Let us Dream a little Dream

Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.
– Mother Teresa

Reena, believed in Mother Teresa’s quote right from the start. Especially when she saw street children vying for attention at traffic signals. She noticed that it wasn’t always money that the children wanted; rather a smile or a funny face would have them burst into laughter. And there, in that moment, they would cease to be just ragamuffins on the street, their eyes speaking a thousand words, shining with laughter. Money was easy to give she realized. It was love that these children had so desperately craved for; after all they were just children.

Hers is an example that defines the thin line between ordinary and extraordinary. The line being the courage to practice what one believes in. Reena is yet another professional working for an IT company in Bangalore. She is one among us but her dreams get the better of her. She believed in uplifting the livelihood of street children and often contemplated on the best way to touch their lives. Finally in 2010 she had the answer; bringing two of the biggest elements of her life together, love for children and love for art.
The same year she laid the foundation of her initiative calling it, Dream a little Dream. It would collaborate with other NGOs and organize art camps. And these camps would give children the outlet to express their dreams through the medium of art.
DALD soon tied up with India Literacy Project (ILP) as part of their collaborations. ILP did more than just collaborate; it rendered its full support to the young organization. And, so they set sail with the dreams of the younglings powering the sails.

Dream a little Dream has already organized five art camps across Bangalore. At these camps children come together to paint and have a fun time, dance and sing. She intends to take this one step further and identify talented artists from among them and give them expert coaching / training – funds being a crucial element in realizing this dream.

Her ultimate vision for these gifted children is to be able to admit them to art institutions where their talent can be suitably nurtured.

She told us that every Camp begins with a question to the children. “When do you dream?” In unison they say, at night. She then asks them why not during the day? This question is usually met with giggles. She then asks them to draw their little dreams. The best part of the camp, she says, is when the dreams are put down on paper. It is almost surreal. Some draw a picture of Dhoni holding a cricket bat, except Dhoni’s face is replaced by their own.Some draw a class full of children stating they want to become teachers. Some draw themselves as singers and actors performing on stage.

These paintings and the glint in their eyes, Reena says, is her little dream which comes true at every art camp she organizes. We applaud Reena Chowdhury for teaching us that people who do extraordinary things are always one among us. It takes at lot to look at these street children and see future sportsmen, teachers, singers and actors. You have taught us to do just that, to dream a little dream… Bravo!

Dream a little Dream is organizing an Art Camp on 26th February for BOSCO, an NGO which works to rehabilitate street children child laborers, abandoned / orphaned children, victims of drug abuse, victims of child abuse, begging children, rag pickers etc. They need your help to fuel the dreams of these children. Please volunteer or donate to bring a smile on their faces.
To volunteer or donate, please contact: Reena at reena.chowdhury2008@gmail.com or +919845211797 or visit www.dreamalittledream.in for details.
Author: Ankita Mishra
Editor: Ajith Alex Jacob

Chandni Parekh, the game changer who changed funding to Fund-A-Cause

The year 2009; twitter was emerging rapidly in India and with almost everyone tweeting. One Saturday afternoon in April, the same year, Mumbaikar Chandni Parekh received an invitation from her friend to join Twitter; joining only with the intention of reading her friends tweets with no particular interest in networking or tweeting. A week went by and the next Sunday morning, the 19th of April, she recollected the many financial appeals through e-groups for projects and medical treatment, from NGOs and on occasions from individuals. The idea of sharing these appeals as tweets struck her. And after contemplating on a few names with her friend, she changed her account handle from Chandni to Fund-A-Cause, and the legacy had begun.

Since the inception of the idea, a little over two and a half years ago, Fund-A-Cause now is a nationally acclaimed initiative that has channelled funds to numerous causes. F-A-C has grown from being a twitter account to a blog and a Facebook page that connects thousands and has continually tried to raise funds for anyone in need farmers, the adivasis, the unemployed, the critically ill, the poor students, those affected by natural calamities, and even endangered animals.

What inspires us the most about Chandni is that she is not only the pioneer of F-A-C but also a Social Psychologist who has taught courses in Counselling Psychology, conducts workshops on Sexuality Education and Sexual Abuse for schools and colleges, and consults with NGOs. Moreover, Chandni’s interest does not only lie in merely raising funds but also in helping reach out to the ones who cannot be reached out.

Chandni says, “The belief behind F-A-C is that once we learn about someone’s financial need and are motivated to shake off the lack of empathy or trust that might be preventing us from helping, we will contribute”. On being asked about the predicament of society towards NGOs, she mentions that while many NGOs do attempt to address the structural and systemic inequities that affect our country, there seems to be a general lack of motivation on the part of laypeople to think of the different ways in which they can make a difference to the lives of the less privileged.

She further argues, “Being sensitive to other people’s realities and the effort made by NGOs does not always mean providing monetary help. It can also mean donating our time, skills, ideas, creativity and resources”. F-A-C attempts to make people realise that they have a role and responsibility in ameliorating the lives of others around them, and in using and sharing their money more wisely, she adds. Finally she emphasises “It’s easy to get desensitised to the problems of other, poorer people in our country. Young people need to be honest to themselves and reflect on their reasons for not doing their bit to make a difference rather than stating that ‘The system won’t change'”.

As with any other case, great deeds rarely go unnoticed, F-A-C has been featured more than 16 times in the media, with 2000+ followers and 100+ lists in twitter (which by far is a no easy task), over 260,000+ blog hits and about 500 followers on Facebook. Chandni was awarded the First Citizen in the contest conducted by the American Center for the citizens of Western India for this effort.

We at The Biscuit are inspired by your work and your story. We would like to acknowledge your effort as our Favourite Initiative of this month. Our nation is indebted to you for the noble cause you have pledged yourself to. It is people like you Chandni Parekh who change this nation; you have our respect, Kudos.

You can visit FAC on http://fundacause.posterous.com/ Follow FAC on Twitter @FundACause Like FAC on Facebook Fund-A-Cause.You too can contribute towards F-A-C, by reading the posts on F-A-C, sharing the posts, making financial contributions, and by offering your time and skills.
 We would like to thank Kiran Manral who had introduced us to F-A-C. You can also get more info on her on http://www.thirtysixandcounting.wordpress.com and follow her on twitter @kiranmanral
We specially thank R. Lalita for helping us find F-A-C. You can get more info on her on http://lrfascinations.wordpress.com/  and follow her on twitter @rlalita
Author: Ankita Mishra
Editor: Ajith Alex Jacob
Photography: Vinod Sreedhar

Is India still under poverty?

The title of the third largest economy in the world will befall upon India soon, with towering buildings in her largest cities, mega-corporations employing tens of thousands, infrastructural developments, widening national highways, ever increasing consumer spending power, and the fastest missiles in the world. While the political clowns jumping in and around Tihar eagerly proclaim, “Shining, shining, India is shining”, do we citizens ‘above’ the poverty line, realize that much remains to be questioned of the pathetic state the rest of the country is in?

We are a country with more poverty than any other nation that is comparable to us in terms of size and population. Forty one per cent of the country has less than a daily income of Rs. 60 to survive on; of which 25% thrive on not more than Rs. 30 a day. Two hundred and seventy five million people are malnourished, without medicine, without access to water and sanitation, and are ill-treated and abused in households and work places across the country.

A recent visit with CRY to the Kolar District had confirmed my fears to be true. “You don’t have to go to Somalia to see the malnourished, you can find it here in Kolar,” exclaimed Naranya Swami, Director of the NGO, TREES. He argued that the food subsidies provided by the government is a mere 38 paise allocation per child even though it is supposed to be Rs. 5. “The government claims to have all under control, but the funds and support have rarely trickled down. There is not enough that is done for them. It’s as though no one wants them to come out of poverty,” he added.

It is not that the shoddy state of affairs has been hidden from the public; rather, it is the numbness of the urban masses to the predicament of those in suffering. There are few who are content to say, ‘It is not my responsibility, it is the government’s job’, but if there is no one to keep the government in check, there would be no action at all. It is time for us Indians to address this inequality. One just has to look around to find the means to combat poverty. One can volunteer with organizations who help the poor, judiciously fund the right organizations, find out how much of what you invest reaches the poor, empower organizations that educate the poor, spread the awareness, write articles, talk to your friends, question the government, question their motives, and support NGO’s, amongst others.

We will never be able to eradicate poverty by simply changing the definition of how the government defines the poverty line. Regardless of large or small scale efforts, only through collective action can we the Indian citizens’ nurture and spread the commitment to tackle poverty and work towards the prosperity of our nation.

Authors: Tej Prakash, Samuel John and Alex Jacob
Editors: Ayushman JamwalAnkita Mishra and Ram Kumar Ramaswamy
Illustration By: Sanjukumar P. S.

Continue reading