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What Role Do the Differently-Abled Play in Your Life? #TheBarriersWeFace

 Anouradha Bakshi from the non-profit Project WHY takes over Daily (w)rite each month. This small organization with a big heart is trying to support education among the underprivileged, and do it in a way that empowers the community from within. Today, she speaks about the special-needs section, or as we tend to call it, the Special Section.

teacher writing project why

It is Diwali time. At Project’s Why special section the last weeks have been buzzing with activity. Everyone is busy making Diwali ware for the various Diwali sales they will be participating in. On the menu: Diwali diyas (earthen lamps), candles, shagun envelopes (envelopes in which gift money is given), torans (door and wall hangings), bangles and earrings and much more. Making hand-painted diyas has been something we have been doing for almost two decades but as the years passed we honed our skills and for some years now have been participating in Diwali sales.

Come September and the staff goes on a big shopping spree to old Delhi to get all the material needed and then it is production time. This year the special needs souls have their own workshop thanks to the generosity of a dear friend and two brand new supervisors: Geetu and Shalini are now gainfully employed and lead the team under the gentle supervision of their teachers. Geetu and Shalini are our oldest students who have graduated to being supervisors and taking home their own salary. A very proud moment for them. Their dedication to work is laudable and we feel very blessed at seeing them in their new roles.

Everyone participates in the Diwali sale preparations. From the youngest to the oldest! Little Kunal loves painting the divas and does so with extreme concentration: a delight to watch. Umesh who can be a handful is an adept at making shagun envelopes and does so with seriously. Shalini is very good at making bangles. All children participate according to their skills. Geetu manages the work with the help of Ashish. What began many years ago has a fun activity for the children has now become a serious affair and a step towards sustainability. This year we participate in several sales at corporate offices and in a school but are aim is to be able to get corporate orders. With the help of Damyanti and Sanchita we hope to be able to do so next year.

The diyas painted by the special needs children – they remain children for me – have always held a special place in my heart. The one painted by Manu almost a decade ago still sits on my desk. I remember the year where there were no orders and Shamika and her team were crestfallen. In those days the money earned was used to have a big Diwali party with gifts  for all! Painting diyas made these special kids feel that much more special. You may not be able to walk, talk or hear but you can paint diyas! That is why we continued the tradition and now want to take a further step into the big world. We hope and pray we get there.

The special needs children of Project Why are an incredible lot. They deserve all the love and joy they can get for shining despite the barriers they have faced from society. They deserve their place in the sun.

You Beneath Your SKinMy debut novel You Beneath Your Skin was shaped at Project WHY and Nikhil, a boy with autism is an part of the narrative. While the novel shows the sometimes-fraught relationship between mother and special-needs son, at Project WHY we have much more cheer, and positivity.

(Check out the book, and drop it a brief review? It is doing well, but needs to have many more reviews in order to raise funds for Project WHY and Stop Acid Attacks).

Do you have a special needs person in your life? How are differently-abled individuals in your community integrated into the fabric of your life? Would you like to help the Special Needs section at Project WHY in their Diwali endeavour? 

Chip in a little–which will go a long way for these souls that have defied the odds in New Delhi to carve out a life for themselves. CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

A NOTE TO REGULAR READERS: The site will be moving to a new design soon, so the blog link will be the site link from now on, and there will be a tab for the blog. I’ll welcome all feedback on the new site design, and make any changes I can.

festival of words project WHYAnouradha is the descendant of an indentured labour and a freedom fighter, and the daughter of a senior diplomat. She travelled the world before settling in India.

A professor in French, an interpreter and a conference organiser, she found her true calling when she set up Project WHY in the year 2000.

She is a wife, and a mother not only to her two girls, but also to the scores of children whose dreams she holds in custody.

This post was the 24th installment of the monthly We Are the World Blogfest: I’d like to invite you to join, if you haven’t as yet, to post the last Friday oWe Are the World Blogfest Writing by handf each month a snippet of positive news that shows our essential, beautiful humanity.

The co-hosts for this month are: Shilpa Garg, Simon Falk, Lizbeth Hartz and Eric Lahti.and yours truly.

Here’s a sampler of this blogfest. Click here to know more. Sign up here and add your bit of cheer to the world on the next installment of October 25, 2019!

If you want to be heard by this community: click here to join Daily (w)rite on its Facebook Page .
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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • What a wonderful way to empower and support. We have a craft shop near me where the workers are special needs and I have gone there to buy gifts and give aways for book events. I love hand crafted items. They have so much more value than mass produced stuff. I’ll also go check out the book. I’m way behind in reading, but will add it to ,y to read list.

    • anouradha says:

      Thank you for your kind words Elizabeth. Hand crafted items are indeed beautiful and make the perfect give away. Wish more people felt that way.

  • Shilpa Garg says:

    Love the focus and seriousness with which the kids are making these beautiful Diwali wares!! So proud of them and more power to them and the team. Best wishes of the festive season to the project WHY team!

    • anouradha says:

      You are so right Shilpa their concentration never ceases to amaze me. They are a joy to be with. Thank you for your warm words and Happy Diwali to you from all of us at Project Why!

  • Jayanthy G says:

    You guys are doing a great job Damayanti and Anouradha and best wishes to the entire team. I love how sincerely these kids sit and do their work with utmost concentration. Is there a way to buy the products made by them online. I am down south and would love to know if it is possible to buy from them?

    Also, I wish you all the best to reach greater heights in this project and help more children in need. Hugs Damayanti.

    • anouradha says:

      Thank you so much Jayanthy for your warm words. These kids are really amazing and it is a joy to work with them. At present we do not have an online option for sale of their products but are working towards that. Hope it happens soon. And I hope we can continue to work for them. Hugs

  • Shalzmojo says:

    Thats really awesome to hear Damyanti-the special needs section and its volunteers sound like a huge kickass deal. More power to them and their endeavours.

  • Louise (Fundy Blue) says:

    Hi, Damyanti and AnouradhaI I enjoyed hearing about Project Why, especially seeing the photos of the kiddos working on their creations. I taught for twenty-five years, and nearly always had one or more of the Differently-Abled as students. Everyone has different strengths and skills and potential to fulfill, so I am happy to see your special needs children doing things they are passionate about. My first husband was a quadriplegic, and he taught me a great deal about what people who are different face, especially the barriers they have to overcome. Thank you for doing what you can to increase awareness about and understand for those who are different.

    • anouradha says:

      Thank you Louise for your kind words. You are right every differently abled child has different potential but once you find it there is no stopping the. They are such a joy to teach and be with on spite of the challenges they face. We try to do our best and hope we can continue to do so. Thank you for your support

  • What a wonderfully meaningful project. Good luck with this!

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti and Anouradha – it is finding what they would like to do … and that will almost always give them some happiness and they will feel at peace, while they ‘work’ : make their delightful diyas, bracelets, envelopes. Yes we can all learn that lesson – find out someone’s passion, or happiness to help … it just makes the path of life that much happier and easier. I have experienced some journeys spent with people on these paths … but the most important for me was the over 5 years my mother was stroked and bed-ridden that I learnt so much about life. People who cannot communicate, or cannot move … or so many ways of life that present challenges to both – the person and the friend (or family). I was exceedingly lucky with my mother – she was able to communicate … the rest we patiently managed together – but it made me appreciate others.

    Take care and I’m so pleased your book seems to have a mind of its own and is reaching so many, as well as challenging us all to think about life. With lots of thoughts and thanks for your support … re my mini overwhelmedness … I need to clear the decks and give myself a chance to be ahead. You are managing so well … and I’m sure the adrenaline is keeping you going, as well as wanting to raise as many funds as possible for Anouradhi and her Project Why. It’s excellent … with thoughts to you both – Hilary

    • Thank you so much for your kind words. You are so right in saying that it is all about finding what special kids like to do, and once you do there is no stopping them. I am amazed at their motivation and the joy they bring to their work. They also teach so much about ourselves and about life. I hope we can continue helping them. Love and hugs