Friday, June 1, 2007

planet why - project report



Many things have been happening at Project Why and some of them point towards the indubitable yet maybe still invisible reality that Chapter I is slowly coming to a close. With the advent of the new metro line, most of the slums we work will eventually be relocated, as the dream of one, becomes the doom of the other. India is all about macro and micro realities and in order to make substantial and meaningful change it becomes imperative to address both sides of the coin. What began 7 years ago as an honest effort to empower underprivileged communities to take charge of the education of their children, has met with a fair amount of success. A viable model was mooted, and tested successfully as drop out rates were contained 100% and the model steered by local efforts. The only element that did not quite meet the set target was sustainability. But all in all, the education support programme we set out to create met most of its goals. That is the macro level. However, the past seven years have also brought the micro level into our lives be it children needing surgery, children having no future, single mothers at the fringe of giving up and children and young adults with disabilities facing a bleak future. For these creatures of a Lesser God we need to find a larger solution particularly as we have witnessed the total lack of social and administrative support which is at best inhuman (orphanages, homes for the challenged etc) So the need to create a viable option for the later has become an indubitable reality. That is what brings us to Chapter II of our journey in the shape of what we would like to call simply Planet Why: a small home in a rural suburb where we would try to give a new lease of life to these souls. Moreover this home would have several activities: a refuge, education and empowerment for the local community and specialised vocational training. This brings us to the invariable question that is waiting to be asked: how will Project Why sustain itself? Here is our answer: we want to seed Project Why in a village called Goyla, close to the airport and to Dwarka, which is already on the metro line. With the imminent completion of several flyover/highway projects the place is ideal to create a guesthouse for visiting tourists who may want to taste another side of India and thus generate funds to run our activities.


The Sri Ram Goburdhun Charitable Trust under the programme ‘Project Why’ is a Non Governmental not for profit organisation engaged in education support and life skills enhancement of slum and basti children in South Delhi. At present the organisation runs an education support programme which has 9 distinct modules: 2 early childhood, 4 primary, 2 secondary, 1 children with special needs and 1 computer centre. All the modules dovetail into a comprehensive life skills development programme aimed at creating an enabling environment to help children and youth access a better future.

The Trust was started as a repayment of a debt to society in May 1998. The learning phase of the organisation took its journey through creation of employment opportunities for persons with disabilities, running nutrition supplement programme for street children and this helped the organisation formulate a focused programme named Project Why which has been in place since November 2000 when it began its activities with 50 children. In April 2007, the number of children has crossed 500.

Project Why is also a community development programme ensuring the total involvement of the community to create an enabling environment for the development of the child. Its policy is to nurture and employ the skills available within the community and above 98% of its ‘team’ is made up of community members, thus make it also an employment generation centre. It is noteworthy to mention that over 32 new jobs were created and that for 80% of the staff, this employment is the sole source of revenue.

One of the key factors of the success achieved is the very unique mode of functioning of the centre. Project being at present the only activity of the Trust, it benefits from the total commitment of the Founder and from a very minimal administrative structure. The managerial approach is one of decisions taken by the entire staff, which meets everyday over a community lunch. Hence all remedial measures approved by all concerned can be taken as soon as any problem arises. This makes the programme extremely dynamic, responsive to change and hence increases the success factor.

The measure of success can be determined by the fact that in the past 7 years no child has dropped out of school and that all children have passed their yearly school examinations. Many of our ex-students are now in university or gainfully employed.

But the true success of Project Why lies in its ability to empower the community to take on their responsibilities and show them how to find solutions within the existing context. We realised very early that invisible barriers existed - be they caste or creed - and our first venture was to break those barriers and make Project Why a true reflection of an ideal India. 
It is for us a mater of pride to see that communities that barely interacted slowly learnt to discover each other and respect one another.

But no education programme can be deemed a success unless it includes a larger perspective; hence it has been our concerted effort to include environment and civic responsibility in our curriculum.

And no self-respecting development programme can afford to be oblivious to the larger human factor, particularly if it is to be an agent of change. Hence it has been our constant effort to ‘listen’ to the needs of the day and reach out whenever it is possible.

In the past 7 years we have helped the community in many ways and extended our support to the most fragile members: young babies, pregnant and lactating mothers, abused women etc

We have also sponsored 12 open-heart surgeries and several medical emergencies.

India is a land of contradictions and sadly one, where the poor and less privileged are often at the receiving end. This is why we felt the need of formalising a community extension programme that aims at empowering people and teaching them their rights and civic duties.

The latest laws and urban development programmes – such as the construction of the metro and the slum relocation projects – have endangered the very existence of the habitat of those we work with.

This has been a wake up call for all of us and prompted us to review our future plans.


The Sri Ram Goburdhun Charitable Trust is a registered organisation and meets all the requirements of the law of the Land.

It is overlooked by a Board of Directors that was selected carefully both in terms of it and skills and is steered by a small executive committee comprising of its President, its Secretary and its Treasurer that remains in constant touch with each other as the measure of the success of Project Why is its flexibility and adaptability to current situations.

The Project Why team comprises of 32 persons. Though the staff may not at first seem qualified in a conventional manner, it has found to be most appropriate for several reasons. First of all it is an extremely motivated group as it has been given recognition it never had. Secondly belonging to the same social background it is able to understand the problems faced by the children and above all being totally different from the ‘image’ of the teacher the child has, it is able to garner the confidence of the child.

The team is reinforced by the presence of volunteers and by the support of a network of specialised organisations.

Staff is remunerated at the present minimum wage.

The annual budget of Project Why is around 1 800 000 Rs or ~ 35 000 Euros


Name of the organisation 
Name of Project: 
Project Why
Registration Number: S 32978
(Registered under Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860)
Date of Registration
: 8th May 1998 

Registered Address: 
C-15 Chiragh Enclave 

New Delhi 110048
Field Office: 
231A/3 Govindpuri
New Delhi 110019 


Registered office: 91 11 26469915 

Mobile: 9811424877
Fax: 91 1126217952


Income Tax number
Income Tax Exemption 
2001-2002/S-2576/99/241, (renewal) 

FCRA Number :

Chartered Accountants: 
Jai Kishan Gupta & Co 

2/20 Double Storey
Jangpura Extension
New Delhi 



Account No: 0509927 -227 (Indian rupees)
Account No: 0509991-227 (fcra)


Seven years ago we set out to create a model whereby underprivileged and illiterate or semi-literate parents could be empowered to steer the educational needs of their children with local resources.

The model proved doable as in the last 7 years drop out rates were contained and children passed their school examinations with success. We used local talent and proved that teaching could be done anywhere and did not require structures. The only factor that remains to be proved is that of having the staff initiate funding modalities and this necessitates a phased withdrawal on our part. That is where we stand now and will soon have a model to share. Were that to happen, then phase I of Project Why would come to a logical closure compelling us to move on to phase II.

Whereas a set of precise goals steered phase I, it would be unwise to think that the same can apply to phase II.

Many factors have to be taken into consideration to launch phase II: some are beyond our control such as the new habitat and town planning realities, some emanate from our past experience and some are guided by our desire to see Project Why live beyond individuals.

The idea to seed Project Why in a rural outskirt answers the first concern, the need of a residential facility, albeit a tiny one, stems out of the handful of persons that have come into our lives and the resolve to address the sustainability option form day one of phase II is the logical outcome of the precarious and fragile nature of our funding ways which have been resting on individual skills and individual state of minds.

So whereas we could begin working with the children and the community of Goyla immediately and without much requirements, we have chosen not to and instead find a way to ensure a permanent source of funds from day one.

The idea of a guesthouse was one we found eminently doable in the present scenario as there is a paucity of clean, safe and pleasant rooms for tourists in Delhi and the ever increasing desire of tourists to pair voluntary work with sight seeing to get a real feel of the country makes us believe that our concept can work not only in Goyla, but elsewhere too, thus making this model a replicable one!


• To set up a residential facility for children and mothers having no other option or alternative
• To set up a guesthouse for visiting tourists as a long term sustainability option for all Project Why activities
• To set this dovetailing of hospitality and development as a possible model to be replicated elsewhere.
• To train and use Project Why alumni and local talent thus generating new avenues of employment.


To fully comprehend the Project Why model that meshes care and sustainability, it is important to understand how Project Why has been funded till date.

Project Why was created in 1998 by an individual as repayment of a debt to society. It was initially funded through personal funds and an inheritance. Slowly the help of a few friends was sought and a small network of supporters was created.

The first formalised funding came with Enfances Indiennes, an effort of a friend who had the wisdom of institutionalising the funding of our organisation in a network of supporters from EU countries.

The next quantum leap in the funding saga was taken with our web presence that saw help coming from the world over as small individual donations at first and then some organisational support (Asha Seattle, Chopra Foundation, and others).

On the other side we remained conscious of the fragility of our funding model and attempted to generate funds in a host of ways: making and selling a variety of products ( T shirts, bags, jewels, chocolates, etc), placing donation boxes in markets, setting up raffles and lotteries, and initiating a one-rupee-a-day programme within the community. But each fell short of its target as we could not match the competition. Moreover the complex legislations related to some products like soaps and food items were wrought with red tape. And finally marketing any product required huge investment. The final blow was the sealing laws that put an end to any small business idea we may have had.

And yet we know that Project Why needs a long-term independent sustainability option. And that is why, when we knew we had to set up a home for the few souls who had dropped into our lives, we were also aware of the fact that the home we were to create had to be able to sustain itself in the long term.

That is when we stumbled upon the idea of setting up a guesthouse within its precinct. The idea of a guesthouse stems from a variety of reasons: the advent of tourism with a heart, the paucity of low cost rooms in Delhi, the feedback of many friends etc.

The idea seemed doable.


Hence Project Why has two separate identities that are not mutually exclusive.

Here is a glimpse of how we imagine Project Why:

Project Why will be located in the sleepy village of Goyla known for its dairy and buffaloes. A pond sits nearby the chosen location and is surrounded by shrubs and trees, and like all villages in India protected by a tiny shrine to the faceless local deity. The village does have its share of urbanisation with many new structures, but one can still find some old homesteads and the local village council. There are several government schools and many children in need of educational support and guidance.

Planets Why once again aims at working with these children as is done at Project Why, but will also reach out to the community, something that was not feasible in an urban slum. Environment projects, rainwater harvesting, health related activities, imparting new skills, adult education, empowerment of women, civic responsibility are some of the projects we intend launch.

Our vision is of simple structure around a courtyard. Whitewashed walls, brightly painted doors and windows, mud murals and greenery will give a joyful feeling to the place. On the first floor we will run a guest house with 10 rooms offering two star comfort and decorated with local craft. These rooms will be for tourists transiting Delhi and who would like to spend a day or two with children before they set out to discover India. Goyla's proximity to the airport makes it an ideal transit point. For those who wish to see Delhi, a short ride to the metro station will be provided at regular intervals.

The ground floor will house three sections. One will have a large kitchen and a living room where guests can lounge, read or just while away time playing with the children; one side will be reserved for children where two large rooms will be converted into dorms at night for the little souls that have dropped by Project Why and who have nowhere else to go to. During the day the same rooms will be used for a host of child related activities for the neighbourhood kids. The third side will house staff quarters (mostly single moms) and all other housekeeping activities. Building material will be eco -friendly and recycled, and we will try to use as much alternative sources of energy as possible: solar panels to heat water, biogas and green fuel.

All open space will be filled with trees, shrubs and plants of all kinds. The building activity will involve friends from all over the world as well as the local community each one leaving their own special mark.

Tourism with a meaning seems to have come to stay as many friends and supporters have expressed their desire to spend some time with children and local people before setting out to discover the country. Hence our rooms seem almost booked in advance! After cutting the costs needed to run the place, we will be left with a sizable amount that will go on to fund educational and other activities based on the model we have already run and validated for the past 7 years setting us free of the fragile situation we often found ourselves in.

The little guesthouse will also be a training ground for our own students who can then accede to a wider range of employment. Project Why will also be an ideal place for short-term skill learning workshops and related activities.


Goyla is in South West Delhi and is a diary village though the diary may be removed.

Is is located near sector 19 Dwarka and has a direct access from the international airport.

It is also close to the metro, so for those wishing to visit the city, we would run regular shuttles between Project Why and the metro station.

A direct road from the international airport to Dwarka makes Goyla a short run from the airport.

Goyla is also close to the highway to Agra and Jaipur!


Land cost s prohibitive in the national capital region of India. We have the option of buying (prevalent rate is anything between 7000 and 10 000 Rs a square yard) or getting a long lease (10 years).
But then we run the risk of losing much of our investment.


The minimum required for Project Why would be 800 square yards. The prevalent cost of construction in Delhi is 1000 rs a square foot.

Construction plan

We could have a phased plan, however one must keep in mind that Project Why can only begin to generate funds once all guest rooms are completed.

However activities with the local children and community can begin once we have the land. This would help in building a rapport with the community and gain their trust.


Care and learning
  • a refuge for the Project Why children and mothers who have no other means of support. Many of these children are from the special section and have no one to care for them.
  • Provide education support and child related activities to local children
  • Run community awareness programmes with the local community (environment, health, hygiene etc)
  • Provide new skills training
Bulleted List


  • Guest house with 10 rooms (bed and breakfast)
  • Tourist shop run by the Project Why inhabitants
  • Short term courses for guests: hindi, cooking etc
  • Cafe


Planet Population

Full time inhabitants
  • Children, young adults, adults who came to Project Why since its inception and who have no means of support
  • mothers with children.

Daytime occupants
  • Children from local community
  • adults from community
  • Guests

Though Project Why was primarily conceived as an education support programme for children from diverse slums in Delhi, it the past seven years brought the micro level into our lives be it children needing surgery, children having no future, single mothers at the fringe of giving up and children and young adults with disabilities facing a bleak future.

This is because we felt from the very outset that for any development work to be truly relevant it had to keep attuned with the community and address any problem that came by.

Thus into our lives came lost souls who we know have no long-term future. To leave them alone and helpless would negate all the work we have achieved till date. It is for these children of a lesser God that we have to create a viable option namely Project Why!

The handful of souls we are reaching out came to us. We do not intend to go looking for new ones but simply ensure a dignified life to the ones that we feel have become our responsibility particularly as there are no viable and humane options for them.

In some of these cases, our responsibility is even greater as we are the ones who took them out from one life and gave them another. To push them back to the hell they lived in would be unacceptable.

Case studies
Full time residents
These are some of the lost souls who would need our support on a long-term basis.


It all began with Manu and from a life of an uncared beggar roaming the streets half clad Manu has come a long way. He today has a peer group and a structured life. Abandoned by his family and bereft of social identity Manu needs us all the way


When she came to us Champa had just been sexually abused. Severely mentally retarded she was unaware of what had happened but was frightened and withdrawn. The youngest of 4 girls, and with a widowed mother who cleans homes for a living, Champa was neglected and left alone. Today she is safe as she spends the day at Project Why. But we know that after her mother passes on Champa will have no one to care for her and nowhere to go


Sapna is severely retarded. She is 9 but looks 4. When she came to us she barely held her head. Though she has a family, it one that has no time love or place for her. Her father has a heat ailment and her mother is just surviving. There will be a day when Sapna will become an impediment and have nowhere to go.


When you change the life of someone radically then you become morally bound to see that person through. Jhunnu had a life, albeit a bad one, where alcohol ruled and violence was the order of the day. When we decided to get her out of the nightmare, we also severed her links with her past leaving her fragile and vulnerable and with no place to go back to.


Himanshu’s life is the stuff novels and movies are made out of. At age 3 he saw his mother hang herself. Six months later his mother’s family shot his father in a vendetta. The shock he suffered has left him mute and with severe behavioural problems. He would need special care all his life; one his poor family may not be able to give. Even if we are able to deal with his present behavioural problems, Himanshu will need support for a long time.

These are few of the possible residents of Project Why. We anticipate a few more from our special section itself as well as any child or mother who we feel needs long term support and protection.

In the day Project Why will run a host of activities for the local children and community members, ranging from education support to vocational training. We also plan to involve the community at large in environment and awareness programmes.

Planet Why – Residential FacilitiesAlign Center

Planet is envisioned as a simple, eco friendly structure where space is utilised judiciously. It will have a room for boys and one of girls, and small quarters for the staff. We will also have a large room that will be used as workshop and for meetings.

The rooms will be used for activities during the day and will double up as dormitory at night. A small storeroom will be used for stocking beddings during the day. Two well-equipped bathroom units will be available for staff and children.

The premises will have a small sick bay.

A large state-of-the-art open kitchen will serve both the children and the guesthouse.

An outhouse will be used for washing clothes and will also house the back up electricity unit in a sound proof environment.

We will try and use as much alternative sources of energy as possible: solar, biogas etc

All waste will be recycled into compost for use in our garden and sale.

Rainwater harvesting will be incorporated in the design of Planet Why.

Planet Why – programme and activities

Keeping in mind the profile of Planet Why’s inhabitants, activities will be planned in a flexible way to give the best option to the children and adults.

A strict timetable will be enforced and adhered to.

Recreational activities will be planned at regular intervals.

Planet – why staff

Three sorts of persons will staff Project Why:

1. The residents themselves
2. Local people
3. A handful of selected and trained ex project students.

Networking with Shanti Gyan School

The choice of Goyla is also its proximity to the shanti gyan international school where Utpal studies. This would enable us to access their medical facilities, their sports facilities and organise activities with their children.

The entire team will be supervised by a coordinator who will live on the premises.

Guesthouse, tourist shop, cafe...

tourists from all over the world who may want to have a different experience, volunteers, guests, people looking for a different week end experience

Planet Why’s guesthouse facilities would have 10 double rooms with attached toilet and shower. These would be furnished with local craft and would be made comfortable and functional.

A large patio cum lounge adjoining the kitchen would be the ideal meeting place and would double up as dining room for breakfast. In case any one wanted a meal, this could be arranged if given prior notice.

Guest would be welcome to spend time with the children.

A small tourist shop would be run by the inmates and would offer a range of products, books, maps as well as craft made by the children.

A regular shuttle service would run between Planet Why and the metro station.

Airport pick up would be provided if needed.

Special activities would be organised like meeting with villagers, Indian cooking classes dance, etc

A shop for tourists

To add some life to Project Why and to keep its residents gainfully employed we will run a small shop which will have a small range of products of interest to tourists as well as craft made by the Project Why inmates.

Learn cooking, hindi..

Many friends have suggested we run short-term Hindi and cooking classes as an added source of revenue.

Café planet why
Another possibility would be to run a café where guests could also teach some of their unique specialities
Align Center

A proper feasibility study will be commissioned once we have an accord in principle and are fairly sure that we will be able to garner the funds as this is way out from what we have been raising till date.Align Center

What we are looking at is something in the range of 5 million rupees for the land (if we are to purchase) and another 2 million for construction and refurbishing, making the project close to 8 million rupees. (160 000 Euros)

Hence for us it is imperative to know whether we can reach this sum before we go further.


Once we have a positive reaction we would commission a detailed project report with budget implications and projections.

1 comment:

Sneha said...

Anou, its a very interesting idea. But I m not sure how the funds will gather?