The Weekend Leader - Against odds

Rescuing children from the clutches of illiteracy and ignorance

Roohi Saluja Sehgal   |   New Delhi


Vol 3 | Issue 38

She took schools to the slums against all odds. The local politicians and government authorities tried to put up hurdles on her path by urging the slum dwellers to boycott her and also deny her the space.

She was thrown away from pavements, and banned from entering public parks. But she overcame the hurdles and rescued over 800 children in the slums of New Delhi’s Govindpuri and its vicinity from illiteracy and gave them dignity.

Anouradha plans to build an eco-friendly guest house in the city to fund her social projects 

But then, that was just the beginning for Anouradha Bakshi, a diplomat’s daughter who felt that she had a debt to repay to society.

Her dream came true in the year 2000 with the launch of ‘Project Why’ - a non-profit that would offer educational and life-reforming support to slum children and their families.

After making a modest beginning with a handful of children, a few volunteers, and a nomadic existence in public parks, footpaths, and reclaimed garbage dumps, the Delhi-based organisation has come a long way.

Today it is located in a modest, but concrete building in the narrow lanes of Govindpuri, and offers early to primary and secondary level education, computer training, specially-aided classes for mentally and physically disabled, and vocational training for women.

For every ‘why’ directed at Anouradha, ‘Project Why’ is the solution. So when a municipal school’s principal dismissed her efforts saying, “These children live in gutters! They can never pass,” Anouradha came up with a new education model that not only minimized school dropouts, but also helped them climb up the merit list.

She was inspired to start ‘Project Why’ after she managed to rehabilitate a 30-year-old mentally-challenged man, Manu, who was living amongst maggots in a garbage dump.

Manu was Project Why’s first success story! The project has since helped children undergo heart surgeries, rescued children from abusive parents, and even witnessed miracles like saving the life of one-year-old Utpal, who had suffered third degree burns.

While the project has been a blessing for many, raising the funds to meet expenses has remained a challenge.

The only financial help that Anouradha manages to get is from the readers of her blogs - most of them from abroad. “But Delhi continues to be cynically inactive!” she says.

In fact it is this lack of sufficient funds that has propelled Anouradha to her next dream project, an eco-friendly guest house, ‘Planet Why’, which would come up in a green belt close to the Delhi airport.

“Planet Why will be a social business venture employing local people, and generating income to support itself and Project Why’s social mission in the long run. Since investors expect quick returns that a social business cannot readily achieve, we have to look for unconventional financial sources,” says Anouradha, who was voted Citizen One 2005 by the India Today group.

Republished from our Archives as part of ‘The Best of The Weekend Leader’ series

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