Monday, January 14, 2008

planet why - moving forward

Thanks to angels without wings we have been able to move from dream to reality. The planet why concept has changed slightly as it was felt that we should also include a foster care-cum-scholarship programme for deprived children that would enable some children to access a whole new world..

This is what the new vision is:

Planet Why will have three distinct modules

1. Residential facility for a maximum of 12 children and young adults with disabilities. These are the ones we have been caring for and who do not have any hope for the future. Planet why will also provide shelter to women in distress who will form part of the operating team. We will also run a wide range of activities for the community based on the existing pwhy model

2. A guest house run on the Ninos Hotel Model that will be open to tourists and will be run as a commercial activity to fund the on-going activities of project why

3. A residential foster care programme for a maximum of 20 children where children from deprived backgrounds will be given an enabling and nurturing environment to be able to excel in education and access to employment possibilities. The children ( a maximum of 20) will be kept at planet why for an incubating period of 4 to 5 years and then be sent to boarding school. Emphasis will be on creating an environment close to those found in educated homes, with stress on English and building self-confidence.


Residential programme for special children and women in distress

Special children

This would be an extension of the approach adopted in our day care centre where each ward would be given an enabling environment to grow and live a dignified life. Based on each child’s competence useful activities would be found within planet why and the children trained accordingly. A resident special educator and 2 to 3 caretakers would be needed to ensure this.

We hope to be able to include them in the guesthouse activities where we plan to have a craft shop and a café, small beauty parlour etc

We would limit the facility to 12 residents.

Women in distress

Planet why would provide shelter to women who have heavy pasts and who want to rebuild their lives. At present there are 2 such women at the women centre. Though these women need some special care they would be part of the operating team. While looking for resident staff we will try and identify such persons as they are often not able to reintegrate society and lead a life with dignity.

Activities with the community

These would be worked after assessing local needs but would cover education support, environment, health, and empowerment as well as income generating skills. As in our earlier model we would find and train local people to fulfil this.


A guesthouse with a difference

This facility would be run for 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 to 12 (the actual number could be worked out to ensure maximum profitability) double rooms with attached toilet and shower (space for an extra bed). 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

This being totally uncharted territory fir pwhy we would need the help of professionals to set the facility and train staff for us. Here again we would like to give preference to planet why residents, and local talent but in no way compromise quality.

Over the past years we have come across a wide range of people from the world over who have shown interest in this kind of option.
The proximity of the airport, the new highways to Jaipur and Agra and the already existing metro make this an ideal place for tourists.

We could tie up with a local tourist agency to provide such services and even contemplate running our own at a later stage.

This would also provide an excellent training opportunity for young people who have been our ex students.

This approach would also open new possibilities that can be defined as we go along!

Many organisations do look for such places

We are already part of this volontourism organisation
and are supported by many friends who have links with travel agencies the world over
Moreover our own wide network of supporters are potential clients!


Foster care cum scholarship programme - vision

Once again this in uncharted territory for project why though the concept resonates with the core spirit of our work as is reflected in little Utpal!

At the outset what is essential while formulating the scale of this module is to remember that what is at stake is the lives of children and that we cannot effort to make any mistake as the damage would be irreversible! It is thus felt that we should begin this programme with a smaller number of children to be able to give the extra care required in this learning phase and make the necessary course corrections before reaching our maximum capacity.

The children will be selected from economically deprived backgrounds. Efforts will be made to get children at as young an age as possible. Though it is difficult to assess the potential of a child at a young age, we will strive to make the best assessment as possible and draw them from existing programmes (Project WHY or other NGOs). This will also ensure an already existing comfort factor with the families as their total and long-term commitment is essential to the success of the programme.

Whereas one has strong evidence of an increasing awareness amongst deprived households of the need to educate children to aspire to better morrows, the existing government school system and the lack of resources both financial and intellectual of the families only enables them to aspire to basic employment opportunities and cannot help them break out of the vicious poverty circle to which they and their families would be doomed for yet another generation.

The foster care programme would ensure these children a fair chance at aspiring at quality higher education and thus access to career opportunities available to upper middle class children. We are aware of the fact that our task will not end with schooling along and our intention is to support, handhold and mentor them through college and professional education thereby making a real and tangible contribution to “Inclusive growth” to many amongst the most underprivileged children in Indian society.

The foster care programme of planet why would reach out to a maximum of 20 children.

Foster care cum scholarship programme – operation

It is proposed to run a full residential programme for an incubating period till the child can be moved to a boarding school (I to VI) . The length of the incubation period would depend on the entry point of the boarding school and the performance of the child and may vary from child to child. The children would come to planet why for their holidays where we hope to involve them in the day-to-day activities of planet why as we feel these would be a great learning experience.

During the incubation period our aim would be to give the child a caring and well-structured enabling environment where the child can grow and learn. Children will attend a day school and planet why will play the role of the family as well as teach the child the ways of the world we are preparing them for. This is essential to ensure that they are not lost when they are moved to boarding school. Efforts will be made to keep abreast with the ways of the upmarket kids and incorporate them gently into our programme. Thus planet why would a place of unlearning and learning!

We will ensure that the day school they attend is one that is not too overwhelming and one where are able to establish a good rapport and have some say!

The success of the programme also depends on our ability to teach the child to accept his origins and embrace a new world, as alienating him from her/his origins can jeopardize our efforts to make these children agents of change. Hence a careful contact programme with the families will have to worked out and spelt out to the families before they decide to hand us over their child.

Dormitories, study space, recreation room, computer access will have to be designed to ensure a happy and home like environment. A well-structured timetable where learning means not simply school curriculum but encompasses life skills and values will have to be worked out.

It is felt that the fact that the whole programme is linked with planet why will be a great asset as the children would have the rare opportunity to interact with the planet why kids as well as people from the world over as we feel that all 3 modules dovetail into a vibrant entity and will provide exceptional learning possibilities.

The success of this programme depends on the quality of the staff and here again our past experience has shown that commitment to the cause takes precedence on paper qualifications.

Some of our staff would be willing to relocate (provided we give them housing facility) and can provide the core staff needed. These have already proved their commitment and mettle and they are the ones who have been the backbone of project why for 8 years and ensured its success.

A house mother and an academic supervisor would be needed over and above staff needed for day-to-day running, We would however encourage the children to learn to do their own work.

As the success of the programme lies in our ability to give the children a comfort factor in English, we would have all the staff we propose to relocate follow an intensive spoken English course on the lines of the ones held for call centres.


All three modules are complementary and have to be viewed in this manner to make planet why a true success.

It is felt that meals need to be taken together that modules I and III have common recreational facilities. This would enable to celebrate difference and also teach children to care for each other ands would also compels us to keep our surroundings in pristine order

Laundry and other housekeeping facilities of I, II and III should also be shared.

Outings and other activities should also be planned together

Our efforts will be to build an eco friendly complex and try and use as much renewable energy as possible.


Anonymous said...

Anuradha, this is a great vision! I think it will be a huge success. Please check out the website of Parivaar Ashram which is situated near Kolkata. It was started by a IIMC graduate as soon as he graduated. I am not entirely sure if you can gain anything bby knowing about it, but I thought I should share. May be you can incorporate some of their best practices. The link to website is

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