Friday, February 22, 2008

Case for Planet Why

Project Why and Planet Why – What are they about?

Project Why began as a spontaneous reaction to help an unfortunate few, and has grown organically over eight years to become an extraordinary life-line that offers children hope instead of despondency.

The initial few were kids born into the slums in the South of Delhi, but they were the unluckiest of the unlucky; born with special needs into a place where even able children stand little chance. Project Why created both classes and teachers from resources in the slums and they quickly became full. So more had to be done, more money found, more teachers trained, more class-rooms formed from the rubble. Today Project Why teaches 600 kids, employs 30 local staff and has sponsored 12 open heart surgeries.

Project Why is a hand to mouth type of organisation; desperation connects the income received from donors with the investment in its resources.

So Planet Why is the answer to this desperate struggle - Planet Why is the dream that a sustainable future for Project Why might exist, that Project Why might have a chance to reach out to a few more and to grow, that the begging for help might be supplemented by a more predictable life-line. It would mean that Project Why will be safeguarded and that graduating Project Why students might lend a hand to subsequent generations.

The Vision of Planet Why Planet Why’s principle motive is to provide a stable and sustainable income for Project Why. Given India’s fast-growing economy and Delhi’s booming tourist industry an obvious opportunity is to find commercial success in the hospitality sector. It is well publicised that there is a shortage of reasonable and comfortable guest houses in the Delhi area (see Lonely Planet etc) and we have seen that the Ninos Hotel in Cusco is exactly this model - a successful guest house whose profits support child aid projects. If we can create such a guesthouse we know it will work.

Supplementing income generated from the rental of guest rooms are numerous other opportunities such as: -

• local crafts and organic produce
• guided tours
• lessons and/or sessions in
o yoga
o reiki
o language
o cooking

Further, we can integrate aspects of Project Why into the house for the mutual benefit of all involved; giving guests an opportunity to interact with representatives of the real Delhi, and the representatives of the real Delhi an opportunity for employment and interaction with the wider-world. It will allow Project Why to grow.

Achieving our vision In a perfect world we would renovate space in the centre of Delhi, but extremely high property prices make this idea unfeasible.

A more realistic and pragmatic approach will see us start by acquiring ‘cheap’ land and take a stepping-stone approach: -

1. Secure affordable land with good potential (thus insulating us from losing an opportunity caused by spiralling land costs)
2. Pay off the land as soon as possible (by taking on a loan at favourable terms to be paid off by donations)
3. Use the land immediately to hold classes for local children, plant the garden and start to produce organic crops
4. Continue to raise capital for the building stage
5. Start building only when money is raised and use a modest amount of the land
6. Make good the investment and grow as appropriate

The house will also employ eco-friendly and renewable energy sources; ‘sustainability’ will be a core principle of the house.

Costs The land purchase will be the majority of the capital expenditure of Planet Why and will cost 90 Lakh including taxes (90,00,000 Rupees equivalent to roughly US$230,000) for 1200m/2. Suitable land has been identified and is discussed later.

Existing Project Why contacts have offered many gift-in-kind donations such as sand, cement and even white goods (e.g. fridges, freezers etc) so we are confident that by building a modest but beautiful structure, using simple traditional methods and using local labour, we can keep the build and operational costs low.

A building of two floors covering a third of the land (350-400m/2) would cost approximately 70 Lakh and would provide enough space for: -
• ten guest rooms with bathrooms
• a restaurant
• utility spaces (kitchen, washing etc.)
• centre for the special needs/Project Why ‘overflow’
• space for staff
• undeveloped land to be used as needs demand

Operating costs of the building, based on our experiences of running Project Why plus research of similar establishments, would be in the region of 16,00,000 Rupees per annum.

Income A reasonable room rate of 1500 Rupees per night for each of the 10 rooms, at a reasonable estimate of 60% occupancy would generate 31,75,000 Rupees per annum, i.e. a comfortable rate of return. In addition, income from supplemental services such as the restaurant, laundry, lessons/courses etc. would boost profitability and provide employment opportunities for Project Why alumni and the local community.

Location We have identified land in Shyam Vihar, Najafgarh 2 which is a tranquil area in Delhi’s quieter suburbs near to the airport and close to the Jaipur Agra highways. A map is provided below (the blue x marks the spot). It has good transport links into central Delhi (The metro line 3 is already operational and is a 15 minutes run) and the area is undergoing rapid redevelopment.

The location is perfect for friends of Project Why and those seeking a Delhi base away from the frenetic city centre. With a purchase price of 8,500 Rupees per m/2 (which is incomparable to prices in the centre and cheaper than any land found near) it makes a sound purchase.

What do we need from you? We have found ourselves under some pressure having committed to the land and taken on a debt that we need to pay within a year (we initially thought the terms were more reasonable).

In the absence of the benevolent donor willing to pay the setup costs (which the Ninos project was lucky enough to find), we need your help for us to acquire the land. To date we have met every challenge that has come our way with the help of large-hearted individuals who have always responded to our pleas. Though this new challenge is not linked to a single humane case, it is nevertheless in consonance with the spirit of Project Why. This land will give a secure, stable and dignified future to the desperate souls who came our way as well as permanence to Project Why.

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