Wednesday, September 28, 2016

GPM and Tzedek UK launch partnership to benefit vulnerable children in India

Gabriel Project Mumbai has joined forces with the UK organization Tzedek to promote the involvement of British Jewry in development work in India. Through this symbiotic partnership, the organizations hope to bolster Jewish volunteerism in the developing world, raise awareness about tikkun olam, and strengthen the Jewish presence among vulnerable children in the slums of Mumbai.

“I am so excited to work with the amazing people of Tzedek, who have such a strong vision of Jewish activism in the world,” says GPM founding director Jacob Sztokman.

Founded in 1990 as the British Jewish community’s response to extreme poverty, Tzedek educates the UK Jewish community through a uniquely Jewish lens, in schools, synagogues and youth movements; and inspire them to play an active part as volunteers, donors and fundraisers. The organization invests overseas resources a in local people who are working to help themselves out of poverty, and invests in locally conceived programmes that sustainably increase incomes, most often of women. Tzedek also invests in programmes that improve education and skills of children, as a way to break the cycle of poverty.

“Tzedek endeavours to increase the number of British Jews actively involved in overseas development, says Tdedek CEO Jude William. “Partnering with Gabriel Project Mumbai (GPM) gives many more Jews an opportunity to play an active part in effective poverty reduction work in India, and Mumbai slums specifically.  GPM is making great impact on the ground to help vulnerable children. They effectively use resources to bring great effect. In addition they offer a volunteer programme for international volunteers and local Jewish members of the Mumbai community. GPM story is compelling.

Founded in 2012, GPM cares for vulnerable children living in slums and poor rural areas of India by attending to the Triad of Children’s Well Being needs: education, health and nutrition. The GPM “Eat to Learn” provides daily hot, nutritious meals to 1500 children attending schools every day. GPM works with local NGO partners and women’s empowerment initiatives that have positive ripple effects in the slums, thus forging a powerful win-win model for advancing communal development.
GPM brings Jewish young adults from around the world to volunteer with vulnerable children, providing informal education and cultural tools to help them get ahead.

Chief Rabbi Mirvis and his wife Mrs. Valerie Mirvis visited GPM in January this year and were moved by the stories of the children and the dedication to improve people’s lives, undertaken by Jews.

“I was enormously moved by what the Gabriel Project Mumbai is doing in the slums in India, and its affect is enormous,”, Chief Rabbi Mirvis said. Rabbi Mirvis gave his blessing to the GPM-Tzedek partnership as a way to involve more British Jews in their global responsibility, " and specifically in this project in Mumbai."
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis at the launch of the GPM-Tzedek partnership

Chief Rabbi Mirvis and Valerie Mirvis visiting GPM in the slums of Mumbai (Jan 2016)

Tori Kahn, a 2013 GPM volunteer from London, recently described her experience with the children. “My experience has stayed with me more than I ever thought it would,” she said. “I'm not sure if it's that deeper understanding I now have of the impact some human love and attention can have or the awareness of a culture so different to our own. But the impression GPM and India made on me has stuck.”

Tori was especially close with an 11-year old boy named Shravan, who died of an undiagnosed illness because he had no access to health care in the slum. Tori helped raise money to open the Shravan Medical Center a groundbreaking medical clinic for women and children in the Kalwa slum in Mumbai which GPM built in his memory in 2015. “Shavran’s passing shocked me, and hit me hard but also reinforced to me the importance of the work GPM does. The health clinic that GPM has set up in Shavran’s name aims to prevent other children suffering in the way he did,” Tori said. “If Shravan had access to this kind of health care he might still be with us.” The medical clinic serves a community of 200,000 people that until now had no access to health care.

“I hope my experience and continued involvement with the charity allows me to give a small thing back to a society which has given me so much,” Tori added.

Adit Goschalk who was involved in Tzedek's educators program and was working with GPM as a Pears – JDC fellow explains described expounded on her eight months with GPM. "Overall I was incredibly inspired,” she said. "I was inspired not only by the people and the communities that I met, but also by everything that GPM has been successful in achieving in these communities."

“GPM mirrors projects that Tzedek has supported over its lifetime of 25 years,” Ms. WIlliams said. “GPM offers another compelling way for British Jews to look and contribute; to needs outside of our community. Tzedek and GPM together can win more hearts and minds among the community.”

Both Gabriel Project Mumbai and Tzedek are members of OLAM that promotes volunteering, service learning, international development, and social justice advocacy.

To support the work of GPM and Tzedek in the Mumbai slums, you can send UK Gift Aid tax-exempt donations to Tzedek, Platinum House, Gabriel Mews, Crewys Road, London NW2 2GD

Israeli army graduates volunteering with GPM in the slums

Twenty six  Israeli army graduates from elite units have  come to Mumbai to do social work projects including volunteering at Gabriel Project Mumbai (GPM) in the slums. The group, Fighters for Life, taught self-defense, hygiene, first aid, dance, art, environment awareness and English to children attending Gabriel Project Mumbai classes in the slums of Mumbai. The group also worked in painting a community center and teach classes to students in the Santa Cruz neighborhood of Mumbai .
"The children at Gabriel Project Mumbai classes in the slums really enjoyed the informal education classes provided by the Israeli group, " said Leya Elias, Program Coordinator of GPM. " We coordinated the topics being taught by the Israeli group and they came with a lot of the passion and enthusiasm and the children were highly engaged."

This is the second year that fighters for Life volunteered in the slums with Gabriel Project Mumbai, explained Jacob Sztokman, founding director of GPM, "we see a great value in communities coming together to support the welfare of vulnerable children. The Israeli team learned about the challenges faced by underserved communities and the children benefited from exposure to highly innovative pedagogic informal education classes!"

Sunday, September 18, 2016

GPM opens new English-language preschool in remote rural village of Ashte

GPM opened the first preschool serving the children of the remote rural village of Ashte in the Palghar district of Maharashtra this week. The preschool, which has 56 students for its first cohort, marks the first time that this village of 850 people has access to a preschool.

“The Ashte village leaders approached us earlier this year and asked us to provide a preschool for them,” explains GPM Director Jacob Sztokman. “They saw what amazing things we accomplished in our first year of Love 2 Learn, the schooling network that we established for the villages in the

Dahanu region, and they wanted us to include them, too. So we responded with a resounding ‘Yes’.”

Click image above for video!
GPM opened the Love 2 Learn primary-school network in 2015, initially with 20 classes, one in each of 20 remote, impoverished and underserved villages in the region. The residents of Ashte, which is one of the most remote villages – several hours’ drive from the nearest city – also asked if the school could be in English rather than the state language of Maharati or even their tribal dialect. The villager residents, who are primarily land owner farmers and landless members of the Konkana tribe, wanted to ensure that their children receive the finest education possible, on par with schools in Mumbai and Delhi.

“It is incredible that this is their aspiration,” Mr. Sztokman added. “Education is so hard to come by at all in this area, but they are not satisfied with basic education. They want English literacy, they want high quality, they want to have equal opportunities for their children. And they have entrusted GPM network.”

Village residents not only took the initiative of bringing GPM’s Love 2 Learn to their village. They also secured a suitable structure for the classroom, which they painted and landscaped with flora that they know their children would love. A tailor from the village also offered to make uniforms for all the children. 

GPM hired a local teacher, Ms. Anjana Thorat, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education from an Indian university. Due to the lack of educational facilities in the region, Ms. Thorat had been unable to work in her field as the Ashte village is remote and opportunities rare. Now, with the opening of the pre-school, she is able to remain in her community while working in her field. And the children, in turn, benefit from having a highly qualified professional from their own tribe. It is a win-win model for the school and for the community, and keeps the talent local.

Ms. Thorat will be aided by assistant teacher Ms. Geeta Dhangda, also a community member,  who studied commerce in English at a local college.

The teachers’ desk was painted in the style of the famous Warli tribal art by a local artist, Mr Ramesh Mirka. The desk, along with all the other furniture, was donated by ORT India, a Jewish educational and training organization that supports non-sectarian economic and social development.

The opening ceremony for the school, which took place this week, was attended by parents, children, GPM staff, and local dignitaries. The district doctor, Dr. Pravin Rathod, was honored as “Chief Guest”, and ceremoniously opened the preschool. The opening ceremony began with the official breaking of the coconut, an Indian custom for good luck, by Mr Devram Jadhav a village elder.   Raju Chaudrri , representing the parents spoke at the ceremony as well as: Mr. Pravin Gawli, - member of the Dahnu local govt committee (Panchayat), Mrs Tara Sathe- Sarpanch of the local govt of 3 village group, Mrs Deepa Jadhav- Deputy Sarpanch of 3 village groups, Mr. Sakharam Jadhav- Forest officer, Mr. Bhanya Jadhav- Police officer of Ashte village and Mr. Vijay Jadhav of the Adivasi Forest department.

“It’s a great privilege at Gabriel Project Mumbai to run the Ashte English preschool,” said GPM Program Director Kenneth DSouza at the ceremony. “Our goal is to provide high-quality English education to your children to give them the tools and knowledge for them to excel throughout their schooling."

"We will strive for the best pedagogic curriculum so that your children will have the same level of English education as children in schools in Mumbai in Delhi. We are excited to work together in this endeavor, and thank you for your trust", said Thaiza Dias, Program Manager of the Love2Learn program  at GPM.

After the ceremony, the teacher and assistant teacher sat with GPM teaching staff for their first
training before classes begin tomorrow.

The Ashte English Preschool is sponsored by the Global Mitzvah Project of Temple Emanual, Kensington, Maryland

Thursday, September 15, 2016

GPM volunteer alum, Emily Weinstein, and the making of the GPM film

The video highlighting Gabriel Project Mumbai's development work in the slums of Mumbai was
created by GPM – Entwine alum, Emily Weinstein. Emily volunteered with GPM as a JDC Entwine fellow in the Spring of 2015 and taught informal education and English in classes in the Kalwa slums after graduating from Fordham University in New York. At Fordham Emily studied anthropology, international development and visual arts.

After traveling India for a month after the GPM-Entwine program, Emily returned  to the US but travelled to Mumbai  to work with GPM as Development Coordinator in August 2015 as she felt a connection to Mumbai and the strong impact of the work she was doing with GPM.

Emily's passion of film and photography and her love of India led her to work on a
View the GPM Video by clicking the image above
Bollywood/South Indian film in Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu. Later she returned to Mumbai to work with cinematographer Harshbir Singh and then began working as a director's assistant at a Bollywood production firm.

Recently, feeling the need to get back to social causes, Emily and Harshbir decided to form a company focusing on human interest documentaries and social narrative films and  they started a business together - Bombay Arthouse. After finishing the GPM clip Emily said, "we are looking forward to pursuing many more projects with GPM, and we are so thrilled by the overwhelming positive response the film has been receiving."

The GPM film was made possible by an anonymous donor and by an OLAM 'In Motion Subsidy' to help promote OLAM coalition partners' development work around the world.
Emily during the filming

Harshbir on site of the filming