Tuesday, December 23, 2014

275,000 reasons to say Thank You for an amazing 2014!

As 2014 comes to an end, I would like to personally thank you for being such a great supporter of our work. Thanks to you, we at Gabriel Project Mumbai (GPM) have been able to achieve some absolutely incredible things, making a real difference in the lives of ONE THOUSAND children in the slums of Mumbai, and help change the trajectory of their lives.

Thanks to you, we were able to deliver 275,000 hot, nutritious, fresh meals to children in schools as part of
our special “Eat to Learn” program. Yes, that’s right. We delivered 275,000 meals to children in schools, made fresh every day by the REAP women’s cooperative with the support of GPM volunteers, meals specifically suited to the nutritional, developmental and educational needs of the children, ages 3-14. That’s a lot of meals. When the children receive hot meals in school, they go to learn instead of going to work. We are so proud of this accomplishment, and we could not have done it without you.

Here are a few more snapshots of our work in 2014:

•    1,000 children. That’s how many children received hot, nutritious meals in school thanks to the GPM “Eat to Learn” program. Read more about it here.

•     140 women. That’s how many women in the food cooperative now have a growing business and increasing economic stability, enabling them to support their families and strengthen the slum community. Read more about it here.

•     50 international volunteers. That’s how many young Jewish adults from around the world participated in the GPM-JDC-Entwine program in the slums in 2014 – over 100 altogether to date. Read more about it here.

•     20 Indian Jewish interns. That’s how many young Jewish adults from Mumbai worked with GPM in the slums. Read more about it here.

•    50% attendance increase. That’s how the “Eat to Learn” program affected children’s ability to come to school instead of going to work. As Bill Clinton said, when there is hot food in school, children learn to read. Read more about it here.

•     825,000 learning hours. That’s how many hours of learning took place because children are attending school at higher rates.

•     600 volunteer hours. That’s how many hours GPM volunteers added to the children’s learning program at the classes of our partner organization REAP, delivering informal classes in subjects such as English, Math, Science, Geography and Hygiene. Read more about it here.

•     1,000 sets of clean teeth. The GPM H.E.A.L. Hygiene Program that was launched in 2014 – a volunteer-led innovation and initiative – ensured that 1000 children received toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, and lessons in health and oral hygiene. Read more about it here.

•    4,000 pieces of fruit. That’s how many fruits GPM now delivers each month to the children in school, thanks to a special Fruit for Kids campaign, supported by the Good People Fund. The nutrients and health benefits of fruit are invaluable.  Read more about it here.

We could not have done all this without you! THANK YOU!

As 2014 comes to a close and you plan your end-of-year giving, please think of GPM. We are counting on your support to continue to do our vital work.

One thousand children and 140 women in the slums of Mumbai are counting on your support.

THANK YOU and best wishes for a wonderful and fruitful 2015

Jacob Sztokman
Founding Director
Gabriel Project Mumbai

Sunday, December 14, 2014

'Fruit for Kids' launched for the children in the Mumbai slums

Bananas ready for delivery to the children
Gabriel Project Mumbai (GPM) is excited to have started providing a weekly diet of fruit to 1000 children learning in school and part of the GPM Nutrition Program in the slums of Mumbai.  Since 2012, GPM has been providing daily hot nutritious meals to vulnerable children in the Mumbai slums which gives basic tools for good health, cognition and development, and is enabling children to stay in school. GPM’s 'Fruit for Kids' campaign  provides a comprehensive nutritional impact, ensuring that the children receive all the nutrients that their beautiful growing bodies need and deserve.

GPM would like to thank the Good People Fund for allocating a matching grant for “Fruit for Kids” campaign, our friends at Modern Trousseau for their generous gift to the program, the support of our grassroots partner REAP and to the many friends and volunteer alumni of GPM who pitched in to make the
Going bananas!
'Fruit for Kids' campaign a reality for the children living in the slums.


Here are three great reasons why children need fruit:

  • Fresh fiber. Fruit is an important source of fiber, which improves digestion while decreasing the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • Vitamins and minerals. Fruit is vital for potassium, which helps keep children's blood pressure balanced; for vitamin C, which boosts immune systems and helps prevent infection; and vitamin A for healthy eyes and folate for normal DNA production. The vitamins and minerals in fruit  also keep children's kidneys working normally, which decreases his risk of kidney stones, and helps build bone mass. Fruit also reduces the risk of certain types of cancer such as throat, esophageal and stomach. 
  • Cognitive development. Fruit improves brain development, and research shows that a diet rich in fruit actually results in higher test scores. A healthy diet that includes fruit can also increase children's focus in the classroom.
    Oranges-a great source of vitamin C!

    Lots of organges
Handing out bananas

GPM Educational Director, Hayley, attempting to deliver fruit on her head...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Slum Senses: Experiences working with some grade 'A' cuties in the slums of Mumbai

Elana Winchester is a GPM-Entwine Spring 2014 Fellow. Nearing the end of her last full week working in the slums, she shares some thoughts on her experiences working with 'some grade A cuties.'

Rickshaw. Garbage. Goat. Pig. Garbage. Another pig. Banana stand. Children. Donkey. Little boy's butt. Garbage. Dog. Huge pig. Another butt! Donkey. Garbage. Garbage. Pig in garbage.

Nothing gives you a morning wake up, and makes sure your five senses are in check, quite like the walk
Seen on walk from train to slums
from the Kalwa train station into the slums. The smell and taste of burning garbage, the sight of children running around half-naked and barefoot, the sound of pigs squealing and the feeling of rocky, trash laden pathways beneath your feet are enough to make you feel shocked, overwhelmed and extremely fortunate for what you have.

But as India has proven time and time again, this country is one of contrasts.

Past the garbage, poverty and chaos, are a second set of senses more striking than the first. The smell and taste of the nutritious food we help cook and deliver to the classrooms, the sight of children with the biggest, whitest smiles, the sound of "good morning, teacher!" every time I enter the classroom and the feeling of being bombarded by children asking for high fives and handshakes. "Amjad, just ek (one) high five this time, okay?" It's never just ek.

Marketing Manager, Social Media Coordinator and Hillel Board Member are a few of the hats I've worn over the past few years. In October, as part of The Gabriel Project Mumbai, I was privileged to add one more to my repertoire. To 60 children, 5 days a week, I am known as "Elana Teacher". the English speaking white girl who came all the way to India via airplane (a machine these kids are fascinated by) to teach, sing and play games with them.

As the children learn math and reading during their regularly scheduled classes, our job is to provide lessons on informal education, touching on topics they are rarely exposed to, such as art, music, science and
Elana Teacher
geography. The freedom to teach these children whatever we want gives us an immense amount of power. But it also comes with a host of challenges and responsibilities...What if we teach them something that will go over their heads? WHAT will go over their heads? What would they appreciate? What do they already know? What don't they know? How can we teach and build connections if we don't speak Hindi? Are we actually making an impact on their lives?

There was no guide book that could give us the answers to these questions so we relied on the old fashioned trial and error method. And with the help of our translators, David and Haley, we have been able to communicate with our students and put together some amazing lessons that we feel are truly making a difference. And even with the frustrating language barrier, my experience in the slums has reinforced the notion that relationships have the ability to transcend verbal communication. I've made best friends out of Sunil and Poonam just by putting my foot in their laps every day and leaving it there as they giggle and try to push it away. They think it's hilarious, but guys...it's gross. These feet have been in dark, terrible places.

Because our classrooms have students ranging from ages 4 to 12, it's hard to organize lessons that won't be too challenging for the littluns while not being too simple for the older kids. And through our scientifically tested trial and error method, we seem to have found a decent balance through the combination of educational information, games, children's songs and experiments.

During the first week of class, we focused on teaching the kids about emotions, showing them that they can express themselves beyond being just "happy" or "sad." The kids took turns sharing what makes them scared, excited, embarrassed, surprised, angry, etc. and it was interesting to hear their responses. (An upsetting number of students said "I am scared/angry when my father beats me.")
Put your hands in the ayer

My favorite lesson thus far has been teaching the kids about inventions and inspiring the kids to think creatively and out of the box. We introduced the invention of the airplane (which the kids loved), telephone, stethoscope, bicycle, etc. and we challenged the kids to create inventions of their own. We had creative workshops in which we gave the kids an object and told them to pretend it was something it was not. (This pen is a microphone! This pen is a rocket! This pen is a snake!) From this week, it was very clear to us that these kids are rarely pushed to think creatively. Fingers crossed that our lesson lit some sort of creative spark in those cute little heads of theirs.

For our science week, we taught the kids about static electricity, energy, and why some things sink while others float. We brought in a bucket of water and a bunch of objects, challenging the kids to guess whether the objects would float/upar or sink/niche. It was such a fun lesson and, when I saw how engaged and excited the kids were, I was even more proud to be part of this project.

The kids freak out over duck, duck, goose, powerpoint presentations, coloring, music and limbo - such simple things that we take for granted. And even while sitting in a hot, dark, 10x10 classroom, their eagerness to learn is palpable and I am floored by how well behaved and appreciative they are.

But some students are not so lucky. About one month into the program, one of my students, Anand, stopped coming to class. It wasn't until I bumped into him carrying two jugs of water in the alleyways of the slums that I learned he had stopped attending because it was his responsibility to make sure his house had water. Since when do kids take on adult responsibilities? Since when do small children take care of their, even smaller, siblings? This is the reality within the slums and it's really hard to grasp.

Despite the differences between the reality of the slums and the reality which I am familiar with, it's important to note that life within the slums is not sad. In fact, it's the opposite - people seem really happy. Children play, women gossip and goats frolic, just like in the rest of India. It just takes a bit of effort, and a different perspective, to notice that life within the slums is not defined by its garbage, chaos and poverty.

Before coming to India, my knowledge of the slums (and India, in general) was limited to that which I learned from the film, Slumdog Millionaire (which taught me about rupees, the train system, and chai wallahs - success!). But most kids don't have Jamal Malik's luck and will never transition from slumdog to millionaire and live happily ever after with a choreographed Jai Ho dance sequence. While it's extremely difficult for a slumdog to make his or her way out of the slums, my hope is that, through the Gabriel Project Mumbai, we are inspiring children to explore the world around them, ask questions and ultimately fulfill their dreams.

Elana Teacher in the class

GPM's Fruit campaign: 'Banana Day!'

The high five master himself, Amjad

My precious little Poonam