It gives us great pleasure to introduce you to some new faces, as well as some updates about old friends who you’ve met before.
Our Project Officer in Kotdwara has been catching up with many of the kids who come to our school or other classes, and we share their stories with you.
All you need to do is click here to read some very remarkable. Click here... kid's stories
The stories of these children will make you smile, cry and challenge you to keep the perspective that we all need to have in our lives and to count the blessings that we receive. It makes for better reading than the Sunday paper, that's for sure.
Our hope is that you would pray for these beautiful kids who display remarkable courage and resilience. Thanks to Project Help India their lives have been impacted and changed for the better.
Poverty is cruel
Poverty is unfair
Thank you for being a part of their story, and for helping us to make a difference in their life. Your generous donation brings help, purpose, hope and the brightest of smiles.
Below: Aaushi, Adita, Bandita and Aarav
Dear friends and supporters,
Our friend Amit has contacted me this morning (Saturday 25th August) to ask if you could please pray for the people of Kotdwara. The town has been hit by rain and dangerous floods. They have asked if you could please pray...
- for the rain to stop
- for a woman and 2 children who were washed away just an hour ago. There is a search effort currently happening (1pm Sydney time)
- for the community leaders as they gather to form a combined response
- the safety of people
The street where Amit lives (the meat market street, if you have been there), is like a raging river.
Thanks everyone. I'll keep you posted.
In my role as an educator I cannot stress enough my belief and conviction that when it comes to kids with special needs, we have been doing some things terribly wrong.
If a child can’t read at the pace of others, or if a child is struggling with their learning, perhaps they have a physical, behavioural or intellectual disability, what do we do? Generally, thinking that we can better cater for their needs, we remove them from their classroom and from their friends, and teach them somewhere else. The stigma can be painful. At times this is fair enough because maybe there are better resources, a better or more specific program with access to skilled, specialist staff. However, most of the time we have got this so very wrong.
Keeping students who have disabilities with their friends, peers and other learners is what they need. Inclusion is not discriminatory and it is equitable. We must rethink school and classroom design to cater for the vast array of needs that all students bring. To take things further, in India where we are working, it’s wonderful just to get them out of their house. Here's what I mean;
A couple of years ago, I visited one of our small school projects in Kotdwara. At a community meeting I asked;
“Where are the kids with special needs?”
“What do you mean?” was the reply.
“Well, where are the kids who might have a disability” I asked.
“A disability? What do you mean?
“Like a child who is blind, or a boy or girl who can’t learn like the other children”
“Oh yes, we have lots of kids like that”, was the reply.
“Well where are they?” I asked.
“They are at home”
“Why aren’t they here at school?”
“They can’t go to school because they have a disability” was the standard reply.
The conversation would have gone in circles until I realised that the common place mindset was that school and a children with a disability were seen as being mutually exclusive. I have since learnt that many children with disabilities in India (and also in other third world communities) live at home for their entire life. These children whose families live in poverty really are the “poorest of the poor”. These kids are never educated because their parents have no money and no one has have ever offered them a vision for how a school might cater for their needs, and how learning might actually change the course and trajectory of their life. So often these parents live in shame for having such a child, rather than being helped, equipped and supported in the challenges they face. To have a child with a disability is a significant liability.
Last week I visited a remarkable place - the Gem Foundation in Kampala. http://thegemfoundation.com/
Rowena and I were incredibly inspired. Children with ‘significant’ needs were loved, cared for, and given a quality education, not to mention meeting their developmental needs through individual health plans. Kids with Downs Syndrome for example, were seen as being valuable and important individuals.
I’m proud that in June we started a small project at Kotdwara. Naomi, who is one of our amazing teachers holds a class 3 mornings a week, for three children, each with a disability. These kids are from families who live in terrible poverty. Their parents would otherwise never imagine that their children could be educated in any way - let alone loved, valued and embraced by others. The children are given a healthy snack, they play with toys that they never see at home, have stories read to them, and an educational program is being implemented as we determine how we can best meet their individual needs.
It’s early days and we love these remarkable kids as if they were our own. Each has their own beautiful personality and we are enjoying getting to know them better. They make our lives brighter and richer simply by knowing and doing life with them.
Rabiya is from a Muslim family. He was impacted by neonatal drug taking, was born premature and although “he understands everything” (not sure what this means) he cannot speak or walk. He loves coming to our centre where he is learning to read. His smile lights up the place when he arrives.
Farah is 18 years old. Both of her parents have polio and they cannot walk. Farah loves coming to our centre and she cries when she has to go home.
Ayush is ten years old and he is from a Hindu family. He has never been to school. When at age 5, his parents realised that he had a mental disability, relatives advised his parents to “throw him out or send him to an orphanage”. Ayush’s mother was determined to keep him and now she is finally receiving some help and support from Project Help.
So what’s the vision? Perhaps you can help? We would love of course, to receive your generous donation but even more valuable than this, we are reaching out to ask for specialist help and guidance. Some of the questions we are asking include;
- What should we be seeking to achieve? (we can't afford to make mistakes)
- What early intervention programs are realistic? (this is key)
- What parent support programs are available? (they need support)
- How far can we grow this? We are willing and happy to go as far as God takes us, but we have to bee realistic in not promising the world. We expect that the sky is the limit. ....I heard a story of a man in North India who set up a small school for his son who has cerebral palsy. He was told that his son could not go to school so he built his own school. Within a year he had 200 children with cognitive and developmental disabilities enrolled. These children all came from his town and community. (this could get big and we are willing to go the distance).
The need is great, our resource is minimal. Our love is huge and we are confident that we have friends and networks who would like to share their love too.
Our starting point is to gather some like-minded, passionate educators or people involved in helping children with disabilities to meet with me to get things rolling, and to help me get a clearer sense of direction. Perhaps you can’t help, but maybe you know someone who might be interested, if so please forward this email to them.
As with all things we have experienced with Project Help, we know this to be true;
- small steps make a big difference in people’s lives
- God takes us places and equips us to achieve outcomes beyond expectation
- this is really satisfying stuff
- “To him who has received much, much will be expected” - this is an opportunity to give and to be blessed in a way that words cannot express.
Please reply and let me know if we can chat further.
Thanks as always,
Love Doug :-)
...and the rest of the gang here in Australia and India.
For your kind donation:
ACCOUNT NUMBER: 1134 1900
ACCOUNT NAME: PROJECT HELP INDIA
Dear Friends and Supporters,
Last night I spoke to our Director in Kotdwara and they are presently sweltering in 48degree heat...and it's not even officially summer!
Amit and Daisy continue to work very hard especially as they keep up with the momentum of our SHINE Conference last month. It is incredibly exciting to hear about the impact of the conference in the lives of many women ...and men! We will certainly be heading back for SHINE19! I have included a report written by Amit below, and this is sure to put a smile on your face.
Thank you to the many people who made SHINE possible. Your generous donations certainly continue to generate impact and make a difference to people. We are grateful of your ongoing support and generosity and if you are able to, please continue to donate to this very worthwhile cause. We have so many things to do as we follow-up with women and their families. The Indian Government also put many necessary compliance demands on our work which means that we must spent more time than ever, writing reports, record keeping and spending time and resource in administration tasks.
BSB: 062 230
Account: 1134 1900
Name: Project Help India
If you would like to know more about the Project Help India story, please reply and either Rowena or I would be delighted to chat.
GREETINGS FROM AMIT IN KOTDWARA
Dear Brother Doug & All dear one's...
Greatings to you,
We are good here and still busy in work here. We are hearing many good things from the women time to time.
As Daisy meeting many women time to time and finding that they are very happy and excited for next year.
When me and Daisy had Visited to the Jungle village we found that many women kept their ID cards safly in their homes for next year. They thought they can come again by these cards, but we said that we will will provide new cards again. I was very humbled to see Joy on their faces, because it was happened first time in their life. Waoooo praise God. It is such a wonderful if we can makes Joy in people life.
We were happy to hear that many women are very very wondered after using the pads. They were saying to Daisy that these pads are magic pads😁
We found that these pads are very helpfull for these Ladies and girls.
Some of the Ladies and girls are very Happy with the nail polishes and Lipstick. They are exited because they have Lipstick and Nail polish from Australia 😉. We mate some of the new women too who loos this Conference this time, they were saying that they wants to come next year.
Many women was talking about the story about Daisy. They are feeling very strong in their life after the Story.
Most of the women even heard about very clearly about their sex problem from Rowena and they are exited.
Women were asking us for more dances for next year. They are sending their Love to Max and Galiver, specially girls😚.
We found good report about the food also. It was delicious for tham. Some girls had demand for more dishes in next Conference.
When we visited their villages and houses so the wonderful thing which we found that their husbands were also very thankful to us. They were very exited to send thier Girls and women for next time. They enjoyed Lolys too.
Some of the women's and girls also wants to speak and preform dance in next programme.😎
Some Negative Points:
Some of the women were not happy to see that some of the Ladies and girls take gifts 2 times. Some of trying to take from the bags also. (We will be very very careful for next time and I will do something for next time).
Some of the things I want to discuss on phone with You Doug. Thanks
PLEASE REPLY TO LET ME KNOW IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE REMOVED FROM THIS MAILING LIST
It’s difficult to know where to start as I attempt to summarise our most recent visit to Kotdwara. We are incredibly thankful for all that was accomplished and experienced. I’m still in India, but have the chance to reflect while we wait for our flight back to Sydney.
Our many projects in Kotdwara continue to do well. This trip certainly gave us the opportunity to observe our projects in action and to evaluate and note areas for change and improvement.
The children are thriving and enjoying their learning and our teachers and cooks work incredibly hard. We experienced welcoming smiles, love and the genuine warm embrace that comes from a good number of years of ongoing friendship with the people we visited. It was especially wonderful to visit our seventh and newest centre in the city of Bijnor in a very remote and incredibly poor part of town, and we were blessed to be welcomed into homes and community that would never have seen a white person in this part of the neighbourhood until now.
Amit, Daisy and their two kids, Jonathan and Jasmine send their love and greetings. They worked incredibly hard to ensure for the success of the conference. We were also blessed to travel a little with them, the highlight being a visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra. It was a very special to share this experience with them, seeing them beam with National pride as they visited this historic landmark for the first time.
Our first ever SHINE Conference was a huge success with 278 women attending for the full day. So proud of our Australian team comprising Rowena, Daisy, Sue, Roxy, Sherry, Tilly, Elyse, Maisy, and Sarah, each doing a fabulous job, empowering women as they spoke and presented with confidence and passion. Max and Gulliver entertained the delegates, leading short Bollywood dancing sessions. By the end of the day, the auditorium was full of dancing, smiles, laughter and hugs all-round. I am incredibly grateful for the Aussies who worked so hard for months in advance to prepare for SHINE.
Doug’s session the day after SHINE, speaking about strategic community problem solving, to the anti-human trafficking police team, educators, social workers, business and religious leaders from all faith backgrounds, appeared to be well received (they all stayed to the end!). About 30 men and women attended and they too, have welcomed more meetings in the future.
We have already spent time evaluating our programs and putting together our ideas for SHINE 2019. At the top of the list will be to book a larger venue because we believe we will have at least 500 women wanting to attend next year. Our ideas are exciting and we can’t wait to share them with you.
On behalf of the entire team, I thank you for your interest, encouragement, prayers and generous support in so many ways. Thank you for your financial donations which made SHINE possible. A rough estimate is that the Conference itself totalled approximately $4500. Thank you for your donation of toys, nail polishes, lipsticks and other other items ...every single item was used, given away and received with appreciation and delight. The women’s pad bags donated by Days for Girls also went very well and the women’s health talk given by Rowena was a powerful and important session. It was a little distressing when many women later asked for personal health advice because they could not afford to see a doctor.
The pervading message of the conference was powerful, and gratefully received, as we spoke words of value and purpose into the lives of the women. And of course, our lives were challenged and changed too ...this is our constant experience when visiting this remarkable place and spending time with such beautiful people.
Thank you for being part of our story. You may not have been with us in person, but your love and friendship and prayers made all of this possible.
This team photo was taken just this week. The Thomas Family and 6 other Aussies will be heading to Kotdwara, North India in just three weeks time, to present the first ever Women's Shine Conference. This has been a vision of 'Project Help India' for a number of years and we can't quite believe that it is about to become a reality. At times we have wondered if we have bitten off a little more than we can chew, but hey, we can't turn back now, so we are positive and confident that women's lives will be changed and empowered ...through this we hope to see stronger lives, stronger families, stronger communities and a stronger India.
Thank you for your interest, please read on to learn about all we are doing. If you could make a donation to support our work, we would really appreciate this. The majority of our delegates are women who live in slums and in poverty. None of these women will have ever attended an event like this. They 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.
In fact the town of Kotdwara (population 150 000) has never experienced the likes of this. We are pioneers, so please keep us in your thoughts and prayers. Spread the word, if you might know any Aussies who might be passionate about human rights and human justice and who might be stirred to make a donation to this worthwhile cause (we need some help as it's costing more than we earlier anticipated), forward this email.
How you can help
ACCOUNT NUMBER: 100122703
ACCOUNT NAME: RM & DJ Thomas INDIA
Please write your name and WOMEN'S SHINE in the reference section so we can thank you.
Our young women's technology classes are held at our City Centre in the heart of Kotdwara. Each week, young women from some of the slums attend these afternoon classes. The girls are trained for 6 months in basic keyboard and Microsoft programs. By attending these classes they also receive the wonderful opportunity for friendship and personal counselling. Daisy Samuel runs these classes. The main goal of these classes is to equip the girls with skills which will give them a very good head-start to apply for jobs, along with experiences that provide a very tangible sense of purpose and hope for the future. These classes certainly go a long way in helping to break the cycle of poverty of the girls' circumstances.
We see much success with this program and it is always so lovely to see their smiles and growing confidence, as they grow friendships and find belonging.
This past week the girls were fortunate enough to have a very special and important visitor join them. Mrs Sarita Agarwal, is a legal rights advocate at the local Kotdwara Court. Mrs Agarwal spoke to the girls about women's legal rights. It was a fabulous afternoon and the girls really loved what they learnt. They were empowered, equipped and encouraged to have greater self confidence and to respond to the many issues they must deal with in their day to day lives.
We are very thankful for the help and support of Mrs Agarawal, who has generously given her time and expertise, and also offered to provide us with legal advice in relation to any matters that our projects and organisation may face.
Thank you for your support of our work in Kotdwara, and for your generosity. If you would like to specifically assist the technology classes, your ongoing donation will help us pay for 'new' (second hand) computers, some furniture, workbooks, posters and other resources.