Thursday, November 28, 2013

'I can be a doctor just like you!'

A very special guest came with us to class in the slums today. Dr Amit A. Saraf MD, F.C.P.S. (Internal Medicine) came in to our classes to be part of ‘Careers Week’ for the children in the Kalwa slum.

Tori and I, volunteers at GPM, met Amit when we visited Jupiter Hospital in Thane last month. Straight away we understood that Amit is a really nice doctor with a good heart. We needed to get prescriptions for the Hepatitis B shot and while writing the prescription Amit asked us what we were doing here in India. When we told him about GPM, REAP and our educational activities in Kalwa slum he was genuinely interested and amazed that we had come all the way to India to do, in his words, ‘such a beautiful thing!’

Before we left his office he told us that if there was anything he could do for the children in our care, he would do it with pleasure. We were impressed by Amit’s sincerity and we immediately thought that he would be the perfect person to tell the kids about his profession; he would surely  be a source of inspiration to the children living in the slums.

True to his word, early this morning the doctor walked with us through the slums of Kalwa and to the classes run by REAP. He was visibly concerned about the conditions of the slums but was heartened by the warm welcome he received from the children. With a beaming smile on his face Amit excitedly and patiently told the kids about his profession. He passionately explained to the children that if they want to become doctors they need to eat healthy and nutritious food that their parents dutifully prepare for them so that they’ll have the strength to study. He told them that for a career in medicine, and indeed for any profession, they would have to commit to studying hard but they also should enjoy their time playing; ‘the most important thing is to do everything with love’. The kids appeared amazed and genuinely interested in every word the doctor said. Just from looking at the children’s eyes while the doctor engaged with them you could see that they were regarding him with great respect and admiration.

Dr Saraf spent time answering the many questions that the children had about being a doctor and about the medical field in general.  A very poignant moment occurred while Amit showed the children how to use the first aid kits that GPM donated to the classes. He patiently explained the purpose and importance of each item in the first aid kits. One of the children, with a big smile on his face,  told him: “Thank you Doctor, now that I know what to do I don’t need to go to a doctor anymore and I can save some money!” 

This day was incredibly powerful for everyone involved: the kids were happy because they heard encouraging words from a real role model and they felt pride that the doctor spent time and effort explaining his job and came to speak with them. The doctor was glad to have the opportunity to do something good for his community, that otherwise without our invitation and with his busy routine, he had not been able to do; we (the volunteers and the staff) were really happy because this day actually happened and we could feel that everyone was enriched by this meeting. In addition to the wonderful presentation by Dr. Saraf, the rest of the week looks quite exciting with talks by a lawyer, audiologist, engineer and a soldier. We hope that the message of support and encouragement from these amazing professionals will give the children the message that they can reach their goals and thrive.

By Debby Dell’ariccia, GPM –Entwine fellow Fall 2013
Dr Amit A. Saraf MD explaining  First Aid kits

Dr . Saraf  in front of the class

Children, volunteers and REAP teachers listneing to Dr Saraf' presentation

Friday, November 22, 2013

Naftali Bennet in India: GPM, ‘Keep up the good work!’

When Economy Minister of Israel Naftali Bennet arrived in India last month he took some time out of his
MK Naftali Bennet with GPM's Sigalith Kurulkar
busy schedule to address the Jewish Community of India. On Oct 10, hundreds of people flocked from all parts of Mumbai and beyond to hear the Israeli parliamentarian speak at the famous Baghdadi Synagogue, Knesset Eliyahu in the artsy Kala Goda district in the south of the city. In the crowd was Sigalith Kurulkar, Gabriel Project Mumbai’s  (GPM) Program Coordinator.

After a moving speech about the importance of Israel-Diaspora relations, Sigalith approached the Knesset member as he was making his way through the crowd. Sigalith introduced herself and complimented Mr Bennet on his address. She then informed MK Bennet of the activities of GPM, a Jewish initiative providing nutrition and literacy for children living in India's slums. Sigalith mentioned that GPM has had in the past, and currently has Israeli volunteers on its program as well other Jewish volunteers from around the world. MK Bennet was visibly impressed with the work performed by GPM’s staff and international & local volunteers and before he was whisked away by his security detail, he excitedly told Kurulkar that she and GPM should ‘keep up the good work!’

MK Bennet’s inspiring words was encouraging to us at GPM. His evident excitement about this Jewish organization - with ties to Israel - doing powerfully good work for children in need was heartening.
MK Naftali Bennet speaking at Knesset Eliyahu Synagogue, Mumbai

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

GPM Achievements 2013: Changing the lives of hundreds of children in the slums of India

Thanks to the support of people like you Gabriel Project Mumbai (GPM), a Jewish initiative in the heart of the slums of Mumbai, along with our local partners REAP and JDC India,  will have achieved the following in 2013: 
  • Provided 206,000 nutritious hot meals to 750 children ages 3-12 attending classes in the slums.
    Enabled 825,000 hours of learning for children living in the slums. These classes were provided by the devoted and skilled teachers of our partner organization REAP. 
  • Dedicated over 600 volunteer hours to the children living in the slums. Jewish volunteers from around the world as well as Indian Jewish volunteers have provided these informal classes in English, Math, Science and Hygiene. 
  • Supported the economic betterment of 200 women in local self-help groups, with a fantastic micro- financing program that helps women support their families and strengthen the slum community
  • Involved dozens of Jewish volunteers from around the world and Jewish Indians in volunteering with children in the slums 
  • Equipped a central kitchen in the Kalwa slums with essential cooking equipment to help local women cook food for the children in the slums. 
  • Provided  80 hours of classes in Jewish Social Justice values, Jewish Indian History, spoken Hindi and Indian Culture for our local and international Jewish volunteers. 
  • Developed 2 strong partnerships with JDC & JDC Entwine to bring Jewish young adults from around the world and local Jewish Indian young adults to volunteer with the Hindu and Muslim children living in absolute poverty in the slums of Mumbai. We have also nurtured a dynamic partnership with a fantastic local NGO, 'REAP' that provides dedicated, professional and nurturing teachers in the slums. 
We are extremely grateful for the partner organizations who help us help the children. Thanks to the wonderfully dedicated and professional teachers and coordinators at REAP who are devoted to the welfare of the children and allow us to work alongside them. We also are grateful to the wonderful people at the JDC and JDC Entwine for their support in volunteer recruitment, promoting GPM's mission and strong belief in helping others and alleviating  poverty around the world.

Please join us in our campaign to provide nutritious meals and quality education to the children living in the slums of India. Join us to fight malnutrition and illiteracy and help us give these wonderful children a better future!

Please click here to donate to GPM today.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

‘Its more than literacy; it’s a brighter future.' Read about Hayley’s work at GPM

Namaste…. I am Hayley Dsouza working for what I believe is an amazing organization-- Gabriel Project Mumbai (GPM)! My job is Volunteer Liaison and Educational Director and every day I work closely with the international volunteers in giving over educational, practical and fun lessons to the children living in the slums of Mumbai. I love my job as it is so rewarding and even though it is physically difficult (working in extreme weather conditions: rain, heat, mud etc) I enjoy every day I spend with the children who inspire me as much as , I hope, we at GPM have an impact on them!

I would like to share with you some of the innovative educational themes we have initiated for the children in classes at the Kalwa slums. Every class has a well thought out lesson plan and we divide the weeks in to themes so that there is continuity to our curriculum. Of course, the wonderful international volunteers develop the details of the lesson plans with us and this is great as we are exposed to educational ideas from around the world. I feel that the lesson plan development is a true partnership of ideas.
Our first theme for the current October-December session was ‘International Week’ where each of our volunteers introduced themselves and told the children which part of the world they come from. They taught them ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank you’ in English, Samoan, Italian, South African and Hebrew. The children were thrilled and excited to learn something other than their local language. Till today, four weeks after the ‘International Week’ it’s so nice to hear them greeting us in a different language and repeating these words when we finish class with them.  During that week we gave out small paper crowns and made them feel like Kings and Queens for a Day, just like the Queen of England; because that’s where Tori is from (England). We made them stand like the Statue of Liberty as that is where Jenny is from (USA) and we made pizza cut of cardboard, inspired by Debby who hails from Italy.  Shira, from South Africa, where there a lots of animals took the children on a safari where the children had lots of fun acting like wild animals, and Eden from Israel showed a poster of  a Holy wall and told the kids to write their wishes on a paper and put it in the crevices of the ‘wall’. What was most touching is what kind of wishes the children wrote down. Their wishes were not ones for asking for a better life, a fancy car or good food or money but simple innocent wishes like “I want to study and become a doctor and make my parents proud”. That touched me the most, to see these kids asking for NOTHING else but to make their parents proud????  WOW!!!! The children asked Eden to take their wishes to the REAL Holy wall in Israel when she returns. (read more about International Week here)

The next week was ‘Water Week’. We explained to the children about oceans, lakes and rivers and also how water comes in different forms – liquid, solid and gas. We performed water-based experiments with them and showed them how water and oil cannot mix.

‘Cultural Week’ followed and we taught different modes of art, music, song and dance. We started with music and we introduced the children to Classical, Opera, Country and Rock ‘n Roll music. We listened to all types of music and also showed them a clip on the laptops. The fascinated faces and moods of the children changed with every tempo and with every cadence. Today, we spoke about films and movies and told them how movies started in 1800’s . We didn’t just tell them that movies started off  black and white with no sound, we showed them!  During the clip of Charlie Chaplin, the children laughed so much! The children laughed every time Charlie Chaplin did something funny and I realized, watching their faces, that they were really enjoying themselves. We told them in time and change in technology movies changed to special effects…and then we showed them a clip of ‘Avataar’!

The absolute highlight of the week was when we told them that they were all movie stars and they had to put place their hands in paint and make a hand-print on posters with their name below their hands. Yes, it was just like the famous ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame’!

In short, I take great pleasure and feel much joy seeing the children’s happy faces each time we go to class. The children know that they will learn something new every single day. They know that we have come to give them knew experiences and they know that people care for them. The children eagerly wait for the volunteers to come and their moods completely change. They are tired in the heat of the classrooms, but thanks to their dedicated teachers, and our input, we still have all students in full attendance every day, all wanting and waiting to learn; not an easy feat in the slums of Mumbai.

I am so happy and proud to be a part of the GPM …Thank You…Toda…Dhankie…Fa'afetai…Gracias.

Please support GPM and give generously to our annual appeal. You are supporting our Nutrition and Literacy programs for the beautiful children living in the slums of Mumbai.

Donate now here!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Meet the new cohort of JDC-GPM Indian Jewish Interns

The latest cohort of Indian Jewish JDC-GPM Interns is on its way to make a significant difference and a positive impact to the lives of vulnerable children living in Mumbai slums. The inspiring interns, local Jewish youth active in the Jewish community in Mumbai, is dedicating their time away from career and work to provide an structured program of social and learning experiences to underprivileged children living in the slums. The program is under the auspices of JDC India, Gabriel Project Mumbai and in partnership with local NGO – REAP. REAP has been at the forefront of child literacy efforts in the slums and remote villages of India for close to twenty years.

Salome Nagaonkar, the group's youngest member at 17, led the first encounter with children from the slums in Chinchpokli in central Mumbai. The children were taken to the Nehru Science Centre for an exciting day of science, activities and fun. The 40 children were divided into groups and visited exhibits on the centre’s multi level science complex. The children were encouraged to open their minds, explore and expand their knowledge of sea creatures and animal wildlife and partake in fun activities including a 3D movie – a new experience that really fascinated the children. 
This innovative initiative brings together young Indian Jews and Jewish volunteers from around the world to collaborate on providing care and support for marginalized children living in the slums.

We welcome: Nurith Samuel, Ari Hyam, Salome Nagaonkar, Osrah Samuel,Shamir Talkar and Amiel Palkar to GPM.  We wish these talented and dedicated individuals all the success in pursuing a life of community service and tikkun olam.

Click here to read more about the JDC-GPM Jewish Indian Intern initiative