Thursday, May 30, 2013

A wonderful day of women's empowerment

When twelve women from the Mumbai neighborhood of Vikhroli arrived at the JDC India offices in South Mumbai, there was an immediate feeling of camaraderie and friendship. The women, mostly single and aged in their early twenties, came to participate in a series of ‘life skills’ workshops organized as the corroborative brainchild of the staff of local NGO REAP ( and the JDC-GPM Internship fellows.

As part of the goal of empowering women living in slum communities and its literacy movement for empowerment, REAP supports women rights by providing opportunities for women to acquire skills as decision-making, self-reliant, assertive, fully liberated change-agents in their communities.  The JDC-GPM interns, participants in an exciting four-month long volunteer opportunity for young Jewish Indian professionals and undergraduate students working in the slums, designed a day-long “Communication, Confidence, Leadership” series of workshops for the REAP women in order to teach communication skills and encourage confidence building among young promising women leaders from the slum community.

The day opened with the Vikhroli women of REAP arriving at JDC with REAP supervisor Mrs. Vanita Magre and meeting the JDC-GPM interns. After snacks and getting to know one another, the JDC staff and interns led workshops on life skills and career advancement tools. JDC-GPM Intern Jennifer Jacob was instrumental in leading sessions on non-verbal and verbal communication and the women participated in a valuable job interview techniques session led by JDC fellow Tahl Mayer. Jacob and Mayer led sessions on resume building and insights in communication preferences and skills including performing a comprehensive Myers-Briggs Personality Test with all participants. The day’s events were facilitated by JDC-GPM interns Nikita Worlikar and Eliana Phansapurkar as well as JDC volunteers, Mr. and Mrs. Samson and Diana Korlekar. REAP director Trevor Miranda made a surprise visit and participated with the group during the career development sessions.

The public speaking exercise was very popular with the women who enjoyed the opportunity and encouragement to speak openly about issues that are important to them; issues around women’s empowerment rights and education. According to Salome Abraham, JDC Youth Coordinator, ‘the women seemed to be eager to speak out and voice their opinions and appreciated the platform and encouragement to express themselves in a professional manner.”

The day was a testament to the hard work of REAP, the JDC-GPM Interns and the inspiring women from Vikhroli. Real change comes from communities getting together and giving each other a helping hand. Lasting change comes from grassroots support of vulnerable communities. Continued change comes from continual support of socially inspired programs like these. Based on the success of the experience, more workshops are being organized by REAP and the JDC on an ongoing basis.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

GPM and the Kivunim Group

GPM’s Program Coordinator Sigalith Isaac Kurulkar recently met with Kivunim participants and staff at the famous Mumbai landmark Knesset Eliyahu Synagogue. The evening was dedicated to inform and celebrate the Jewish history and presence in India. Sigalith was invited to speak about Gabriel Project Mumbai, the quintessential Jewish initiative working for the betterment of vulnerable children in the slums of Mumbai. Kivunim is a Gap-Year program in international Jewish education that provides an intensive academic and experiential encounter with Middle Eastern, North African, Asian and European cultures. Kivunim participants study and travel to a dozen different countries, where the history of Jewish life demonstrates the powerful integration of surrounding cultures into the rhythm and experience of Judaism, fostering a strong identity rooted in knowledge of Jewish life while engaged with the international community.

Sigalith spoke about the nutrition, health and literacy challenges faced by many children in the slums of Mumbai and how GPM supports grass roots organizations like REAP to provide a supporting structure to these vulnerable children. She also spoke about the close partnership between GPM and the JDC Entwine in bringing young Jewish adults to the Mumbai slums to understand the importance of supporting the vulnerable children.

KIVUNIM’s philosophy is rooted in the belief that the world that today's young people will inherit and inevitably lead must dramatically improve its “world consciousness.”  We were grateful to be able provide some insight on the challenges faced by many children in urban slums throughout the developing world.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The spirit of caring: North Carolina to Mumbai

Erin Paley and a sweetie!
The students and staff of Carolina Day School in Ashville NC recently collected toys and school supplies to send to the children living in the slums of Mumbai. The school encourages its students to participate in community service projects locally and around the world so when they read about the volunteer experience of one of their former students in the slums of Mumbai, they felt the need to lend a hand.

Nineteen year-old, Erin Paley, wrote a blog about her experiences teaching children in the slums of Mumbai while volunteering with Gabriel Project Mumbai. In one of her blog entries Erin described some of the difficulties faced by families in the slums and the day-to-struggle to provide nutrition and education to their children.  The 3rd and 8th grade students at Carolina Day School partnered together and took upon themselves to make a difference and to send a thoughtful  package of toys and school supplies; a wonderful gesture of caring.

“One of our goals is to provide opportunities and encouragement for students to reach beyond themselves so each grade at our school has specific community service projects” explains John Douglas, Middle School Assistant Principal at Carolina Day School.” We mentioned to Erin that we, as a school, would like to do something to help her efforts and support the children and Erin said that sending a box of small toys and school supplies would mean a lot to the kids in the slums.”

Carolina Day School has implemented many global initiatives as part of its curriculum and the students and teachers are enthusiastic about helping others. “We know that we must create educational opportunities for our students that allow them to understand the commonalities that exist throughout humanity and to see diversity of opinion and thought as a strength that can be used to promote solutions to the huge problems that exist today” continued Douglas.

Gabriel Project Mumbai volunteers will distribute the toys and school supplies in early June 2013, at the start of the academic year in India.

Thank you faculty and students at Carolina Day School!

Erin volunteering in the slums. Lesson today: World Continents
Carolina Day School students holding a box of toys and school supplies
School supplies