Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Two GPM teachers get married!

A wedding ceremony is an incredibly special occasion in anyone's life. A traditional Indian wedding ceremony is both special and unique in its' traditions. 

The wedding ceremony of Anjana and Krishna, 2 of GPM's beloved teachers, was a beautiful event. It took place in Bhusarpada village, where GPM operates.

The day before the wedding, the Mehendi Ceremony took place. Henna is applied in a decorative pattern on the bride's hands and feet in order to utilize the hennas natural medicinal purposes of cooling the body and relieving stress.

On the day of the wedding, Anjana wore an Indian saree and Krishna wore a dhoti. Beautiful colors decorated the event as guests dressed in traditional Indian attire arrived. Music and laughter were heard the entire time as friends and family had a fabulous time.

Both children and staff from GPM were thrilled to be able to attend this spectacular event. A gift was given on behalf of GPM for all the hard work Anjana and Krishna have done. We wish them a beautiful home filled with love and good tidings!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Annual Day Celebration at GPM!

There are many beautiful festivities in India but one festivity remains the most highly anticipated for school-age children: Annual Day

Annual Day is a joyous celebration filled with colorful performances, rhythmic music, and motivational speeches. Gabriel Project Mumbai's education program, Love2Learn, held a celebratory event for the children from the program in honor of Annual Day, where children were able put on lively performances and receive honors for their academic achievements. 

The Annual Day celebration began with the lighting of the lamp, a tradition in Hinduism before any celebration so as to begin and end the day with an invocation of light. A speech was said to thank all of the supporters of GPM. Next, parents and friends had the opportunity to watch performances from the children. Fifteen different classes of kids dressed up in their finest clothes and entertained the audience with Marathi and tribal folk dances, skits, and English songs. As children dressed in vibrant colors spiraled around the stage, the audience could hardly contain their delight! At the end, the 3 best performances were awarded with group prizes. 

During the ceremony, the 'No Plastic Ashte' campain was launched. Sample cloth bags were distributed with the goal of ending plastic usage and waste. GPM purchased over 100 meters of cloth that will be given to local women to stitch bags.

The celebration continued with a motivational speech by Ms. Nilima, an MSc. graduate, who thanked her parents for supporting her interests and encouraged her to follow her dreams. She encouraged the young girls to pursue their education and to refrain from the pressures of marriage at a young age, which has become common practice for young girls living in the slums.

The incredible day ended with awards given out to children celebrating their talent for the performances, and for their success and achievement of finishing another school year! GPM recognizes the sustained efforts of the teachers and staff that work tirelessly every day to make sure the children are given a terrific education. As a thank you, the staff were awarded a small token of appreciation.

This day was made possible because of the generous residents from Ashte village that offered GPM a pavilion and stage for the ceremony. As a thank you to GPM, a sound system was set up by local business owners that had graduated from GPM. Catering for the event was done by GPM's kitchen initiative, the Masala Mamas, that prepared a delicious meal for everyone that attended. 

Both parents and children enjoyed a fabulous, fun-filled party for Annual Day. Thank you to everyone that made this day so special for all of our children at GPM!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

A Great Collaboration with the International Peace Paper Project

Drew Matott and Jana Schumacher of Peace Paper Project led a 2-week seminar at the GPM Naya paper recycling social enterprise in the slums of Mumbai. Naya founder Adit Goschalk came in from London to facilitate the hands-on workshop to improve and teach new paper making techniques, book binding and explore new paper recycling techniques to create unique pieces of artwork.

Sonali, Rupali, Drew, Jana and Adit
Peace Paper Project, an international community-arts initiative that utilizes traditional papermaking as a form of trauma therapy, social engagement, and community activism have conducted hundreds of workshops worldwide in conjunction with community leaders, mental health professionals, and art therapists. The organization is dedicated to helping strengthen communities through our workshops, interventions, and international projects.

It was a truly global collaboration in the Kalwa slums, with the Peace Paper team from the U.S. and Germany, Adit from the UK, building strong relationships with the Naya team working together to create beautiful new recycled paper products, expressing the determination and passion of the members of the Naya women’s collective.

“It has been a real privilege to collaborate with Peace Paper Project, sharing expertise and developing wonderfully innovative paper recycling techniques”, explained Adit. “Yet, most powerful of all has been the energy and inspiration we’ve shared through different languages and cultures showing the
power of creativity.”

GPM and Naya are proud to be a collaborative partner with Peace Paper Project. We are grateful for their guidance and hope to be welcoming them back in the future to continue to build on what was achieved.

To find out more about GPM's Naya CLICK HERE
To find out more about Peace Paper Project CLICK HERE

Monthly Birthday Health Club saves lives

According to UNICEF, one child dies every twenty seconds from a disease that is preventable by a vaccine. Whether from a lack of education, funding, or local clinics children in the Kalwa slums are at risk of falling victim to a horrendous disease that could easily be prevented through vaccination.

In order to combat these preventable diseases, GPM opened The Sharvan Health Center. We have seen great results from the center and continue to expand everyday. 

Julie Mendelsohn of Israel, approached GPM with an exciting project to start a monthly birthday health club. Every child receives a free checkup at the GPM Sharvan Health Center which will include vaccinations during the month of their birthday. The child will also receive educational gifts such as pencil cases and notebooks. On top of that, their parents will receive 2 kilos of rice and other grains. The purpose of the club is to  encourage every parent to take their child to the health center for checkups, vaccinations, and other medications. 

After four months of operation Jacob Sztokman, GPM's founding director, believes this new program will reach beyond the GPM classrooms,"We not only want the children of GPM to become members of the monthly Birthday Health Club, but we also wish to extend this program to all children living in the Kalwa Slums." Our first four months of birthday kids had their checkups, and the program is off to a great success!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Sundara's Lip Reconstruction

After the lip reconstruction last week, Sundara's parents cried with joy! Sundara, a loving, sociable, and kindhearted 5 year old in Gabriel Project Mumbai's Preschool class and living in the Kalwa slums, was born with a cleft palate (picture on the left). 
This facial abnormality causes not only emotional pain to a child, but also causes complications in eating, language, general communication and future obvious social issues. (Out of privacy concerns we have changed Sundara's name and have covered her beautiful eyes).
Gabriel Project Mumbai (GPM) staff have taken Sundara and her family through 2 very difficult operations, and physical and speech therapy spanning the last 6 months. 
Sundara was a trooper and the results have been great. She has a long way to go; 2 more cosmetic operations and a lot of speech therapy.

Thanks to wonderful donors ALL her surgeries are paid for and we are so grateful for that. GPM is also taking care of her ongoing therapies. GPM would like to thank the amazing doctors at Zion hospital for the expertise and care. 
Special thanks to Dennis Moses, Nikkita Worlikar and David Ramrajkar for all their care and love. Congratulations to Sundara and her family, we are with you and we wish Sundara a lovely future.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A meaningful Bar Mitzvah in the slums of Mumbai

Thirteen-year-old Yoni Levi wanted to do something significant for his bar mitzvah, something that demonstrated the meaning of being a caring person in the world. So he came to Mumbai, India – along with his father, Ben – where he spent time working in the Kalwa slum with children and the community, to advance education, clean water, and connect with the children in an meaningful way.

Yoni, a student at the Amit school ('Chomesh') in Raanana, Israel, contacted the JDC – a partner of Gabriel Project Mumbai (GPM) - and conducted six important activities in preparation for and during his visit to the Kalwa slum.

Involving friends and family. Yoni arranged a good old-fashioned sports day where his school friends and family fund raised while enjoying team athletics competitions; including three-legged and sack races.

Teaching English the fun way. Yoni got some friends together to make “poses” out of the English letters. Yoni’s mother, Michele, who is a graphic artist, then turned these poses into a beautiful poster of the English alphabet that he put up in the GPM Love2Learn school in Kalwa. The children in the Love2Learn school then made a poster of their own, which Michele turned into a poster for the class in Yoni’s school in Raanana. The children had fun, learned English, and built a strong bond between themselves. The message here was that Yoni’s class and the love2Learn students worked together in a collaborative project; school children connecting and learning together!

Inaugurating a Safe Drinking Water delivery vehicle. The GPM Safe Drinking Water project in Kalwa that provides filtered and recycled water bottles to households in Kalwa needed a vehicle to deliver the water bottles. Many families in the slum are unable to carry the 20 liter filtered water bottles through the alleyways because of illness, pregnancy or disability. Yoni and his family decided to donate a vehicle for this purpose, which can hold 40 massive water bottles to deliver to families that are unable to retrieve the bottles themselves. This is a vital aspect of this program which will have a direct impact on people’s health and well-being in Kalwa. People in the slum need safe drinking water to ensure that they are not exposed to diseases and bacteria in the water. This vehicle makes the program widely accessible in the slum. Yoni and his dad also made the first two deliveries to a family whose father was infirm and a pregnant single mother.

Training kids to juggle. Yoni is an avid juggler and decided to share his favorite hobby with the kids of Love2Learn. He prepared sand and balloons in order to teach the children how to make their own juggling balls. Then he taught them the art of juggling. Today, you can see kids throughout the slum juggling colorful balls, adding fun, color, and liveliness to the community, thanks to Yoni!

Opening a 600-book library. Yoni and his family inaugurated a brand new library in the GPM Joshua Jacob Greenberger Learning Center. The library now has 600 books, which will serve the children in the center as well as all the children of the neighborhood.

Taking the GPM students on a museum excursion. Finally, on his last day in Mumbai, Yoni and his father took the kids on an excursion to a local science museum. Yoni and Ben joined JDC-GPM local interns in a 'Sunday-Funday'. A fun and educational day for everyone.

“We got to understand from the GPM staff that the real significance of Yoni’s visit and the collaborative project between schools was that the children in the slums feel that they are valued, something that is not a given with all the challenges they face living in extreme poverty", said Yoni’s mother Michelle. “This learning experience has been so meaningful to our family and Yoni.”

Yoni’s bar mitzvah visit was not only important for the kids in Kalwa. It was also significant for the kids in Yoni’s school, who now have a connection with kids in India, and a deepened understanding of our interconnected humanity. It also was a great learning experience for all. Yoni plans on staying in touch with the class, to continue to share ideas, posters, and tales of juggling.

Yoni's visit in an article in the Israeli paper Yediot Ahranot; 3 April 2018

Sunday, March 25, 2018

March Birthday Health Club

                                               It's Birthday Health Club here at GPM! 

Parents bring their children to receive a thorough checkup with a medical team provided by GPM. After the checkup, the child receives a little gift for his birthday month!

The parents of the children are also given a gift of rice and flour in honor of their kids birthday month!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Dr. Pravin Rathod and his Medical Team

Dr. Pravin Rathod and his medical staff provide medical treatment to the children at Gabriel Project Mumbai on a monthly basis. 
In India, 53% of children under the age of 5 live without access to basic health care (according to the World Health Organization). Coupled with unsanitary living conditions, children that get sick have a low chance of survival.

GPM is working hard to change this. GPM has teamed up with local residents in Mumbai to offer free healthcare to children living in poverty. Dr. Pravin Rathod gives all of the kids continual monitoring, vaccines, and different medications as needed.

The overall health of 500 children in GPM's care has increased, along with a jump in daily school attendance for the 2017/18 academic year!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Nativ College Leadership Program at GPM in India

GPM was privileged to have the Nativ College Leadership Program in Israel come volunteer with us this past month. During their 3-week trip to Mumbai, participants in the Nativ gap year program volunteered with several programs run by Gabriel Project Mumbai (GPM). The program was run in conjunction with JDC Entwine and supported by a Repair the World Alternative Break Micro Grant. The program's main focus was service learning and volunteering with vulnerable children in the GPM Love2Learn school in the Kalwa slum. Participants also connected with Jewish Indian youth in several social and learning settings, traveled to Jewish historical sites on the Konkan coast, participated in a 3-day camp with Indian Jewish youth, and learned in seminars on Indian Jewish history and international development.

Staff of both GPM and Nativ were extremely satisfied with the program. The director of Nativ, Yossi Garr, said that this experience far surpasses all other volunteer experiences that the participants had throughout the year. He said, “Everyone talks, but at GPM, you act. This is real.” Nativ has already begun making plans for next year’s cohort to come to GPM as well.

The GPM staff were also very impressed with the Nativ group. They demonstrated maturity, openness, curiosity, and a profound interest in serving the needs of vulnerable children in India. They quickly made cultural adjustments and shared many powerful insights about poverty and social responsibility.

Jacob Sztokman, GPM Founding Director, who accompanied the group, said: “It was thrilling to see US gap year participants in Israel taking on a tikkun olam project in Indian slum communities as part of their gap year! The Nativ group was excellent! Before they got to India we were worried about the age of the participants but the mostly 18-year old ‘Nativers’ proved to me mature, professional and hardworking! They chose to volunteer with children living in the slums as their winter break and its not easy teaching in the slums every day. A lot of great discussions were held based on some great classes in Jewish Perspectives on Social Development, Responsible Volunteering, Insights on Development work, Jewish India and many other classes made possible by the Repair the World Alternative Break Micro Grant. A great part of the Alternative Winter Break was the interactions between the 14 international participants and their Jewish Indian counterparts. They were lucky to participate in a local JDC India youth camp and visit Jewish communities in remote villages.

David Ranrajkar, Volunteer Liasion, who coordinated on the ground in Mumbai, said: : I was really impressed by the love the Nativ group showed the children. Everyone made sure to come everyday and give their 110%! I hope the Nativ group comes back next year!

Read words written by Reegan Moskowitz (Nativ 37 participant) about her experience in Mumbai ( https://www.nativ.org/2018/01/india-experience-nativ-37/