Monday, March 17, 2014

When Purim and Holi fall out on the same day!

When (Shushan) Purim falls out on the Hindu holiday of Holi it means a whole lot of fun in Mumbai!

Take a look at this picture gallery for a whole lot of Purim/Holi excitement...

Holi color war!

Adina at Chabad Purim Party in Mumbai

GPM fellows and JDC staff preparing Mishloach Manot and Matanot Levyonim

Chabad Purim Party in Mumbai

Itai at Chabad Purim Party in Mumbai

Organizing the Bollywood themed Purim Shpiel at the Mumbai JDC

Chabad Purim Party in Mumbai

Rebecca at Chabad Purim Party in Mumbai

Chabad Purim Party in Mumbai

A Bollywood Purim Party at the JDC

Pre-Purim visit to JDC's Bayiti Jewish old age residence in Mumbai

Class before Holi in the slums

Pre-Purim visit to JDC's Bayiti Jewish old age residence in Mumbai

Pre-Purim visit to JDC's Bayiti Jewish old age residence in Mumbai

Pre-Purim visit to JDC's Bayiti Jewish old age residence in Mumbai

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Womans Day empowerment celebrations - News from REAP

On 8th March 500 women from REAP's Self Help Groups (SHG's) from Ghatkopar area came out in large numbers to celebrate Women's Day.An impressive  rally began from Ghatkopar Station, Mumbai and wound its way to the crowded market area where it culminated in a street show with a big stage right in the middle of the market.

The rally was accompanied with the beat of drums and their own women leading with the 'legim' dressed in colourful traditional sarees. The road show was a delight with women putting up a variety of entertainment skits, dancing and song. With celebrations through the night, the entire experience was one of of unity and solidarity. Many  local municipal corporations were present and lent their support to make it a success. Similar celebrations were held in Kalwa, Kalyan and Dolkhamb, Shahapur Taluka.

The pictures say it all:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Israeli Diplomat in the Slums of Mumbai

When Mr. Matan Zamir, the Deputy Head of the Consulate General of Israel in Mumbai joined Gabriel Project Mumbai volunteers in the slums, it was a learning experience for everyone.

Mr Zamir’s first stop in the slums was the central kitchen used by the women from GPM’s grassroots partner, REAP as the base of GPM’s Nutrition Program for the children in the slums. Here Mr Zamir joined the 30 women, and GPM volunteers, in preparing chapattis (flat bread) and vegetable dishes for the 500 vulnerable children attending REAP classes in the slums. Mr Zamir showed exceptional talent in rolling the chapattis and the women were quiet impressed. (It took many days of practice before any GPM staff or volunteer were able to roll a chapatti that passed the quality assurance test of the women in the kitchen; Mr Zamir succeeded on his first try!)

After a 20 minute walk through the slums, Mr Zamir joined one group of GPM volunteers in teaching two classes. Upon entering the class the teacher asked the children if they remembered how to say ‘hello’ in Hebrew as Mr Zamir was from Israel. Having been taught a few words in the many languages of over 50 international GPM volunteers, it took just a little prodding for the children to scream out “Shalom!” Mr Zamir had a big smile on his face when he replied ‘Shalom, Namaste!’

The session was in art appreciation. The children were looking at pictures of famous sculptures, paintings, music and film, and learning to express their own impressions of the works. In addition to opening the children’s eyes to a world of beautiful artwork, the session also had an important message behind it. The children learned that they each have a unique and authentic voice, and it is completely legitimate and valid for each of them to express their own feelings and ideas about how they experience the art work. For vulnerable children this concept is very powerful because it is not a message that they often receive in their lives. But it was also difficult for the children to express their feelings. The children wanted to know what is the ‘right’ answer. They were eager to look at the art work before them and say this is good or bad. Faced with the challenge of trying to get the children to express their subjective and personal feelings, GPM volunteers tried many teaching methods but it was Mr Zamir who really brought out the children’s ideas. Mr Zamir simply asked the children, ‘Why?’ That is, ‘Why do you think the art work before you is good or bad?’ Slowly, the children expressed the reasoning behind their answers. “The dark colors of the painting makes me feel cold/lonely/sad…” or, ‘The smiling face makes me smile and feel happy’. Suddenly the children were excited to express their thoughts and feelings. For children immersed in an environment not conducive to self-expression, this lesson inspired and encouraged the children to value their feelings and opinions.

Mr Zamir had a memorable impact on the children, and we hope that the children had a memorable impact on him as well. He is always welcome to return for a visit to make chapattis and teach a few classes!

Matan Zamir preparing Chapattis

Mr Zamir outside one of the classes

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Volunteer inspired Project H.E.A.L - Hygiene Encouragement Awareness Learning

Check out this great clip! I am so proud of the new hygiene initiative (H.E.A.L) conceived by the current batch of GPM-JDC Entwine fellows for vulnerable children in the slums of Kalwa, India. 

After a month of volunteering with Gabriel Project Mumbai in REAP classrooms in Mumbai, Simona, Benjamin, Adina, Shira, Itai, Rebecca and Ilana created this incredible initiative after seeing some children with rotten teeth and other physical ailments caused by lack of hygiene. 

Education and access are the key to health in the slums and the group is doing both: educating the children as to healthy/hygienic habits AND access to hygienic materials. Really beautiful...Help them out by donating here!

Click here to read more about GPM's 'H.E.A.L' Initiatives for children living in the slums of Mumbai.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Simona: From Slovakia to The Netherlands to Mumbai

Simona has always dreamed of spending time in the developing world working on alleviating poverty and hunger. Originally from Bratislava, Slovakia and now living in The Netherlands, the vibrant and intelligent 24-year-old is passionately committed to the welfare of children. She was searching for a way to taking part in an innovation to help children, and decided to volunteer with Gabriel Project Mumbai. After a month as a GPM-JDC fellow, she couldn’t be happier.

“This program is awesome,” says Simona, who holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science and a degree in Business Administration. “What we are exposed to makes me think about inequality in the world and how we can fight it. In Europe and in the West we have certain ideas about how to help the poor and vulnerable populations, but being here opens my eyes to the complexities of the challenge. I think through volunteering and experiencing the extreme conditions you also get to know yourself and who you are.”

Simona is part of the eighth cohort of GPM volunteers, which includes participants from all around the world including: United States, Israel, United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, France and now Slovakia! Simona, who is fluent in English, German, Dutch and Slovak and has spent time studying at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, lives with the other volunteers in the Mumbai neighborhood of Thane, close to the slums where the volunteers work every day providing nutrition and literacy to 750-school-age children. The volunteers are also located in proximity to the Jewish community of Mumbai with whom they collaborate on many facets of the program.
Simona, who spent two years as the President of the Slovakian Union of Jewish Youth president for two years, serving the communal needs of 120 Jewish youth and university students as well as the local Jewish community, is surprised herself at how attached she has become to the children. “I did not expect the children to show so much enthusiasm in learning,” she admits. “Their smiles when we arrive every day give us so much.”

Simona and the rest of the volunteers have in fact taken a keen interest in the dental hygiene of the children.  “I have a hard time seeing these children living with certain difficult realities,” she says. “There are some children, as young as 4 or 5, who have rotten and decaying teeth and even though they are now receiving good nutritious food from GPM, their teeth have rotted from years of malnutrition and neglect. It breaks my heart every time I see them smile.”
The group of volunteers decided to launch a program to help provide the children with toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap, as well as basic information about oral health, hygiene and healthy living. The program, called H.E.A.L., which stands for Hygiene Encouragement Awareness Learning , has raised over $1000 to date.

 For Simona, this wonderful achievement, which will drastically improve the lives of 750 children, is inspiring. “It is not difficult at all because the children are so worth it.”
Simona teaching a class

Simona participated in the Fifth Forum of the United Nations in Vienna, Austria, worked in the German Parliament and recently completed an internship at a Dutch engineering consultancy Royal Haskoning DHV in the field of corporate social responsibility with a focus on UN Global Compact. At the end of the program Simona will be returning to The Netherlands, where she will pursue a career in Corporate Responsibility. Thank you for being part of GPM, Simona and veľa sťastia-good luck!