aim is to empower all women in all spheres of life.
After SHINE18, our conference this year has become the talk of Northern India, with local media doing press releases, billboard advertising, and even politicians and Bollywood celebrities wanting to both attend and be seen supporting and advocating for this important cause.
Because of SHINE19 we are positive and confident that women's lives will be changed and empowered.
Through this we will see…
stronger lives, stronger families, stronger communities and a stronger India.
‘Project help India’ is pioneering this cause in this remote part of the world, so please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.
If you could make a tax deductible donation to support our work, we would really appreciate this. And please spread the word if you might know people who might be passionate about human rights, human justice, anti-human trafficking, and who might be stirred to make a donation to this worthwhile cause (we need some help as the cost all adds up and is now close to $6000).
How you can help
1. Please share this blog to people you know whose business or company might like to support this wonderful cause…it’s tax deductible for them too.
2. Please make a donation.
Go to http://projecthelpindia.co/donate to make your tax-deductible donation in Australia
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 and SHINE19 in the reference section so we can thank you.
With love and thanks for your support and interest.
We were shocked and saddened by last Friday’s tragedy in New Zealand. The loss of innocent lives is deeply confronting. Our thoughts and prayers are extended to those immediately impacted and their communities, particularly in schools across Christchurch. Due to the many educators who visit Claremont College, we have formed many close friendships with a number of schools in New Zealand, and so we have reached out to them offering our love, prayers and support.
Schools provide a safe and supportive environment for all students, staff and their community, and so our primary goal this week has been to review and consider our response to this tragedy. Each week, on a Monday morning, our Pastoral Care team meets to review the pastoral and wellbeing needs of students, staff and families. We evaluate issues from the week before and we plan how to best care for children and others across the week ahead. As a team we considered how we respond to the Christchurch tragedy and discussed what would be the best way to talk to the children. Our actions included:
GRANDPARENTS AND SPECIAL FRIENDS DAY
This week we were blessed to have so many Grandparents and special friends visit us. It was fun and very special. Congratulations to the children and teachers for your presentations. There was certainly a lot of love in the air!
HAPPY GREEK INDEPENDENCE DAY
This weekend we celebrate Greek Independence Day. I look forward to being with many of our Greek families at Martin Place on Sunday.
NATIONAL FUTURE SCHOOLS EXPO AND CONVENTION
I have spent three days this week in Melbourne attending the ‘National Future Schools Expo and Convention’ which was attended by approximately three thousand delegates. It is always such an honour and privilege to talk about Claremont College. Yesterday I was a member of panel of Principals where we were asked to speak about ‘Strategies for School Leaders to Realise Learning Improvement’. I was also a keynote speaker at the ‘Future Leaders’ Strand where I presented on the topic ‘Planning for the future – change, strategic planning, and a leadership toolkit for disruption, and your personal wellbeing’. If you are interested, the slides of my talk have been uploaded to the school website. Click here to follow the link.
One of the things I love about conferences such as this, is the chance to hear cutting edge talks on a variety of topics that interest and are important to me. Some of the presentations I attended included the new Digital Technologies Curriculum, Positive Psychology in the school setting, researched based strategies for students with autism, latest research findings in brain based learning in children, future innovation and emotional resilience. All up, it was a productive time and I look forward to sharing my ideas and all I have learnt with the staff, and with you all.
As I gave my talk yesterday, I concluded by saying that we need to “keep things simple” and to not lose the perspective of the things that are most important to us all. Our communities must be places where people come first. For me, this means that we must prioritise hope, purpose, reconciliation, unity, diversity, empathy, compassion and most importantly… love.
Let’s continue to hold up Christchurch in our prayers. My heart also breaks for Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe as millions of people come to terms with the destruction of Cyclone Idai. Our world is certainly hurting. Even if it’s a ‘drop in the bucket’, and we are all positioned to make a difference.
Thank you for all you bring to our school community… It wouldn't be the same without you.
I am grateful for the opportunities that bring us together as a community, for it is in community, working together as a School and parent body, with our conversations together, our shared purpose, consultation and collaboration, that we find the solutions to best care for your children. For this reason, at a recent parent function, I shared my perspective on some heavy stuff, as a concerned and very grateful Principal, and also from my perspective, as a dad who has seen my three teenagers navigate and try to make sense of the world they are growing up in.
If you did not attend the event, I shared an experience of my childhood. My mother would often describe me (and probably still does) as “a little bugga” and I fully understand why. I sometimes did things that I am sure mystified her. Like the time in Grade 2, for no reason at all, I ran up to a girl at school and whacked her hard on the bottom. Our scary Deputy Principal at the time (who every child feared), summoned me to his office and proceeded to hit me on the hand with his thick black rubber pipe, which he affectionately called his "licorice stick”. I recall that moment clearly and I remember my mother saying that afternoon “well you must have deserved it!”. My mother asked no further questions and she directed no accountability for my punishment towards the Deputy or School. Times have certainly changed with some parents in this day and age, challenging schools, without placing any responsibility on their child for his or her actions (or on their own parenting). “My child would never be a do that!” one might say, and if a consequence is put in place, the school is unfairly criticised.
As we work together in a spirit of trust and respect, there is a healthy middle-ground.
With children growing up in a new world filled with new issues and concepts to those we experienced as children, and a very different to the world our mothers and fathers, we must work closely together. Take a child’s easy access to pornography for example. How necessary is it for both parents and the school to work together to help our children navigate this ugly territory? It both saddens and maddens me that psychologists and schools must now deal with a disorder termed ‘pre-adolescent porn addiction’. The majority of children aged 10, will have looked at explicit porn. My experience when working with these children who feel that they have done the wrong thing, is that they clam up and don’t say anything to their teacher or mum or dad. If it’s a group of children who have done the wrong thing there may be a code of silence, or they all point the finger of blame in different directions. It is easy for kids to live with the guilt and shame of their actions, often without telling a soul, way into adulthood. We must carefully balance the issues of debriefing, resolution, consequence, learning from mistakes, and knowing what is appropriate for the future. If we don’t do this well together, a child or young person’s mental health is certainly at risk.
How do we do this? The School and parents must work together in partnership. We certainly don’t blame or attack, should a child make a mistake. If we just ‘punish’ then our children will never come to us for help. As children get older, the challenges they will face will only become more difficult and complex. With children’s forms of social media thrown into the mix, it’s a foreign language for all of us adults.
It takes a community to support a child and it takes a community to support mum and dad. It takes great mums and dads to support a school. We are in this together, and on behalf of my entire staff team who work so tirelessly for your children, I offer you my sincere thanks, for working together with us to support your children.
Thanks @timmarshall for the fantastic image.
He Last week after attending the funeral of my 19 year old son's girlfriend Marli, in the cool of the evening I was sitting having a quiet beer, pondering and reflecting. I was exhausted and emotionally spent. I put on Spotify and played some music to cheer myself up, something good for the soul.
When you're not really listening, it's strange how the lyric of a song can catch your attention. I still find it uncanny, that a song can be so timely and quite unsettling all at the same time. It raises questions for me that I can't answer or make sense of at this point in time. Yet, I hold on to my knowledge that God is present, God is love, He is grieving too, and He promises to turn bad things into good.
I get it if you find this hard to believe.
Life can change in the blink of an eye
You don't know when and you don't know why
"Forever Young" is a big fat lie
For the one who lives and the one who dies
I watched my son - shovel in hand
Go from bulletproof boy to a full-grown man
The cool dark dirt on the casket lands
Nineteen years old and he's buryin' a friend
Oh, goodbye two boys, hello one man
This son of mine is gonna leave in the fall
Some might ask how he stands so tall
His life was changed with a telephone call
Not even he understands it all
I watched my son - shovel in hand
Go from bulletproof boy to a broken man
The cool dark dirt on the casket lands
Amy Grant 'Shovel in Hand'
Click here if you'd like to help
10000 burpees and 10000 push-ups, that’s what I can do
Towards the end of last year, I was asked to be a part of a fundraising initiative for my local hospital, the Prince of Wales at Randwick. I gladly accepted knowing that I would need the help of my fantastic school community to raise a goal of $10 000. Over 2019 I would promote the importance of health and fitness in my school and wider community. It’s a great cause and I’m delighted to be a local Principal (a local Coogee boy too) helping other locals, because this is what ‘doing life together’ in community is all about hey!
So in January I set myself some fitness goals, with the help of my local gym and my trainer, JJ Coutts @outerstrengthfitness (JJ is also an awesome Claremont old boy). At the time I only had a vague sense of how I might go about raising this significant sum of money. Little did I realise how personally meaningful this project would soon become.
Just last week, on Sunday 27th January, my family was rocked by the sudden and tragic death of my son, Gulliver’s beautiful 18 year old girlfriend Marli. You perhaps have seen this news in the Herald see link to SMH or on the TV. As the headline reads;
‘She made one mistake and that’s it’: Teenager dies after party drug overdose
When it comes to learning, we teach kids that it’s okay to make mistakes. In fact, we recognise that mistakes are good being an important aspect of deep learning. Taking a drug, however, is not a mistake that anyone can afford to make. The risk is simply not worth it. In Marli’s case, her mistake was totally unforgiving, and she had no opportunity for learning or second chances.
So we are all heartbroken, sad beyond words, and very much in a state of shock and disbelief. Please pray for Marli’s family and circle of friends, particularly leading up to the funeral later this week.
There’s no way to understand such a senseless tragedy, but what I do know is that I can make a difference. With your help, I will raise $10 000, which will be directed to the Prince of Wales (POW) new Emergency and Intensive Care Units. I will do what I can to teach kids and empower them with the awareness and skills to say ‘no’ to drugs. To add weight to the importance of this issue, I was told that last weekend, four teenagers were rushed to POW Emergency for drug overdose related issues. This is a problem that impacts us all ...our children, their parents, families, and our community suffers. Things have to change.
One solution for the well-being crisis that is currently impacting our children and young people, is found in education, health and fitness. Our kids must grow up having a sense of purpose that comes from positive relationships, personal identity, belonging, contributing as we ‘do life’ together as members of a healthy, inclusive community. It’s locals helping locals and this needs to become embedded into the very DNA of what we’re all on about.
I love this Bible verse from 1 Corinthians 13:13
"until then, there are three things that remain:
faith, hope, and love
yet love surpasses them all. So above all else, let love be the beautiful prize for which you run.”
So let's run with love!
I hope that you might be happy to share this journey with me, over the next 6 months as I work towards these goals. I’ll be doing some blogging to keep you posted about my progress.
Please help me to get the message out and if you have any creative ideas for helping, please be in touch. Please connect me with others who might like to run alongside.
Your donations are tax deductible through the POW Foundation via my ‘Every Day Hero’ fundraising page. Click here to make a donation.
Thanks a million,
Our Jungle kids can now study and do their homework later in the evening
Happy New Year from me and the team at ‘Project Help India’. We are incredibly excited about 2019 and we are thankful for your interest, help and support. Our prayers are with you for all that you hope to do and achieve this year.
2019 is shaping up to be another big year in the life of 'Project Help India'. We have many goals and we are ambitious and intentional about all we are seeking to achieve. We will be guided by our vision and mission and have a clear sense of purpose and strategy.
A reminder of what is our big picture
The mission of ‘Project Help India’ is to bring love, hope, dignity and purpose to the poor. Our vision is to focus on education, nutrition, health and ultimately human rights, so that individual lives are impacted, empowered and restored. ‘Project Help India’ seeks to bring about community change and generational transformation. ‘Project Help India’ seeks to grow in its impact and influence in the lives of people and communities, with a goal to ultimately expand into other towns and places of need.
Some of our 2019 resolutions are to;
- hold our second ‘SHINE’ Women’s Empowerment Conference in April. We are anticipating 900 delegates over 2 days!
- develop individualised programs for each of the high needs students who attend our Disability Centre in the Kotdwara City Centre
- improve the quality of education in each of our centres through ongoing teacher training
- continue to investigate and develop a strategy how we can purchase a property in the heart of Kotdwara (for our HQ)
- continue to investigate the feasibility of purchasing (or long-term lease) for a jungle school
- provide quality educational resources to assist the Kotdwara anti-human trafficking police team
- register ‘Project Help India’ with the ACNC (Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission)
- develop policies to ensure for excellence in all aspects of our operations and compliance
- be able to provide tax deductibility for our donors
Our efforts to achieve this (and so much more) spring-board off some fantastic things that have just happened in December.
Our team in India were delighted to describe the many wonderful Christmas celebrations across Kotdwara. Apparently, there was an incredible energy and enthusiasm for Christmas in the markets and churches in a way that has never been experienced before. Each one of our 260 students received a warm jumper as a Christmas present, which was well received given that it has been a particularly cold winter this year. Thank you to the students of Claremont College in Sydney, and a good number of others too, who raised the money to make this possible.
Bringing solar powered lights to the homes of 180 of our students
In December we were delighted to connect with another NGO, the ‘CBN Foundation’ www.cbn.in which heard about our projects. Through this, 180 of our students in slums and jungle villages had a bonus Christmas blessing of receiving a solar light to assist them with their work at night. Our Project Officer in Kotdwara wrote;
“The Jungle people were very happy. They said that these solar lights will help our kids to study at night. Now these kids are using the lights in night for their studies.”
We are thrilled that the CBN Foundation would like to continue to work with us with the goal of looking into the possibility of installing a water plant in the jungle villages, which will improve the quality of their drinking water.
We are very thankful for the generosity and heart of the CBN Foundation and look forward to further joint ventures and achievements in 2019. You can check the full report on our website at http://projecthelpindia.co/blog/
A Documentary on National Television
A national Indian Broadcasting Network, the ‘Colour Channel’ has produced a documentary about the story of Manisha, a young girl who is one of our students in the City Centre’. This will be aired later in January and we will send a link to you as soon as it becomes available.
What is your New Year Resolution?
Whether you agree with the concept of new year’s resolutions or not, might you resolve to be committed to supporting ‘Project Help India’ in 2019? We are an organisation that really is committed to making a difference in the lives of people, and I hope to can see that we operate with great intentionality and integrity. Your donation goes directly to our projects with minimal admin fees.
It is important to us that you feel connected to our story, so that the stories of lives of people impacted by poverty in India, intersect with your story too. As we bring love, hope, dignity and purpose to these beautiful people, your life will be changed too. Your regular donation will assist in bringing light to the poorest of the poor in 2019.
BSB: 062 230 (Commonwealth Bank Randwick, Sydney)
Account: 1134 1909
Account Name: Project Help India
OR donate directly at
Thank you for being a part of our story.