Shaping Lives regularly facilitates / conducts events which generate ‘smiles’ for the empanelled beneficiaries and our clients. We believe in creating and not just pursuing happiness through our deeds ... read more
“Acting as the ‘bridge’ between our discerning and socially interactive inbound traveler and our NGOs, the Foundation has conducted various events and interactions since its inception. These events have brought happiness to both the ‘children’ from the empanelled NGOs and our clients, and invoked a bonding between the two, which we hope shall blossom into a long term relationship. Some of the events can be seen in the month-wise compilation.”
Events : Shaping Lives - Sept 2017 Pacific World At Bosco, Mane, Bangalore
Mahashtami, one of the holiest days in the nine day Navratta festival gone by, saw Shaping Lives make its first large presence in Bangalore. The initiative undertaken to support guests of Pacific World, was channelised into BOSCO. This NGO works for street and rescued children and is currently grooming over 500 via their schools and vocational training centers. The Centre chosen was the Charamrajpet, Mane Centre, where children first come when the NGO picks them up from the streets or the rescue teams.
For the guests, all high end financials professionals of Ernest & Young heading their respective country offices, the walk in was a different world. The briefing, duly interjected with questions and answers opened a whole new world. Some looked awed. Others overwhelmed. Then we moved down into the Basement. Chairs and floor seating were ready and so were approx. 75 children of the Mane center including 20 girls from BOSCO's nearby girls' hostel. Ice was broken within a few minutes and chess, art, dancing to local film music became the order of the day. Some of the male guests chose to pick up a football and a basketball and moved outdoors to assess the children' skills. Coats and fancy wear soon came off as the basketball especially got serious.
Time was a premium and GM Shaping Lives, who had flown down especially to host this special group, urged them back to the basement and a round of farewells. Father Mathew, the ED of the Bangalore Centers was effusive in his gratitude for the time spent and the kind gift of 100 schoolbags and a goodie-bag for each child sponsored by the visitors. We are sanguine the Group carried away fond memories and Shaping Lives is happy that its first large scale entry into Bangalore brought resource and advocacy value to BOSCO. The visit was a success because of the dedication of the Pacific World team coordinating at Noida office and the ground soldiers of our Bangalore office.
Ms. Nicola Olson, coordinating this exclusive Ernest and Young Group from their top management across Europe, wrote in to Ms. Anupama Sethi, our Indian chief coordinator to say, “In terms of feedback, the group had a wonderful day and thoroughly enjoyed their time at the school. In fact, several of them continued to share stories over dinner – the children clearly had a lasting effect on them”.
Le Passage To India Journeys (Lpti)
O9 Aug 2017 : 15th Foundation Day Celebrations
Being a Sunday on 06 Aug, LPTI's 15th Foundation Day celebrations were postponed to 09 Aug. The day has traditionally always focused on charity since inception in 2002 and this celebration was no different. Shaping Lives, as the 'soul' arm of India's leading DMC, had laid out the array to cover the event. The sumptuous lunch for all colleagues is of course organised via HR and Admin aegis.
It was a beautiful Wednesday morning as the Red Cross Blood Bank coach parked at the front porch of LPTI's Head Office at Noida, India. The veteran donors were already fighting ego battles of who would donate first. The novices watched amused. By the end of day 51bottles had been donated and we hope they will bring succor and happiness to those in need.
Our guests, viz., 8 representative children from Project Arman and Deepalaya started arriving by 1015h, and were ushered affectionately to the Cafeteria floor along with our esteemed NGO’s escorts. In absence of both Chairman and MD, the COO, Mr. Amit Prasad and ED, Ms. Meeta Kalra did the honors by presenting cheques to Ms. Anindita, Manager 'No Child in Trash' program run by Chintan, against the annual budget for Project Arman, and to Ms. Shikha Paul to cover sponsorship of 16 kindergarten students of Deepalaya, Sanjay Colony Learning Centre. Besides the high tea, each of the 8 children were gifted individual hampers and of course many chocolates when they took a round of the office.
Shaping Lives also awarded 'Certificates of Appreciation' to the two NGOs, as well as one in absentia to I-India, Jaipur for their proactive approach and care for our casual visitors and volunteer groups. Within LPTI, Purequest Adventures won the certificate for most volunteer groups for the third year in succession, Mr. Logani's French Division and Veronique, individually, got their first for sending in the maximum visitors in a Group Series and Ms Parvathy Anantharam, recently retired after more than 25 years in the Group Companies and majorly LPTI, was specially invited and presented her certificate for her long and dedicated association to the cause of spreading smiles via Shaping Lives.
LPTI also traditionally honored all colleagues completing 10 years of service in the Company on 06 Aug 2017. Each awardee was given a certificate and a lovely gift in appreciation.
The afternoon saw volunteers from LPTI head for a Gurukul (Centre for Hindu Religious Learning) in Delhi. Mr. Arjun Sharma, Chairman LPTI, joined colleague volunteers in serving a special sponsored menu lunch to over 250 students and staff. All the volunteers later partook of the same and presented each child with basic stationery. This time, the Gurukul management chose to install a safety railing in their outdoor prayer area and we funded that in addition to the lunch and stationery. The essence is to gift or donate to meet a wish list.
The major offshore locations of LPTI also indulged in philanthropic pursuits as under :-
Jaipur : Mr. Khalid Khan and his team presented a cheque to Jaipur Foot Organisation as our humble contribution towards cost of approx 25-28 artificial limbs for the needy.
Mumbai : Ms. Juhi Jagasia and her team, reached out to Rahee Foundation, taking 40 marginalised children on a day out to Boravili National Park, for a heritage outing. It was pure fun as the children and staff together explored the Park. The dip in the gushing but safe waters was the coup de grace.
Goa : Mr. Sameer Mitbander and team spent time at the St. John of the Cross orphanage, entertaining tiny-tots and feeding them a special meal besides handing over a cheque to the wonderful Sisters for value additions in the home for the children. Warren, our kind hearted colleague, sponsored the chocolates and goodies for the children from his own pocket.
Chennai : Mr. Krishnan took time out with his team to visit the School for Hearing Impaired children to hand over our humble contribution to their cause.
LPTI's vision to engulf and empower through selfless giving on our Foundation day each year ended on a note of contentment for all as we wound up at the Gurukul in NCR.
Events In July 2017 : Shaping Lives
Inhouse Essential Csr : 27 Jul 2017 : July was interesting in the sense that though it is low inbound season, the school Groups do come in and spend time on charities. While World Challenge sent its second Group from Australia via Shaping Lives to I-India at Jaipur, Old Swinford Hospital (actually a UK school historically named as such), walked into the Deepalaya facility at Sanjay Colony, New Delhi for two days. Their visits are addressed separately.
The final week saw 16 LPTI colleagues troop into Project Arman for their essential CSR afternoon for 2017. Some had been there in 2016, others were first timers. The Nizamudin side engaged in kite making while the Sunder Nagar volunteers and children made Rakhis (hand bands for the Rakhi festival coming up on 07 Aug). Outdoor fun included kite flying besides the games. The weather was hot and sultry but we all freaked out. Smiles were galore as the afternoon came to an end and the Foundation hopes the memories taken away would be wonderful and long lasting.
OLD SWINFORD HOSPITAL : This is actually a school in the United Kingdom and the name dates back historically. They had earlier visited in 2015 and spent 5 days at Deepalaya's Gusbethi and Sanjay Colony schools. Back they came again. This time for 2 days due to their itinerary. We spent the time at the Sanjay Colony composite school. When GM Shaping Lives received the group on 12 Jul morning, it was a pleasant surprise to see the two teachers accompanying were the same. Richard and Jasbir had returned. That was obviously a great start point and the old camaraderie helped in making the two days more memorable for the 8 student volunteers and of course Deepalaya. Ms. Shikha and Kalpana were the perfect hostesses from Deepalaya. While Shikha briefed, facilitated and administratively catered to us during the visit as the School’s overall Head, Kalpana made sure the experience with her disabled children were educative and entertaining.
After the initial briefing, the volunteers took a round of the kindergarten school. They were then left to engage the students of higher classes in their forte. They indulged in Maths, English and geography. Two of them decided playing outdoors with the smaller children was more fun. Each was left to do his or her own thing, and they evolved individually. The lunch break and part of the afternoon time was spent in learning and enjoying Indian dance and pampering the special children.
The next day, they got down to making some education charts. Having done their homework on the net at the GM, Shaping Lives’ behest, the ideas flowed onto paper and we had some great charts up and ready before the lunch break. It was also time to bid adieu to Shikha ma’m and her staff of the kindergarten. Farewell speeches and gratitude and appreciation found free flow and the Group handed over a huge cache of children books for the library, besides lots of arts and crafts material and a monetary donation for annual support of 2 children. The Group left an additional amount as donation before their departure, which was also handed over to Deepalaya by Shaping Lives.
In a tiny window in the morning, Shaping Lives also took them for a community round. This experience is necessary to understand the ground conditions from where these children come and it helps sensitize the visitors and also give them a better perspective of NGO Deepalaya’s contribution to the local marginalized community.
The afternoon was spent with special children again. The Group had made a concerted effort to purchase toys recommended by Kalpana and suitable for their developmental classes. Imagine the delight when a whole lot of toys were opened in front of them and the volunteers sat with them helping them to understand and play with their new gifts. Those moments were priceless. Some high tea, basically juice and lots of snacks and chocolates and innumerable photo ops ended with a lovely farewell dance, where the special children coaxed their guests to join in.
The visit was superb and the gains to Deepalaya both in resource and time more than adequate. Old Swinford Hospital has promised to be back in 2019 and Shaping Lives awaits their homecoming.
World Challenge Group II Parkdale Secondary School, Melbourne
The second of the World Challenge (WC) student volunteer groups reached the I-India Prem Pathshala complex at Jhag Village at sunrise on 14th Jul. Visibly exhausted after their overnight train journey, they trooped into their dormitory requesting rest and a light day. We respected that but when GM, Shaping Lives reached Jhag from Delhi around noon, he drew them out for a soft round, familiarisation and some ice-breaking with the staff and children of the hostels. That would help them cover the series of activities planned for them till they left on 18 Jul morning.
The next three days were spent akin to the previous group of end-Jun. This Group painted the lockers and bunk-beds as committed. They were also given an additional experience of visiting the local village after their slum community round. Improving with experience, the block printing experience was changed by giving each of them their own cloth for designing and the same was gifted to them on the parting night of 17th. This Group spent more time in the school and while the June Group had chosen to cook a bit, these youngsters, put in extra hours to produce some wonderful group dances on Australian lines to match the Bollywood ones by our children.
The Rajasthani get-up was again a huge hit. These young ones look so cute in Indian dresses that one wants them to stay on forever ....and mind you! ... some of them want to stay on too. The bonding with the school children, the hostel boys and girls and the staff was equally strong and the fun and games, as well as the bonhomie in general was a delight to watch. The volunteers gave very fine farewell speeches and it was also the first time that one of our children from I-India decided to address them and thank them in English. That is no mean feat and required huge courage and confidence and it was perhaps my happiest moment of the trip.
Jemma Pleece in her mail on returning to Australia wrote in to say, "Dear Col. Anil, Thank you very much for hosting us at your beautiful project and for treating us like family. We are beyond grateful for your kind hospitality and we absolutely loved every single part of the experience. It was definitely my favourite part of the trip. I will never forget it. I was just wondering if you could please email me all of the lovely photos of our Parkdale students at the Project? That would be great. Thank you so much. I will be in contact again soon about fundraising for the school. Kind regards,
Jemma Pleece, Parkdale Secondary College, World Challenge Team 2"
What this 16 year old child wrote just about sums up the feelings of the Group. Shaping Lives remains indebted to I-India for allowing our Groups to experience the outstanding work they do for the rescued street children and those placed under their care after rescue from bonded labor.
World Challenge Group Season 2017 – 18 : 26 – 29 Jun 2017
The first of the World Challenge (W/C) Groups for this financial year dropped in to a warm traditional welcome at our affiliated NGO I-India’s JHAG Prem Pathshala complex on 26 Jun noon. The Group from Good Shepherd Lutheran College, Noosa District, Australia had 14 volunteers including the W/C Tour leader. Received by the NGO Directors and GM Shaping Lives, the facilitator, the children had a quick wash and freshen up, followed by a briefing of the NGO and a floor seated first lunch.
But before the lunch, we had a surprise in store for them. GM Shaping Lives told them it was protocol to bullshit one volunteer before the first meal and he singled out Jason Konestra as the victim. Much to the Group’s surprise and frowns of course. Down Jason went with orders to do push-ups and the Group unwittingly joined me in counting each. As he reached 16, I asked him to get up and accompanied by the I-India children, who walked in on cue, we burst into his 16th birthday song. The Group realized the prank played and immediately joined in and as our pretty girls handed him a huge birthday card from the I-India family, Jason was grinning ear to ear and feeling on top of the world. He was later made to distribute ‘laddoos’ (a sweet distributed on auspicious occasions in India) to all the students, volunteers and staff. Small things Shaping Lives does to make our visitors feel special and we hope Jason will remember this birthday and our blessings for a long time.
The remaining afternoon was spent in familiarization with this composite facility which has a school, a health centre, two hostels for boys and girls, the vocational production centre, and a mini-auditorium. Breaking ice took no time as the hostel children are exceptionally friendly and the first day ended in games and Bollywood dance lessons to the volunteers.
The serious work commenced the next day, and over their stay, the volunteers taught school children, tended and weeded the kitchen garden, helped to cook the Annapurna meal, visited a nomadic slum cluster and experienced the teaching and nutrition outreach of I-India to children living well below the poverty line. They also jointly cleaned up the boys’ hostel and the large Jhag Complex compound. They met and interacted with women self-help groups working in the vocational centre towards financial emancipation. Some bought from the array of clothing and jewelry products made at this Centre. We also made them try their hand at Block Printing and they came away all smiles and winners at the completed design they jointly produced. These were later given as a surprise gift at their farewell. All this was of course intermingled with fun and games. The day started around 0630h and ended at 2130h and even those hours didn’t seem enough.
The afternoon rest we had planned in view of the severe heat conditions took a back-seat in front of the children’s zeal and they were rewarded with an artificial rain shower from a water tanker, which is often sent into the slums with soap and oil to encourage the urchins to take a bath and teach them values in personal hygiene. The rain dance was a joint affair with the Jhag children joining the fun.
I did mention their work in the Annapurna kitchen. Wondering what it is? It is one of the two kitchens I-India operates to cook a meal for approx. 3000 children and staff each day. Besides the children who stay in their hostels, their food vans move to various slum schools on the Jaipur fringes, where the local slum children are fed a meal. There is a catch. The meal comes with a caveat. The caveat is that the child must be enrolled in I-India’s tiny centre in the particular slum and undergo a minimum of 2 hours of education to be eligible for the meal. A carrot to education? It works wonderfully and with the sheer dedication of their teachers and the Management’s resolve, it is a delight to visit and understand what an NGO can do to illuminate lives through education.
The volunteers are served pure vegetarian food in all our affiliated NGOs and this Group, in a rural zone 30 kms away from Jaipur City was no less. They relished it because it is made for the foreign palate with minimal spices and no chillies. Their request for ingredients to make their own pasta on one evening was honored. They cooked and enjoyed it and some of us who tasted it had smiles on. It was good stuff. The Group also baked some bread in the camp fire and offered it with butter and jam to all the children. The snack downed with some nice hot chocolate was enjoyed by everyone but the thought of this sharing left an indelible mark.
The farewells saw some lovely word of thanks and appreciation exchanged between the I-India Directors, Mr. Charu Goswami and Mrs. Darshana Goswami, the volunteer representatives, their teacher, the W/C leader, Col Anil Alagh, GM – Shaping Lives and finally one of the girl hostellers of I-India. Some promised to come back. The goodbyes were emotional on the penultimate day. Prior to departure, the Group also gifted a quantum amount to I-India which they had done as part of their fund raising in their school.
Events Shaping Lives : Jun 2017
Essential Colleague CSR
It was a hot scalding month here in India this June. Notwithstanding the heat and humidity, Shaping Lives continued on its mission of spreading smiles. LPTI continued on its mission to inculcate love and compassion as an integral part of colleague growth via their 'essential CSR outing' through Shaping Lives. This month we did two outings.
Deepalaya on 07 Jun : The 26 LPTI volunteers arrived on the dot in the afternoon and after a quick briefing, they were divided into 3 Groups and guided to the differently abled children. Initials hiccups were few and the bonding happened the moment the mobile cameras came on. Our children love the selfies and photo shoots just as much as anybody else. The volunteers were gently guided to sit beside them or kneel by their chairs because eye contact is an important ingredient of confidence building. Juice and snacks mixed with laughter and fun and before we knew it, it was time to leave. The children leave school at 1600h and we needed them to be comfortable. Besides the snacks and some stationery, the colleagues also pooled in a small donation.
Project Arman 15 Jun : As highlighted in previous posts, at LPTI, every colleague has to mandatorily do an annual, compulsory afternoon of CSR outreach, in any NGO of their choice. This social outreach is part of the familiarization and sensitization program run by the Foundation. On 15 Jun, on the 5th outing for colleagues for season 2017, Mr. Mario Habig, the Managing Director, also joined 30 other colleagues for his annual essential CSR outing at Project Arman. The activities involved personalized interactions with the Armanis, arts and craft activity, and some outdoor fun, including a music demonstration by ‘Tin-ker Bells’, our Arman children’ drummers playing on old tin cans. The MD also utilized this opportunity to honor Kehkasha’s achievements with a cash prize of USD 350 on behalf of the LPTI family to enable her college admission formalities. Read about our 'Kehkasha' in a separate write up under this month. He also presented the first quarterly instalment of the annual budget for the Project, totaling approx. USD 25000 for this Project to Ms. Anindita Chakravarty, Head of the ‘No Child in Trash’ program. The peripherals also consume another USD 6000 which is either donated or raised via external funding.
Shaping Lives Write-Up: May 2017
May brought in the lean tourism season. On the positive side, it opened the period wherein LPTIJ colleagues indulge in one afternoon of compulsory CSR activity at an NGO of their choice, but affiliated to Shaping Lives. Almost 50 stalwarts attended the first outing on 18 May, at Project Arman, Nizamudin. The skies were overcast but the humidity was stifling and the children and volunteers moved outdoors for some games and fun within 45 minutes. The Armanis as always freaked out with the pampering. The volunteers brought in books and stationery for the Project and of course all the children did get their usual ice-cream treat on departure.
We had one intervening Group of German LR visit Deepalaya on 24 May morning. As always, Ms. Shikha briefed and conducted them around. They were visibly impressed by the library and the reading format. Some joined the summer dance classes to the accompaniment of laughter and encouragement from the rest. The small interlude at the Special Unit and time spent with differently abled children was a moving experience as always. Tony, their Tour Guide, was an old friend of GM Shaping Lives and hence it was also a renewal of professional and personal bonds.
The second colleague filled coach landed on 25 May at NGO Deepalaya. Billed for the afternoon, 35 volunteers descended on the Special Unit and gave the differently abled children individual time and attention. Hugs and smiles combined with our shifting volunteers as they experienced the different sections and children. Most had not had such a close-up experience and they were touched and expressive of the great work Deepalaya does as they bid farewell after handing over the gifts in cash and stationery to Sangeeta, and distributing juice and snacks to the children. The dance was the highlight. Whatever the disability or the discomfort, music and dance are always therapy for the soul
The last outing for the month was to The Earth Saviours’ Foundation. The home has 380 abandoned senior citizens and destitute. The 31 colleagues who reached there were briefed by the Founder Mr. Ravi Kalra, himself. Frankly they didn’t know what was going to hit them. Moving out and being let loose amongst the 380 physically and mentally challenged inmates, they found their feet after the initial shock and then it was smiles and cheer all the way for the inmates and of course our LPTIJ flock. Scheduled to leave by 4.15 p.m., GM Shaping Lives had a hard time getting them out by 5.00 p.m. finally. The song and dance, some chess with the stable, and a lot of bonhomie had endeared them to each other. Sachin Kesar even bathed the senior citizens and destitute, the men who cannot or do not bathe themselves. Ignacio’s dance was a highlight whilst Sachin’s work was the icing on the cake.
That’s over 100 colleagues finished on their essential annual CSR and we are looking forward to the next batches at Deepalaya and Project Arman respectively in Jun.
Shaping Lives : Events Apr 2017
Project Arman : The month commenced with the Project Arman children at Nizamudin hosting a school year-end farewell for the teachers. A small get-together but time well spent. Lots of love exchanged, some high eats, and the Armanis who rose to speak made our hearts happy with their appreciation of what this Project meant in their lives and how this time with us will assist them in becoming better human beings and bread winners for their waste picker parents, and especially moving their parents and themselves away from the ignominy of waste - picking for sustenance.
German FTO Visit : Larisse and her companion Stephan representing our esteemed German FTO, Reisefieber Riesen, came in the next day. We spent considerable time at both the Sunder Nagar and Nizamudin Arman Centres. Discussions, queries, doubts intermingled with child interaction, as the GM Shaping Lives traced the story of Arman and LPTIJ’s ‘Vision 2020’ for this unique Project. The children were friendly, confident and effusive in their conversations as always. Both the visitors were deeply touched and Larisse discussed possibilities of in-building client visits into our FTO’s tour itineraries. We look forward to that.
Time Tour Groups : The last of the three Time Tours Groups walked into our Jaipur and Agra affiliated NGOs on 08th & 17 Apr respectively. Once again, they spread happiness and contentment. Their gifts of mattresses for the I-India children at Jaipur, and two large desert coolers presented to the Orphanage at Agra were deeply appreciated. This, and the other two past Groups, have also spent time in Bundi, Rajasthan, experiencing artists engaged in miniature art work, known as Bundi paintings. Each Group has also donated towards the cause of sustaining and reviving this rapidly declining art form. The credit of supporting this revival goes to our French Market Head, Mr. Sanjay Logani.
Conclusion : As April closed and the Indian summer strikes, the tourist season 2016-17 also came to an end. We have a few volunteer groups, but primarily, Shaping Lives now looks on to focusing on the second season of the compulsory community service by our colleagues scheduled over the next three months.
Different Travels Volunteer Group At I-India’s Child Inn, Jaipur
Jill Hopkins, Different Travels, United Kingdom had brought in a special Volunteer Group in Mar 2015. They made some intricate play stations at I-India’s Mahapura Centre. She did a repeat in Mar 2017. With 12 of the 14 being repeat volunteers, the Group walked into I-India’s Child Inn, Jaipur with me, Col Anil Alagh, GM, Shaping Lives on 20 Mar morning.. This time around, their master craftsman Andrew was missing, and hence the Group had focused on painting and beautification only.
Jill is a stickler for details and we had exchanged mails, photographs and options, for over a year. The plan was designed to her needs of giving the Group both volunteer experience and a chance to re-experience I-India’s other Centres, as well. The fund raised was to be used for the paintings of course. For me, as GM, Shaping Lives, it was a delight to meet the Group at the Hotel late evening on 19 Mar as I returned from the Child Inn, after ensuring all systems and admin support were in place for the Group’s arrival next day.
20 Mar 2017 : We walked in to Prabhakar-ji’s warm welcome and briefing after the children had garlanded the guests and escorted them to the outdoor seating. It was a grand re-union with the Goswami family, Founders of this unique NGO for street and rescued children. His wife and co-Founder Abha-ji, his son Charu and daughter-in-law Darshna, both active Directors in running the NGO, also joined in. Some light talk, memories re-called and much cheer ended when I gently, but firml, reminded the Group, that we had work to do and the day’s targets to achieve. The children looked at the motley 14 foreigners with wonder. They had experienced a short visit German Group the previous day, but they were still unable to comprehend, that foreigners were coming into their shelter to paint and to spend time pampering them. When the buckets and sops got passed around, and the ladies and gents commenced cleaning the walls, their bunk-beds and lockers, they realised that this lot meant business. Gradually the ice broke and the children ventured closer. Friendships and affiliations formed and one loving scolding from me helped all hell break loose. How? I simply told the children, in my mock gruff way, that it was unacceptable to me that they stand around and not help and, also, if I caught anyone working without disposable gloves, that child would be hung upside down
.all that amidst a big round of laughter and twinkling eyes. The scene as the children wore gloves for the first time in their lives was absolutely touching and amusing, and very soon, they had allocated themselves to their favorite Ma’m or Sir, or Grandma as Jaleh, our new volunteer, self-christened herself.
This time around it was Tess Evans who led the Group. She had envisioned something based on the photographs sent, and in all fairness, while the cleaning was on, Tess was called aside and we asked her to choose the colors for the basic wall painting. That done, the paint was acquired and prepared. Painting started in right earnest by 1100h. The children tried to pitch in and were disappointed in me, that I did not cater for a brush for each of them. But, we had to restrict. We were there to paint and complete for them, and the intention was just to make the children inclusive with our love and affection and not their participation. Also, the space was not sufficient enough to take in so many tiny painters at a time. Mind you, some of them did wield the brush like professionals though.
As the day progressed, we savored a scrumptious home-cooked veg meal for lunch with adequate tea and soft drinks floating in between to keep the Group primed and responsive to work. Tess was given full authority to choose the paints as the work progressed, and these were procured well in time to ensure the work flow. I started to push the Group a little around mid-afternoon, on realising that the rooms targeted may not be completed at the pace adopted. It was done and taken in good spirit and since all of us new each other from 2015, my sledging drew retorts and all round laughter, but the work pace increased with the bonhomie. Judi would oft break into song and the others would join in chorus. By 1730h, we were ready to pack up and head for rest. The rooms were done. A few remaining bunker beds and doors could be done later. The basic target had been achieved. A few lacunae were pointed out by me to the professional local painter helping us, with instructions to correct them by afternoon of the next day.
21 Mar 2017 : The second day had been planned as a trip down memory lane for Jill and the Group. We moved early from the Hotel to I-India’s Mahapura Centre about 12 kms away. It was here that they had constructed the play stations in 2015. Sadly, the structures were still standing but unsafe for use due to termites. Mahapura now had a huge kitchen garden, courtesy Abha-ji’s initiative, (and as I was to later find out, a contribution to start a kitchen garden by Lyn on behalf of her husband Chris Barber), to partially support the Annapurna kitchen which feeds over 1500 street children each day. I cracked the proverbial whip after the preliminaries and set one Group at veggie cutting and rolling chapatis (Indian bread) and the other sub-group, weeding, plucking, watering and planting. They of course had the option of interchanging at will. That was fun time and the meal was cooked and ready for dispatch to the various I-India street school centres by 1100h. A glass of ‘chaach’ (skimmed whey with cumin seeds) was much appreciated by our laboring volunteers and then it was time to move on.
Our next pit stop was Bagru. A tiny hamlet of waste pickers, migrant laborers and nomads. Poor and decrepit in looks and lifestyle. This was a surprise Charu and me had inserted. A visit to one of the street corner schools where children from the most backward and poorest communities were encouraged by I-India to join their single room schools for basic education for 3 hours and be rewarded with a meal thereafter. It was a ‘hanging a carrot’ scene. There were approx. 50 children crowded into the tiny room and another 14 volunteers managed to slip in as well. They were impressed by what was taught and how it was taught. Judi’s teaching memories came alive and as she sang and taught, the Group joined in as well much to the delight of the children. Class over, some in the Group took a community round, seeing the sparse and frugal backgrounds the children came from. Meanwhile, amidst photo shoots, the children were re-mustered and the tiny tots seated in rows and given plates for the meal in the first lot. Richard, Tess and Caroline chose to serve and were overwhelmed that despite their humble background, not one child touched the food until everyone had been served and a thanksgiving prayer said. It was the same food that they had helped prepare at Mahapura. As they trudged back to the bus and much later too, I reminded them that this was the real I-India work and each one understood that they had today seen something which would remain a memory of a lifetime perhaps. It was to be a special experience and that’s exactly how it turned out to be.
We moved to Jhag Prem Pathshala thereafter. Last time the Group had played cricket here. This Mar, it was stifling hot and coming in from Bagru at 37 degrees, we headed straight in for lunch but preceded by a welcome by the school children in the auditorium. To honor the children’ wish, Jill kindly agreed to a formal farewell for the Group at Jhag today instead of at the Child Inn on 22nd Mar, the penultimate day. While quick reactions to get the stage ready went underway, the Group was taken to the Vocational Centre in the next building and a few purchases, meeting with rural ladies working on the Gudri women financial empowerment program and a tryst with block printing by each member of the Group was coordinated by me. We returned to the auditorium thereafter and Prabhakar-ji, the omnipresent entity, profusely thanked each one in the Group as the six couples followed by Jaleh and Jill, were called up and presented a chunri/pagri to honor them, the traditional Rajasthan way. Jill and I also thanked I-India and Prabhakar ji with equal emotions. A song and dance by the children profusely participated by every Volunteer followed. It was touching 1530h and there was work to be done at Child Inn by Tess. She had to mark her basic design on the wall and color some bits and have them dry before the Group came in to fill details the next day. I took her and 4 of her selected team back to Child Inn even as the rest of the Group spent time with Prabhakar-ji visiting the school and allied facilities at Prem Pathshala. The man Prabhakar-ji, Founder I-India is profound. He gave his own transport for us and chose to use the coach with the volunteers to return to Jaipur himself. Words are insufficient to describe him.
Back at Child Inn, Tess set her all female team to work pasting the world map charts on the wall, then cutting and coloring the continents as per her design. As the evening grew, the outline map became apparent and when the blank sheets were removed, Tess had her continents on the wall with the natural blue painted basic wall as the oceans. The rest was to be done the next day. It had been a long day, hot and weary, and as Tess and her team trudged into the Hotel around 1930h, all they wanted was a good shower and a refreshing drink. The others in the Group had already done that returning from Prem Pathshala much earlier.
22 Mar 2017 : The penultimate day. The map on the wall looked good but there was much detailing to be done. Some bunker beds were yet to be painted and hence, work started in right earnest. Tess, as the master designer for the Group's volunteer work during this visit, had been working overtime back home, presumably with hubby Richard getting the brunt and of course being neglected a wee bit too, I presume. She had not just made the outline of the world map on a huge 12’ x 8’ scale on drawing sheets but also filled in great detailing in miniatures, bought stencils of the animals and fish / flora she desired filled in and the color pens to match
.it was to be her show
.this trip was her ‘designer’s delight’
.. for the Group and specifically for the children. She combined the intellectual aspect of the world map with the gentle soothing harmony of the sea beautifully. She astutely monitored and utilised her Group's talent and capabilities to give reality to her vision and transform the drab Child Inn walls into a vibrant child friendly warm home. As the day progressed, she maneuvered her team with a little push and shove from me to complete the task at hand. Eventually, around 1700h a huge shout of success went up. The map was up, the room walls were the sea and the doors and windows all painted and done. The broken panes had been repaired by professionals and four new doors had replaced the broken ones of the children toilets. It was a stupendous effort. I did allow some respite in the form of mehndi or ‘henna’ for all the volunteers in between, and except 2, even the men had some thing or the other made from the two lovely volunteers from the girls’ home who had come with six other girls to assist in the painting as well.
The work Tess and her team have done is a huge value addition for the NGO working with street and rescued children ....to my understanding, the motif created by Tess will perhaps assist in easier and faster de-tensing of the rescued children and their return to love and normalcy in a shorter time period. That is the difference ....and that entitles Tess to special accolades.
A tiny interlude had taken place in between in the morning. With permission of the NGO, each member unpacked their bagful of new clothes and caps and whatnots in presence of the children. The children were cuddled and gifted a set or two and made to change into them. They couldn’t believe what was happening and were gushing and beaming as they strutted around all decked up and some with caps as well. The Barmy Army T’s from UK and the Aussie Sea Eagles caps looked cute on their tiny frames. Chris and Richard of course struck a pose for each club they had brought in stuff from.
Then came the farewell with high tea. The children were seated and each couple called up from the Volunteer Group and presented a hug and a thank you card by a child. Moist eyes were aplenty. Carol had brought in about 30 spectacles in good condition and she donated those for use during the eye camps that I-India conducts in the rural belt. Snacks flowed to the children as I-India, then Richard on behalf of the Group and finally me, gave our respective thanksgiving speeches. And when all that was done, the music started
.there is always time for one last dance and that was the grand finale for the Volunteer Group as it exited amidst hugs, bye-byes and a few tears as well. Bonds are easily formed when love flows freely and I am sanguine that Jill’s Group will be back for a third time to re-new the bonds with I-India.
To Prabhakar-ji, Charu and the I-India team, Shaping Lives humbly says thank you for being such a wonderful associate, and working in so many fields, bringing joy and succor into the lives of street, lost and rescued children. It is a pleasure for us to bond with you through our travelers and jointly bring some joy each time.
Events : Shaping Lives Mar 2017
The month came marching in with joy for Shaping Lives. We had a constant flow of some wonderful visitors and Groups. What added joy was that there were three repeat visitors / groups. That validates our own confidence in the Foundation's affiliated NGOs and our own management.
Germany : Stephanie Sommers
Stephanie came in for the second time with express directions that 03 Mar, her first afternoon in India, was to be at Project Arman, Delhi. She had been here last year as well. Spending a considerable time at both the Centers. She took loads of photographs being the professional photographer that she is. The children obviously loved being her models. We also played our Arman Tin band for her at the Sunder Nagar Nursery Center, much to her astonished delight, and she joined the Armanis in dance as well.
Her happiness and interaction with photography continued at the Dargah side Center as well. She was happy that GM, Shaping Lives had come to be there for her personally. Even as the children bid her farewell with handmade 'Thank You' cards, she gifted a lovely book sent by her 14 year old daughter Charlotte and a donation in cash for the Project. While these gifts were much appreciated, what really took our heart away was a unique gift she brought back from her last visit. It was lovely enlarged B & W photographs of our Arman children taken on the previous visit. To top this gesture was another set of colored smaller photos which she brought for gifting to the children in the photographs. What a unique way to show how much she cared and how happy she was to associate with Project Arman.
Time Tours Groups in I-India, Ladli Centre, Govindpuri, Jaipur & Shrimad Dayanand Orphanage, Agra
Time Tours, Paris, France, one of our esteemed FTOs, commenced a relationship with Shaping Lives for the first time by sending in two groups into our affiliated NGOs at Jaipur and Agra, this month. The four visits as part of itinerary, included lunch at the Jaipur Center and an assured fund commitment to both the NGOs.
Jaipur utilised the funding to fabricate and commission 5 sets of lockers needed for their Child Inn, where young boys rescued from bonded labour are brought in and restored to their homes or nurtured and schooled as part of I-India's extended family, if they cannot be re-united for various reasons beyond I-India’s control. The Groups loved the lunch and as always, the comment 'best meal yet in India' was readily forthcoming amidst munches and smiles. Most bought products from the array of vocational products on display and the Ladli team were more than helpful in their recommendations and customising jewelry for their guests at short notice. While one Group donated additional cash, the second Group on 07 Mar pooled in enough money for the purchase of a badly needed new fridge for the Center. The coordination of cash to be received, the needs of the NGO, and ensuring pre-placement of all purchases prior to Group arrival, is a small part of what Shaping Lives does to make the experience and the faith between the guest and NGO complete. Here too, in the GM Shaping Lives presence on 04 Mar, and via his long distance coordination on 07 Mar, the visitors were delighted to gift the lockers and the fridge personally.
Agra : Our Agra office hosted the first Group into the Orphanage on 13 Mar. The plan was to celebrate Holi with the children and it worked to a ‘T’. The children and the guests freaked out and looked more colorful than the barracks we had painted with other Groups over the past 8 months. It was pure fun and this Group additionally gifted a desert cooler to the Orphanage.
The final visit by these two Groups was on 16 Mar. GM, Shaping Lives went to spend time with the second one as he had missed being with at Jaipur. The children were few as it was morning and school time, but notwithstanding that as they strolled around and were briefed on the work done by the Foundation for this Orphanage and when they saw it validated in the happiness and joy in the children’ eyes, they came out of their shell and let loose their love and caring on the children. This was a Group which asked many questions …. And each question is relevant, as it takes not just them, but also the GM and Shaping Lives, down a journey of association, of the travails, of our conquests and above all of the moments of happiness we give to our children via time and resources spent with them. The children were gifted towels and bedsheets and a high tea was shared amidst lots of photo ops and cuddling before the Group wound its way back to the bus, satiated and satisfied.
France – Groupe Sanofi – LVJ
When this Group of 11 guests alighted from the Coach, the tour leader Marie Ellen Chambrin, introduced herself to GM, Shaping Lives as a second time visitor. There was instant bonding. She had been to our Project Arman Center in 2014. After Stephanie, she was the next second time visitor to our NGO and supported CSR programs. The Group were given a detailed briefing of the Deepalaya School for differently abled children by Ms Sangeeta, the Head of this special unit.
The Group then split into two and spent time with the special babies. A packet of chips opened smiles and mouths and interaction was soon seen. One of the guests, a Director in a juvenile rehab center in Paris, was an excellent artist and he sat in a corner sketching the beautiful children and immortalising the moment in his drawing book. Some spent time with the children while others sat with the two challenged girls watching and learning twilling work being done as Deepalaya's Special Unit Vocational income activity for the differently abled. The Group also purchased numerous vocational products made by these special children and gifted a sufficient enough donation for purchase of some cupboards for the two room expansion undertaken by this Special Unit.
After some final time at the speech and hearing impaired class, the Group trudged back to the Coach and proceeded on their onward journey, after some very fond words and warm farewells to Sangeeta and GM Shaping Lives.
Designer Tours at I-India, Jaipur : When GM, Shaping Lives, learnt that Mr. Sumeet Sehgal, Owner and MD of Designer Tours, our esteemed German FTO was to be in Jaipur on Sunday 19 Mar, he dialed and requested his Group’s presence at the Child Inn, where GM Shaping Lives was getting base repairs done to this home for street children and children rescued from bonded labour, for a volunteer Group arriving the next day. And Sumeet, a friend that he is, consented to make an unscheduled visit with his Group around noon on the way in to Jaipur. And Mr. Charu Goswami, Director, I-India, was the ever willing host who received them, briefed and conducted them around the Centre. Some of the children recently rescued from bonded labour were initially astonished to see so many foreign faces, but their curiosity got the better of them and soon enough, they were enjoying the toffees and the love and posing for photos galore. Sumeet’s Group also visited the Ladli Vocational Centre 100m away, where the Director, Mrs. Darshna had kept her team available just for them on a Sunday. Some purchases and then a quantum donation from Sumeet especially ended this delightful unplanned interlude. Sumeet is also the large hearted FTO who had donated a tidy amount in 2015 for construction of two washrooms at I-India’s Mahapura Centre.
Different Travels Repeat Group : Jill Hopkins brought in her repeat Group into I-India, Jaipur on 19th Mar. Their master craftsman, Andrew, who designed the innovative play stations in Mar 2015 was missing and hence Jill chose to paint and beautify rather than construct with this Group. More on this visit via a separate event note.
Events : Shaping Lives Jan 2017
2017 started well for the Foundation with over 50 clients visiting our affiliated animal charity WildlifeSOS at Agra. A major Group also had an outdoor lunch which is a packaged offer hosted by the NGO. Meanwhile work on the Orphanage furniture also finished and the entire lot was handed over to them amongst much appreciation and joy.
At Delhi, we took a spot decision to take our Project Arman children for their annual outing to the Book Fair. It was to be a new experience for these waste picker children and the intent was to allow them a chance to pick up an odd book for themselves besides taking home learning. Volunteers, Kiran Joti, Yamini, Kamal, Niaz, and Parvathy (with daughter Prerna) from LPTI, and Geeta, Ankit and Surya Kant from our major supporter Select Citywalk Mall, joined our staff and it turned out to be a great outing. Over 90% children bought books paid by us of course. They were delighted to be informed that they could take them home
.perhaps the first story book of their own at home for most of them. That was the morning session. Post the buying and some photo-ops with the all-time favorite ‘Chotta Bhim’ animation character, we transited to the nearby Indraprastha Park for lunch and outdoor fun. The sun added warmth and the children were soon in their mettle, swinging, sliding, making merry, their laughter and joy floating to the wonderful Stupa which forms part of this park. Growling baby tummies found the Biryani a hit as usual and it was polished off in no time. It has been a first of a kind experience for us all and we hope to take it forward with more such outings. The attention span is less but than that is a standard one with children from any age or culture or private school group. A personal review and children feedback on the outing by the GM, Shaping Lives brought out an extremely happy response from the children. They were delighted to take home a book they could call their own.
GM Shaping Lives also hosted Mr. Patrick Skillen, our valued trade partner from Emporium Travel, Germany, on the last Sunday of January, at The Earth Saviour’s Foundation, Delhi. Patrick was deeply moved by what he saw and besides a personal donation to the NGO, sent back a very touching thank you via Madhu Pant, my colleague handling the German sector.
Shaping Lives takes this opportunity to wish all readers and our FTOs a wonderful 2017 business year and hopes to host your groups into grass root charities across tourist destinations in India.
Shaping Lives Events : Dec 2016
Dec 2016 brought in two student groups. The first was a long volunteer group from Australia and the other a short visit from England. Our perennial Swiss couple, who had visited one of our NGOs in Oct 2013, once again sent their annual donation to the NGO. Read on about the Shaping Lives journey with them.
Carey Baptist Grammar School, Melbourne, Australia
This Group of 17 students, two teachers and the World Challenge trip leader, walked into Shrimad Dayanand Anathalaya or SDA (Orphanage), Agra on 12 Dec, to the traditional welcome by the orphanage children, that we had also accorded the other two volunteer groups in Jun and July earlier this year. It was Day 1 of their 7 day volunteer presence to paint and beautify two barracks of the Boys' Section. The girls' side had been completed by the earlier groups. Col Alagh, GM Shaping Lives, was present and conducted the Group around the SDA, familiarising them with the surroundings and the children. A tiny reminder briefing on do’s and don’ts followed. The Group was then shown the boys’ section. Two huge rooms including one that doubled as a community hall for functions.
The community hall 40 x 28 feet had to be subtle. They could release their creativity on the other room as they wished. The buildings are vintage and ceiling height is over 14 - 15 feet and keeping in mind safety instructions applicable, we had the upper half done prior to Group arrival by our contractor support team. It was mutually agreed to give the community hall an Indian look and put in monuments. The vast 30 x 7 feet wall in the other room was to have a seascape to show the Australian connection. The smaller portions would have suitable fillers.
The first two days were spent in cleaning and painting the basic coats on the walls. All the cupboards were emptied, cleaned and after both the doors (10 of them) and the cupboards had been repaired and painted, the Group set upon the task of beautification. They had a wonderful artist Aeisha, a 16 year old amongst them, and she made the sketches overnight and delegated work and colours over the next four days of work to the Group. She herself took on the arduous work of creating the Taj Mahal in the community hall. Besides the Indian monuments, the Group let loose their imagination and painted miniature signature ones of various countries on the frames of the windows. The end product was delightful.
All this was happening alongside some lovely moments with the children at the Orphanage. A quick over of cricket, some Aussie soccer classes, hugs and photographs with the tiny-tots intermingles with their songs and smiles, as the two rooms transformed by the hour. The lunch was a changing menu of Orphanage cooked, low cost seasonal vegetarian meals, which the Group had desired and now relished. The two teachers, David and Jack, were brave enough to sample the spicy ‘chola-bhatura’ delicacy from a famous roadside shop outside the Orphanage during a break with me. They drooled on it. The children were forbidden though.
Of particular mention is the behaviour of the Orphanage children. Ice had been broken with the first group in Jun, and by the time this Group came in, the toddlers were constantly begging for attention and demanding it when it didn't come, while the older lot, took up the tools and worked alongside. a visible change to me, who had been observing the effect of our presence on these children. Today, if a group were to walk in, these children would not peep at them secretively from behind doors. They would come running out and meet and greet them. The change in environment and group dynamics has been so effective. I am deeply thankful to our FTO, the ops teams and these lovely students from abroad, in not just beautifying their living conditions but also for enhancing their confidence and helping them blossom with the love and respect shown to them.
Shaping Lives always receives a budget from the operational team and streamlines the work to stay within that limit. Some Groups do additional fund-raising and that becomes a direct value addition for the community being helped. Normally the additional fund raised is in range of USD 500-1000. This Group broke all records when they informed me, that they had raised USD 3500 approx., and wanted to donate that to the SDA as well. Frankly as GM, Shaping Lives, I was flabbergasted. The orphanage children made a tiny wish-list of essentials. The Orphanage had asked Shaping Lives for some beds and cabinets during the mid-year, and my request to the Group to enable that was much liked. We had a sample set made for their inspection. They loved it. In the funds they finally handed over prior to departure, we delivered 22 beds and 6 twin child use cabinets before the year end. In the amount donated, we also ensured new wiring and tube-lights in all the girls and boys barracks. We also had dish TV installed besides fulfilling the tiny wish-list the children had shared with the Group.
The Group also spared time to visit our affiliated WildlifeSOS Elephant Care Centre, where elephants, old and aged are rescued and live in freedom and dignity befitting another creation of the almighty.
As 2016 ends, the living section of Shramad Dayanand Anathalaya, Agra stands out due to the wonderful work done by our Groups and topped with this last one. The Orphanage children are absolutely overwhelmed and delighted that children from abroad came in, spent time, shared love and fun, and did up barracks and facilities which no one has ever done in the past. Food is not enough, sometimes the quality of life also needs a boost and that is what was achieved here. A memory that will last another 4- 5 years on the walls and for a long time in the furniture and the three washrooms made earlier.
While words elude our appreciation for the Carey students, who were outstanding in their work, their bonding and their superlative fund raising, our humble thanks also go out to the SDA management, staff and children for being so supportive and friendly to our Groups and giving us all the opportunity to make a visible long term difference in their environment. The Le Passage Ops Team at Agra, needs a special credit for all the administrative support they give to Shaping Lives.
Dr. Challoners School Group, UK
School Sports Groups often come calling during their India games and sight-seeing itinerary. The UK schools in particular, either play a match with our NGO (Non Government Organisation) team or spend half a day in community interaction. The Challoner Team chose to spend the 16 Dec afternoon at our affiliated NGO, Deepalaya, Sanjay Colony. They were received and briefed on basic NGO work by the GM Shaping Lives, as he conducted them around the school premises. The afternoon has the challenged children section open and Ms. Sangeeta, the Head, took over the visitors thereafter.
The lollipops brought in by the team, broke ice faster than words and soon there were much sign language appreciations, selfies and general happiness around. The team and teachers also appreciated the set-up and the work being done. That was just part one of the visit. The main outdoor was to follow.
The children were wheeled out onto the playground. Some held hands with their new friends and a good 45 minutes of games and fun started. To the credit of this teenage team is that they were gentle, patient and very considerate as they played with the special children. They recognised the limitations and made the children feel important, bringing obvious smiles and squeals of delight on their faces.
GM Shaping Lives meanwhile took the teacher’s to the FADA (Father & daughter Alliance) Centre within the same complex and also to the upper floor to enable a birds’ eye view of the slum cluster and sensitize them to the children family background. The evening closed with a lovely group photograph, hugs and a few moments of further learning by the team at the speech center.
The Swiss Connection: Just as the Christmas week started, in came a mail from Patricia and Martin Willimann. The couple had visited Deepalaya in Oct 2013 as part of a Group. It being his birthday, Martin cancelled the drinks for his group and donated the entire celebration budget to the Deepalaya children. Since then, this wonderful couple have kept in touch with an annual donation to Deepalaya. That is a bond Shaping Lives strives for in all our visitors and we deeply value the love and compassion the Willimann couple shower on Deepalaya children each year.
Conclusion : 2016 was a good year where a number of groups and casual visitors spread smiles and benefited our NGOs. Shaping Lives looks forward to a similar if not better outreach in 2017. Language is no barrier when it comes to genuine love and compassion amongst mankind. That has been amply proved by the numerous visitors and volunteers to our affiliated charities, so those of you who read this, reach out, not just in India through us, but anywhere in the world you are comfortable. Have a blessed 2017.
Shaping Lives Events: Nov 2016
The final coordination for the impromptu World Challenge Group coming into Agra for volunteer work in mid-Dec took a major portion of time. The November interventions were :-
US Fam : Amit Agarwal, heading our US division sprung a surprise. While conducting a 'fam' for our US Agents, he suitably mentioned the work Shaping Lives does and the agents left behind an impromptu wonderful individual donation which we channelised into Project Arman support. We have also offered them an opportunity to sponsor at least one Armani at the company level, and join us in our community changing CSR.
SKR Reisen : Our relationship with SKR Reisen, Germany, goes back 3 years. Their itinerary includes an optional tour of one of our key affiliated NGOs working with street children in Jaipur. This November saw a spurt of interest after Mr. Mario Habig, MD's meeting with them at the WTM Nov ‘16. We are hopeful of enhancing CSR cooperation with this FTO which has a child and women centric social signature in some countries.
GOONJ : Our collection of usable old clothes donated by colleagues, was sent to our affiliate NGO GOONJ. This is the 4th year in succession that we are supporting them at the Company level. The icing on the cake was a near brand new DELL stand-alone computer donated by Amit Prasad.
The Japanese Interlude : The Japanese robotics experts taking part in the ongoing India International Trade Fair in Delhi, are displaying their robotics integrated into school systems in Japan. Our operational team handling the visit desired a school interaction for them, where robotics was available. The guests, six of them, owners of different Robotics companies and schools in Japan, were accordingly facilitated for a morning visit to an Indian School and its robotics profile by us.
Salwan Public School, Rajinder Nagar, was requested for the facilitation. This school has always been very supportive and pro-active to our requests. Saturday 26 Nov was no different. The school is closed for students on the 4th Saturday, yet, the entire Student Council and the Robotics and Media Club members, numbering over 40, had been called in for the visit. The HODs and teachers from other shifts also added up. The traditional welcome and then the formal introductory function was executed with grace. While we had the Vice Principal and the Robotics Club teacher handling the event personally, the CEO, Director and Principal took time off from their schedules to be present and also to personally accord a welcome address to the guests. It obviously went down superbly.
The Q & A session on robotics and Japanese culture was the path breaker. It motivated the visitors, to open their media and display their work. That set the morning rolling technically and after a very fine high tea, the visitors went into their main session of interaction with individual students displaying their robots. While they were happy with what they saw, the robotic model which was programed to climb stairs and obstacles and visualised for rescue use in emergencies like fire or earthquakes, was deeply appreciated by them.
The icing to the cake in the Salwan students’ display was the robotic model made from recycled scrap and a few chips procured online. They call it the TFJ (Torr-Forr-Jugadd Club). It was integrated to work on a local wi-fi and also respond to commands from the student’s mobile phone. The shock and awe at this model was evident in the visitors’ eyes. They were all praise and inquisitive and I am sure, some newer versions based on this model are going to flow from their tables very soon on return to Japan.
The visit rounded off with the guests presenting an EVS Robotic kit to the school club followed by a walk to the Heritage Wall. An interview by the students of three guests in their media room culminated the proceedings. They were seen off by the entire team of Salwan Public School to warm farewells and smiles. For Shaping Lives, it was another well executed event and our profound gratitude goes out to the Principal and her wonderful team at the School for making the morning so educative and delightful. While the Group had a Japanese interpreter accompanying, the Principal added her special touch by calling in her friend Professor Tomar, a Japanese expert from JNU, Delhi. His presence and spot interpretation made the visit more comfortable for the guests and interactive for us all. We go into Dec waiting for a volunteer group and perhaps a special Christmas session somewhere to add on.
Events CSR Oct 2016
Volunteer UK Groups at Cankids … Kidscan: Even as Oct dawned, two simultaneous UK Groups once again chose to walk into Cankids to volunteer and paint smiles. Over the past 3 years close to 10 such Groups have already come in and we expect this to be a recurring feature.
Group I at Gautam Nagar Center, Delhi: The first Group walked in on 01 Oct afternoon to a curtailed briefing of Cankids’ pan-India outreach and work. Volunteer time being short and the work more, they were taken for a quick round of the Block by Sister Hanife, the lovely elderly foreign semi-permanent volunteer face of the NGO and Ms. Huma, the Onco-psychologist, whose concepts and work with children afflicted with cancer is gradually gaining world attention. As GM Shaping Lives, the Foundation which facilitates such Groups into diverse NGOs across India, I nudged them onto the terrace in quick time and outlined the work required from the Group. These works were mutually pre-decided between Shaping Lives and Cankids and all stores and administrative requirements put in place prior to Group arrival. The Group muddied their hands in right earnest allocating to themselves according to inclination and ability. While some set to painting walls, others took on beautification of the kitchen. The CEO, Lesley and her two specialists took on the task of mixing the manure and mud, and re-filling old and new flower pots for a terrace garden. It was all laughter and gung-ho and I grinned within, as I went about assisting with words of encouragement and the odd pretended admonition mixed with jovial back thumping for some, just to keep the mood going and everyone smiling their way through the work. At the end of work that evening, each volunteer was glowing with self-satisfaction as I led them out to their transport Coach. I bid farewell, urging them to ensure that the tasks we had set for ourselves be completed by Sunday evening 02 Oct before they left for their tour. I regretted not being with them because the Cankids Center at Trivandrum more than 2500 kms away and another group of volunteers arriving on Sunday afternoon called.
While the Delhi group continued their initiative and bid farewell after a warm send off by senior members of the Cankids management and the children housed at the Centre on 02 Oct, the Trivandrum Group walked in to a similar initial briefing by Mr. Varada Raj Pillai, the Head of the Cankids centers at Trivandrum and Bangalore down South around 2.30 p.m. I had landed early morning and completed my coordination and administrative checks with Mr. Pillai. These coordination and checks are the key factors which ensure a successful volunteering effort by our volunteer Groups. They traversed the center, much smaller than the one in Delhi, which runs from a hired house, mingling with the cancer children interned and their parents, who also stay in situ with their wards. This center has a vocational unit as well and with 75% ladies in the Group, it was a difficult task to wean them away from trying on and purchasing the huge array of lovely nighties which the South Indian ladies wear in-house and which are stitched at this Center. A stern warning that the whip would be cracked, brought the group to laughter and we proceeded onto the front garden so that I could explain the work required. We spent the balance of the afternoon in sketching the motifs. The front wall would have flowers and bees as an extension of the garden, the side wall would have a sea, animal and sky mural, and to fulfill Mr. Pillai’s dream, the entrance walls on both sides of the gate would have a pure sea motif.
The next two days were spent in slogging in the humidity. Coconut water flowed freely to ward off the thirst. The walls came up gradually but surely. The novice volunteers became more confident with the paints and brush. This motley crowd had a 19 year old and a 77 year old, with the major group being over 50 years old. It was a challenge at times to keep some of the elderly ones motivated and working as we had huge targets and a time deadline of 2 days left. But, to their credit, they mixed fun, interaction with children and bonhomie within themselves to achieve what I had set out for them. My own takeaway was learning to mix paints and keep the supplies rolling as this was the first time Shaping Lives did not use professional help.
We did a visit to their second Center after work hours on the second day. There was fun too. Playing with the children, pampering them off and on, both lunches on banana leaf cooked in typical local Kerala style, albeit less spicy. Of course we sat at tables because sitting cross-legged on the floor was not convenient for our guests. And then the coup de grace. A grand farewell ceremony by Mr. Pillai, staff, children and parents. Gifts showered by this magnificent group on the children in addition to the funds raised to paint the Center. Mr Pillai honored them, by asking the senior most volunteer couple to inaugurate the Center’s new computer and presenting a traditional Kathakali wooden mask curio to each volunteer as a memory.
The hugs, tears and come back soon / will return soon are common to me. They happen with every group which spends time with our NGO children across India. This time was no different. The only difference was that each one of us prayed that the child would get well and not succumb, and when we prayed, a tiny tear of love and compassion did roll down. But that is part of the work we all do, the volunteers and us at Shaping Lives, we spread smiles through our own hidden tears and once again Shaping Lives thanks our wonderful UK FTO for sending us such dedicated volunteers. We thank the volunteers for their fund raising which makes their work possible, and their commitment and zest in completing tasks set for them within difficult timelines. We thank Cankids … Kidscan, for allowing us an association.
The German Group: Oct end, just prior to Diwali, saw an impromptu short 90 minute visit into Delhi’s NGO Deepalaya at Sanjay Colony. Strangely, maximum members of the Group were Swiss. This older age Group, was completely floored by the school Head, Ms Shikha’s briefing of Deepalaya’s outreach to the slum and less privileged children and women across three major States of India. Their smiles and laughter intermingled with the tiny-tots as they sang and danced to nursery rhymes in the classes visited. They were impressed by the library. The tuition classes to older children by local teachers, some of whom had gone through Deepalaya’s school portals left them amazed. Some time with special children in the differently abled school was an eye-opener of a different kind. And as I escorted the Group back to their Coach, the effusive praise for the work by the NGO and Shaping Lives facilitation was boundless.
TEMA Series: The TEMA Series groups commenced the season with their visits to the WildlifeSOS Bear and Elephant Centers at Agra. It is a pleasure to have our esteemed FTO grace and adopt our affiliated animal NGO for the second year in succession and make a visit to their Center as part of their clients’ travel itinerary.
The Spirit of Diwali: Le Passage to India HR became innovative this Diwali by permitting games and home cooked food stalls for enterprising colleagues to make a quick, but honest buck, as part of the Company's Diwali celebrations. It was a huge success. Diwali, the festival of lights, is the most important joyous festival of India. Shaping Lives became part of this festivity through two unique initiatives. These were :-
Two food counters added a special surprise flavor to this happy afternoon by their love and compassion. One stall by the PureQuest Adventures team of Lokesh and Bhuwan opened a mutton - roti and idli-chutney counter for free. The caveat was the Shaping Lives donation box. The two encouraged their visitors to donate directly into the box and pick up their plate of finger licking fare. The amount donated did not matter. The entire collection was donated to the Foundation account. At a different counter, Pravin's Vendor Management Team dished out veg and non-veg sandwiches across Lokesh's boys. And when their stock was exhausted, Pravin dialed me at Shaping Lives, and informed me that his team was donating Rs 1100/- from their earnings to NGO Deepalaya. Having seen the kind of excellent fare being dished out, I am quite sure that this was the entire profit margin being given away. And what a pleasant surprise too.
Why Deepalaya? Because, Shaping Lives, as part of its Diwali CSR outreach, had given a complimentary counter to our esteemed NGO to sell Diwali products made at their Sanjay Colony Vocational Centre for differently abled children. The NGO also did a reasonably good sale and went away happy.
Shaping Lives thanks Pravin, Lokesh and Bhuwan for their grand initiative so true and apt in the Diwali spirit of love, compassion and giving. It is a delight to have such fantastic team members.
Conclusion : Oct ended on a beautiful note. The clothes collection / donation for NGO GOONJ is underway even as spot bookings for social visits are picking up in Nov.
Events : Le Passage To India Journeys - 14th Foundation Day - 2016
The onus of celebrating Foundation Day of Le Passage to India Journeys always falls on Shaping Lives. The reason is that as a Company, LPTIJ utilizes its special day in spreading love and compassion through various charities and initiatives. This has been the norm, and it was no different on 05 Aug, when Shaping Lives organized the 14th Foundation Day (a day earlier as 06 Aug was a Saturday).
Blood Donation : The day started with the Red Cross Blood Donation Coach parking at the main entrance and setting up their systems. Colleagues were encouraged to fill up their voluntary donation forms and head for the couch. Eventually, 52 units of blood were collected from about 90 volunteers. This year we had the collection only at the new main Noida office and that left out some veterans and also almost 50 colleagues who were travelling on ‘fams’. The nice thing to note was also a number of colleagues who walked up to GM, Shaping Lives to state that they had recently donated blood to some relative or patient in hospital. In the 6th year of this initiative, what is nice to observe is not just the number of units we give on Foundation Day, but the trend where many colleagues now regularly donate at hospitals during the year.
NGO Felicitation at our NOIDA Office : Children, from Project Arman and Deepalaya, duly escorted by their Teachers, walked in on schedule for the annual pampering and presentation of sponsorship amounts. We sponsor 16 tiny-tots from the Deepalaya Sanjay Colony School and Project Arman is of course LPTIJ’s signature CSR initiative. The children, four from each NGO, were given individual goodie bags with soft toys and attractive knick-knacks besides loads of chocolates and snacks. The Deepalaya ones who came earlier, also took a round of the office. We were delighted to have Rajneesh and Anju from Project Arman, and besides the wonderful Ms. Shikha and Ms. Suman from Deepalaya, the Executive Director Ms. Rachana Kulshrestha also graced. The children had brought in some lovely return gifts and as we opened them the entire Hall erupted in thunderous applause and hugs for the wonderful babies.
Certificates of Appreciation : Started last year, the gambit of coverage for award of ‘Certificate of Appreciation’ for contributing to the Foundation or its affiliate NGOs was widened this year. TEMA and Designer Tours were two of our FTOs who received the award, besides many other individuals who had made a quantum difference in bringing smiles through their love and compassion for the less privileged. Philip Mckernan, Allison Shride and Stephanie Summers, Rachna Khanna were four of our foreign visitors who were also given awards for contributing individually to visited NGOs post their return from their Indian holiday. Le Passage to India Journey was awarded the collective certificate for the compulsory colleague volunteering program started this year, which has already seen over 250 colleagues spend half a day doing community engagement.
Community Service at Gautam Nagar Gurukul : The afternoon saw Mr. Arjun Sharma and key senior management members doing their annual community service at this learning center for future Pandits and Shastris (Hindu clergy). It is a lunch we serve each year with both pride and humility. Not just us, even the Gurukul management looks forward to our presence. Besides the lunch, this year LPTIJ, via the Foundation, facilitated the inauguration of their computer learning center. Ms. Kiran Joti, one of our Executive Directors, had the privilege to cut the ribbon amidst chanting of shlokas (Hindu hymns). The customary token gift of individual stationery to each of the 200 students was given at closing.
Clothes to GOONJ : NGO Goonj, the cloth for work NGO, with which we are associated was the final cherry on the cake as always. The 09 cartons and two bundles of clothes collected from colleagues and well-wishers were sent to the GOONJ storehouse and gracefully acknowledged. With this culminated the 14th Foundation day activity.
Our major offshore locations of Jaipur, Mumbai, Goa, and Chennai undertook their charity initiatives as well. These are given in successive paragraphs below.
Jaipur : Our annual donation of Rs. 1,00,000/- towards cost of approx. 30 Jaipur Limbs was presented to Sh. D R Mehta, Founder, Jaipur Foot Organisation, on 03 Aug. The cheque handed over by Mr. Khalid Khan, our Rajasthan Head kick-started the 14th Foundation Day ‘giving’, our company indulges in across India, each year on this special day. The institution is world renowned for low cost prosthetic limbs and its technological forays have made it simply the best. We met an employee who cycles 18 kms each day with a Jaipur leg. We also met Vipin Rawat who has run approx. 20 half marathons with a Jaipur Foot. Such is the credibility. And believe you me, this limb costs merely INR 3500 against a foreign $ 10000. The Organisation has already tested and is now fixing prosthetic arms and hands as well. It is a must see if you ever visit Jaipur. And a tete-a tete with Shri Mehta … it is priceless.
Mumbai : Juhi, our Mumbai Head wrote in with her experience of an outing for children of Rahee Foundation. The NGO’s mission is Development Through Sports! Its Founder, Mr. Rafique Ansari was a school drop out after grade 8 due to financial difficulties. He did several odd jobs to sustain himself. After having worked for 15 years in the social sector, in various diverse capacities & realising the immense value of the power of education to change a childhood, he founded the NGO in 2009 in Malwani Ward IV(a shanty town suburb of Mumbai). Rahee Foundation focuses on motivating children to achieve academic / sports excellence or empowering them with the life skills necessary to attain a respectable quality of life.” The NGO is empanelled with Shaping Lives for client visits at Mumbai.
On 06th August, 2016, Mr. Rafique Ansari along with his volunteers took 35 children from 10 / 18 years from his NGO for a day trip & hiking at Kanheri Caves. The trip was part of the CSR outreach of Shaping Lives, for LPTIJ’s offshore locations on the Company’s 14th Foundation Day. His team was joined by Suraj & Mithila from LPTIJ. The children enthusiastically explored the caves under the watchful eyes of the volunteers. Lunch was provided by noon which the children devoured with great relish. The children also took a train and boat ride besides enjoying the venue. Shaping Lives encourages such excursions to add to the holistic growth of the children, whose parents, more often than not, are economically too weak to take them out for such excursions.
Goa : Karen wrote in on behalf of Sameer, our Goa Head, to say : On the occasion of Le Passage to India Journeys Foundation day, we spent 05 Aug with abandoned children of single parents, at the St. Anthony’s Boys Convent Home Goa.
This Home is situated in the village of Agassaim in Goa, and is managed by Sr. Nirmala and three others. There are 35 boys in the age group of 3-9 years. Most of them are children of single parents and broken families who cannot afford to provide education to their children. While the lunch was sponsored under our request by one of our excursion partners, Tropical Spice Plantation, we presented a donation of Rs. 20,000/- for their infrastructure improvement on behalf of Shaping Lives. The Sisters of the Home, were effusive in their gratitude for the time and donation support by the LPTIJ Goa Team. The children were pampered and served lunch by us and while they laughed and smiled through the visit, this event has left us with warm and beautiful memories with the resolve to creating more such time – regardless of occasion – for such children and more.
Chennai : Bernard our Regional Head wrote : This is to inform you that the LPTIJ & TUI team visited our empanelled LITTLE FLOWER CONVENT, a school for hearing and visually impaired children, on 05th Aug, to handover a donation of Rs. 20000/-, as part of the company’s CSR activity on our 14th Foundation Day. We were greeted on our arrival by Sr. Jessy and the faculty of the school. The special children (hearing and visually challenged), welcomed us in traditional manner by showering flowers and applying a ‘tikka’. They also danced to a recorded music. Sr. Jessy having been informed of our contribution amount had purchased a new high speed tailoring machine for the faculty to tailor clothes for the children and teach them tailoring too. She had mentioned that the existing machines were old and worn out and most were damaged in the recent floods and that is what prompted the management to purchase a new machine with the Shaping Lives’ donation. They are in need of more machines and the cost of each new machine is ₹ 7500.00 per unit.
Sr. Jessy was very gracious in expressing her appreciation for LPTIJ not only assisting the Centre financially, but also finding the time to visit the school and spend time with her children.
Conclusion : This day of compassion has had a value addition this year, with all colleagues undergoing mandatory half day CSR volunteering activity in any one of our affiliated NGOs. We hope to keep this rich tradition alive for many more years to come.
Events Jul 2016 : Shaping Lives
Consecutive Year Volunteers : Even as the Woodfarm High School group wound up their volunteer activity at the Shrimad Dayanand Orphanage, Agra, on 03 Jul, the focus shifted to Project Arman, Delhi. Two of our repeat volunteers, Aanya and Myra Arora, from Dubai, undertook their volunteering at Project Arman, from 04 – 21 Jul 2016. It was the second consecutive year that these two children had taken the afternoons off their Indian holiday to spend quality time with 160 waste pickers’ children being groomed at our Nizamuddin Centers. They focused on arts and craft as well lots of story-telling. Both the girls, especially Aanya, the elder one at 16, took great pains to prepare for the lessons or the arts and craft model for the day. Assisted by Myra, at just 11 years, she was patient and controlled, helping children with the theme of the day if she found any lacking. Each day was a new activity, a new experience. Aanya had prepared herself well and our rowdy listless children ate out of her hands, sitting and working on her instructions in the stifling heat and humidity of July. Many new creations came up, masks, the solar system, mini aircraft, grasshoppers, and much more. Myra, would occasionally take over story telling during the breaks or when the day’s lesson left some free time. Smiles emanated at the end of each session. That is the real essence we look for.
Both the children, young and tender in age, are extremely well behaved and mature. They are very gentle in their approach and it’s a delight for all of us to see Aanya, take our Armanis through the paces without ever changing her tenor. Mrs Vanita Arora, their mother, also deserves special mention. She is a stickler for punctuality. Very disciplined, she ensures that her daughters, or the Armanis, do not get lax or waste volunteer time in frivolous activity. Kind and understanding to the children, comfortable with our staff, she easily blends into the activity of the day, giving her expert guidance and also acting as a translator to her daughters, if required.
Project Arman Medical Check-up : The Armanis went through a health check-up camp in this month. They are given two checks annually and besides routine vitamins and health supplements if required, they are all de-wormed, a necessity considering the environment they live and play in.
Penistone Grammar School : The second Group of senior school volunteers via our UK partners, World Challenge, strolled into the Orphanage on 26 Jul. The GM Shaping Lives, introduced them to the environment. They were tasked to beautify the barrack painted by their predecessor group and also do up one more barrack. The first day was spent in cleaning and scraping the new barrack. The heat and humidity was unbearable, but then, the clouds burst, and all work was set aside for dancing in the rain. From Day 2 onwards, the Group let their artistic talents loose and both the barracks began to come alive with flowers, figurines and fairies, mixed with rainbows and the sea. By the time 01 Aug dawned, both the premises were a kaleidoscopic delight. They were pure girl centric, happy and joyous. The children at the orphanage were obviously elated and there was visible pride in the eyes of the volunteers from Penistone as well.
GM, Shaping Lives was again present to facilitate the thanksgiving and farewell formalities. The orphanage children presented their guests with a replica of the Taj Mahal, even as the school group opened up their bags and gifted clothes and toys to match all sizes. They had also taken a short excursion in between to buy up more stuff from the money left over from their donation collection. Honesty was apparent in every penny and in every moment spent. The group was presented a ‘Certificate of Appreciation’ on behalf of Shaping Lives by Mr. Rajesh Sharma, LPTIJ’s regional Head and Col Anil Alagh, the Foundation Head. The short march back to the coach for the last time was again full of repeated hugs and goodbyes. Bonds form when you work together in love and compassion and mutual respect for each other and even as I am sure that the school group will carry back indelible memories of a lifetime, one statement by an orphan child shall stick to my heart and remind me forever that our Foundation may indulge in small experiences, but their impact is lifelong. The young boy said “Sir, we have seen hundreds of people come and give us food throughout my life, but it is the first time that you and your foreign friends have come and spent time with us. It is the first time someone has cared for how we live, eaten with us, shared our laughter and given us so much respect, love and compassion. We will never forget this.”
Penistone at WildlifeSOS : The school group, duly facilitated by the Foundation, also spent a whole day at the elephant and sloth bear centers in between their Orphanage work, taking our advice to also enjoy a hearty lunch served inside the Bear Rescue premises. They had a fun time as informed by the Wardens to Col Alagh. They themselves spoke highly of the experience, some of them displaying T-shirts of WildlifeSOS, they had purchased at their vocational shop on the final day.
Conclusion : The month was delightfully hectic and a lot has been achieved at the Orphanage. Le Passage Travel Foundation takes the opportunity to thank our travel partner World Challenge for the association and we are sanguine that our combined outreach will benefit many more NGOs in the oncoming season. As August dawned, the foundation readied itself for two medical volunteers and Le Passage to India Journeys foundation day activity, an activity which is confined to pure giving across India.
Shaping Lives : Events June 2016
SHAPING LIVES : VOLUNTEERS FROM WOODFARM HIGH SCHOOL, UK The first of volunteer groups from our partner FTO, World Challenge, UK, Woodfarm High School, trooped into Shrimad Dayanand Orphanage, Agra on 28 Jun. It was a new chapter in the journey of Shaping Lives. It was the first time a Group had come in directly from an FTO and without using any operational support from our outstanding travel professionals at LPTI. The whole journey had started in Feb with PureQuest, our adventure experts, facilitating a meeting between Shaping Lives and World Challenge. Led by the World Challenge Tour Leader, Ms. Allyson Wood, the 17 senior school students and two teachers, Carrie and Peter, were welcomed with rose petals and ‘tilak’, in traditional Indian style.
The barrack was in shambles. Dirt and termites vied for superiority. All that stopped on arrival of the group. They set about their task of helping renovate this entire barrack for the orphanage girls with gusto. Almost an Omni van worth of garbage was removed, the walls cleaned, the floors swept, to prepare for the subsequent painting and beautification. The work also involved creating new washrooms and being technical in nature, was undertaken prior to the Group arrival but completed in their presence.
The children from both sides bonded well and as they waited for lunch, the dance and song began. The heat and humidity was forgotten and there was joy and bonhomie all around. The Group had 6 days of community interaction scheduled here. The mornings were utilized for hands-on work. The afternoons were spent bonding through fun and games, and of course, a lot of dancing. As the days passed, barriers of language and countries were broken.
The tiny-tots at the Orphanage loved the arts and craft as well. Each one seemed to have formed a special bond with a different volunteer. And that bond was mutual, as the young volunteers left no stone unturned in pampering and making them feel special.
The Group chose to eat afternoon meals cooked by the Orphanage team and offered to them at very subsidized rates. It was indeed gracious of the Orphanage Head to ensure that every meal was low spice and different, and we did not have a single Delhi-belly. In lighter vein, the Scot blood and sturdy disposition of all members of the Group perhaps also helped.
The painting and cleaning continued with dedication and commitment despite the heat and humidity. The Group finished their volunteer program on 03 Jul. They laid out a grand farewell program and closing ceremony with the Orphanage children. It was a delight to watch and of course participate in. The Group had trained the children to do a ‘Cielidh’, the famous Scottish community Gaelic dance of joy. They had also brought in some lovely trinkets as gifts for the children. As Shaping Lives, we added a whole lot more from our dear FTO friends in France, who had visited 4 weeks ago and left a carton full of goodies for our charities. The remaining will go to Project Arman next week.
The Orphanage children were not to be outdone. They came out with a marvelous and ingenious gift in the form of a hanging curio which had the Group’s entire journey clipped to it in over 40 photographs. It was indeed a very touching and wonderful gift to even think of. They had also gift wrapped the finest local gift, a miniature Taj Mahal, for each of the 20 foreign friends, and in addition had some extra for a lucky draw, as well. The guests were obviously delighted at these surprises. Akash, who had been brought up at this Orphanage since he was 2 years old, was the driving and binding force between our Group and the Orphanage children throughout. We will miss him for the next Group, as he transits for a Masters in Physics, in one of the IITs. The IIT, or Indian Institute of Technology, is India’s elite centre for higher studies and it takes brains and dedication to get a seat in them. It is the grooming ground of many successful men and women in diverse intellectual fields. Akash, with his background and limited resources, and no coaching whatsoever, by clearing the All India Competitive Exam, has done himself and the Orphanage proud by his selection into one of these esteemed institutes.
The farewell ceremonies wound up with the children exchanging autographed respective country flags followed by GM, Shaping Lives saying a few words of thanksgiving and presenting a ‘Certificate of Appreciation’ on behalf of Le Passage Travel Foundation to Carrie, the senior school teacher. A final wholesome lunch and a round of the Indian sweet ‘jalebi’ later, the guests trooped out of the Centre one last time. The children followed all the way to the coach. There were many hugs and more moist eyes and in those moist eyes, one realised how love and compassion still exists and how Shaping Lives and World Challenge got together to spread some of it here in Agra.
We now await the next World Challenge group in end Jul to add more happiness to the lovely children at the Orphanage.
LPTI Volunteer Program Continues : The heat was again unbearable as the fourth batch of LPTI volunteers walked into the two Arman Centers for their annual CSR interface on 03 Jun. The children were ready and so were the staff. This one was to be different. We had planned on a limited classroom interaction followed by a trip into Humayun’s Tomb, one of Delhi’s key monuments from Moghul times.
Classroom titbits and bonhomie over, the scorching sun and humidity saw the chirpy children head inside the Tomb gates, as the volunteers and staff took on the onerous task of dividing them into small groups and tending to their flock. The initial gateway with its artefacts was traversed with grace. The steep steps up the Tomb had the volunteers puffing as the agile children scaled them with ease. A round of the Tomb followed amidst much excitement and animated conversations between the children and their escorts. A group photograph later, the children and volunteers were all on their knees, huddled over the caged opening, searching for the ghosts of the Mughal Emperor and his entourage, fabled to be deep down inside that cavern.
No ghosts seen, we tumbled down the rear side onto the beautifully laid garden and waterway network in typical Mughal style. That waterway was the bane of our staff and volunteers, as the children ignited by mischief and the heat, decided to cool themselves. Every shallow pond filled up despite the best efforts to tame them. The girls were ahead on this tomfoolery and it took the combined threat of the Tomb security and us to get these urchins off the ponds. But it was honest safe fun and the security was as amused and happy for them as we were. The children of course were delighted beyond words.
The Go India Journeys volunteers who came brought in a huge cache of books and arts material. It was very gracious of them to do so. The others put in their individual gifts for the children of course. Gradually, as the CSR LPTI Volunteers roll in, the kitty of gifts is swelling and the children are of course gaining confidence, but more importantly, it is the colleagues at LPTI who are having an experience of the Company’s compassion and their own inner awakening.
Navpushp Verma, our visually challenged Senior Executive, was a huge hit with the children and one could sense his happiness as well, as he felt the children around him.
Shaping Lives : Events May 2016
May is one of the quieter months. This one was no different. The compulsory employee engagement series continued with two outings by colleagues on 06 May and 27 May afternoons. As the series progresses, the colleagues coming in are more prepared, having heard the exultations of those who have already been. We started filling up a Case Study format designed jointly by Chintan and us. A basic English test paper was also created which additionally incorporated spoken English.
While the education focus has been on Hindi and Maths, our volunteers were tasked to revive / re-visit our little Armanis on the basic English speaking skills. They seem to have mastered the standard welcome and introduction questions and from our next visit, we intend to enhance the scope. A few skeptics did exist when we started, but the LPTI volunteers have lived up to this chance of a lifetime and as the GM, Shaping Lives, deeply sensitive and aware of my children’ growth and confidence, I sense that the visits are making a difference.
The annual report for year 2015 – 16, which ended on 31 Mar 2016, came in for Project Arman and it was heartening to see the progress made and milestones achieved by the team and the 160 children we nurture and groom for a future beyond waste picking.
May also brought happy tidings from two well-wishers. Mrs Rachna Khanna, promised support from her Rotarian circle abroad and Mrs Vanita Arora confirmed the volunteering of her two young daughters in Jul. They are now regulars at Arman and deeply cherished.
As we roll into Jun, 95 out of the 291 NCR colleagues have completed their compulsory CSR assignment. Everyone seems to have had a good experience. The shy ones have mentioned it when I visit Noida office. A few have put fingers to keyboard and sent in feedbacks. All the feedbacks are chronicled and put on the website in week of the following month. This includes client feedbacks. Check them out for yours.
Jun promises our first long volunteering at the Agra Orphanage via students being sent by World Challenge. Let us how the month end with them unfolds.
Events April 2016 : Shaping Lives
The AES Interlude: 26 April saw the beautiful weekly interactions between our Armanis and the American Embassy School students come to an end. An exchange program stretching over three months saw our Armanis gain knowledge and confidence as 40 of them visited the AES each Tuesday. The AES students, in turn, had a wonderful exposure to Project Arman and Nizamudin via an organized walk when they paid a return visit. Our children were especially floored when they were made to hand paint some cushion covers, and then gifted those along with a cushion each to take home for themselves.
World Challenge Volunteer Program: Hectic exchanges of mails between the Foundation and the World Challenge Nodal officer Laura, finally yielded results. Expect to read more in the Jun and July events shortly
Cascades of March Visits
Volunteer Roxanne : The young volunteer wrote back from Canada. See the testimonial page for her observations
Ms Stephanie Sommers from Germany, besides her parting remark on the Arman Visitor register, sent in a very kind donation in support of Project Arman.
Designer Tours, Germany : Mr Sumeet Sehgal, whose initiative resulted in funding two washrooms at NGO I-India, promised another tidy amount, this time for Project Arman. The Foundation has given him the areas where his funding can be specifically utilized and his decision is awaited.
Company’s Compulsory CSR Community Service: Le Passage to India Journeys (LPTI), which funds the Project Arman, Nizamudin, commenced its compulsory CSR employee engagement program on 22 Apr 2016. This program aims to ensure that every LPTI colleagues spends one afternoon of a working day, during the Apr – Sept, lean season period, on community service. It is part of the holistic growth and opportunity aimed for inclusion by the Management. As a precursor of this program, the senior management had been taken to The Earth Saviours’ Foundation (events write-up of Dec 2015 refers). For the remaining NCR colleagues the focus would be Project Arman, in the following five months. To read more about the Project please visit the home page of www.shaping-lives.org.
Approx 20 colleagues came in the first batch of volunteers. Received by GM Shaping Lives at Nizamudin, they were split into 3 groups. One went to the Sunder Nagar Nursery Centre, while the other two were channelized to the larger Nizamudin Centre. After the initial introductions and a bit of fun and laughter with the children, they each took on a few children into their individual group and commenced more meaningful interactions through computers, art and craft out of waste, and story-telling. Time flew bye, bonds formed, and were visible as the Volunteers and children moved from classroom to outdoor. The Humanyun Tomb Park, close to both Centers, became the center for fun, frolic and laughter for the next one hour. Every kind of game from cricket, to kho-kho, to football, to others was being enjoyed. The volunteers had molded into the new role beautifully and the children were elated. Their elation of course touched a new high, as ice cream and lots of goodies flowed in, as their new found LPTI friends went on a pampering spree. The coup de grace was an individual gift pack to each child as they posed for a final group photograph and commenced their walk back home amidst byes and sighs.
Some feedbacks received from the first batch of volunteers are given on the Testimonial page. The one from IrinaChitic, Business Development Manager, India & Indian Ocean, Le Passage to India Journeys, who wrote a wonderful detailed note of appreciation, combined with suggestions for improvement, in this essential LPTI activity, reads, “Dear Col. Alagh, I would first like to start this email by thanking you for all your effort put in developing this initiative! I think it is truly a great idea to involve our employees so that they have a sense of what CSR activities we are doing and understand the importance of developing further these kinds of initiatives. For me personally it was a very enriching experience to spend some time with the kids, to see them smiling, to see them getting more comfortable with me, playing and just making my day so much more beautiful! So for that I am very grateful again! Also, I would love to come back. However, given that I have two workaholic managers, I won't be able to do it during the week in the next month, but then I would like to get in touch with you to see whether I could come over on a weekend for instance. It wouldn't happen in May for sure, but I would definitely love to come back!
Her suggestions to focus on teaching English through the LPTI volunteer program, since we see it as our weak link and the possibility of having an Impact Report to assess the benefit of the LPTI visits were both well received and are being implemented.
Conclusion: With this write-up, we close Apr, as LPTI goes into audit mode to obtain an ISO 9001 certification. The Foundation was trade marked as well this month and it will soon be ISO 9001 certified as well. Our approach is simple, catch the grass root needy NGOs on our tourist destinations and assist them through visits and volunteering by the socially responsible inbound travellers.
Events Mar 2016 : Shaping Lives
With March, the financial year also drew to a close. The journey this year had been nice too, but not as good as the previous two years. It was not for want of available experiences, it was more due to the reduced inflow of inbound tourists, and their intent to flow into NGOs during their holidays. However, what we did was worth every penny, and every client went away with a memorable experience on the social interludes organized by Shaping Lives. These are chronicled month-wise in the Events page.
March brought cheer to Shaping Lives as 40 Armanis continued to visit the American School for interactive sessions with their peers. They all seemed very excited, and we now look forward to a return visit, by the American School students, to Project Arman in April. The Foundation also organized homage on the sixth anniversary of one of the founder fathers of LPTI, Mr. Ghulam Naqshband on 05 Mar, with prayers at his Nizamudin cemetery grave IN New Delhi, and a humble meal to all children and staff of Project Arman. The doyen was a deeply respected man and tourism stalwart.
Visits: Project Arman: Mrs Stephanie Sommers, from Germany, walked into Arman on 08 Mar afternoon. She had the time and our children and me, as GM Shaping Lives, had the inclination. She spent a good 2 hours almost, with a promise to come back 2-3 years later as an English tutoring volunteer. I believe she will. More so, as she, herself, is an English language tutor. The Tour Guide Mr. Manoranjan, also thoroughly enjoyed his time at the centre. Both of them got lovely thank you cards made by the children. Stephanie of course was also gifted a paper flower vase, much to her delightful surprise.
We now await the arrival of Mrs Rachna Khanna, one of Arman’s well-wishers and key supporters.
World Challenge CSR Recce for Volunteer Groups: The team of Kathryn and Laura, from World Challenge, UK, spent time with GM Shaping Lives and our PureQuest operation senior colleague, Lokesh Bagga, at Jaipur on 09 Mar, and then with GM on 12 Mar at Agra. As one of the premier adventure group facilitators, the agenda was to explore social opportunities for 4 – 8 days for their student groups while on adventure holidays in India. It was the first time only CSR was being incorporated, and we hope for a long and fruitful association with them through our NGOs. At Jaipur, after their I-India Jhag, Prem Pathshala, visit Kathryn candidly stated that it was perhaps one of the best and most suitable places they had ever seen across the world for their clientele who wanted to volunteer in education and soft interactions. The Shrimad Dayanand Orphanage at Agra delighted them as the ideal location for their more active volunteer groups. The WildlifeSOS centres, would benefit the animal lovers and also be a good short interlude. Cumulatively, Kathryn, who heads the Asia and Africa continents, seemed very satisfied and hopeful of putting in a good number of volunteer teams into the Shaping Lives projects in the next season.
Volunteer Roxanne: From Canada, this lovely teenager, spent 15 days at I-India’s Jhag complex as a volunteer. She lived, ate and slept at the Center. While as GM, I met her during her stay and found her to be one happy child, the reports from the NGO were simply superb. The girls at the Center, said that this didi (elder sister) was fun to be with and made them laugh all the time. The Director, Mr. Charu said she was extremely adjusting, and a very content and happy person. She blended into the sparse surroundings, teaching the children arts and craft, exchanging notes on culture and countries, and much more.
Series NGO Visits: Our TEMA series continued their itinerary inbuilt CSR visits into WildlifeSOS at Agra and the SKR series did the occasional afternoon ones at Ladli, Jaipur.
Green Sippers: LPTIJ’s pioneering program of encouraging clients to use a customized thermos flask for drinking water instead of buying packaged plastic bottles. Our effort saved India approx. 150000 bottles of plastic waste across tourist destinations this season. The sippers have the client’s name and they can take it home as a souvenir or leave it for us, to clean and sanitize and gift it to the numerous NGOs we work with. The first consignment of gifted ‘sippers’, was handed over by Shaping Lives to the challenged children of Deepalaya Special School on 16 Mar.
Caps: Shaping Lives also received a huge consignment of caps from its SBUs in LPTIJ, which were either surplus or unused by various groups. These went to NGO Chintan which runs our Project Arman initiative at Nizamudin.
Holi Colours: Shaping Lives once again facilitated the sale of eco-friendly colours made by differently abled children of NGO Samvedna at TUI, LPTIJ and a premium 5 star Resort, The Heritage Resort & Spa, Manesar, as in the past.
Mahapura Washrooms: In a first of its kind, our esteemed German FTO partner Designer Tours, raised funds during the inauguration of their new office in Germany. They donated the amount for construction of two washrooms at I-India Mahapura Center. Constructed aesthetically, these washrooms are now commissioned and being used to good effect.
UK School Group Brandon at Salwan, Delhi: Shaping Lives facilitated the visit and interaction of a this UK School Group into the Rajinder Nagar branch of Salwan Public School, Delhi. The Salwan Education Trust, runs 14 highly esteemed schools across NCR, and very kindly agreed to call in their students for an afternoon interaction on 29 Mar, despite the children being on post exam holidays. The wonderfully planned and orchestrated event, from arrival to departure, had Ms Deborah, the group leader, her three colleagues Kerry, Nick and Guy, and all the Bradon students totally floored. Starting with the traditional welcome by lovely Salwan danseuses, to the conduct of events and the Heritage Walk of the School, the graceful Kathak performance and a demonstration of their Guinness World Record Chemistry experiment showcasing Salwan’s all-round excellence, the young students, led by members of the Salwan Students’ Council, were outstanding in their delivery and interactive behavior. The high tea and farewell gifts to their Teachers, by Mrs V L Singh, Director Training, were the cherry on the cake. On their part, the Bradon Forest students rendered a very melodious song with their ukuleles. One of them also gave a solo performance on an Indian dance number. The girls especially tried their hand at the Sitar and also learnt a few basic steps of the world renowned Indian classical Kathak dance, from the School’s dance teacher.
While each teacher, staff and Salwanian, went out of their way to be extra kind and interactive, Ms Deborah and Ms Ritu Mehta, conducting the event, bonded beautifully. Between them and Mrs V L Singh, the visionary behind the entire show, they discussed exchange program possibilities and promised to take that forward in the weeks to come. For Shaping Lives, it was pure bliss, to be at Salwan again, to have their clients bowled over, their expectations far exceeded. We never can thank Salwan Public School and its Montessori enough for the wonderful experiences they create for any visitor we take to them. Thank you Salwan Education Trust.
Conclusion: The financial year ended with this student visit, and Shaping Lives goes into the next one hoping to facilitate many more inbound clients coming via our operational units and wishing to add a bit of ‘soul’ to the wonderful Indian sun in their itineraries.
Events : Shaping Lives Jan-Feb 2016
Regular TEMA Series groups continued their journeys to WildlifeSOS at Agra. Some other minor forays into various NGOs also happened. A major group touched both Ladli and Help in Suffering , even as Samvedna, a school for children with disabilities from Delhi, out on holiday in Goa, were assisted by our office and a 5 star Resort in adding fun and joy to their excursion. The ingress was more than what the NGO had asked for, and hence the smiles in plenty.
The focus was, however, more on Project Arman, our key initiative in Nizamudin. February started a 10 week series exchange program for 40 children from our Centers to the American School. Happy children trooped out every Tuesday for about 3 hours of a new experience. We are now looking at the first Tuesday in Mar when their school children will walk into Arman Centers.
The children at both centers also enjoyed the company of a young Army man on the 17 Feb afternoon. They had met him before and were more playful and friendly than they are with our other visitors. Saturday the 20 Feb saw 142 of the 160 children undergo their second annual medical check-up. All well and the children happy and as healthy as can be under the conditions and poverty levels they live in. Our daily health supplement, purified drinking water and overall care, is definitely making a positive difference in their well-being. The remaining 18 children were covered on 25 Feb. Besides the check-up, an HB count and general advice on health and hygiene was given during the two camps.
Christmas Celebrations : Le Passage - India
The senior management, led by Mr. Mario Habig, Managing Director, converged at our empanelled NGO The Earth Saviours Foundation (TESF), New Delhi, on the afternoon of 23 Dec 2015, intent on living up to the spirit of Christmas via the joy of giving, at the Christmas interaction and high tea facilitated by Le Passage Travel Foundation (Shaping Lives). TESF is a home for the destitute and abandoned senior citizens. It has approx. 250 inmates. Over 90% of them are mentally or physically challenged or both. It also works to curb unnecessary honking by vehicle users in its crusade against noise pollution on NCR roads.
Briefed by Mr. Ravi Kalra, the Founder, and a dedicated soul, revered by the inmates, 22 Senior Le Passage Managers, got a feel of Shaping Lives’ NGO affiliates, and what it talks and writes about, as they were escorted around the facility by the TESF staff and GM Shaping Lives, Colonel Anil Alagh. Except for a few, such an experience was a nouvelle one, but initial hiccups barring, they took to their mandate of giving love and time in abundance, as they chatted up or just sat with the inmates.
The men folk, except Mr. Dimple Singh who fell in love with 80 year old abandoned senior citizen Agya Kaur’s charm, were content with talking and watching, but the two ladies, Ms Kiran Joti and Ms. Meeta Kalra, let loose their natural feminine compassion and while Kiran helped add an inch to the scarf destitute Maya was knitting, Meeta was all over the place, helping drape the hearing and speech impaired Priya, perhaps one of the most beautiful in nature abandoned girls at TESF, in one of the sarees (Indian garment). Another colleague Parvathy had brought in the sarees for the inmates in a huge parcel. Many of the team had also brought in clothes and knick-knacks for gifting and these were handed over to the NGO for distribution.
A tiny high tea with Christmas snacks had been catered for and there was a mad rush on both sides, our team members volunteering to give standing behind the counter and roaming around the shelter to those who could not move, and the ones receiving on the other side. So lost did they become in this new world of compassion and giving, that the GM had to politely signal that the visit time was up and they could now wind up if they wished. Some hugs and goodbyes later, we all trooped into the NGO’s briefing area, where Ravi Kalra, as humble as ever, thanked the team for their presence. On cue from Mr. Mario Habig, I too conveyed our thanks to him before we trooped out.
Even as the team members got into their vehicles, it was apparent, that an indelible impression had been left in their minds. We can all give money or transfer resources, but it is time spent with the needy which has the maximum value. The inmates have been through depravity and suffering in various degrees, and for them, though they may not remember us at all within a few minutes of our departure due to their mental condition, the presence, the words of love and understanding, the squeezed hand or the hug, are all a source of happiness and brings on a smile in the moments we are with them. Isn’t that what we are all about as Le Passage, as TUI, as good human beings!! As GM, Shaping Lives, I also hoped, that as our colleagues crept into their beds on 23 Dec the memories of the afternoon may not have brought on a smile, but surely elicited a prayer for these inmates and a thanksgiving of appreciation of how much bounty and good health God has bestowed on us and our loved ones.
It was a good start to Christmas and the oncoming festive season, and we are blessed to have been able to spend time with the TESF inmates. So touched were the colleagues that they volunteered to contribute something more substantial than just a cup of high tea. Appreciating their sentiments and in consultations with the Founder, GM, Shaping Lives floated a call for funds to purchase bricks, as the NGO needed them desperately for flooring and some walls. They already had enough woolens. And as I share this Indian Christmas giving via “The Beat’, with our TUI colleagues across the globe, Shaping Lives is proud to state that we additionally raised a monetary collection of approx. USD 2300 through personal donations within the next 4 working days. The amount is being gifted to our old age NGO on 01 Jan 2016. I guess we achieved a ‘two birds with one stone’ simile, but in a gentle compassionate way that evening. What a wonderful way to walk into a new year for all my compassionate friends here in Le Passage, India.’
With this interaction Le Passage also commenced its compulsory ‘Employee Engagement’ policy parameters introduced in Oct 2015, wherein all colleagues are to undergo minimum half day CSR activity facilitated via Le Passage Travel Foundation (Shaping Lives). Please access www.shaping-lives.org to enjoy more tales of truthful compassion and outreach by the only Travel Foundation in India.
Greetings 2016 : The Foundation is truly blessed to have such fine colleagues within, and some fantastic inbound travellers who spread joy to our affiliated NGOs across India. We wish each one of them and their loved ones a great 2016.
Events – Shaping Lives : Nov 2015
TEMA Series : With the onset of the season, this series groups found its way into the WildlifeSOS Elephant & Bear Rescue Centres at Agra. The series will be continuing till Feb and Shaping Lives wishes them peace and satisfaction in their visits.
Mr. Martin Willimann : The wonderful gentleman from Switzerland who has regularly contributed to Deepalaya since he and Mrs Patricia Willimann visited their Sanjay Colony School in 2013, once again showed his compassion. While his birthday falls on Oct 23, the couple hosted his 50th birthday party on Nov 21, with a clear request that their friends bring in presents in cash only, and Martin’s entire gift collection for the day will be donated to Deepalaya again. A neat sum of Euro 2500 was collected and the transfers are being coordinated by Deepalaya. What a wonderful gesture.
Ms. Veronique Keller : LPTI’s ‘iron lady’ with the golden heart in France, flew in on a business in end Nov bringing in a suitcase full of clothes and knick-knacks for the Arman children. Not to be outdone her sister, Martine, who followed shortly after, brought in 3 cases of 20kg each with items for Arman. I guess they are in competition to show us who has the larger heart, but at Shaping Lives, Veronique remains our French connection.
Mr. Pravin Kumar : Does anyone in LPTI not know Mr. Pravin Kumar, our Vice President, Vendor Management. He turned into a Santa Claus for the annual outing of Project Arman on 26 Nov. Unable to volunteer and spend time he sponsored the morning snack for the 160 children plus staff. Freshly made samosas and a juice pack for each, saw the children’ faces light up before they trooped into the Gandhi Smriti which was Phase I of their outing. The samosas were excellent. I tasted one. Just the right blend of gentle masala and crispiness for my children and I did call Pravin to compliment him and especially the vendor who had made them early morning knowing these were for children. Unseen, unheard vendor and Pravin, and yet their love and presence permeated into each child. In case you think I am buttering up, I called Pravin around 1.00 p.m. to compliment, much before the Assistant Manager, Rajneesh from Chintan our affiliated NGO for this Project and his staff, conveyed that the samosas were just perfect for the children. That was a small but valuable validation. Thank you Pravin and I look forward to you being with Shaping Lives for a long time.
Project Arman Annual Outing : There was no party. Instead, we started an educational outing – cum – picnic from this year. The 160 children of our Nizamudin Project, were taken to Gandhi Smriti. It is the monument where the Mahatma spent his final days before he fell to an assassin’s bullet in the lawn after his evening prayer meeting. The children spent over 2 hours as they wound through the beautifully kept and partially interactive museum. The pictorial gallery and the short animated clip of his assassination were particularly enjoyed. My Chintan staff and self periodically added value on the Mahatma’s role and need for peaceful resolutions and we hope that the children would carry this message home. Ms Anindita, manager, NCIT program Chintan, also joined in here for a while. She is a delight with her dedication and warmth for the children. Pravin’s samosas kept their tummy full during the Smriti round.
As lunch approached, we all embarked and moved to India Gate. Catching a sunny spot next to the Children Park, the children were served a hot meal of specially made chicken biryani. They obviously freaked out. Lunch over, the teachers escorted them into the Children’ Park. It’s a hot favorite with multiple swings and innovative play-stations. Every child loves it and ours trooped in like a congress of monkeys and one could hear their laughter outside the park, as the remaining staff and me had a quick bite before joining them. Ms. Parvathy, our perennial volunteer took time off from her duties with Mr. Arjun Sharma, the visionary behind Project Arman, and spent time with the children at the Park.
Around 3.30 p.m. a trickle of toddlers started coming back to our base outside the Park. They seemed drained and exhausted and as GM, Shaping Lives, I was concerned and inquired if all was well. Do you know what they said? They mumbled, ‘Colonel Sir, we are tired, we want to rest now’. When a child says that coming out from a Park, you can be rest assured, the outing has been a huge success and I escorted them to our base, with a huge satisfied grin on my face.
It was time to leave and the children trooped into their buses around 4.00 p.m. One last surprise was in store for them as they de-bussed at Nizamudin, their homes. As each child got off, they were given a snack box courtesy Hotel Anila, with a juice pack, once again courtesy Pravin. The tired and satisfied faces trudged home as I thanked the staff members for ensuring discipline and fun and above safety of our brood. They are great teachers and at times, it is difficult for me to figure out who loves more, they my children or my children them.
LGBT : This was a foray to explore feasibility of clients to visit NGOs engaged in LGBT issues. Shaping Lives now has an affiliation with NGOs working in conjunction with the Indian Government at Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, in this field. Towards Nov end, the political diaspora cutting across party lines also suggested a review of LGBT law under Sec 377 by the Supreme Court to decriminalize physical liaisons between members of this community. Let us see how that unfolds. Our interest is that clients wishing to see the excellent work these NGOs do in their field, with consensus and support of the Indian Government are showcased to the inclined but authentic and genuinely supportive traveller.
Conclusion : December rolls in. We have many FITs lined up with visits. Shaping Lives wishes them happy excursions and experiences into our empanelled, yet deeply cherished as own, wonderful NGOs.
AIE Give and Grow Group
An awkward request came in from the leader of the ‘Give and Grow’ group on Sunday night of 18 Oct. A widely travelled life-coach and motivational speaker, he was interacting with Shaping Lives for the first time, and was insecure about the quality of NGOs his group would be visiting. He wished to see all the three NGOs being visited over two days at Jaipur on 19-20th Oct prior to his Group’s visit. This was the first time ever that any client had expressed a reservation, but then, like our operational units, Shaping Lives is also about client satisfaction and delivery. Col Anil Alagh, GM-CSR, accordingly met Mr. Philip Mckernan, the group head and a renowned author and global motivational speaker, on the morning of 19 Oct, with a view to do a pre-round to make him comfortable before the visits started in the afternoon. It took 2 minutes of conversing at the Hotel lobby for that actually. Philip, alert and business like, yet humble and well-grounded, no longer wished to do the recce round. Rapport and faith in Shaping Lives had been established in two minutes of exchanges. He expressed that he knew he was in safe hands, and his group of twenty, would have the experience of ‘Expect the Unexpected’ he had envisioned for them . And since we had 2 hours available before our first foray into the NGOs, I suggested and took him to Jaipur Foot Organisation. He was astounded with the work this internationally acclaimed organization did in the field of low cost free fitment of prosthetic limbs to the poor and disabled. It was a small trailer too of the level of NGOs that Shaping Lives empanels.
Ladli Vocational Centre (I-India): Necessary to have started with that preamble, because as the two days in Jaipur unfolded, the group was navigated through three of our premium NGOs. The visits were planned by Shaping Lives such that the soft and emotionally easier visit helped the group align and adjust as they took on the journey of “Its Not About You”, as Philip had philosophically told them. Ladli Vocational Centre (an I-India off-shoot), at Govindpuri, Sodala was the first to be visited. After the group briefing on the NGO by Mr. Charu Goswami, one of the Directors of the Project, the group was split into smaller lots and wound their way through the remedial class section, the computer training room and the vocational products hall. With 14 ladies in the group, including teenager Sam, the bonding with the Ladli girls did not take long. Barriers were forgotten as the group tried their hand at making jewelry, indulged in embroidery, messed around creating handmade greeting cards, and learnt basics of Gudri work from the local low income women seeking financial empowerment through this Centre. With this group, a new barrier was broken. Seeing so many girls, they opened the typical women’s Pandora box and out came the cosmetics. The Ladli girls’ were treated to their personal nail polish and beauty lotions. The NGO girls were no less, they got together and hair braiding and exquisite mehndi art were showered on every member as a return gift. Even the men willingly had henna done. Bonhomie and bonding flowed freely even as the group members moved around with tiny baskets picking up dainty vocational products to take home. Some even sat and made customized bracelets and necklaces for themselves, with assistance from the girls. The parting had loads of hugs and a beautiful group thank you card given to Philip. His team mates Mathew and Winston, the guys shooting a video for Philip’s future motivational tours, were treated like rock stars, especially Winston, who was all of 18 years, handsome and an obvious hit with the Ladli girls. Cal Mistener made inroads of a different kind. He was able to befriend the local women, and coming from their orthodox backgrounds it was a rare sight to see them open up to an alien, unknown man. As the time to say good byes came, the group had loosened up, the emotional constraints and demons of doubt had been nixed. For Philip it was perhaps the start he had wanted, for GM-CSR, it was the successful soft introduction he had desired because ‘tomorrow was another day’.
Umang (School for Special Children): A good night’s sleep later, as I took the mike to speak about the morning visit to Umang, a centre for cerebrally challenged children, ranging from Down Syndrome, to ADS to Autism and much more, I merely told them that they would shortly be meeting with, and be briefed personally by, Mrs Deepak Kalra, Founder Umang, a lady distinguished in her field of work. I asked them to remember one catch phrase, and that was, ‘yesterday, the Ladli girls gave you love, today is payback time, each of you would be required to draw from your deepest wells to love and pamper the children at Umang and thereafter at the second NGO in the afternoon. Please prepare yourself emotionally for that.’
As the Group walked in to a traditional welcome, Mrs Kalra escorted them to the terrace sit-out and briefed them on every aspect of the challenged children, the environment and school’s efforts to make them self-sufficient and independent to the best possible degree. Those who could were channelized into the Umang vocational centre or light jobs outside, whilst the severe ones were nurtured and made comfortable each day. The group split into two, moving to the classrooms and Vocational Centre. Lots of photographs, high-fives, hugs and tom-foolery followed. Most in the group also bought vocational products. The emotional test came when the group visited the severely challenged section. They were met and briefed by Ms. Subrata, the Special Educator. Every teacher at Umang is outstanding and enjoys mutual faith and love with the children, but Subrata is different. She dotes on these severely challenged and they return that love in their own exclusive way. The two are inseparable. It is to the credit of the compassion of this group, that they adapted, set aside inhibitions, and gave unbridled love and warmth to every child. Yes! Each of them, men included, had a tear in their eyes, but they smiled when with the children, holding back the torrent till later.
The climax was again on the terrace. The group re-assembled and to the accompaniment of Bollywood dance numbers, each took on a child as a partner and danced their hearts out. Whoops and shouts and laughter intermingled with the children’ demand for more and it was quite a task dragging the group away amidst thank you(s) and farewell hugs. As they sat in the bus, once again, a glow of happiness lit up my face. The group had released their emotions and from the low and troubled ebbs, had risen back to a joyous and happy platform in the last dance.
Surman Sansthan: Manan Chaturvedi, 42 year old, bubbly extrovert, multi-talented and very gregarious, greeted the group as they entered Surman Sansthan, a home for abandoned children. Manan is the Founder, the mother, who believes that no child should ever have to live a life without a mother, and for the past 16 years, starting from her first baby picked up from the roadside she has 108 children at her home. Three biological ones are in addition. They all stay in one home and NO! this is not an orphanage. Every child is Manan’s own, and they are not available for adoption. You can come meet them, play with them, spend time volunteering and much more, but you cannot take them away. A mother does not give her children away, especially if she happens to be a mother like Manan, even with 108 children. The group learnt all this through a personal briefing by Manan and a short movie screening.
The home round followed. Jennifer refused to share the tiniest and latest inmate, a 15 day old, abandoned as a newborn, picked from the roadside. The others, collected children around them, gradually unleashed the content of their goody bags, and laughed and played away to their hearts’ content. The tattoo sheets were a big hit, as were the bubbles and balloons.
The Earth Saviours Foundation (TESF) - 22 Oct: The culmination of the ‘Give and Grow’ India series was time spent with this NGO in Delhi 2 days later. It currently has approx. 250 abandoned old and destitute. Over 95% are both physically and/or mentally challenged. Most of the younger women have seen unimaginable misery, deprivation and exploitation. The NGO tries to nurture them back from the ‘living dead’, with Ravi Kalra, as the Founder in the lead, and a bunch of young dedicated girls and men as staff. I met the group at the roadside rendezvous and simply said, ‘This facility is my 7 star. When I place myself on a pedestal or I feel people have placed me on one, I come here for community service. It brings me back to the dust at their feet, the place where I belong. It teaches me how ordinary I am …. that I am less than a mortal. This is the final and most difficult test of your journey into yourself. I wish you luck.’
Even as Mr. Ravi Kalra, wove his journey and the growth of this NGO through his personal briefing, many eyes started turning moist. Briefing over, the group was given a free run of the 3 shed- shelter NGO, unobtrusively monitored by the staff, Ravi and myself. We also acted as interpreters and the tales of the inmates confounded them at times. And yet, as they offered love, compassion and solace in this limited time, the group realized that there was happiness here. The ‘forgotten’ had found a home, a shelter and food to eat. Medical care and concern was available. They were no longer alone. And in this new environment, some of them were gradually overcoming their traumatic past, rebuilding their lives, assisting in the daily management and care of the Centre and helping their brothers and sisters from similar erstwhile backgrounds.
In parting Philip was extremely moved and totally impressed that a man like Ravi, running an NGO and severely short of funds, would not ask him for any help, but would thank him for coming and tell him that he appreciated their coming, and it was not necessary that he bring more here, he would be happy if Philip encouraged more people on this path across many similar NGOs in the world. The need to spread love and compassion worldwide by people with Philip’s outreach was needed. Of course, Philip committed to a fund transfer on return from India and was given the necessary account details of TESF.
As the group said final good byes to me after this last NGO visit, I could sense that the seed planted by Philip had sprouted into a tiny sapling through Shaping Lives. The Foundation had laid the foundation. To nurture it into a sturdy fruit bearing plant was now their choice.
Cherry on the Cake: Imagine my surprise when I get a call on Friday 30 Oct from Mathew, that Philip, he and Winston, were due to fly out early Sunday morning, but would like to spend the morning on Saturday back at TESF. Philip had been so touched that he wanted to shoot some real life stories to add to his motivational documentary. They asked if I could spare the time, it being a holiday again like last time. That was the cherry on the cake for me as Shaping Lives head. I readily agreed as its not a job, its my life’s calling that I do. I set up the visit for the next day. Ravi Kalra was present to greet us, as was most of his TESF team. The interviews went well. Stories of pain, separation, desires, adjustments, self-reconciliations and eventual forgiveness flowed out amidst sobs and sighs and ample cynical laughter, as Philip sat with different inmates and while Winston and Mathew shot, I acted as the interpreter. I am sure the team got precious bytes which would touch the emotional chords of many across the world. Winston used his ‘drone camera’ for the first time, aerial shooting the NGO. It fascinated the inmates no end. Philip re-affirmed his commitment to send in a decent contribution from his personal account on return home, with a promise to raise funds for TESF once his current project of building an orphanage in Peru was over.
Conclusion: In conclusion, let me wind up with a few observations:
Philip and his core team of Mathew and Winston shot a lot of video footage in each of the NGOs, with special interviews of all the Founders. Eventually this will be made into a tiny motivational film. At Shaping Lives we wish it success, hoping the film will spread the word about our NGOs and the joy of giving and realizing that when you reach out, ‘Its Not About You’, its about making the less privileged happy.
A number of them had brought Polaroid cameras with enough negative stock. The instant pictures were a hit at every NGO. It is an idea I would love others to emulate. To have a self-photograph in their pockets is a rarity for the inmates and imagine the joy of a fulfilled dream of this kind.
Philip is famous and experienced in ‘giving’. Yet when we hugged as he parted on 22 Oct (not knowing we would meet again on 30 Oct), tears flowed from his eyes. I was crying too, because a visit to my 7 star TESF is enough to shake up the best and Philip Mckernan, has been one of my best if not the best.
Feedbacks come in most times. Our clients share their experience and I transfer it to our ‘Testimonial’ page on the website. This group was strange. Almost 50% sent in a request to befriend me on facebook and were ga-ga over the NGO time, but were shy to officially share their experiences. Philip sent in a wonderful audio. Its on the testimonial page and Allison Shride wrote in to say, “Dear Anil, I want to express my gratitude for all of the work that you and so many others do to improve the lives of the people in India. My group visited 4 different projects and we were impressed and inspired by each and every one of them. We visited the girls at Ladli in Jaipur and loved how welcoming and enthusiastic the girls were. The directors of the organization have incredible vision for the girls and are so warm and grounded. I know the girls that are there are in very good hands. I was so impressed with how the girls focused on each other: telling us each other’s strengths and attributes. They were kind and generous to each other and wanted to make sure that everyone got to be included in our visit and activities. That was incredibly powerful for me to witness. We also visited Umang,in Jaipur a center for children with various physical and cerebral disabilities. Again, the director of the center was an amazing woman with deep compassion and commitment to those that she serves. I loved touring the classrooms and especially loved our dancing party at the end of our visit. I got to connect with one young man who seemed to be quite shy and withdrawn. By the end of our visit, he was dancing with his peers and had a huge smile on his face. It’s a moment that will stay with me for a very long time. The last center that we visited in Jaipur was Surman Sansthan. Once again, the children seemed to be very happy and very well cared for. Manan, the director, clearly loves each and every child and is passionate about their care and well-being. I had a great time playing with the children during our visit!
The Earth Saviours’ Foundation in Dehli had the greatest impact on me. Ravi Halra is an incredible human being with a huge heart and mission. Providing shelter and care to adults that are destitute or have been abandoned is a massive undertaking and he is doing so well. It was difficult to hear some of the stories of the individuals living there, and some of the stories couldn’t be told because of the language differences, but the one piece that didn’t need language is that they just needed to be loved and valued and I believe that they get that at Earth Saviours. It was a remarkable visit to each foundation and I’m so thankful of the opportunity to meet and connect with so many people. Kind Regards, Allison Shride, USA
NGOs empanelled with Shaping Lives are grass root and offer emotional experience of varying degrees over a wide spectrum of initiatives. Touch base with us at email@example.com for an emotional experience to match your joyous holiday.
It is going to take years to forget the Give & Grow core team and some of its group members, and Shaping Lives wishes each of them the joy of stepping out into the ‘good’ world and hopefully motivating their friends and kin to join them. Philip stood true to what his wife says on his website, ‘life is never dull with Philip around’. As Ravi Kalra, TESF, said, it is not necessary to give to our NGOs visited by them, it is however necessary that their outreach bring succor and happiness to someone, somewhere in the world. Thank you An Indian Escape for bringing in such a delightful group.
Other Events October
The season began as the winter solstice aligned itself bringing a gentle coolness in the late evening and morning breeze. Shaping Lives facilitated a meeting between a German Rotarians group, with their Indian counterparts in Dehradun in early October. The first CSR of the season commenced when a bunch of middle school students from Singapore visited the Jaipur Foot Organisation. It was a first by any LPTI group. A world renowned and internationally acclaimed facility, this organization does not find place in the ‘must visit’ spots of Jaipur. The children were awe-struck and appreciative despite their young age and it is to the credit of Ms Heather Kingston, their school trip coordinator that she encouraged this visit and awareness for her students and accompanying parents. Mr. DR Mehta, the Founder, spent over 2 hours with the children despite it being a holiday. It was indeed a singular honor for Shaping Lives to have him do so. He is an extremely humble man whose vision has made Jaipur Foot so financially cheap and effective and so very reachable to the poor and needy. Heather wrote back to say, “Thanks Anil, My group had a great time at Jaipur foot and were eagerly talking about how to support the NGO and spread the message to Cambodia. I know the parents were interested in having further discussions about what that might look like. I will ask them to write their own impressions that I can send on when I receive them. Heather”.
The ides of Oct saw Kenton College, Kenya, junior school touring cricketers visit Deepalaya Special School at Sanjay Colony. Part of their sensitization program, the young students bonded within minutes and it is commendable how fast they understood and adapted to each different child’s limitation and made friends with him or her. It is often said to me by my Indian colleagues and friends that their children are too young to face such situations, but I disagree. It is the parent who is scared, the world belongs to the children and they spread cheer and adapt to situations with inherent love and compassion in their own quaint ways.
An intervening group of 20, named Give and Grow, came in via An Indian Escape and visited 4 different NGOs. Mr. Philip Mckernan, an internationally renowned life coach was the leader. That is a separate long report and available on the website in Oct events. Bev Atkey , one of the members of the Give & Grow Group wrote to say, “Thank you so very much for the amazing experience you gave us. I love your heart!!
While I was away at Jaipur with Philip’s group, another one from Germany visited NGO Manzil at Delhi. The month end saw one of our esteemed travel partners Rachael Streek- Buma, Regional Director, Meeting Encore pay a call to Project Arman. It was a precursor to her channelizing Mintcentive groups into a charity whilst in India. She was floored. The testimonials page contains her observations. It is necessary to mention that she brought in two things for our children, the first one was a huge consignment of stationery and children clothes contributed to by her friends in Canada, and the second more important one was her huge and infectious smile and her promise to come back with her little daughter the next time. Time is something which people find difficult to create in today’s world, and that when given to our NGOs across India is what pleases Shaping Lives most.
A couple also visited the Mother Teresa’s Ashram which has challenged child orphans. The inputs from Go India Journeys were very satisfying. It was the first time we had channelized clients onto this charity in Delhi. It was an ‘on-demand’ need and successfully complied with.
The last day of Oct saw Philip come back to The Earth Saviours’ Foundation to shoot some more footage for his documentary. Overall, a hectic and beautiful month and as GM, Shaping Lives, I wish every month was such like. So much need for love and compassion everywhere and we at Shaping Lives, ready to help our international clients channelize it into NGOs/NPOs doing exemplary work in their fields. The month also saw Shaping Lives build relationships in Mumbai and Delhi with NGOs working in the LGBT field. We hope to assist willing clients understand and establish bonds with the LGBT community in India via these associations.
Events CSR : August 2015
August is an august month for the Foundation. The foundation day of Le Passage to India falls on 06 Aug and since its inception in 2001, the day has been dedicated to CSR and various other philanthropies. With the creation of Le Passage Travel Foundation (Shaping Lives) in 2010, the events got more streamlined and the participation more synergized.
NCR Region : A gentle shower early morning laid the base for a successful and eventful day.
Blood Donation : The Indian Red Cross Blood Bank teams established base at E-29 Haus Khas and Noida offices by 0930h and the steady stream of both male and female colleague volunteers kept them busy. The final count showed a collection of 48 units. The count was a little low as quite a few colleagues had donated blood for various patients over the past two months. Over these 5 years, some of them have become regular donors and do not wait for the Company’s annual camp to show their large hearts.
High Tea for NGO children : As per norm, 4 children each from Project Arman and Special Unit Deepalaya trickled into the Boardroom with their teacher escorts dot at 1100h. The Heads of Department were waiting to pamper them and even as the Admin laid out snacks and juices for them, the Heads of Department engaged them in their own affectionate ways. This time we had brought in our senior students from Project Arman, to showcase how a child, whose parents were waste-pickers, had been groomed and was now preparing for finishing the school years and looking ahead for a career. In simple terms, Shaping Lives was showcasing the end-product of the Company’s CSR initiative Project Arman. It was well received and appreciated by all present. The special children are a class by themselves and the colleagues don’t need an impetus to shower special love and care on them. Chintan Environmental Research and Action group which runs Project Arman for us, were presented the annual stationery requirement for this Project. To Deepalaya was presented the sponsorship cheque for 15 special children. Thanksgiving followed and the children were bid farewell with tiny takeaway hampers of assorted goodies by Parvathy on behalf of the Foundation.
Certificates of Appreciation : Le Passage Travel Foundation presented ‘Certificates of Appreciation’ for the first time internally and externally once the children had been seen off. The award covered the period 01 July 14 to 30 Jun 15. The winners were :-
PureQuest, our adventure specialists, won Appreciation for facilitating the most NGO beneficial groups for the year under consideration.
Mr Hari KC, Dakshin Routes, for his personal contribution to environment initiatives in Cochin.
Mr Bhairav Ram, Del- Admin, for his selfless administrative support to Project Arman.
Patricia & Martin Williman from Sweden for their continued support to NGO Deepalaya after their visit to the Sanjay Colony Centre in Oct 2013.
NGO – I-India was awarded a special Appreciation for facilitating business in a reverse role, by encouraging its overseas visitors to utilize LPTI for travel and logistics. As GM, Shaping Lives, I did that on 12 Aug. Incidentally, their third Group request is already in Jaipur office as this goes to the website.
Lunch at Gurukul : A Gurukul is a place of vedic and worldly learning, based on the ancient principle of Guru-Shishya (Master-Disciple) system. For us at LPTI, the Gurukul lunch is an occasion of community service and annual bonhomie with the interns. Over 30 colleagues, including four ladies, congregated at the Gautam Nagar Centre of Shrimad Dayanand Vedarsh Mahavidyalaya Nyas around 1.00 p.m. and served lunch to the young aspiring future clergy. A book on evening shlokas (holy couplets in Sanskrit from the revered books), with English meanings and relevance was officially launched by Mr. Arjun Sharma, Chairman, Le Passage to India before the meal commenced. We as hosts having fulfilled our community service, then proceeded to have the same fare. Everyone complained after the meal. They said it was too good and they had over eaten, especially the halwa (Indian sweet). The lunch was followed by gifting of one set of stationery to each of the Gurukul students and we bid adieu to smiles, namaskars and invitations to return soon.
Clothes to GOONJ : The final event of the day is the dispatch of the vehicle containing old clothes donated by various colleagues to GOONJ, the NGO which does outstanding service through ‘cloth for work’ programs in calamity hit zones, besides its low cost sanitary pad and other critical campaigns. Mr Anshu Gupta, Founder Goonj, was selected for the Magsaysay Award in Jul end for his extraordinary work via GOONJ.
Off-Shore Locations Goa : Our Goa team, with Karen as the main coordinator, reached out once again to the orphanage they have adopted as an office for all soul work. She wrote in to say, “Dear Sir, On the Occasion of Le Passage to India foundation day, we would like to share with you our experience of our day spent with the little children at the St. John of the Cross, Sancoale, South Goa.
This Institute is run by Nuns who belong to the Diocese of the Holy Family. There are 12 nuns and inmates who run this home. Sister Fausta is the Head. There are a total of 28 children (14 girls and 14 boys) in the age group of 2.5 to 5 years, who are presently being cared for at this Home. Most of them are children of single parents and broken families who cannot afford to provide education to their children.
It was a fun filled day with various games and action songs conducted, snacks, refreshments, lunch and dessert was also organized by the office. One of our business partners, ie., Sahakari Spice Farm pitched in by sponsoring the lunch. Gift hampers were given to each child comprising of a compass box with stationary, Color books with colors, biscuits, chocolates, Cap, whistles, eye masks and more.
An amount of Rs. 19500/- was gifted on behalf of Shaping Lives, for development of the park-cum-playground for these children. The Sisters of the Home, were very thankful to Shaping Lives and LPTI Goa Team for organizing the fun party for the children. This Event has left us with warm and beautiful memories with the resolve to creating more such time – regardless of occasion – for such children and more. Thank you, Warm Regards, KarenMonteiro| Executive, Le Passage to India Tours & Travels Pvt. Ltd | 2nd Floor, Casa de sol, Office Block, Near Goa Marriott, Miramar - Goa 403001, India.
Mumbai : Our Mumbai Head, Ms Juhi Jagasia, who always finds time to be in the forefront of such social activities, despite the busiest of schedules, wrote in to say, “Dear Col Anil, Namaskar !! It was a great day for all of us in Mumbai to handle CSR on foundation day. We were able to take slum children of Malvani, for Mumbai Darshan, followed with snacks and lunch. They all enjoyed and appreciated us as none of them had ever seen the Museum, the Gateway of India, Tarapore Aquarium etc. Am sending in the photographs to let you see and share their happiness as well.
We associated with Rahee Foundation as recommended by you after your visit to Mumbai in Jun end. Rahee foundation was created by Rafique Ansari, who was originally a tailor by profession, but chose to give up this livelihood, to nurture children of Malvani slum where he himself resides in two small rooms. It is an organization dedicated to the development of children in low income communities by providing them opportunities to acquire life skills through sports. Rahee is working with children of ages between 08 – 18 years. The vision they share is that children in low income communities will become empowered social change makers and the mission is to use sports as a vehicle to drive the education of children and youth in low income communities. Mr Rafique says, “I really believe that the children of today are the future of tomorrow, and through all my work, I am trying to create a really bright future for them.” Mr Rafique Ansari (CEO). Best regards, Juhi
Jaipur : A cheque for INR 1,00,000 was handed over to Mr.Om Prakash, Floor Manager, of Bhagwan mahavir Viklang Sahayita Samiti ( BMVSS or Jaipur Foot Organisation), as our annual drop in the ocean for the tremendous philanthropic work they do in fitting low cost prosthetic limbs to people from across the country and through war zones of the world, free of cost. The Founder, Mr. D R Mehta flight was unfortunately delayed and he could not be present. The honors were done by Mr Khalid Khan, our Rajasthan Head, duly accompanied by his second in command, Mr Milind Verma. We also had the benefit of seeing the initial prosthetic hand which has been designed and fabricated by this organization in this past one year gone by. The hand can clutch and hold things and was quite eager to hold our cheque definitely.
Conclusion : With this last interaction at BMVSS, the spate of CSR activity to celebrate the 13 Foundation day of Le Passage to India came to an end. Shaping Lives is now looking forward to a good season of welcoming inbound clients into our empanelled NGOs across India and gifting them mutual smiles and happiness.
CSR Jul 2015 : Volunteers at Project Arman
An NRI mother from Dubai brought in her two young daughters for two weeks of volunteer work at Project Arman. The elder one, Aanya, 15 years old, was proficient in arts and craft, and hence the focus during the duration was learning to make magic with paper for the 160 children at Arman. From bookmarks to fox masks, to frogs to paintings, an entire gamut of creativity happened over the two weeks. We split the time between the two Centers and our six classes so that every child could avail the joy of learning something new and quaint. The raw material was also sponsored by the family from funds Aanya had created by selling her paintings.
Aanya had an able assistant in her sibling 10 year old sister Myra, who went about assisting and guiding the children to conform to Aanya’s directions efficiently. Where more guidance was required, the mother Mrs Vanita M Arora, pitched in. It is not often that one gets such dedicated NRI volunteers. The family spent over two hours each day with the children, unmindful of the heat or humidity.
In all fairness, while each was given a Commendation letter for their time and effort, Aanya was presented the first ever ‘Certificate of Appreciation’ we at Shaping Lives had planned to launch on 06 Aug, the Le Passage Foundation Day. She deserved it and the waiver was worth it. The additional farewell presents of cards and knick-knacks made by the Armanis to the family were deeply appreciated as well. Mrs Arora in her farewell note wrote ‘Dear Col Alagh, It was lovely meeting you and kudos to you for your work at Arman via Chintan. My girls and myself thoroughly enjoyed the two weeks we spent with them, and happy to learn that the children too had as much fun as we did. We were very touched by the farewell we got on Friday where we were showered with cards and handmade art and craft items. We will miss the kids!”
They have promised to come back. Anyone who comes once will always do. That is the faith we have in the Project and which I have in my Armanis and the wonderful team of teachers given to us by Chintan, the NGO which runs this program for us indirectly.
Shaping Lives : Events Jun 2015
World Environment Day, 05 Jun 2015: The Foundation decided to once again support the ‘Clean India’ initiative launched by the Hon’ble Prime Minister last year and undertook a cleanliness drive of the Haus Khas Market area where our Registered office is located. This drive was in continuation of the first one undertaken on 15 Nov 2015. The morning saw colleagues come in, pick up the brooms, collect plastics and litter lying around and pack it up into disposable bags. Some took up the brush and painted the parapet wall of the DDA park green. It was fun, filled with pride, and the area was sparkling clean by the time the normal shops opened in the market. Mr. Arjun Sharma, the Chairman, LPTI who is a keen enthusiast and participant in such social crusades was sadly travelling but the CEO, Mr. Mario Habig used his hands to good measure.
Recce Trip: Col Anil Alagh, GM-CSR, took a whirlwind recce trip of Mumbai and Goa to assess and establish, as well as revive the old NGO bases. It was a wonderful journey through multi-dimensional hues of compassion and care undertaken by these organisations. Our clients and groups, desirous of including a social signature in their itineraries at these two cities, can look forward to some meaningful visits and everlasting memories facilitated by Shaping Lives.
Old Swinford Hospital Volunteer Group: A group of teenage students from the Old Swinford Hospital & School, Birmingham, dropped in for four days of sensitization and familiarization at a children’ NGO, facilitated by Shaping Lives. The Deepalaya Gram, Gusbethi was chosen for the first 3 full days, and the mix of girls and boys had were given experiences ranging from quality time with Deepalaya children to a final entertainment program of song and dance with the hostel children.
With School Children: As they split into small groups, these 17 students accompanied by Mr Richard, their Asst. Head Master and their Head of English, Ms Jasbeer Kainth, spent two mornings interacting and teaching children of all age groups. Nursery rhymes, English grammar, geography, biology and even a class on French brightened the spirits and senses as hundreds of selfies were clicked. In return, they learnt basics of Hindi conversation and sampled the homemade tiffin offered by children and school teachers alike.
The Home Visit: One of the Deepalaya teachers, Mr Mohameduddin had kindly agreed to Col Alagh’s request to host the group at his home in the nearby village of Patuka. This village has a predominantly Meo Muslim, orthodox and conservative, community. Quite conservative in their views, they are lovable rural folk and as the group wound around the village lanes for a ‘fragrance’ experience, every household was at the doorstep smiling at this quaint sight, perhaps the first time ever that such a large group of unknown foreigners had ever entered this village. The home was a nouvelle experience again. Welcomed by the host and his wife in chador, the group first presented a gift to the lady as a courtesy on arrival. Once inside, sitting on numerous charpoys, one could see the bemused look on the children’ faces. Eventually the ice broke as the women of the house took the female members into a separate room. Typically, the language barrier broke within minutes, and women conversations took off, even as every girl and Ms Jasbeer, the teacher, were gifted bangles as a mark of welcome. Of course both bangles and the gift to the hostess had been organized by Shaping Lives. That’s our job. To add value to the joy. Some mehndi, gifting of trinkets by our girls and lots of conversation later, I had to signal to the group that we had overstayed our welcome and being Ramazan, it was time for the family’s afternoon namaaz. Richard and the boys on the other end were engaged in deep conversation on topics ranging from local crops and demography to cricket and world affairs. The goodbyes were indeed emotional and the group trudged back to the Deepalaya enclosure, with mixed thoughts and many memories.
The Rural Experience: It was miserably hot and the plan to work the fields was laid off. The home visit was followed by merely going into the Deepalaya’s organic kitchen garden and plucking a variety of seasonal vegetables to be cooked and served to them for lunch the next day. The students went crazy plucking Okra, chilies, pumpkins, cucumber, gourd, water melons and even some local variety of grapes which Pippa discovered to her joy and of course ate as well. Each time they foraged and hit bulls-eye, up shot the veggie for a round of photo-shoots. An international model would have felt belittled, had one been there, to see the gourds, okra and pumpkins score so many hits. The heat and humidity was forgotten in the exuberance and as they were ushered into the hostel for lunch, the group carried in a basket load of fresh and varied vegetables, the look of conquerors returning with priceless spoils, on their faces.
Miscellaneous Activity and Farewell: The visitors were taken on a conducted tour of the mini-hospital and Phenatla, the nurse-cum-hostel warden, apprised them of basic medical care undertaken in absence of doctors at the Centre. Volleyball, soccer, kite flying, badminton, chess and even snakes and ladders, all accounted for the numerous activities that brought joy to the hostel and the visiting children. The third day and their visit to Gusbethi Centre ended with a song and dance farewell. Both sides matched each other equally well and there was much laughter and camaraderie seen. The visitors had been gracious to gift a huge water cooler for the new school building as desired by Deepalaya authorities, but it was in the final farewells that they showered tiny individual gifts to every child present along with an impressive stock of sports equipment, like footballs, volleyballs, cricket gear, etc. John, the Hostel caretaker, was obviously thrilled to bits that his request to Col Alagh, GM-CSR had been so quickly honored via this group. And finally as the group embarked into their coach for departure, it seemed certain that memories of these 3 days would last them for many months, if not a lifetime.
Deepalaya, Sanjay Colony 02 Jul 2015: The Old Swinford Group had a half day visit to the Sanjay Colony Deepalaya School. As Ms Shikha took them around the main junior school, they went back to their nursery rhyme days, singing and laughing with the tiny ones. The community round from where these children come was a different kind of revelation. It was then time to meet the differently abled children of the Deepalaya Special Unit. Briefed on the outreach by Ms Sangeeta, the Unit Head, the group once again distributed itself to cover the 3 different sections in smaller ones. It was immediate bonding. Some of the shy ones from the group surprised me, as they mingled and conversed with the special children. They seemed more at home than even when at Gusbethi. It felt nice. They were a happy bunch of youngsters, caring and compassionate as obvious when they distributed the snacks and helping their new special friends open and enjoy them as well. Tiny gifts given, a final group photo taken, the group bid adieu to Deepalaya and the GM, their social signature in this India trip over. A mountain trek and fun now beckoned.
In the words of Mr Richard Heaton, on return to Birmingham, “Dear Anil, I depart for a holiday in France tomorrow with my family and just wanted to send you a quick message. Sincerest thanks for all of the help and support you gave to the Old Swinford group during our days at Deepalaya and then again at Sanjay Colony. The group were deeply moved and I think many are now motivated to make certain that they continue to offer help to those less fortunate than themselves. This is certainly what Jasbir and I hoped for when we planned this trip. The students also had great fun at the hostel and the school in Delhi and enjoyed sharing their experiences with the other youngsters there. Seeing the efforts of the staff in quite difficult conditions has put in to perspective our own educational experiences and for some of the students who want to become teachers, it has really fired them up! Your organisation, friendliness, enthusiasm and professionalism were all greatly appreciated and you helped massively to enhance our experiences and for that we are truly grateful. Jasbir and I have already said that we would like to return to India in two years time with another group. We will probably trek out of Ladakh next time, but will still be keen to spend time in Delhi and so hopefully we will get to see you again. Richard” ... Dr Richard Heaton, Director of Sixth Form and Assistant Head Teacher BSc (Hons), PhD, PGCE, NPQH, DipEdMan, Heath Lane | Stourbridge | West Midlands | DY8 1QX / www.oshsch.com.
With that ended Jun, and the first few days of Jul as well. Sadly, Deepalaya had to close down all visits to Gusbethi hereafter, due to legal requirements of running hostels for children from disturbed backgrounds.
Events - Shaping Lives : Apr & May 2015
April was focused on re-structuring and refining alignments. The CSR budget proposals for the Indian financial year 2015 – 16 were placed before the CSR Committee and passed. Project Arman, Nizamudin, will continue to remain the Company’s signature CSR initiative through Shaping Lives. A representative of Designer Tours from Germany also paid a short visit to Project Arman as part of her India itinerary.
These two months were especially good for this Project. In April we installed two new computers from funds so graciously donated by Mrs Rachna Khanna, one of our well-wishers. On 13 May, the Arman children underwent the first of their two health check-ups for this year. General check-up, some vitamin supplements and de-worming @ 100% children was undertaken. We also did their annual HB count and it was heartening to see that the children had a good count and an increase by and large over last year. Apparently the hygiene and sanitation lectures and the daily health supplement are making a difference. The few who could be present for various reasons would undergo this check-up in Jun.
Mr PWe clubbed the inauguration of the Arman children library along with the health camp. It was a dream realized for GM, Shaping Lives, and once again we relied on the benevolence of Mrs Rachna Khanna and her compassionate daughters Raveena and Reva. The library has books for all age groups in both Hindi and English. To ensure equal privilege to our Sunder Nagar Nursery children, a similar library was set-up at that Center as well. The intention was to avoid those children crossing the road and endangering themselves for a book. The children were obviously thrilled at the new addition and have been told that there will be library sessions every week during the remedial class hours. In addition, they would be permitted to take books home over the week-end on Fridays.
The Nepal earthquake happened on 25 Apr and Shaping Lives joined hands with NGO GOONJ in their ‘RAHAT – NEPAL’ campaign. An immediate relief amount of INR 1.0 lacs was handed over to GOONJ for purchase of relief material. This was followed up by INR 1.01 lacs, which was so graciously donated by numerous LPTI colleagues from across our offices in India. An appeal to global partners across the world was also sent, even as Shaping Lives coordinated with MTTS, our partners in Nepal, to decide and support the chosen CSR initiative. MTTS has identified a settlement close to the Changu Narayan Temple along the six kilometer walk to this heritage site and the extent of benevolence that reaches this settlement will be decided once donations are received from our partners.
Meanwhile, May was spent by our friendly NGO’s vocational centre, Ladli, Jaipur, in preparing and dispatching 500 customised sling bags to TUI’s Project Manager, Destination Services, in Spain. This is the second consignment being sent to Destination Services.
The beginning of the month also saw NGO The Earth Saviours’ Foundation perform the ritualistic prayers, called ‘bhoomipujan’, to consecrate their newly acquired land on the Gurgaon – Faridabad expressway. It is a beautiful location and we are sanguine the TESF facility which, when is finally constructed, will bring comfort and happiness to the old and destitute inmates of this NGO. Incidentally, and so cutely too, two of their inmates, Kirti and Gaurav, both destitute brought in from the roadside, who picked up the threads of their normal lives again due to love and care by the NGO, were joined in holy matrimony at a simple temple ceremony near Chattarpur, on 28 May. The divine union was attended by TESF staff and many well-wishers including GM, Shaping Lives. The coup de grace was the fact that the Purohit (clergy) who performed the ‘mantras’ was a product of the Gurukul, Gautam Nagar, Delhi, that we support annually on our Foundation Day.
This year the focus has shifted to NGO WildlifeSOS Bear and Elephant Rescue Centres at Agra. The past two months have seen 3 client families being facilitated by Shaping Lives. The TEMA series Groups are also aligned to the Agra centres for the oncoming season.
Volunteers with Shaping Lives
Sometime in Oct 2014, when our travel partner in UK expressed a desire to build some rugged play stations for children during a tourist group’s India sojourn, Shaping Lives was set in motion to facilitate the same by the concerned operational team at LPTI. The place finally chosen was I-India’s Mahapura centre. This location was not yet owned by I-India but they were confident of getting it by early 2015. Of course an alternate site was available just in case, but principally, the volunteer work would be done with I-India, Jaipur.
There was apprehension, because the designs sent in by Jill Hopkins, the travel partner and tour organiser, were pretty sleek and seemed to require professional builders and carpenters. And when the group, all 16 of them introduced themselves to Col Alagh, GM Shaping Lives, the apprehension increased. Most of them were senior citizens and only two of them had ever volunteered in schools / hospitals. But there was the saving grace, and that saving grace was Andrew, a builder by profession and the group’s Project Manager by intent.
Mr Prabhakar Goswami, founder I-India, reaching well before us at the site, briefed the group. He gave an overall concept of I-India and his intent at Mahapura. He gave his consent on the area available to create the infrastructure and was present through the next three days as the group slogged, toiled, sledged and laughed their way into creating three marvelous and sturdy play stations, the rope walk, the tyre swing and the pyramid rope ladder. Andrew rallied his team well. Col Alagh was there assisting him, looking after the administrative requirements, procuring new stores and items as per the requirement and generally making sure that the Group remained in high state of morale.
It would be more authentic to narrate what really transpired over those three days through the excerpt sent in by Richard Evans, one of the volunteers and a banker by profession.
The Project : Writing this now, with the benefit of knowledge, having completed our task successfully, and now having seen the kids enjoy the fruits of our labour, I can say quite categorically that this was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. But let’s rewind a few days. We set out on the Saturday morning, all in our grubbiest clobber, all with a tinge of excitement, and speaking only for myself here, a certain amount of apprehension. It is far easier to deal with the known, than to deal conceptually with what the imagination can dream up. But all that was irrelevant now. We arrived ‘on site’ for our first inspection at around 9.30. The site comprised a small single storey building which was entirely un-modernised, and behind it, a shelter which contained the cooking facilities; four charcoal fire hearths and a work table. Behind all this was the yard, an area of sand about twenty metres wide by fifty metres deep. The main part of the yard, in the centre, was a raised area, not unlike an island, and a small tree in the middle. Everywhere you looked was sand, rubble, and rubbish.
We then met Prabakher, the Founder of I-India, the charity we were helping. An ex Professor, this fine man and his wife set up the charity entirely on their own nearly thirty years ago, to clothe, feed and eventually house children who had been rejected from their own families due to poverty. They feed children from the Rajasthan villages who live below the poverty line. This property we were about to work on already feeds hundreds of children around the nearby villages, and our task was to build a play area for these children in the back yard.
His talk was inspirational, and the passion that he and his wife had demonstrated in building many homes and places of learning over the years was all we needed to simply want to get to work. For the next three days, we dug holes, mixed concrete, sawed, cut, tied, painted, toiled, chiseled, hammered, drilled, knotted, as if our reputation depended on it. Because it did.
Pretty soon after we got cracking, local kids started to pop their heads over the walls and fences surrounding the yard. Then slowly, they started venturing in, to get a closer look, and to ask us what we were doing. There had been no announcement of our arrival, as you can imagine, so for anyone inhabiting this small village of Mahapura, seeing a Coach load of white folk descend on them and start working in an otherwise barren yard, was not entirely commonplace.
The village kids were all dressed in clean clothes, with smiles on their faces, and they all were able to communicate in English with us, to some extent. “Hey, uncle, what are you doing?” “I am Sunil, what is your name?” “Can I help.”
Their voices and smiles brought the yard to life, and as word spread, we were, on occasions, inundated with faces and hands. Smiling and helping. When we needed to move the mixed concrete to a hole we had dug, they formed human chains. When we took a break for water, they were there, asking questions, and communicating with us. The best part though, was when they asked us what we were building, for when the penny dropped, and they could see the form our construction was taking, the smiles broadened in pure excitement. No coach, and certainly no motivational speaker could have achieved what those faces did for our determination to complete this project for them.
Whilst we were hard at it, we weren’t the only ones on this property working up a sweat. Under the corrugated iron canopy at the back of the house, a group of four Indian women were preparing chapatis, Dahl, and vegetable curry, for lunch. They worked on a large stone table, in a choreographed process which involved mixing the flour and water into a ball, rolling it, chopping it into cubes, rolling out the cubes into pancakes, throwing them onto a hot plate, then onto the coals.
They worked in the most primitive conditions, in perfect unison, creating an efficient assembly line. And on top of that, they were all smiling, and dressed in the most lovely colourful saris. This kitchen prepares and distributes food for literally hundreds of children in the surrounding villages, as part of I-India’s Annapurna or midday meal with informal education program. Every day. It dawned on us, that although we were doing our bit; helping to bring something to the village, pretty soon, we’d be back in our comfy houses, and enjoying all the facets of modern day civilised life. And they’d still be here, making more chapatis, and feeding more children. Those women, and many more just like them; they are the real heroes.
The construction site was a happy place. We were having an exhilarating time. The kind of time when you realise that getting stuck in, getting grubby, and really feeling like you’re putting in a shift is quite simply as rewarding for yourself as it is for any kid you are building it for. The kind of time when you occasionally question who you are doing it for, because although it is all about providing for the kids in the village, you had no idea how much fun and pleasure you’d actually derive from the whole process.
The organisers from the charities, the adults in the village; they were happy – happy to see a group of people join them in their quest to improve the quality of life, happy as volunteers, happy as parents. The kids, well, they were happy from day one, even before they knew what we were up to. They just seemed happy to have something to watch and to talk about.
After lunch on day two, we were invited to JHAG, another village, by Prabakher, to see the first home that he and his wife had started. Accepting that this is an undeveloped area, to say that this community resembled that of a large secondary school would be no understatement. It had a large three storey buildings for learning, two dormitories, a mini-auditorium, a health centre and a vocational training, and kitchens. And in the midst of all this, a large grassed area, complete with cricket wicket. Half a dozen young girls, dressed in beautiful saris greeted us in chorus, and blessed us with a tilak!! on our foreheads. Charu, the project leader, briefed us about what had been achieved in this community. We joined them for lunch, and then to take part in a cricket match with the boys and girls.
After hearing more about the massive challenges faced in feeding hundreds of children born below the poverty line, housing children who will not be accepted back into the family, because there is not enough money to feed them, or bring them up, we realised the sheer size of the issue, and our respect for Prabakher and his wife grew even greater. We dined on more of their chapatis and vegetable dishes, as the older kids served us, with more smiles, and unbridled generosity.
The cricket match was straight after lunch, and we were already more than a little intimidated. We had seen them playing as we approached the village, and they looked frightening good. The bowlers were agile and full of pace, and the batsmen showed all the timing and wrist play that their more fortunate countrymen demonstrate on television, for a living. Sport has been known to bring strangers together. People who cannot communicate through words, connect through sharing and demonstrating their passion through playing a game together. This afternoon’s game was no exception. Anil mixed up the teams, with our ladies playing for the village boys, and their girls for us men folk. The result? The village boys and the white girls won, and won good! The village boys sent our tame deliveries into corners of the village that maybe even they had never been, or seen.
But despite our committed efforts in the field, even to the point of diving on gravel surfaces to save runs, we could not stem the flow, and when we did eventually get out into the middle, our efforts with the bat generally gave the casual observer the impression that we were playing an entirely different game! But no one cared. We didn’t. They didn’t. This was a special day, and we all knew it. We did. They did.
Towards five o’clock on day three, we got the last bolts fastened, and the playground was ready. Prabakher, his wife, and Anil, the Foundation head, which had facilitated this, joined us in making our hand prints in white paint on the totem pole, putting our indelible mark on the playground, and we were done! Prabakher and Anil both made heartfelt speeches of appreciation while on the walls around the yard, local kids were calling to be let at the new equipment. With the formalities and back slapping complete, we opened the gates, and the kids poured in. It was then that our playground came to life.
We stood and watched the chaos as kids ran from climbing frame to swing to tight rope, and we embraced them as some of them came over to shake our hands, or hug us in gratitude. To a man, we were totally overcome by the scene. We walked back to the bus and were greeted by smiles from all the village elders we passed. The people of the very small and very poor town of Mahapura were showing their appreciation. The project was complete.
Conclusion : Unknown to Richard, it was Shaping Lives working in close coordination with the tour operator and Mr Prabhakar Goswami, which had blocked this venue six months earlier, procured and pre-dumped all the stores, and ensured smooth operations through the days, to include the surprise visit to Jhag Complex and the bigger surprise of a cricket match under local conditions. Details like playing with a tennis ball, and not a cricket ball, to ensure safety of the lady volunteers had been taken into account. But then, that is what Shaping Lives is all about…. organising social interventions for inbound clients to precision and perfection, each time.
Events Mar 2015 : Shaping Lives
The Colors of Holi : As in the past 2 years, Shaping Lives facilitated stalls to sell organic colors made from wilted flowers via NGO Samvedna. The efforts paid fruit as the NGO sold over 50 kgs of colors and other vocational products made by the disabled at the various outlets facilitated by the Foundation.
Project Arman, Delhi : Helen de Felice, our volunteer at the Sunder Nagar Nursery side Project Arman centre, returned on 18 Mar after a short break. This visit was not just with her children Anna and Luca, she brought along her parents visiting from UK as well. Once again it marked a historic milestone for Project Arman, with three generations of the same family volunteering time and resources on a single afternoon. The toffees and sweets flowed in plenty, the clothes were welcome too, but most importantly the books they brought were the godsend. Her father George assured adding more children books from a huge cache he had collected back home. It would be such a boon for the new library Shaping Lives was setting up for the children in Apr.
Helen did a story telling session for the children, nudging them to join her as she narrated ‘The Ginger Bread Man’. What is most appealing and speaks volumes of Helen’s soul is that she had baked ginger bread biscuits and while she went about the story telling, Anna and Luca distributed the homemade delicacy of a ‘ginger man’, to each Armani. Which child would not enjoy such sessions. I would and I am sure you would.
George also visited the new premises of the Arman centre on the Dargah side and was visibly and vocally appreciative of the confidence and the happiness that flowed from the children. Helen also volunteers every Monday morning at NGO Deepalaya, another close affiliate of Shaping Lives. It’s a joy to have her as a friend of the Foundation.
I-India, Jaipur Gets New Play Stations : Sometime in Oct 2014, when our travel partner in UK expressed a desire to build some rugged play stations for children during a tourist group’s India sojourn scheduled for Mar 2015, Shaping Lives was set in motion to facilitate the same by the concerned operational team at LPTI. The place finally chosen was I-India’s Mahapura centre. Read on about this unique volunteer work under an exclusive report titled “I-India, Jaipur Gets New Play Stations”.
Events Feb 2015 : Shaping Lives
Volunteering at Deepalaya : The beginning of Feb once again saw Helen in action as she was escorted by GM Shaping Lives to NGO Deepalaya’s Sanjay Colony School. Her intent was to come into the school once a week for 2 – 3 hours and teach the kindergarten children spoken English via speech, grammar and verse, as well as storytelling sessions. Ms Shikha, the School Administrator was extremely happy to hear that of course. Since the first visit, Helen has been going to the School every week and she is elated with the support from the school teachers and the response and joy of the children.
Spain and TESF : Our Spanish travel partner, Mr Bruno Trindade, sent a whole bag of toddler clothing for Flower, the little baby he had met at The Earth Saviours’ Foundation during his visit in Jan. He kept his promise of some currency as well, by requesting Mr Sanjay Malhotra, heading our Mintcentive Division. Needless to say, the mother, Kanyana, was ecstatic and straightaway gave her child a bath and dressed her up in the new clothes. The attached pictures speak for themselves.
The Coup de Grace : Valentine Day, 14 Feb, saw our 175 children and staff of Project Arman, converge onto the decked up party environment at Sunder Nagar park for their annual jamboree. Project Arman, our attempt to educate children of waste pickers of Nizamuddin, Delhi, is the signature CSR project of the Foundation on behalf of Le Passage to India, and each child is very dear to us. The Resident Welfare Association of the colony had once again been kind enough to let us use the space. The children walked into DJ music, the Mickey Mouse bouncy and candy floss for starters. The hair and nail counters were flooded with the 108 Armani girls. Beads and beautification were mutually admired amidst giggles of delight. The boys were more fascinated by the dragon and comic hero tattoos obviously.
Dance and music intermingled with the laughter of children as the children were served a light noon snack, not that they needed any energy booster really. A series of party games ably hosted by the freelance magician, Aneez, had the children vying for over 50 gifts daintily carried on her head the rural Indian way, by Shaping Lives hardcore volunteer Ms Parvathy. Aneez does this show free every year and the entertainment company Qshows has abided with a minimum charge for the past 5 years, such is their understanding of our Project and the love of our children.
The Sharma family graced as always and there were ample volunteers including Helen’s entire family to assist in making the day special for the Armani children. A delectable lunch of chicken and vegetarian biryani, straight from a 4 Star Resort, The Heritage Village Resort and Spa, was soon siphoned off by the 175 hungry Armanis and staff. The Indian sweet and syrupy delicacy ‘gulab jamun’ was knocked off the shelf equally fast. The Resort staff, were thoroughly amused and delighted with the quick clean out, and the repeated appreciation of their food by the children.
More games followed the lunch and around 3.30 p.m. it was time to pack up. The children would of course have liked it continue. As they trudged out with tired but satisfied smiles in their eyes, each was handed over a return gift of a ‘tiffin box’ and an evening snack pack graciously sponsored by Hotel Anila, New Delhi. The tiffin box was chosen as over 80% of our Armanis are enrolled in Govt schools and come to us for remedial classes.
Conclusion : This much for February. The Foundation facilitated a lunch at Project Arman followed by a key charity event to honor LPTI’s mentor and doyen of the toruism industry (Late) Mr Ghulam Naqshband on his birthday. The proceeds went to his charity Rotarian Naqshband Institute for the Physically Challenged. Shaping Lives rolled into Mar awaiting a volunteer group scheduled to make play stations for street children in one of our affiliated NGOs at Jaipur. That would be a new experience.
Events Jan 2015 : Shaping Lives
The first working Monday of 2015 brought in volunteering opportunities. A nice start as far as Shaping Lives is concerned. The inclement weather also played spoil sport when two visits had to be cancelled due to the chilling cold and rain on 02 Jan.
The Earth Saviours’ Foundation (TESF), Delhi, holds its annual ‘No Honking’ environment drive on 01 Jan each year. This year, they clubbed the care and bath of 100 inmates by volunteers alongside. The venue chosen was Chattarpur Metro Station where traffic density and noise due to unnecessary honking is high throughout the day. While some of their team and volunteers focused on educating drivers about noise pollution and need to control their urge for unwarranted honking, the others concentrated on the inmates congregated there. While volunteer barbers from Hair Care, did the cut and shave, others took on the onerous task of giving the male inmates a bath. Most being physically and mentally challenged are unable to understand or undertake basic actions for personal grooming, often avoiding bathing for as long as possible. Due to our close association with this NGO, as GM Shaping Lives, I pitched in to volunteer for bathing the destitute. Fortunately most inmates, especially the hardcore ones with whom I have a special bond, recognize me despite their mental limitations, and know that this old man doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer when it comes to getting them to sit for a bath. To the more obstinate, I put on the pretense of a gruff and strict army man, and they fall for it. Meekly and cutely, most just put their hands up as a signal for me to remove their clothes and get on with it. And that’s exactly what happened that day. I could do about 15 and as I bathed my lot, the next stand had volunteers ready to dry them and dress them up in clean clothes donated by the many kind-hearted who are affiliated with this wonderful institution headed by Ravi Kalra.
Some might question the ethics of bathing them in the open. Yes, I too feel it is an infringement of their privacy however mentally challenged they may be, but this small exposure awakens the many compassionate fence-sitters to come forward and devote time and resources to the NGO, thereby alleviating the lot of the 160 destitute in their care. Sometimes we do turn a blind eye in favor of advocacy for their better future. Believe me, these exposures help.
Volunteers at Project Arman : Two wonderful NRI girls from USA, Raveena and Reva, opted to volunteer at Project Arman for 3 days despite a hectic travel itinerary. To their credit, that they broke ice with our Armanis in no time, and what followed were enrapturing moments of discussions, queries, knowledge exchanges, and of course, fun and dance at both Nizamudin and Sunder Nagar Nursery Centres. The volunteers and the children took an instant like to each other and time passed faster than what both parties would have liked it to. Both volunteers have promised to spend more time when they visit India next and remain associated on mail in interim. It was an eye-opener for them and in the words of their mother, “Thank you so much Arjun (our MD) and Anil for this wonderful experience. The girls are thrilled and will email you with what they want to do for the kids. They want to come back here next time and will stay in touch with the kids too”. She has also graciously made an annual funding commitment for the Project, which will be utilized for value additions for our Arman children’ all round growth. Exposures and time of this kind raises the children’ awareness and instils confidence through enhanced self-esteem. Although the visits by clients from across continents are frequent, volunteers spending quality time at the Project, like these two wonderful volunteers, is the need of the hour.
Anna Comes calling : It seemed to be a month of volunteers. Helen, a parent from the British school and friend of Mr Arjun Sharma, walked into Arman on 22 Jan with an Innova vehicle full of toys and clothes. More importantly she braved rain and very mushy weather to bring in her children, Luca-5 and Anna-3 to hand the gifts over and meet our Armanis. Luca, the boy but shy one, opened up gradually but it was Anna, the dainty little mistress, who took over the Centre straightaway. She unpacked every possible toy she could lay her hands upon and distributed them to our child clusters, sitting with them frequently and trying to explain the games. She was a pure sweetheart, constantly throwing back her frills and pushing her mom and brother to backstage. The Armanis were both fascinated and humored by this tiny-tot going around so confidently that anyone would have mistaken her for a regular at this Centre. While Helen paved the way, talking and interacting with various children, Luca and Anna, kept changing their groups to be a part of whatever activity the Armanis were doing in their cluster.
Helen’s toys and gifts were priceless. They were educational and most of them were group/community play ones. That is something we like and need for our children always. She was effusive in her praise for our children and the work we do and promised to come back with the children once a week. On her query of what else could she bring, GM Shaping Lives shamelessly asked her to bring all the children’ books she did not need anymore, for in the new educational year starting in Apr 2015, the tenth year for Arman since inception in Nov 2005, our priority is knowledge, and we intend to create a library and encourage our children to read more and achieve it. Her desire to volunteer some morning hours for teaching was also taken up and Shaping Lives will facilitate her request into another affiliated NGO, since Arman and other programs with such children only run afternoons.
Indienspecialisten, Sweden, Visits Project Arman & Deepalaya : Ms Cecilia Purits, President and our travel partner from Sweden, paid a quick visit to Arman Centre a little before Anna came in. Barely spending 15 minutes due to her busy schedule, she was so thoroughly impressed that she promised to come back a week later with 4 of her clients who were touring India. And in that short time, this lady with an extra-large heart, offered to fund the cost of an elevated wooden platform for children seating, as she felt the floor was very cold and the ‘durrie’ or rug we provided placed on this platform would be more appropriate to keep the cold out. Wonderful thought and gesture and deeply appreciated by GM Shaping Lives. Cecilia returned with clients the following week on 30 Jan. they were all impressed and touched by the work Deepalaya does. Later in the afternoon, they spent a good one hour playing with the Armani children at Sunder Nagar Nursery Centre. All the four ladies were into adult education in Sweden but they bonded equally well with our tiny-tots in both places. Cecilia accepted our suggestion to use two inch foam padding as a mattress under the durrie, instead of a wooden platform for both the sake of cost and our problem of shifting Centre locations frequently as these were hired premises.
Bruno at The Earth Saviours Foundation (TESF) : Mr Bruno Trindade, our Spanish travel partner, after an hour long meeting with GM Shaping Lives, chose to visit the Agra Wildlife SOS facility over a second visit to the Taj Mahal. It spoke volumes of the man. He was impressed with their work and said he would see how he could promote visits to the facility by his clients. More importantly, he chose to also visit TESF on 26 Jan. Republic Day in India, and as the nation watched the magnificent parade at India Gate, Col Anil Alagh played host to Bruno at TESF. A visit to this NGO can shake up the best and when at the end of the visit, Bruno’s eyes became moist, it was not a faint heart but a man full of hidden love and compassion for the less privileged who I saw. Guided by the GM, he had met and conversed with many inmates, most of whom did not have the cerebral faculty to understand his words, but enough to feel the power of love and care that exuded in his body language. He served food to some, and fell in love with a tiny baby named Flower, the six month old child of a sexually abused young twenty year old recently arrived from Congo, biding her time at this NGO until her plea for asylum as a refugee was processed. He promised to support the child in some way or the other and sure enough Feb promises to bring in lots of gifts from Portugal from her secret well-wisher Bruno.
Elektronic Poland Group at St Joseph’s School, Goa : A group of 23 clients from Poland under their tour Guide Eva, came into St joseph’s School in Goa to volunteer in spreading smiles to the children. Spending over three hours, they regaled the children with dramatics and various games and fun. The children also put up an entertainment show for the guests under the watchful eye of their Principal Sister Claret Varela. It was the first visit by a large group to this school with whom we are affiliated and a naturally satisfying experience for all involved. We hope it is the harbinger of more visits to come.
Herman at Deepalaya : Mr Herman Mertens from Belgium, touching 60 and completing a four year degree program in sign language in Jun, particularly asked to spend time with speech and hearing impaired children. He was emotionally moved as he spent over 2 hours conversing with the special children. The bonds of sign language are universal with very minor variations and it was a delight to see the pleasantly surprised children bloom in happiness as he spoke to them in sign language. He has promised to return and let us hope that happens.
Conclusion : January turned out to be a hectic happy month, with the focus on Arman and Deepalaya. Goa was a pleasant surprise. So many new thoughts for enlarging the scope of Arman are whirling in my head as GM Shaping Lives. Simultaneously, feelers of a confirmation of TUI India promise of support to Deepalaya, as part of their ‘Colleague Engagement’ program, have started coming in. Shaping Lives looks forward to February as a game changer.
Events Dec 2014 : Le Passage Travel Foundation (Shaping Lives) : Celebrates ‘Smiles From Santa’
December brought in the warmth of annual events by various NGOs. Shaping Lives had teamed up with TUI‘s Noida, India office to join the TUI Travel Plc A & D’s, global Xmas giving campaign in 2013 in the form a high tea and distribution of toys to children at The Earth Saviours’ Foundation (TESF). It was an enlarged version of the ‘Muffin Xmas’ started in 2012. This year we decided to enlarge the scope and manifest smiles in offshore locations as well. And thus was born our Xmas initiative ‘Smiles from Santa’. The events commenced on 19th with the grand finale by TUI India Delhi team on 23 Dec. Read on for a sequential journey into ‘Smiles from Santa’.
Jaipur : The Foundation strayed from the normal NGOs to support a new one for Xmas giving. This NGO, run by an elderly lady named Mrs Bimla, was reviewed in one of Col Alagh’s (GM-CSR) forays on recommendation of Mr. Milind Verma from our Jaipur office. Genuine and grass root like the others, the elderly lady’s zest and perseverance was as impressive as the local less privileged children’ smiles and grit to excel in education. When asked, what she would like for her NGO, in her typically non-commercial way she blurted, that she did not have money to pay off a debt to the NGO’s book supplier for a stationery consignment purchased for her children in July. It was an honest, humble request and the sum was not too large either. Shaping Lives decided to surprise her, and a cheque was sent to our Jaipur team for the amount, for Mr Khalid Khan, our Rajasthan Head, to do the honors in the Xmas week and make smiles happen at the Seva Bharti Bal Vidyalaya. She was surprised and floored by this gesture, and called in to say thank you but was so overwhelmed emotionally that I had to tell her, that we at Shaping Lives were blessed to know her and the thanks should come from us.
Goa : Karen Monteiro was once again the organizing angel for ‘Smiles from Santa’ at Goa. Assisted by Francis, the Goan team brought smiles to the 31 little boys of ages between 06 – 10 years, at The St. Anthony’s Boys Convent Home. This home, run by 04 Nuns, is situated in the village of Agassaim in North Goa, and has children of single parents and broken families who cannot afford to provide education to their children. The Goa team volunteers configured various games and fun sessions to ensure that the children did not spend a single moment without ‘twinkling eyes’ on 19th Dec. To the credit of Sameer, our Goa Head, goes the initiative of making one of our excursion partners Passive Active Tourism (PAT), sponsor the lunch and Christmas gift hampers to every child. Truly wonderful of PAT to that, they deserve a pat for it. Shaping Lives gifted something more long term when on the Senior Sister’s request, we had a Drinking Water Purifier installed at the Home. The Sisters were profuse in their thanks for the ‘Smiles from Santa’ day, but what is more important in our Shaping Lives records is what Karen wrote “This Event has left us with warm and beautiful memories with the resolve to creating more such time – regardless of occasion – for such children and more.”
Cochin : The Cochin team chose a home for the destitute and the report sent in after their ‘Smiles from Santa’ by Mr Shajimon C.J., our AVP, read,“ Dear Col Anil Alagh, As part of CSR initiative TEAM Cochin visited Good Hope Home , an annex of relief settlement run by Corporation of Cochin for caring for the old and destitute, castaways and homeless. The institution has total 30 inmates, 14 of them are males and 16 females, most of them old, physically weak, with a few mentally unstable. The institution is managed by the nuns from the order ‘Sisters of the Destitute’. The entire premises were vibrant with the spirit of Christmas and New Year. The surroundings were cleaned up and decorated to grace the festive occasion which is around the corner. The Mother superior welcomed us and introduced to the inmates who were very enthusiastic to interact with the team. The presence of visitors seemed to light up their spirit and bring them out of the labyrinth of abandonment they were dwelling in. We shared Christmas gifts and season’s greetings with them and they were visibly moved by our presence and warmth. The Mother Superior thanked the entire team on behalf of institution and inmates. While saying goodbye, we promised to continue the association and adding our small ray of hope for them who lived in the lap of Good Hope.”
Shaping Lives, Delhi : With TUI India having changed affiliations to Deepalaya, the Foundation decided to host a special lunch with LPTI volunteers at their erstwhile Xmas destination, The Earth Saviours’ Foundation (TESF). The NGO had shifted location after an accidental fire in April destroyed their entire infrastructure. They now focused only on caring for 160 abandoned senior citizens and destitute. Having coordinated the date and an extra special menu, we were all present on 22 Dec to serve the meal cooked in the TESF kitchen. Prior to that, the volunteers took pains to assist the inmates select from a large number of clothes donated by various office colleagues and brought to TESF by us today. They may have mental and physical limitations, but the lady inmates definitely were no less in being fashion conscious and very selective about the pickings. It was fun to watch. One lady, speech and hearing challenged and in a mental trauma, even changed into the saree (traditional Indian 6yards wrap around garment), she had picked up and made sure I took a photograph of her in the new saree posing with our volunteers Shivani and Khushbu. Serving is just one small effort, the major one being feeding most of these inmates who are either physically or mentally or challenged in both fields, and thus often unable to even come up for a serving. And thus, while the ladies prepared the meal plates, GM-Shaping Lives went around serving them to the inmates, sitting un-demanding and tucked into corners, both of the location and of their unchartered, challenged world. In fairness to the inmates, most of them will not remember any one of us who fed them that day due to their state, but again, to at Shaping Lives, what is more important is that each volunteer will carry back the spot smile we got when feeding them and lifelong memories of community service done in the spirit of giving, an ethos so essential for personal peace and inner development, and so much an intrinsic part of our organization’s compassion code worldwide.
TUI India, Delhi : In July 2014, Mr Vishal Sinha, COO TUI India, chose to adopt NGO Deepalaya, www.deepalaya.org, as part of the outfit’s essential colleague volunteer program and hence the “TESF Muffin Xmas’ series was laid to rest and focus shifted. Following closely on the heels of a successful Diwali Fair held in Oct at the adopted school, which featured in the ‘Colours’ international edition of TUI as well, we decided to take 50 of the children with special needs for an outing to the Children’ Park at India Gate, a historical monument in Delhi. Working closely with the marketing team from TUI, Shaping Lives coordinated the ‘Smiles from Santa’ outing with the Special School Head, Ms Sangeeta.
The mixed team of 22 TUI volunteers, reached Children’ Park, our event site on 23 Dec, well before the Deepalaya special children. They were armed with all kinds of picnic games and rearing to give and have a fun time. The children, speech and hearing impaired, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and autism, walked into the warmth of smiles and hugs as they descended from their bus on foggy and chilly winter morning. The more assertive volunteers won the wheelchair round, i.e. they got to cozy up with the children who were on wheel chairs. The swings and slides resounded with squeals and laughter and sustained requests by the children to the newly blessed Uncles and Aunty Santa(s) to put them on one or the other ride. Why put them..... because most of these children cannot do so themselves. And that was the special part of this great volunteer team, that they unplugged their energies to be the ever-willing elves to the children.
The Children Park fun over, we moved onto the India Gate lawns. A quick candy floss was tucked in to re-energise. And then, cricket, football, Frisbees came out. It’s a changing world. The girls chose the football. The boys went for the bat, while those on wheelchairs and with other mobility limitations were taught and entertained with patience and smiles the art of throwing the Frisbee. Then the music started. Jolein, our guitarist Pied Piper, took out his magic tunes to the accompaniment of many a croaking volunteer, drawing in the tiny-tots and encouraging the bolder children to sing and dance. Pure magic was what Jolein and his handsome croakers, weaved.
A lunch of the famous Nizamudin local Biryani was devoured by the hungry congregation, served lovingly by the TUI team and then we all trooped out to the main monument, India Gate. Quite a motley, but everyone with smiles and contentment on their faces. Many photo-ops later, it was time for the children to head home, but before they boarded, each child and staff of Deepalaya, was given a snack box and a woolen cap and gloves combo, to keep them warm till the day we could return and once again give them the real thing from our hearts. As the bus moved out amongst waving hands and flying kisses, the volunteers seemed to miss the warmth and love shared by the wonderful kids of Deepalaya, even before the bus exhaust had faded.
Project Arman on a Roll : Veronique, our French Head of marketing and Sales, in Paris, visited 3 NGOs with GM-CSR, despite her hectic schedule in Delhi. She was visibly impressed and happy with the work they do. She gave some lovely suggestions as improvements and value additions. Besides the ideas, as always, she brought in a whole lot of goodies for the Arman children besides the donation she makes on each visit. Another partner sitting in France, Mr. Jacques Robert Claude, sent in stationery in the form of some notebooks and ball-pens, which was distributed amongst the senior Arman children. Mr. and Mrs. Sumit Sethi, our friends and partners from Germany, kept aside time from a busy itinerary to visit the Arman Sunder Nagar nursery with their three children. Gifts were an obvious inclusion knowing Jeordis, his wife, who had experienced Arman in 2013. The year rounded off with our clients from Singapore, a family of four, walking into Arman late evening on 29 Dec. Their teenage daughters were a big hit with our children and the couple was visibly impressed by the confidence and happiness on our children’ faces. Small drops but at Shaping Lives, we appreciate the time people spare from busy itineraries for visiting our NGOs. We look forward to these visits as a form of international goodwill and recognition of Shaping Lives as a Foundation ‘bridging smiles’ amongst our NGOs and our business and client fraternity.
Conclusion : The ‘Smiles From Santa’ ended on that Christmas and year end note. While it is wonderful to have offices spread across our vast and beautiful country, which increases our outreach to spread love and smiles, it is more wonderful to have colleagues who are always eager to create the time and resources, and are pro-active in helping spread that cheer and smiles. In short, the essence of Shaping Lives is that ‘compassion is not a one-off, it is a mountain spring, fresh, pure and perennial, and we must collectively ensure it increases in depth and extent’.
With that, Le Passage Travel Foundation, aka Shaping Lives, wishes all our colleagues, business partners and inbound travelers who have experienced us from across the world Seasons’ Greetings for a prosperous and peaceful 2015.
Shaping Lives : Events Oct 2014
October in India heralds festivities. Just as the weather takes a turn into winter, myriad festivals line up encompassing all communities. The festivals also arouse the spirit of giving and compassion. Shaping Lives too had a fabulous start.
French Teachers Group: A group of 13 retired teachers from France trooped into Project Arman, Nizamudin on 01 Oct. They were delighted to see the confidence and happiness with which our children reached out to them despite the language barrier. GM – CSR, who was present, explained in detail about the project and our vision for these waste-pickers’ children and emotions and appreciations ran high. Being teachers, the bonding with students was a foregone conclusion and French nursery rhymes flowed out naturally as the amused children happily picked up the threads of this alien content.
Diwali Fair Facilitation: Shaping Lives reached out to its NGOs and successfully offered them day long stalls to sell their vocational products and propagate their cause at the five day Diwali fair organized by Select Citywalk Mall, Saket. This mall always adds a flavor of CSR to its major events and Shaping Lives is indebted to it for the extensive goodwill shown to its affiliated NGOs via complimentary or highly subsidized tariff stalls. The NGOs were very happy with the advocacy opportunity. NGO Umang which came all the way from Jaipur with their vocational products, wanted a minimum 2 day exposure from next time. They were so happy with their sales.
Ides of October : When Mr Arjun Sharma, MD mooted the idea of a Walkathon around the office market with intent to clean up and be a part of the ‘Swachch Bharat’ drive initiated by the Prime Minister on 02 Oct, to make India a clean country, once again CSR swung into action. In close coordination with the Haus Khas administrative team, the ides of October were chosen as the date. Volunteers from both E-27 and E-29, Le Passage to India offices congregated at 8.00 a. Adorning protective gloves, taking on brooms and waste bags over 50 volunteers spread out and not just cleaned up the road but also the entire park in the adjacent parking area. Value additions were made in the form of 10 new dustbins being installed at strategic points around the market and included tree plantations in the park. With the boundary wall also painted by volunteers, the area shone and we intend to keep it sparkling from now on.
Blow your Own Trumpet: With Diwali around the corner, this was a take-off initiative from the worldwide ‘ice bucket challenge’. It was simple. Colleagues were encouraged to bring in a miniscule 2 to 10 kilograms of any food item or cooking oil as their Diwali gift for the destitute on the 16 Oct, a week before Diwali. They would hand over their contribution to Shaping Lives pre-nominated representatives in every office, pick up a trumpet and blow it to their heart’s content. The good! their good! ….being announced. Perhaps a catalyst to rouse more comrades to participate in the spirit of sharing and giving. The collection would be sent to our affiliated NGO, The Earth Saviours Foundation. Off shore locations were encouraged to do their bit into local charities. It was a success with approx. 800 kilograms of a variety of products including sugar and pulses being delivered to TESF and the office resounding with bugle calls. The Le Passage and TUI colleagues had once again lived up to their ‘goodness’. It was a simple take-off but quite successful.
TUI India celebrates Diwali: Please peruse the exclusive write-up on this website for the wonderful time 250 tiny-tots including 75 with special needs had when volunteers from TUI India’s Delhi office pulled the plug on fun and festivities at the Sanjay Colony Deepalaya school on 17 Oct 2014.
Visit to Cankids … Kidscan: The Sunday following the Mela saw a very wonderful couple with their young daughter visit Cankids, our NGO which enables cancer care for children from less privileged backgrounds. Being a pre-Diwali Sunday, most of the patients had gone home to their villages as is generally the norm in India. Mr Chris Williams, Cankids, however made it a point to come in and brief the special guests himself, and received the couple brought in by Col Alagh. Providence has its ways and one of the three was a cancer survivor and hence bonding was immediate and complete. The couple spent over two hours, interacting and distributing gifts to the children and taking a round of the entire facility and Shaping Lives is assured on a feedback by the client, that their long term association and support with Cankids is in the offing. It’s a joy for us when this sort of long term bonding takes place.
CSR 20:20 Cricket with UK Students: As Oct turned 31, the Jamia Islamia cricket pavilion once again resonated with the fun and laughter of our NGO Deepalaya’s team playing a 20:20 match with the Indian Gymkhana Cricket Colts from London. The match and the bonhomie was typical in this third similar encounter over the past one year with different student teams from the UK schools.
October has been a hectic happy month and Shaping Lives extended its outreach onto both new and standard interventions. The next month promises a return of travel groups visiting designated charities for the 2nd and the 3rd year respectively in succession. The affiliations obviously arise from the excellent experiences of both the agents and their previous groups spread over the season.
TUI India Celebrates Diwali 2014 Via A Fun Friday At Deepalaya, Delhi
When Mr Vishal Sinha, COO, TUI India, took time out from his hectic schedules in Sept 2014, to visit the Sanjay Colony School of our affiliated NGO Deepalaya, with his VP Marketing, Mr Abhirup Datta, magic was bound to happen. Col Alagh, GM-CSR, Le Passage Travel Foundation (aka Shaping Lives), had requested Mr TK Mathew, Founder and Senior Patron of Deepalaya to please come in as well, and as the four walked the talk around the premises, Vishal gave out his vision of a possible long term association via colleague volunteer programs with Deepalaya.
It was a new initiative and the emphasis was ‘low on cost but high on intent’. Over the course of the next two hours, it was mutually decided to initially break ice with the children by holding the first ever Diwali Mela (Fair) on the premises. The date chosen was Friday, 17 Oct 2014. It would be a totally sponsored TUI team show. …. a FUN FRIDAY of sorts. The essence was to give the children of this school, both special and normal, the time of their life, while simultaneously sensitizing the TUI colleagues to their presence and encouraging a long term bond. Based on the success of this ‘FUN FRIDAY’, Col Alagh would work out possibilities of TUI taking over the painting, repair and maintenance needs of the school as a subsequent colleague volunteer program via Shaping Lives.
Fun Friday dawned. The TUI teams under their senior management, trickled in well before the noon start time, to set up their games stalls. They had spent quite a bit of time and effort on the décor, as became apparent when the stalls came up. Hidden in one of the classrooms were a bunch of cute little children, all dressed up in regional costumes to perform a mini-entertainment program for their guests. It was also a matter of another kind, to keep the 250 participating children in the confines of their classes, and prevent them from raiding the games counters before the inauguration.
The welcome address by Mr Mathew and the thanksgiving by Vishal intermingled with some charming performances by the children. And before, Ms Jeannette Linfoot, TUI’s Director of Tour Operations, New Markets, who was the welcome surprise guest at the event along with Mr Marco Torrento, TUI’s Head of Commercial Finance, New Markets, was invited to declare the Diwali Mela open, she and the TUI teams were invited onto the dance floor to shake a leg with the children. Even Mr Mathew danced that day. He had no choice. Did the children have more fun or did Jeanette, Vishal and the TUI Team have more? See the photographs and assess for yourself.
The moment the Mela opened, there was mayhem. All heaven (not hell), broke loose, as the TUI teams from various departments, vied with each other to wean away the tiny-tots onto their stalls. Each one had a different game and each one had 100s of gifts on offer. The system was simple. Each of the 250 children and staff had been given 20 complimentary coupons to be used for @ one coupon for whichever game he/she played. A gift was assured. Winning or losing became immaterial as the TUI volunteers tried to outdo each other in distributing gifts at their stalls. Most of these gifts had been sponsored from their own pockets. It was not just fun to watch, it was a touching tribute to their love and compassion, which flowed in abundance throughout.
As the excitement mounted and the squeals of delight grew louder, the lines at the 5 games stalls grew longer. The tattoo artists and the magician were brought in to take a part of the rush away. The children were obviously ecstatic with the proceedings. The special needs children were given VIP treatment, picked up and given priority by breaking the queue, which of course no one minded. Lunch boxes also sponsored by TUI, were handed over to the teachers for distribution along with. The burgers, a salted snack packet, juice and a muffin to top it were common to the TUI volunteers as well.
The ‘Fun Friday’ would never have ended except for the coupons finishing off with the children or the gifts finishing off at the TUI stalls. Most teams had to go out into the local slum behind to pick up additional gifts, which they did at unbelievable speed actually. When the event finally ended, each tired but beaming, TUI volunteer, was presented an individual handmade ‘thank you’ card by a child. The children in turn got a return gift of a piggy bank each, as did the TUI volunteers. How the piggy bank changed Nitin is something you will know as you read on. I thought that was a value addition and a great success for Shaping Lives too. We chose this over the standard candle or diya at Diwali as it was a long term and an educative gift. In keeping with the New India Clean India program of the Indian government, the TUI team also got together to clean up all the litter before calling it a day.
Some thanksgiving messages which flowed in are:
Mrs Shikha Pal, the School Administrator wrote, “Dear Col Alagh, This is to thank the entire team of TUI and you for making 17th Oct a memorable day for our students. The children enjoyed the day thoroughly with games, gifts and food. Best wishes for a Happy Diwali from the Deepalaya Family. Shikha, On behalf of Deepalaya.
Jeannette wrote to say, “Dear Anil, It was a real pleasure to meet you last Friday. Spending time with the children and teaching team of Deepalaya was particularly emotional and really makes one realise how important it is for us all to do our ‘bit’ no matter how large or small. To see the love and smiles on the children’s faces was very special and something that I will remember forever. I felt particularly proud to be part of the TUI India team and the Shaping Lives Foundation. You really are doing an amazing job – thank you for embracing TUI India into the foundation and for helping us make a difference to those that really need our help. I wish you and your family a very happy Diwali and look forward to seeing you again soon.
Best Regards, Jeannette, Jeannette Linfoot,
Director of Tour Operations - New Markets.”
Marco penned, “Thanks Anil for the great pictures and the nice words. It was an honour for us to join you in this event: There is nothing better than spending some times with smiling children. I think they transmitted to us a great level of energy. Definitely, we would like to help them out more in their school development: let us find the best way to do so – we will get in contact with Vishal on this. Once again thank you and personally I will be more than happy to come back to the school to meet your gorgeous children. Regards and Happy Diwali. Marco Torrente.”
And Vishal put in once more, “Col Alagh, Thanks once again for all your help in making this possible. Wish you and family a very Happy Diwali. Best Regards. Vishal, COO- TUI India.
Kanchan wrote in to say, “Deepalaya Diwali Mela was a speechless Experience. It was such an amazing Start of a Diwali for me. It made me feel So positive and Relaxed for which I have no words to explain even. It’s Just we should get Such Opportunities and wonderful experience again and again. Thanks to you for giving us such a beautiful experience and chance to Spread Happiness, and Moreover It was a Chance for us to feel Internal Happiness. Thanks, Regards,
Kanchan Narang | Senior Executive
Neha Kumar checked in with, “Dear Sir, Can’t thank you enough for an opportunity like this! It was a memorable start to this Diwali. The performances by the children of the school, the welcome we got, the hospitality of the staff was exemplary. I had so much fun and in future please include me any such activity, I would love to be a part of it. Thank you once again! Warm Regards, Neha Kumar | Manager
Nitin was a complete surprise on the piggy bank with, “Hi Sir, Good Afternoon!! I would like to sincerely thank you for giving us chance to give smile on the children’s face. It was immense pleasure to participate as a team in Deepalaya for the Noble cause. I would always like to be a part for such social activity in future. Just want to share bit more, I have a smoking habit and now 60-70% of my smoking budget goes to the piggy bank which was given by the children and I am sure this is going to benefit me in terms of health and I would also be able to contribute something toward the society. Last but not least, you are doing a remarkable job and I admire you for this. Rgds, Nitin Sharma
And Viplav from HR team said, “Dear Sir, I’ll not use so many words to express or share my feelings for the day at Deepalaya. It was one of the most beautiful day of my life and I am so happy that I’d put smile and laugh on the faces who were in need of it. Thank You so much for giving me this wonderful opportunity, would love to be a part of such activities in future and Salute to you for the work you doing. You’re awesome!! Thank You. Best Regards, Kunwar Viplav Singh | Human Resources
Komal Bijlani writes, “Dear Sir, First of all Thank you so much for giving such a memorable day with Deepalaya kids, I enjoyed with kids. I have shared my experience with my friends and relatives and few of them are keen to do donation for this school, request you to share details with me for the same. Big Thanks is for you (huge thank you card was for me), Komal, Manager, TUI.
And Mr TK Mathew wrote, “Dear Col Anil Alag ji, Happy Diwali. Thank you for sharing the images and feedback from all those who made the event a great moment of cheer for the children of Deepalaya Sanjay colony school. But for this event they would never have such an opportunity. Your leadership, strategising the event, enabling the partnership etce made it all. Looking for more of such events and happenings in future. Pleased to know Vishalji and others are planning more tangible relationship. God Bless all and convey my regards to the team visited, acted, and made the day great.
Regards, T.K….. T.K.Mathew, Secretary & Chief Executive, Deepalaya.
As I reminiscence about the day and read their feedbacks, it is apparent that TUI volunteers not just outdid themselves but also thoroughly enjoyed themselves and I am sure that each one of them must have slept the sleep of the exhausted but blissful, that night. Vishal and Jeanette moved around encouraging, assisting, motivating children to freak out more, and rightfully deserved to get piggy bank return gift as well. They had earned it. Shaping Lives thanks Deepalaya, especially Mr Mathew and Mrs Shikha Pal, the school Administrator, for allowing us the opportunity and TUI India for starting this volunteer program with such a delightful and successful event. As I also recall the joy on our children and the staff’ face, it is enough to make Diwali a very special and memorable one for Shaping Lives.
Dedication Ceremony at St Stephan’s Hospital, Delhi
Special Mention : Late Mr Ghulam Naqshband
Late Mr Ghulam Naqshband, a doyen of the tourism industry and Managing Director of Le Passage to India during his lifetime, continues to be revered today, 4 years after his death, just as much as he was in his lifetime. On 24 Sept, the Conference Hall of St Stephen's Hospital, witnessed the dedication ceremony of the fully renovated and upgraded Ortho Operation Theatre and Artificial Limb Centre via Rotary Club of Delhi Midtown, under aegis of which the Rtn Naqshband Institute for Physically Challenged operates. The dedication was a result of a considerable donation from the doyen’s legacy bequeathed for the physically challenged through RNIPC by the executor of his Will, Mr Arjun Sharma.
While the Chief Guest and noted Rotarians commended this great philanthropist, Dr Sudhir Joseph, Director of the Hospital, and Dr Mathew Thomas, the HOD of the Ortho Wing, humbly extolled the benefits that would accrue from this dedication. In his thanksgiving, read out in absentia, by GM-CSR, Le Passage to India, Col Anil Alagh, Mr Arjun Sharma conveyed, “I am very confident that with the latest addition of the Macquet special ortho table, the fully renovated and upgraded Orthopedic Operation Theatre and Artificial Limb Centre will make an immeasurable difference in reaching out to the economically challenged disabled, by not just alleviating their suffering, but also by reducing the waiting period for providing essential surgeries and subsequent post-operative therapeutic care so badly needed for their early rehabilitation.
I thank Dr Sudhir Joseph, Director, and Dr Mathew, HOD, and his team at St Stephen’s for giving us an opportunity to realise Mr Naqshband’s dream and in the process help where it is acutely required.
I am also deeply indebted to Mrs Geeta Kumar, the legacy custodian, and each of the RNIPC Trustees, in particular, the Managing Trustees, Mr Inder Sharma and Mr Raman Bhatia, for actualising Mr Naqshband’s vision in consonance with his legacy. Their positivity has allowed us to work in a more synergised and effective manner. I am confident that as he watches this ceremony from wherever he is, Mr Naqshband’s soul would be feeling blessed and satisfied today.”
We, at Shaping Lives, continue to draw inspiration from the doyen’s compassion and selfless in life and death. The humanitarian philanthropic work that emanates from the Ortho ward of St Stephan’s Hospital is also worth emulating. Totally free of cost, it involves single or multiple corrective surgeries on a polio patient, recuperation care and therapy, and eventual assistance at rehabilitation into a meaningful self-sustaining life.
Events – Shaping Lives : Aug 2014
August is indeed an august time for the entire Le Passage family. We celebrate our Foundation Day in this month and once again Shaping Lives went into overdrive to set up a series of philanthropic activities combined with some CSR for 06 Aug, the twelfth Foundation Day. The major part of the previous 4 weeks had been spent collating and coordinating possibilities of reaching out to various empanelled NGOs across India and understanding their priority needs. While Delhi and Jaipur was handled by GM – Shaping Lives, the regional heads were co-opted in recommending various CSR options in their territories.
What we did
Delhi / NCR : The major strength of colleagues being located in this area, the focus is higher locally. The following activities were organized :-
Blood Donation Camps at Haus Khas and Noida Offices : As in the previous year, the Indian Red Cross teams set up their collection units. We started at 1000h and by evening, a little under 100 units had been achieved from our colleagues in all three locations. The senior lot and lady colleagues led the assault. The score would have been higher but for medical ailments and low Hb count which is an unfortunate perpetual bane in our female volunteers. Volunteers from the smaller offices, walked in too, to do their bit of this noble philanthropy.
High Tea : While the blood donation continued in zest, the heads of our various business units congregated excited and eager, at the small board-room in Haus Khas. The reason? Our children! Le Passage, in keeping with traditions had invited a small delegation of children from Project Arman and Deepalaya with their escorts for a bit of exclusive pampering and handing over the annual stationery requirement to Arman and the sponsorship cheque for 15 special children. A cheque for counselling and career counselling of girls from marginalized backgrounds was also handed over to Mr Ian Macbride from NGO Etasha Society as a value addition this year. Each child, besides the pampering, got an individual goodie pack and of course a regular flow of snacks.
Gurukul Lunch : The community lunch for the Gurukul, a religious education centre for Hindu scriptures, followed at 1300h. This has been a tradition and is very close to Mr Arjun Sharma, the MD’s heart. Again the entire business heads team and colleague volunteers, assembled there and did community service in feeding lunch to about 200 students and staff of the Gurukul. Shaping Lives added a heavy duty PA system, as part of our CSR based on their wish list for this year. Lunch service over, all Le Passage team members than partook of the same meal and we bade farewell to the students after presenting each with individual stationery.
Goonj Donation : Items to include a donated TV set and stereo system were sent to NGO Goonj in the afternoon as the last leg of our Foundation Day ‘soul’ outreach.
Mumbai : Team members from Mumbai spread out over four government schools and actively participated and supervised over a medical check-up of 400 and an eye check-up of 700 children from low income families. Undertaken via NGO Akansha, an NGO working in the field of health, the camps were a huge success and the children were especially thrilled to receive their tiny snack-packs after the check up as well.
Chennai : New acoustics teaching equipment was installed in one classroom for ten hearing and speech impaired children. The entire team from the Chennai office was delighted at the reaction of the school and children on this effort by us and also when two children were also gifted high quality hearing aids for both ears as well. The effort will go a long way in enhancing confidence and communication in the children.
Bengaluru : The 20 sets of uniforms gifted to children of Bosco Vikas would enable these orphaned children to feel at par with their peers in the school they attended. They would not just gain confidence and happiness, but would also look forward to going to school being as well dressed as their classmates with parental backgrounds.
Goa : The Goa team let loose at St John’s Children’ Orphanage, a shelter for abandoned / children of single mothers. They gifted stores and groceries, besides spending the day entertaining the children with games, a sponsored lunch and a huge Foundation Day cake. The photographs speak voluminously about the joy they brought into the children for the day and it is hoped that long term bonds have formed therein.
Jaipur : A cheque to cover the cost of approximately 80 Jaipur Limbs for the needy was handed over to Sh D R Mehta, Founder, Jaipur Foot Organisation, by Mr Khalid Khan and Jaipur team, along with GM – CSR, at a solemn ceremony at their facility in Jaipur. The available congregation awaiting fitments or looking for approval to get new ones and the BMVSS staff were also distributed small snack pouches.
With the afternoon of 13 Aug and our humble CSR effort in support of BMVSS (Jaipur Foot Organisation), the CSR activity to synchronize with the Foundation Day came to an end. We still have a long path to traverse and many more interventions planned with our empanelled NGOs to bring smiles and solace to their wards.
Events Jun 2014 : Shaping Lives
World Environment Day
June this year has been perhaps the hottest month in many years. Coupled with humidity, it really tested nerves and outdoor work was restricted by as many as could avoid it. For Shaping Lives, Jun heralds ‘World Environment Day (WED)’. As over the past few years, we again teamed up on 05 June, with Select CityWalk Mall, Saket, New Delhi in celebrating the day through awareness. Two of our empanelled NGOs, Chintan Environment and Research Action Group and Deepalaya were invited to set up stalls and undertake the WED theme base to create awareness to visitors at this Mall.
The former chose to display creative designs and knick-knacks made from waste, as it works with the trash pickers in the Capital region. It also emphasized on awareness on reducing food wastage besides pledge signing for personal contribution of saving water and electricity et cetera by numerous visitors and especially the children.
Deepalaya chose to bring in their children who performed skits and dances on the environment theme and enthralled the crowd. The Mall management and Shaping Lives jointly presented certificates of participation to each of the NGO representatives besides a snack-pack. Some of the visitors to our stalls who chose to sign the pledges were gifted a book on environment. This gift was obviously a welcome surprise which brought on effusive smiles.
Medical Volunteers : Health Check-up Camps
The next fortnight was hectic in laying the groundwork for holding a health check-up camp, by a group of medical volunteers from California, at Delhi and Jaipur. Just as the summer solstice weaved its way into a new alignment, this group of 25 volunteers including their Professors, arrived at the Deepalaya Gram, Gusbethi, Mewat, Haryana at sharp 0930h on 21st Saturday. The group came in courtesy Luxe India, a unique inbound luxury travel business unit, and was facilitated by Shaping Lives into this mandatory CSR desired by them. A truncated briefing and guided tour of the mini-hospital by Mr TK Mathew, CEO and Founder Deepalaya, who kindly graced, was the prelude to start of the Camp. Ms Janelle Gardner, the tour head, thereafter quickly split her team into five stations, and the children started coming in via the registration desk.
Each of the five medical desks had student volunteers with one of their Professors in both supervisory and counsellor role. Medical cards, customized by Luxe, were handed over to each child and subsequently adults at the registration desk. Height and weight measurements were followed by the Hemoglobin check, with a machine presented by Luxe, and the patient proceeded to the medical desks thereafter. The volunteers set about their patients with great enthusiasm. A head to toe examination, brief notes on their card, were followed up with detailed discussion with their Counsellor in case something was felt amiss. Iron supplements were administered to all, as the target group belonged to a marginalized segment of population from this extremely backward region, and most are undernourished and anemic.
How was the communication problem between the patient and the volunteers resolved? Mr Vijay Srinivasn, the Executive Director, along with 7 members of his Delhi Luxe team, Mr. Venkatesh, Kunal, Ahana, Urvashi, Kriti, Raman and Nema were there to assist in making the Camp a huge success. Each medical desk had an exuberant Luxe India male / female or both team members, who doubled as translators and coordinators, and outdid themselves in ensuring that channels of communication flourished and smiles and bonhomie flowed freely. The ladies were essential because over 50% of the target group was women and Shaping Lives understands and respects sensibilities and local customs and traditions to ensure comfort levels of not just our clients but also of our NGO friends. Any additional spot problems, differences, requirements by the volunteers, etcetera were resolved by Col Anil Alagh, GM Shaping Lives, who kept circulating amongst the desks with words of encouragement.
Almost 200 young and old underwent the medical check-up, before we wound up and moved to the Deepalaya Gram Girls’ Hostel for lunch. The spread was vegetarian but lavish. The volunteers had a taste of a typical Indian meal and most of them expressed delight at the quality and taste of the food served. They were thrilled at being taught how to eat a mango without cutting it, the Indian ‘sucking’ way. Some of them weaved intricate designs with the peels, as all of us had a good laugh. Dish washing after finishing one’s meals as per hostel norms was appreciated and as GM Shaping Lives showed the way, the volunteers readily followed.
Lunch over, it was time for the thanksgiving. Mr Mathew and Mr Srinivvasan expressed their thanks to Janelle and her team. She conveyed the group’s appreciation for a wonderful experience. The Luxe team additionally gifted the girls’ hostel a double door Fridge and a few pedestal fans to help them bear the heat a little better. Ms Janelle Gardner thereafter presented a whole lot of soft toys, clothes and medical equipment brought by her team to Deepalaya. Then came the surprise. While Luxe presented each volunteer a ‘certificate of participation’, Deepalaya gifted them a crested mug to take home as a memento. As each volunteer came up to receive their parting gift, the smiles and happiness in their eyes said it all. The Camp, lasting over 5 hours, had been a success, and as we all trudged out from Deepalaya, our sights were already far away in Jaipur where the next Camp was scheduled on 25 Jun.
The Jaipur Camp
The targeted community was the Banjara (gypsies) community, staying in shanties at a rural village Lakhesra, about 25 kms from Jaipur. Our host NGO at Jaipur was I-India, which runs a street corner teaching and meal program for this community here, besides its other philanthropic activities. The CSUC group were taken directly to the school site on arrival as the children had been waiting for them. The school, merely a piece of land, approx. 18 feet by 15 feet under a tarpaulin to keep the sun out, was a bustling beehive of gypsy children, learning the letters, something which they had no access or inclination for until the arrival of I-India and their school and meal on wheel system of educating them. The meal every afternoon was the proverbial carrot after 2-3 hours of compulsory study.
A traditional Indian welcome amidst hyper excitement, photo sessions initiated by both our gypsy students and the CSUC group and interaction in the classroom followed much to everyone’s delight. Somewhere in this bonhomie, the Group almost forgot that we were there for the Health Check-up camp and GM Shaping Lives literally had to shoo them out and take them to the Camp site. It goes to the credit of I-India, Mr Charu Goswami, to have selected an under construction school building and spruced it up to our clients requirements.
The camp was once again a runaway success. Even the most hardcore and rustic old gypsy women and men, straggled in for a very detailed check up by CSUC members. The group of students and Nursing faculty once again proved their dedication and commitment as they did a thorough check and medication advice for each individual. Their range of patients varied in age group of 18 months to over 80 years and the I-India interpreters and GM Shaping Lives had their hands full in translating ailments and medical advice to either parties across 4 different stations each with 3 – 4 patients at any given point of time.
Besides the many I-India volunteers, a value addition was the presence of the I-India resident Doctor and two nursing staff. The entire I-India team including Mr Prabhakar and Charu, were full of astonishment and praise in the manner the group addressed each patient, covering every detail of medical history and writing down advice as deemed on their medical cards. Word also spread about the fabulous work being done and by the end of the evening almost everyone available in the community and a few others had undergone the check-up. They had also been advised and administered free medicines which was part of the sponsored camp. The more serious cases were advised follow up and I-India promised to do the needful earliest.
The round of thanksgiving was similar to that at Deepalaya. Mr Prabhakar Goswami, Founder I-India, thanked CSUC - CHICO, Luxe and Shaping Lives profusely for the event, highlighting the benefits of such a Camp by such a dedicated team. GM Shaping Lives, Col Alagh conveyed his deep appreciation to each member of the CSUC and to I-India team for enabling this much-needed camp and hoped some members of the CSUC team would return one day for longer periods of volunteering. Ms Janelle Gardner, Tour Head, in her closing remarks was all praise for everything that happened prior to and during the Health camp. She conveyed the appreciation and happiness of her team in being able to undertake so much in such a community, expressing admiration for Luxe india , I-India and Shaping Lives which had enabled this part of their journey so smoothly. Amidst much cheering and clapping, Mr Prabhakar then handed over the participation certificates for the day, with a gift pouch, to each of the CSUC members. The gift pouch and contents are the product of the Ladli Vocational Training and production program of I-India.
Ms Janelle Gardner, in her thank you note on return to California wrote, “Dear Anil, Thank you so very much for sharing all of these precious pictures with me! I will send them to the whole group so everyone can enjoy them. Thank you for making our experience in India at both NGOs so incredibly special! Participating at both clinics was the highlight of our trip to India. You and the whole team made all of us feel valued and appreciated. Most of the students had never traveled outside of the United States and their experience at both NGOs helped them to value the differences as well as the similarities between people in the US and India. The students said over and over again that their trip to India was a once in a life time trip. My hope is that the students will continue to travel the world to offer assistance where ever they can. Your team was so wonderful! Thank you for organizing everything! I am forever grateful for your kindness and generosity of spirit. Hopefully Tim (her husband) and I will be able to visit you again in India. Thank you once again! Sincerely, Janelle, Janelle Gardner RN, MSN, PhD, Professor of Nursing, California State University, Chico, USA”
Family of Disabled
A small insert on this wonderful NGO for Jun 2014. People at FOD work to give livelihood and hope to the disabled and they held their quarterly event of distribution of mobility aids and appliances on 29 Jun. Shaping Lives associates with them occasionally and has facilitated a major live painting medley at Select CityWalk Mall for disabled artists under their aegis. As an invitee, Shaping Lives gifted 10 cartons of clothes for one of their programs. The function was a touching reality of the grit and determination of courageous men and women converting their disability into ability and financial independence through self- empowerment.
With these two health check-up camps, Shaping Lives broke another milestone in its outreach to bring smiles by being a bridge between the clients and our empowered and efficient empanelled NGOs.
Events : Shaping Lives – May 2014
Volunteer Group UK : May is a lean month due to the extreme heat conditions. However, Shaping Lives had a volunteer group from a UK Hospice, the seventh in less than a year doing their charity work leg courtesy us in the first week. This year, the group, from Dovehouse Hospice, was facilitated by Shaping Lives to paint the Global Cancer Concern India (GCCI) centre located in the NCR region of Gurgaon, about 25 kms from Delhi. The tie up and booking of the premises had been done as early as Oct 2013.
The Centre was in dire need of repair and renovation and the Shaping Lives professional team moved in on 30 Apr afternoon to start the denting and repair work and have the complex ready for the volunteers working on 03 – 04th May. On 02 May, 22 Dovehouse Hospice volunteers descended on the premises to take a look, meet the GM CSR, Col Anil Alagh, and form a plan of action to take on the task at hand. They all seemed excited as they conjectured designs and colors to achieve the motif, ‘HOPE’, as the vision desired for the Centre by GCCI.
Saturday morning saw them de-bus and head for the brushes, rollers and paint in jovial zest. They had pre-allocated areas and tasks amongst themselves, and set about them in earnest. The ladies, young and old, seemed more energetic initially, but the boys caught on soon enough. The walls began to take color and demands on our professional painters to create new colors or replenish the empty trays became more frequent. Marti, the approx. 65 year old volunteer grandmother was a workhorse and perhaps the main designer as well, as the group kept approaching her for advice and color combinations to take in the designs next day. By evening, the Centre, which had been in a dilapidated state, started to come alive. The team had worked hard and done well.
The next day was unfortunate. The Indian summer heat, their previous 4 days trek and the painting fatigue combined with a wee bit of Delhi-belly perhaps, laid most of them low. They were unable to come in. they were perhaps the first of over 15 groups who had done volunteer work with us, to fall prey to the Indian summer conditions. But, a promise had been made to GCCI, and GM CSR, took over the pencil and livened up the walls with trees and butterflies and lots of sunflowers, something the GCCI team had desired. He briefed his Indian professional team on the color codes and finesse desired, working with them, and by evening of Sunday, the designs started to stand out. This effort by his team and him, continued over two more days in absence of the group members until the Centre was fully done and shining.
He also took time out on Sunday afternoon to visit the group at the Hotel. The few who could, came down to the lobby, and as GM, CSR, he handed over ‘Appreciation Certificates’ for each of them to the Dovehouse representative, Katy Woods. Their spirit was still willing as they apologized profusely for their absence but were assured that the job would be done well and their work on the previous day had been commendable. The volunteers handed over lots of goodies brought for children by each one of them, which Shaping Lives later distributed under intimation to them. Becky Baynes, Dovehouse Fundraising Coordinator, on returning to London in her thanksgiving to Col Alagh wrote, ‘Thank you so much for your email. It was lovely to hear from you and I am so glad that the project has been completed. I am extremely sorry that I was not able to meet with you on Sunday, as I very much wanted to apologise in person. However, the illness stopped me even coming down to reception even though I wanted to. Everyone in the team was desperate to finish the project, but unfortunately it seems circumstances got in the way – as life can! In the end, the whole group caught the illness and some are still feeling ill today. However, everyone had a wonderful time on Saturday and we were so pleased to have helped where we could. Plus, it was an absolute pleasure to meet yourself, Ganesh and Dr. Behura. The pictures are fantastic and I look forward to sharing them with the whole team! I will especially pass on your regards to Marti and Dave. Thank you for letting us be part of the centre’s history and inviting us to help where we could. All of us wish you and everyone involved the very best of luck for the future and hope that a lot of people are helped and supported by the service. We also hope to visit India again, as we had such a wonderful experience (despite a little bit of illness!). Very best wishes, Becky.
One more volunteer target had been achieved, albeit with a few hiccups, and Shaping Lives now eagerly awaits its next lot of volunteers from a medical university for two medical camps, one each in Delhi and Jaipur in the rural belts in Jun.
Project Arman Medical : Our 160 children of Project Arman underwent their first bi-annual medical check-up under aegis of an outsourced medical company SEVAMOB. The company has been hired to conduct not just the detailed medical check-up, basic medication and deworming but also undertake awareness classes on personal hygiene, substance abuse and sex education and awareness for our children, as part of Shaping Lives enhancement of holistic all round care for these children of local waste-pickers of Nizamudin, Delhi.
The Chintan team at Nizamudin joined the SEVAMOB doctors and staff and over 90% children underwent the camp over two days. The remaining few were addressed the next week. We now have a soft database of all our children and this would form the base of ensuring timely treatment and regular check-ups henceforth. The next check-up is scheduled for Nov 2014, however should any child need urgent medical attention in interim, Shaping Lives will intervene and have it facilitated.
Events: Apr 2014 And Shaping Lives
The swallows were showing their dove-tails as the new Indian Financial Year started this month and summer was sending in feelers of foreboding hot winds and parched lands and yet……. Shaping Lives had happy days with a good strong month of initiatives and interventions with our NGOs from clients across the globe. There was a tragedy too that marred the joy and let us take that on first.
The Earth Saviours Foundation : The wonderful NGO looking after old and destitute besides an informal school and day care for local poor children was razed to the ground in a devastating fire on the night intervening 03 – 04 Apr. Except one shelter everything was destroyed. The only saving grace was just 2 dead out of over 140 destitute and disabled who were given happiness here. Help flowed in abundance. We too did our bit. Le Passage colleagues from pan-India pitched with cash. Ms Arantxa sitting as TUI Sustainable Development Head did a fund collection and remitted from abroad. As a Company, Le Passage to India donated two sets of computers and peripherals to get their office re-started. From the ashes they will rise to a better future is all that one can hope, pray and assist in. As this goes into print, the remnants of the NGO are under makeshift shelters in another location, far from comfort, but assured of love, compassion and enough to eat.
Peter Symonds College Group from UK : An impromptu request for an NGO visit at Delhi saw this group of students troop into Deepalaya on 04 Apr. They would later visit the Elephant Rescue Centre at Agra under aegis of Wildlife SOS on 11 Apr as well. The impact and happiness was obvious as they went around understanding the background of the children and the level of confidence, change and upliftment education would bring into their lives.
TEMA Series at I-India Jaipur : On the same day, the last of the TEMA series clients spent an enlightening 3 hours at the JHAG village Centre of I-India, interacting with children, seeing the hostels and the mini-hospital and understanding the outreach this NGO has provided to the rural backward belt barely 30 kms from Jaipur.
Giggleswick School UK – T-20 Cricket Match : This was the coup-de-grace of the month. The boys’ cricket team accompanied by their Director Sports, Mr Daniel Cook and coaches, arrived at the Deepalaya Sanjay Colony School by 0930h on 07 Apr. The essence of the visit was to familiarize the visitors with the nurturing ground of the children they were later to play the cricket match with. The round of the school and mingling with both normal and special children was followed by the community round, suggested by GM Shaping Lives. This round always sensitizes the visitor of the living conditions and adds more value in terms of understanding and appreciation of their not so well off peers. So it was once again with them too. All of them in their teens, this was a new experience in how the Indian less privileged live in shanties, yet in harmony and with a dream for their children to grow beyond their homes. A dream that is often realized due to efforts of NGOs like Deepalaya, facilitated by Foundations like Shaping Lives. The queries by these young boys were many and it was a pleasure to answer each in detail.
The round of the school over, a huge stock of books and stationery brought by each boy from monies saved, was collected and handed over to the Deepalaya team as their gift to the children. Fond farewells later, the team moved to the Jamia University Cricket Stadium not far away and were greeted by the NGOs cricket team and coaches already warming up there. The match was more of building bridges through interaction and sensitization, and hence a decision was taken to have 2 matches with 4 mixed teams to allow every member present to avail the field. Restrictions on each batting pair getting only two overs and every player mandated to bowl at least one over, added to the excitement as the mixed teams were selected. Initial shyness soon gave way to bonhomie as pairs of one from each school were formed by respective Captains and the field came alive in typical T-20 Cricket match fashion.
As the day passed, guards were lowered, and inhibitions gradually took a back seat and not just friendship but more was visible. Many of the Giggleswick boys, handed over their cricket kits at the end of their innings to their Deepalaya pairs. It was indeed a visible indicator of their natural compassion and of course the school and basic upbringing. The two matches were spaced out with a lunch break with the visitors trying some Indian food alongside their Deepalaya counterparts.
Matches over, it was time for the thanksgiving and appreciation formalities. Sachin, the spinner from Deepalaya, was chosen the man-of-the-match and given a special gift by Mr Cook. The Deepalaya coaches each got an appreciation memento and the entire Giggleswick team, gifted whatever equipment and cricket gear they could, to the Deepalay counterparts, via their captains Callum and Saurabh. It was also a pleasure to have Ms Heather, one of the chairs of the School Board, also present and spending time to watch the match. Deepalaya, represented by a senior team of teachers, presented every Giggleswick member a return gift in form of a Deepalaya engraved mug as a memento. Handshakes and hugs later, all of us exited the stadium, carrying memories will which remain for a long time to come.
Asia Education Foundation, Australia : This group of 11 teachers from across Australia, made a very short notice request to Shaping Lives for a CSR interlude. What better than Deepalaya once again, with education as the backdrop. Ms Maureen, their Group escort, had earlier been on a familiarization round of Deepalaya during 2013 with the GM, and it was obviously a pleasure to have her back with visitors here. A very detailed briefing by Ms Shikha, the school head, was followed by a long question and answer session on various education modes and volunteer opportunities. The teachers, most of them kindergarten and upto level 5 back in Australia, found it easy to bond with the tiny- tots as they displayed their skills and tricks to the accompaniment of Educomp classes (education via computer lesson plans) being displayed on the smart boards.
They were also impressed by Ms Sangeeta as she conducted them around her section of children with disabilities and explained the IES teaching methodology on a ratio of 6 – 8 children per special educator. A birdseye view of the cluster from where the children come also sensitized the teachers of their backgrounds and added words of appreciation to Deepalaya’s efforts at bringing good education to the less privileged’ s doorstep.
Humanite Group – France : A group of senior Journalists visited Deepalaya on 16 Apr afternoon and were personally briefed and conducted around the Sanjay Colony facility by Mr TK Mathew, the Founder. The rapport established was so good that the group spent over 90 mins of their 2 hour visit interacting with just him and getting his vision of Deepalaya, 5 – 10 years from now.
SOS Children’ Village, Jaipur : While we have done visits to the NCR ones, this was the first visit to the Jaipur SOS Village by an Indian Routes group. They were impressed with the disciplined lay out and mode of making the children feel the family effect via mini-homes with designated mothers running them independently as they would a family.
Special volunteer : towards the end of the month, we had a impromptu request for a 2 - 3 day volunteer opportunity by a Spanish lady. Shaping Lives does not deny goodness a chance, and she was placed at the Gusbethi Deepalaya Gram after a flurry of calls and liaison within 3 hours. She was so happy there that she extended her stay by another 3 days and Deepalaya hospital gained from a machine she used to conduct tests on multiple patients every day.
Deepalaya has been in the forefront of activity this month and all groups have promised advocacy and an attempt to assist via funds and resources once they return home. Shaping Lives hopes that the bond survives the distances, and the NGO gains from our initiative of sending inbound clients to them. Signing off, as GM Shaping Lives, I am very satisfied with the outreach we have been able to create for our clients with our NGOs. As I pen this, plans and preparations are already in line for the volunteer group coming in during first week of May to paint the Global Cancer Concern of India primary health care centre in Gurgaon, approximately 25 km from Delhi.
Indian Routes, Operational Unit Of “Le Passage” Brings Smiles To Jaipur Ngos By Facilitating “Flights of fantasy- Sequel II” On 26 Mar 2014
Rahul Bhati, NGO I-India, 17 year old guest child on Flight of Fantasy – Sequel – II states “The best experience of my life… Thanks to LPTI for fulfilling our dreams to fly like a bird…”
Every child born into wealth or poverty nurtures a dream of flying, of touching the skies, being caressed by the clouds, looking down on midget houses and people from the window of an airplane, feeling the freedom which comes with cavorting fantasy. We, at Le Passage, understand this and had made a promise to our empanelled NGOs on inception that we would make the dream of flying a reality for our challenged and marginalized children whenever opportunity afforded.
Le Passage to India, the award winning No 1 Destination Management Company, repeated its promise to bring this dream of air travel for special and marginalized children true once again for 54 children and staff from various NGOs in Jaipur and two peons from our local offices as well. Its special business unit, Indian Routes, headed by Ms Kiran Joti, Executive Director, offered to fly the children from NGOs empanelled with Le Passage Travel Foundation (Shaping Lives) on a charter leg between Agra – Jaipur, as part of her unit’s extended CSR activity. Their intent was to get in children from Jaipur via road, enable sight-seeing of Taj Mahal and send them back to Jaipur on the Charter Aircraft.
It was short notice facilitation, but not one to be whittled away. Shaping Lives set to work and galvanized three of its key Jaipur NGO partners, UMANG and DISHA Foundation caring for children with cerebral limitations like Cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, Autism and others, and I-India caring for abandoned and marginalized street children. An early morning move was to be avoided as the special children would be unable to cope with the travel strain and hence the only option was to bring them into Agra on 25 Mar 2014. The overnighter would however entail extra costs and over-strain the CSR budget and intent of Indian Routes. A way out had to found. GM, Shaping Lives, Col (Retd) Anil Alagh, through his army contacts, requested the Indian Army’s Wives Welfare Association for the overnight stay support as part of their ASHA or special school activity. It was readily sanctioned and requisitioned with one of the elite Red Beret units located in Agra.
The children and their escorts, were mustered into AC coaches and bid farewell by Mr Khalid Khan, Le Passage’s Rajasthan Head, and his team, on the 25th afternoon at Jaipur, arriving late evening due to a major traffic snarl, into the welcome embrace of their friend GM, Shaping Lives and waiting ladies, officers and men of the Army Unit to a high tea laid out on the lawns of their Mess. The joy and excitement of personalized pampering by uniformed men was apparent in the children eyes. The hosts, esp Mrs Bajwa, the first lady of the outfit, too went overboard in their love and care as they went around feeding them goodies and handing over chocolates to each child.
As they chose to walk to the Army barrack prepared for them, they were waylaid by a special detachment of soldiers who gave them a ‘salute’ worthy of Generals and the excited children yelped ‘Jai Hind’ in return. The children were escorted and assisted by two army buddies per NGO, into their respective barracks. Immaculately done, the beds laid out, everything shining in typical military precision and lay-out, the barracks floored them. The dining hall or langar was next door and a quick wash and change later, they trooped in to a typical army meal, served personally by their hosts. As they trudged back into barracks and beds, the exhausted GM, Shaping Lives also called it a day. Tomorrow was to be the cherry on the cake.
Such was the excitement of the anticipated airplane ride that the children were ready an hour before time in the morning. A soldierly standard breakfast later, the Indian Routes coaches arrived to take them to romance the Taj. Many hugs and goodbyes to their Army hosts and new found Uncles preceded boarding. The Army uncles also didn’t seem too happy as the buses took the children away. A bond of love and compassion had taken form in the short stay, especially with the special children. On the way to the Taj Mahal, Mr Rajesh Sharma, Agra region head stopped them at Kalakriti, for a group photograph, a copy of which was given to each of our travelers eventually.
This motley bunch finally walked or wheel-chaired into Taj Mahal for a glimpse of this seventh wonder of the world thereafter. Jaw-drops, awe, delight, happiness, multiple expressions and 100s of photographs later, having romanced the Taj, the children were whisked away to the Airport, where Ms Kiran Joti, Executive Director, Indian Routes, and the initiator of this wonderful ‘Flights of Fantasy – Sequel II’ not only received them with Mr Nitin Sangary, her key aide on this CSR initiative, but also gifted the famous ‘Panchi Petha’ pack (local sweetmeat) for each child to be given onboard as a surprise farewell gift.
As the children were handed over their individual boarding passes and walked through the security checks, their angelic faces showed a mix of excitement and apprehension on what was to be their first air travel. However, all that became history, as they stepped onto the tarmac and were ushered onto the aircraft by equally animated and happy Jet Airways ground and inflight crew. The glee, the rapid fire questions, the visible anticipatory excitement of taking off, were enough for us all to realize how happy our children were, as besides the inflight crew, we pitched in to ensure seatbelts fastened and each special child cajoled into not moving during take-off and eventually landing. As the aircraft doors closed, a wee bit of apprehension was again visible on every tiny face. But that was to be. It was a mixture of shock and awe, of a realization that their dream of actually travelling by air was coming true. The take-off was amidst a few squeals, a few closed eyes, a few tight hugs to their escorts by the younger special children, but then, as the plane entered cruise mode, necks strained long and sideways to catch the clouds flying by and see the tiny earth far below. Most chose to tuck the inflight snack into their bags, along with the petha pack gifted by Indian Routes, to avoid missing out the flight experience.
As we landed and trudged out of the Jaipur airport, the contentment and happiness was visible on the face of every escort and child. No longer was air travel, a “Flight of Fantasy”. It was a reality, an experience brought to their doorstep by Le Passage family, by Ms Kiran Joti and her team of lovely compassionate people. For us at Shaping Lives, the Charter was a godsend, and helped in fulfilling the promise that we would use Le Passage’s travel background to enable experiences the children had only dream about.
The children were profuse in their hugs and expressions of thanks as they trudged out of the Jaipur terminal, wishing the flight had never ended and they could have spent more time with Shaping Lives. It was a grudging goodbye but one that must happen for a new experience to commence. It is impossible to put their feelings into print, however, some extracts of what our NGOs wrote back to tell us are ….
DISHA Foundation : Dear Col Alagh, Greetings from Disha! The cheer and the smiles on the face of our staff and the students express that they have been taken care of very well by you and your team. It has been a very well organized and wonderful trip. The arrangements and your planning and managing of the event were very good as always and the entire Disha family expresses its gratitude for the trip. We thank you deeply from our heart for all the cooperation that we received from you and your team during the entire trip. Thank you once again and warm regards, Kavita Apoorva Verma, Director.
UMANG, Jaipur: Dear Col Alagh Once again you brought smiles and laughter to so many faces through your magical flight of fantasy. The group that joined the two day trip to Agra on 25th, 26th and return by flight hav`nt stopped talking of the trip and all the fun they had , it is difficult to make out whether it was the Taj mahal or the flight back home that was more exciting. I am mailing a few drawings and write up of their experiences by post. I was told by the staff who accompanied them that all arrangements were made with military precision, even the smallest of needs was taken care of, so much like you to go in every detail .Your personal presence made all the difference. The children were delighted to see you. They loved having you around with them all the time. It was very reassuring for the staff also. Your warmth and love for the children reaches them, no wonder you are their favorite uncle. Like all their trips with you this one will be a trip they will always remember. Please convey our heartfelt gratitude to your MD, Mr Arjun Sharma, Ms Kiran Joti, and all the staff of Le Passage for this memorable experience who made it possible and everyone who was present to ensure all went smoothly. You sure are a Company that cares. With many thanks from all of us at Umang. Deepak Kalra , Director, Umang, 3/4 Kabir Avenue, Mansarovar, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. Ph-+91-141-2395099. www.umangindia.org <http://www.umangjaipur.org>
NGO I-India: Respected Sir, Greetings from Jaipur! We are sending some very catchy feedbacks duly translated into English, received from our I-India children on the most valuable and momentous trip of their life:
Rahul Bhati- “The best experience of my life… Thanks to LPTI for fulfilling our dreams to fly like a bird…”
Pooja- “I never thought of being a part of such a great excursion, especially to be a guest of Indian Army camp at Agra and then actually to travel home in an aeroplane. The soldiers are truly strong guards of our country and work for others selflessly… the flight was my dream come true…. Our salute to all”
Deepak- “Many years back it took me so long to reach Jaipur Railway station by train, bus and walk all alone. Hard to believe the speed of an aircraft and express my exciting experience inside it, and also our visit to TAJ MAHAL. Great experience…..Thank you Anil Ji Sir! ”
Shabnam Bano- “Most of the time we see Taj Mahal, Aircraft and Indian Soldiers in our books, TV or newspapers…. It was truly a great experience to travel by an aircraft, being a guest of Indian Soldiers and visiting Taj Mahal all in one trip. Unbelievable….. that’s what I and all my friends say for this memorable trip with LPTI! ”
Once again thanks for this great and valuable opportunity.... our salute to you!!! Best regards, Charu, NGO I-India, 23, Mahatma Gandhi Nagar, DCM, Ajmer Road, Jaipur-302021 (India), t: +91 141 2353317/ 2352576 e: firstname.lastname@example.org w: www.i-indiaonline.com
Another chapter to bring smiles to our children closes with this outing and we await the new season, to reach out to them again, through our wonderful and compassionate travel partners, clients and our own exceptional colleagues of the Le Passage family.
Shaping Lives And The Colors Of Holi
Enough would have been written and read on the joy of Holi. How does Shaping Lives celebrate it? …. It does so in various ways each year. This Holi, Shaping Lives took the initiative to facilitate a sale desk for a Delhi NGO, SAMVEDNA, which encourages marginalized families to collect old flowers from temple offerings and marriage functions, dry and crush them to make organic eco-friendly colors for various celebrations. The desk met with a wonderful response in that besides the office colleagues, many locals and visitors to the Haus Khas market also picked up their ware. Two Hotels of Select Group, The Heritage Village and Spa, Manesar, a sprawling 12 acre lush green property, and Hotel ANILA, a Delhi heartland one, picked up their bulk stocks for the celebrations as well.
Shaping Lives also sent out a facilitator mail for Holi celebrations at one of our NGOs The Earth Saviours Foundation in Delhi. The Le Passage operational teams sent in 22 willing clients for the experience. The guests were received at TESF by their coordinator, Ms Mahi, who ensured a safe yet enjoyable Holi for them. They spent a good 2-3 hours playing Holi with children, destitute and staff and we are sure they will retain colorful memories of this outing. At least their photographs and the color filled smiles are our testimony to their happiness.
“An Indian Escape” Commences 2014 With CSR Interventions
New Year 2014 started beautifully for Shaping Lives. AN INDIAN ESCAPE, one of the many diverse special business units that we have, came in with a request mid-Dec to facilitate a Canadian group of fourteen into two charities in Delhi at the start of 2014. They specifically wished to donate sewing machines for women empowerment and then visit an institution with about 200 children, preferably orphans. Hectic liaison and exchange of mails followed to ensure these specific requests were honored via good NGOs.
The first interaction was organized with our empanelled NGO Manzil. New machines were purchased from the pre-gifted amount and as the Group made its way into the small room doubling up as an informal school in morning and a tailoring training unit in the afternoon in the winding alleys of Kotla, Delhi, there were a few raised eyebrows on what the evening possibly held. Those doubts were soon laid to rest as Mrs Gulati, the Founder mother of Manzil, or 75 plus something Auntie-jee, as she is popularly known, received the guests with Mrs Sangeeta Bhatia and the 15 ladies of the self-help group undergoing tailoring classes under Manzil tutelage. Briefings were followed by casual chat with the women trainees, some on-the-spot music by a Manzil member livened up the evening further and Cristina, from the Group, took up the guitar to serenade Manzil as well.
As Prabhat, business head of AN INDIAN ESCAPE looked on with a smile, Aunty-jee flaunted her knitting skills and enthralled the ladies with her experience. The coup d’état was an impromptu song and dance where each and every one possibly lost themselves in the beat and the bonhomie. The ribbon cutting and presentation of machines to Manzil was done by group members. A tea/coffee and cake interlude and one-on-one interactions were followed by thanksgiving and the elated Group weaved through the narrow alleys of Kotla onto their Coach amidst smiles and satisfaction. As the GM – CSR bid goodnight, he promised them a different but equally soulful experience the next day.
The Next Day : A good sight-seeing morning later, the group wove through Delhi traffic to reach the SOS Children Village (SOS CV) at Faridabad around 4.00 p.m. SOSCV is an international organization and the one at Faridabad is the oldest and in its 50th year of existence. It has 20 homes with 08 to 10 children in each. Each home has a mother and operates as an independent household within the community parameters. As the Coach parked, Col Alagh, GM Shaping Lives, re-apprised the Group of the new photography and others rules. 10 huge suitcases full of new clothes, good toys and re-usable books came out from the Coach, gifts brought in by this wonderful group headed by Jane. A round of briefing by the Village Administrator with a cup of tea and interaction followed.
Thereafter, we started the round. They were escorted first to the grocery shop from where the ‘mothers’ purchased the rations etc., and then taken to different homes. Neatly kept and managed, the group was overwhelmed with all that they saw and the care and concern shown by each ‘mother’ for her wards. Tears of compassion and joy at being associated with such a fine organisation mingled freely. The children were at play and soon some of the more enterprising and younger ladies, took to the basketball court with them, while the others continued their round of this beautifully laid out facility. Guests are not permitted in premises beyond 5.30 p.m. and it was with great difficulty that the tour guide and the GM, pulled away the guests from the children as they played and made merry on the lawns next to the office around 6.00 p.m.
As we bade them final goodbye when they were seated inside the Coach, there were ample assurances of some of them returning to do community service, whilst others promised fund-raising and more for the SOS CV. Some had tears, others had contentment, but it was unanimous that this experience had moved them and perhaps raised their compassion level a notch higher than what already existed. To Prabhat at AN INDIAN ESSCAPE, one can only say thanks, and to Jane, the Canadian group promoter, she was love and compassion epitomised. A wonderful woman, who had brought in 200 toilet kits @ one per child, diligently packed on the Group’s behalf by her and her daughter. Shaping Lives sends special thanks to Jane for this.
Xmas with Shaping Lives
TUI INDIA AND SHAPING LIVES
When Ms Arantxa Garcia, Head Sustainable Development, TUI Travel Accommodation and Destinations sent in a mailer to Shaping Lives asking if we, in India, would like to join the global TUI campaign of “no child without a toy” for this Xmas, we re-aligned our Xmas charity plans to team up with TUI India and be a part of the global effort. Mr Vishal Sinha, CEO, TUI India also consented to change the plans for a charity lunch to the toy campaign and Mr Arjun Sharma, Managing Director, Le Passage to India directed Shaping Lives to pitch in with our own contributions.
An empanelled NGO, The Earth Saviours Foundation, located in Vasant Kunj was chosen. It houses over 130 destitute and abandoned senior citizens and simultaneously runs an informal day school for approx. 80 children from the local slums belonging to various less privileged backgrounds. Mutually deciding on 18 Dec as the date, the plan was to have a high tea for all inmates and follow it up with toy distribution to the children. GM Shaping Lives, Col Anil Alagh, and a representative of TUI, spent two days surveying the markets and picked up both individual and common use toys. The individual ones were in two lots, the one for the toddlers was a soft toy each and the second for slightly senior ones was a money bank with a huge TUI smile, intention being to make them understand the joy and value of saving small.
The coordination having been done with TESF by Shaping Lives, everything was ready for action as the volunteers from TUI India, NOIDA office and Le Passage descended on TESF premises on said date. The children were thrilled to know that they would be able to take the toy being presented, home as well. Their additional happiness manifested in their smiles when they saw that a cricket set, footballs, hoop-la rings, skipping ropes, multiple board and puzzle games were being presented in addition for their recreation and learning during school hours as well.
The TUI and Le Passage volunteers were initially encouraged to mingle with the children. That took a few minutes. And then, one really wondered, who was enjoying more, the children or the volunteers, as they laughed and played and munched on their muffins and samosas. Almost everyone tried their hand at the hoop-la, with Mr Sunil Hasija, TUI winning at least on camera. Mr Vishal Sinha, COO was travelling and missed. We had deliberately added the muffin to revive memories of the “TUI Muffin Xmas 2012’ at the same NGO and we hope that TUI- Delhi shall keep this tradition alive. The high tea was of course shared with the senior citizens, destitute and staff as well. TESF, as a gesture of appreciation presented a wall clock to each of our volunteers.
TUI – India, Le Passage and Shaping Lives also take this opportunity to send Xmas greetings to all our global colleagues and wish you a year of prosperity, contentment and inner peace ahead. Keep track of us on www.shaping-lives.org.
THE SECOND XMAS CELEBRATIONS
Close on the heels of the Xmas outing for TUI – India, Shaping Lives brought in children with disabilities from our affiliated Deepalaya Special School, Delhi, for a morning out to the premium Select Citywalk Mall, Saket, Delhi. This outing was facilitated by Mr Qameer Zafeer’s SBU handling the Italian market. It was a wonderfully thought up acknowledgment of the paintings done by these children which were used to make customized files for individual clients for his Italian market.
A total of 55 children and staff enjoyed going around and admiring the wonderful Xmas decorations. They were a fair mix of hearing & speech impaired and autistic and challenged children. A photo session in various areas and a surprise jujube treat by the GM, Shaping Lives at the candy shop delighted the children as they experienced the thrill of using an escalator both ways, most of them actually for the first time.
The huge Christmas tree with a wonderful depiction of the manger depicting the birth of Christ and the visit of the three wise men was the main attraction in the main Atrium area. Another surprise awaited the children as they gazed at the 40 feet high tree shimmering and shining in all its glory. The Mall management does extensive CSR and Shaping Lives often partners it. In this visit, on request by us to Saloni, our Mall contact, they agreed to surprise the children by gifting them chocolates at the tree, and sure enough, they kept to their word as the CEO and COO themselves accompanied by their team came in and did the honours.
It was the first time the sun had come out after 3 dreary days of winter fog and cloud cover and the children were then taken outdoors and just generally made to freak out. Volunteers Priyanka and Neeti from Qamar’s team pampered the children no end and while the former seemed to bond with autistic Rani, Neeti was all encompassing. As the children enjoyed the sunlight, the GM slipped out to the KFC outlet and placed the order for their special meal.
KFC was fun too and the chicken may be ‘finger lickin’ good’ but what was better was the joy and happiness on savoring it in our children’ eyes. Lunch over, the hatrick of surprises was a gift of an individual toy to each child, esp selected by Ms Sangeeta, the Special School head. The hosts also presented a music system and educational toys for the School in addition to the outing and goodies. As the children then trooped into their transport for the ride back to school, there were lots of byes and flying kisses. To the un-initiated, a flying kiss by a special child means the world. It means you have gained their confidence, their love and their trust and they liked being with you. It is an honest expression and at Shaping Lives we treasure them beyond compare.
We also take this opportunity to thank Qamar and his team for sponsoring the outing and peripherals and Mr Shashi Sharma and Mr Yogeshwar Sharma at the Mall for being a graceful part of the fun and making our children feel special and loved. Merry Xmas.
Project Arman : Pilot Initiative Of Shaping Lives
It has been a great quarter ending Dec 2013. Riding on a series of volunteer groups doing pre-coordinated renovation and painting works at our NGOs coupled with numerous short duration group visits to varied NGOs, Shaping Lives gave special focus to our signature Project, viz., Project Arman for the children of waste pickers of Nizamudin, Delhi during the month. A value addition during this quarter has been family visits to our NGOs, where clients have specially asked for such sensitization experiences for their children. Xmas celebrations were of course omnipresent.
Project Arman : Annual Party and Upgrade
The staff and children of Arman look forward to an annual ‘bash’ around Diwali in November every year. Commitments at both ends delayed this to 02 Dec this year. The children were restless and it was a tough situation for Col Anil Alagh, GM, Shaping Lives to convince them that the party ‘was just around the corner’ during his weekly visits to the Project in November. God ordained a nice sunshine filled day as the Le Passage Admin team ensured the set-up and administrative support was in place at the Sunder Nagar lawns.
Bouncies, clown, nail and hair dressers, tattoo team, candy floss man and a magician and DJ from Mr Migma’s Qshow Events, our ever willing and pro-active partner in this annual party, were all charged up as the 160 children arriving in busloads were received amidst hugs and handshakes by the GM. The next four hours were one chaotic, crazy, frenzied melee of fun and games and repeated rounds of candy floss. Lots of games and an equal number of prizes kept the children on a high. The Select Hotels sales and marketing team sent in volunteers in addition to our Le Passage ones, while The Heritage Village Hotel and Spa, Manesar F & B team laid out a complimentary lavish lunch for the ever hungry children.
Our girls are coming of age….was so apparent when they sashayed their confidence as they walked the ramp in a game, with Mrs Jyotsna Sharma, Director as the judge, and the Managing Director Le Passage, Mr Arjun Sharma, looking on in pride, sensing fructification of his signature project. Dancing and miscellaneous games followed under the loving stewardship of Anees Khan, who is a magician as well, and whose presence is always complimentary by his own choice in this party.
It took 14 volunteers to finally seat the children for lunch and Shaping Lives compliments the volunteers for the love and care with which they fed the children. The F & B team went overboard in their affection and that was nice to see. The biryani was a hit and the sweet! …. gulab jamun ….. well! Some of the tiny brats gorged on over 5 – 6 each until they had to be restrained on health grounds.
As the children and staff enjoyed, Ms Bharati Chaturvedi, Director Chintan, the NGO which runs this project for us and us, Mr Arjun Sharma and Col Alagh, took time out for a serious discussion. Mr Sharma observed the children’ lack of nourishment, and a decision was taken to undertake a medical camp, introduce filtered drinking water and one health supplement in the form of milk or fruits per day to upgrade the Project commitment. A time limit of earliest but not later than year-end was given.
As the children started tiring and the afternoon settled, it became time for the party to end. The children were seated and as their takeaway gift this year, each filed past the ‘return gift’ table getting a brand new school bag with ‘Armani and the Shaping Lives logo’ embossed on it. As they trooped out, smiling and full of thank you(s), they were also handed over a snack box with compliments of ‘ANILA Hotel’, our new partner in this annual party.
Fortunately, their bus got a little late. Why? Col Alagh, who had been trying for 3 years to get in Mr Kapil Dev, iconic Indian cricketer, saw him return home just opposite the venue, and was able to convince him to spend 10 minutes with his Armanis. To the credit of this Indian sports legend, he came, shook the over-zealous 150 hands, allowed himself to be photographed with the thrilled children and staff, and made their day. It was the icing to the cake perhaps. We can only say, ‘Thank you’ for this very compassionate and unplanned gesture.
As Dec closed, the medical camp had been held under aegis of a social organization named DCWA (Delhi Commonwealth Women association’. We were able to get over 80% children examined. The others were at school undergoing examinations and could not be pulled out. The children were all administered de-worming doses and given iron and vitamin capsules, beside routine medicines as diagonised and recommended by the three very senior and experienced doctors who checked them. A DCWA card was also made for each child for future medi-care. The Chintan team also recorded their weight and height with a view to reviewing the effects of the health supplement which was introduced on the same day. The R O plant was installed by the year end and the children given a bottle each to encourage them to not just consume safe drinking water while at the Project but also take home a bottle each for the night.
The next medical camp would be in Apr where we would also review the benefit of the health supplement over the three months. Project Arman has thus become a high value composite entity from a mere educational support unit and we are hopeful that the additions will ensure improvement in health and nutrition for our children.
Xmas parties and numerous group visits have also taken place in Dec and these are available for your reading pleasure in the Dec 2013 events column of www.shaping-lives.org. we also take this opportunity to wish all readers a very satisfying 2014.
Events Orchestrated By Shaping Lives : Nov 2013
After a hectic and extremely varied CSR interface in Oct, Shaping Lives commenced Nov 2013 with a charity lunch followed by visits by groups to I-India’s Jhag Centre and the remaining two volunteer groups finishing off the remaining painting and beautification work at the two Cankids Centres at Delhi.
Charity Lunch at TESF : Le Passage to India hosted a charity lunch on 01 Nov to all inmates of The Earth Saviours Foundation, Delhi. Senior citizens and destitute from this NGO had been displaced in September due to expiry of Lease of their premises but the landlord had a change of heart and extended it by six months in end Oct. The citizens had been sent to a Government home and Shaping Lives had committed that the day they returned to TESF, the first family meal would be sponsored by us. We kept our promise. It was a pleasure to once again see the entire staff, children and these seniors together as a family. The love and compassion that the TESF staff bestow on them could be seen in their comfort level. We enjoyed the same meal after having fed each and every member of the NGO.
Beautification at Cankids, Kotla Centre : The fourth volunteer group, Zoe’s Place, from a UK Hospice, UPS and a mental health group, landed at Cankids Home Away from Home (HAH) on 09 Nov. While the third had painted the upper residential floor, this group of 14 set about transforming the lower floor which houses the administrative office, a mini-study centre, the isolation room and the patients relaxation-cum-dining zone. While Pooja, the NIFT volunteer graduate with Cankids, had done the basic outlining, our team set about filling it with colors and adding much more detail and happiness. By the end of the work on 12 Nov, the whole floor looked liked an outdoor picnic with the sun, the clouds, a bright blue sky and numerous children prancing on the walls. The dining area came alive with a lavish birthday party layout. The study centre and corridor theme was a train. Two huge trains ordained the walls, one of which was drawn to precision by Adelle, a group volunteer. Helicopters and space ships also came up as part of a huge mobile plan. When work was completed to satisfaction of GM Shaping Lives, the Group was taken to the Gautam nagar Centre where Chris, Advisor – Candkids, a long stay volunteer himself, welcomed them and having given an overview of the NGO, presented each of them their individual appreciation certificates. A round of the facility enabled them to distribute their lovely gifts and confectionary to the children, besides meeting with the core team. Emotions ran high. They generally do and it is not a sign of being upset, to us at Shaping Lives, it is more a display of the inner goodness and compassion of an individual. It bonds and it releases too. Bonds with the children, releases the self for love for the suffering and a look into one’s own soul. This had been a wonderful group, full of mischief but very dedicated and hence the parting with Shaping Lives was a little more emotional than it normally is. Reminded one of the lovely team that had come down from UK Peace Hospice in May this year.
The Scandinavian Group : The first lot of a Scandinavian TEMA group series visited the I-India Jhag Centre on 11 Nov 2013. Comprising mostly of senior citizens, this was the first group in an 8 series CSR booking at Jaipur spread over Nov ’13 to Apr 2014. The traditional welcome, briefing and conduct by Mr Charu, one of the Founder members, were followed by a round of the multiple facilities. Senior citizens bond naturally with children. Perhaps it’s the old world charm or a gentleness and love induced by age and children/grand-children at home. That was once again visible as the children held their hands as they were guided through their hostel inducing contentment and a sense of belonging in the group. The intention in bringing such elderly groups into our empanelled NGOs is never commercial or material gain. It is mutually understood both by Shaping Lives and the NGO that we are giving ‘soul’ to our guests from abroad and the advocacy induced from such visits suffices all. This group went away happy and we hope that the message will trickle down to the others in line that a wonderful experience awaits them at Jhag Village on their Jaipur leg.
Remittances : The month also saw sizeable donations coming into I-India and Deepalaya by the Melbourne Girls’ Grammar School which visited them on 30 Sep and Mr Martin Williman, the Swiss birthday boy on 23 Oct at Deepalaya.
Cankids Gautam Nagar : The last of the five series groups from cancer related Hospices across UK arrived at the Cankids Gautam nagar, multi-storey centre on 22 Nov. They were given the introductory briefing by Mr Chris Williams, Advisor, NGO Cankids…Kidscan. GM, Shaping Lives took over thereafter and took them on a round of the sectors that this volunteer group was to address. It had the Basement training/conference and their MIS room to paint in standard colors and in a variation, they had to get creative on the terrace and make value additions to the May Group’s excellent work. The group was a wonderful mix of young 20-30 year olds and grandmothers as well. But each came with a huge heart and an energy waiting to be released in a compassionate cause. Notwithstanding age, the next two days saw them on ladders and table tops painting ceilings and walls, with scrubs and brushes cleaning up the floors and tiles in their sectors, on their knees on the terrace creating innovations to enthrall the kids. By the time they had finished on 24 Nov afternoon, the basement was sparkling, but it was the terrace where magic had happened. While the wall to entry to the kitchen had a procession of dainty multi-colored elephants, the service windows became sparkling white and the terrace floor saw a permanent hop-scotch and a snakes & ladders game painted on it so that the children could play in the winter sun. Much to the Group’s surprise and joy, Shaping Lives secretly purchased a huge dice to set the game rolling in their presence. Their store, a black structure due to neglect, was transformed into a sun and cloud motif with oriental blooms painted onto its walls. Perhaps the most inspiring of all the work was the removal of one broken overflow water pipe which was messing up the entire terrace at least 3-4 times a day and replacing it with a new one aligned to have its disposal in the main drain outlet at the far end of the terrace. The work was done by Wayne, a plumber by trade, and it was sheer joy to see him so engrossed.
Prior to lunch on the second day, the Group was taken on a tour of the Centre and met the children and parents in the wards. Though tears flowed freely, it is one of the surest signs that compassion has once again created long term bonds between both parties. Work over and floors and tables etc cleaned, the Group assembled on the terrace for a small thanksgiving by Chris again. They were also given their appreciation certificates much to their delight. These formalities over, all children, parents and Cankids staff available at the Centre on this Sunday were invited to a high tea and post a good 45 minutes session of mingling and merriment, the Group exited the gates of Cankids, Gautam Nagar, content and visibly happy that they had made a difference and their 2 day interlude had made a difference to their lives as well. Most of this group promised to affiliate and come back to Cankids in future or raise funds for them back home in UK.
Conclusion : November has once again been hectic and superb for Shaping Lives. It is to the credit of our operational teams and our agents and partners abroad that Shaping Lives is afforded the opportunity of introducing ‘good soul’ into itineraries and we hope for increased opportunities with time. High value projects of Shaping Lives are also being considered by some of our agents abroad and as GM Shaping Lives, I am sanguine that 2014 will see some of them fructify. Our first long duration volunteer Susan Graham, finished her tryst with St Catherine’s Home, Mumbai in mid-November and she writes.. From: Susan Graham [mailto:Susan.Graham……….uk], Sent: Tuesday, December 03, 2013 4:46 PM, To: Anil Alagh…… “Anil, I did indeed build some beautiful relationships with many of the young girls and indeed the Sisters, it was a truly inspiring time for me, really made me evaluate my own life and count my many blessings. Maybe on my next trip to India (and there will be many, I’m sure) we will get an opportunity to meet. Warmest regards Anil and thank you again for all your input to making my stay so wonderful and memorable. Susie.
Testimonials good or bad are always a delight to receive. The good urge and motivate us to do more and the bad….. well! They are what ensure that we make corrections and improvements so that every client who seeks ‘ soul’ through Shaping Lives, goes away contented and willing to come back for more.
As GM, Shaping Lives, I take this opportunity to convey appreciation and thanks to all our Le Passage business Units, our wonderful agents abroad and TUI-India for their support in 2013 and wish you all a blessed Christmas and Season’s Greetings 2014.
The Final October Fest via Shaping Lives
Lenidree Swiss Group Visits Deepalaya, Sanjay Colony
A short 2 hour visit to Deepalaya’s Sanjay Colony School on 23 Oct morning succeeded the volunteer group work at Cankids. The children gave the 20 odd guests a traditional welcome at the school gate and Ms Shikha, the Principal, led them to the briefing room. After a quick briefing of Deepalaya, suitably translated by the Tour Guide, and light refreshments, the group split into three and the round of the school for normal children began. The group was bowled over as the tiny tots sang and entertained them in various classrooms visited. The senior classes showed them the benefit of education via the computer generated Edu-com Smart Boards. A display of vocational products made by Deepalaya vocational groups also caught the guests fancy and almost every one of them picked up some product or the other as a memento.
The Group thereafter moved to the cluster housing Deepalaya’s School for special children. Sangeeta briefed them on her brood and as usual, the hearing and speech impaired bunch of naughty children mesmerized them with their headphones, sign language demonstrations and by repeatedly asking to see any photograph clicked in their presence.
When the tour leader Gabriela announced that it was Martin, a group member’s birthday, almost every class he visited made him feel special about it and Ms Shikha added a small gift as well. Martin and his lady wife Patricia were so overwhelmed and elated that they cancelled his invite for evening drinks to the entire Group and donated the money for the children welfare instead promising to send more when they reached back home.
Martin in his first mail writes “Estimated Col Anil Alagh, I very much would like to thank for their reception in the school, the gift and the friendliness of everyone. For me, this was one of my best birthdays of my life. The rays of the children, the singing of two classes of "happy birthday", everything has touched me deeply. My wife and i were moved to tears. For your hard work in favor of disadvantaged children, we thank you very much and wish you continued strength in this work. We would like to send you a further sum of money for the NGO school, you have a bank account? Thank you for your answer. Kind regards from Switzerland - Patricia und Martin Willimann”.
The details for a direct foreign remittance to Deepalaya were sent to them immediately and the couple sent a lovely picture of Martin perhaps making his commitment for the donation to his local parish with an email that read “Dear Col Anil Alagh, Thanks for the reply. Unfortunately we did not get your photos. Thank you for a second attempt by e-mail. Martin and i still revel in the memories of our vacation trip. For the school we will be on Monday, 4 November 2013, remit an amount of CHF 500.00. Thanks for the confirmation of payment. Kind regards from Switzerland. Martin and Patricia Willimann”. This was received on the dot on 04 Nov 2013. God bless them.
Fam Visit to Project Arman
A short notice fam visit to Project Arman materialized immediately after the the Swiss group. An esteemed travel partner form Germany was taken to both the Arman centres and left visibly impressed and assuring Group interventions at this Project.
The Punjab Face
Unknown to most, Shaping Lives is also the emissary to a very noble philanthropic enterprise by the Select Group Chairman, Mr Inder Sharma, in a border belt village named Lalowal, in District Gurdaspur, Punjab. The area has a large number of low income families who till the fields and are engaged in part time work, etc., for whom this medical facility is a blessing in disguise. Mr Sharma finances the Guruji Ki Dispensary through his own charities. The dispensary operating 5 mornings a week, provides a GP check by a qualified doctor and subsequent medication for 3 days at a pittance of INR 5 per visit. It also has an eye centre and a dental chair at a nominal cost of Rs 10 per check. Spectacles are provided at very low cost and any extended dental treatment gets a 20% discount at the main MacRObert Hospital, Dhaliwal.
To add value, for a second year running, a Free Medical Camp was held on 31 Oct with support from The Salvation Army’s MacRobert Hospital located at Dhaliwal about 6 kms away. The Camp had over 350 local lower income villagers from 10 surrounding villages avail the free services of three GP doctors, a Gynecologist, two Eye Specialists, a Dentist, a Physiotherapist and a Lab Medical analyst. A team of 25 trainee nurses facilitated the patient documentation and tests.
In addition to the check-up, free medicines sponsored by local pharmaceutical well-wishers via MacRobert Hospital, and as prescribed by the various doctors were also distributed to the patients. Villagers requiring more detailed medical care or dentistry were advised to report to the Hospital about 6 kms away. Approx 20 villagers, mostly the elderly, were also shortlisted for cataract surgery at a hugely discounted all inclusive rate of INR 1500 in the coming week at the Hospital’s eye care department. For some who could not afford even this amount, this INR 1500 was also sponsored from the Dispensary account.
The success of this camp depends on close coordination between Shaping Lives, our local Dispensary Custodian, Mr Praveen Punj and the unflinching support of Major Gurnam Masih, Salvation Army and Administrator, MacRobert Hospital and obviously involves blocking a day suitable to all besides the medical staff and resources for that day, local announcements and awareness poster distribution in a 10km x 10 km belt and setting up administrative facilities at the Dispensary to take in the extra load.
Oct wound up in this flurry of activities and November promised Shaping Lives a ‘soulful’ goldmine as well.
VOLUNTEER GROUPS AT CANKIDS…KIDSCAN VIA SHAPING LIVES : OCT 2013
The season picks up towards end September and as October progresses, a slew of social interfaces takes place across India via Shaping Lives and our group offices. While Bangalore saw visits and volunteering at Don Bosco Centre at Chamrajpet, Akshar Society once again hosted the first of the regular groups that visits its Centre during their Jaipur sojourn. The focus however was more on Delhi this October.
UK Volunteer Groups : Three volunteer groups from Hospices across UK/South Wales and around were channelized into the Cankids…Kidscan Centres at Delhi to paint the Centres and beautify them. When our operational team approached us for this last year, a round of meetings with Cankids followed and the NGO, which works with cancer afflicted children from less privileged backgrounds across the country, very kindly agreed to keep two of their centres available for renovation by Groups facilitated by Shaping Lives.
The first Group, Butterwicks, descended on the HAH (Home Away From Home) Centre at Kotla, Delhi on 05 Oct 2013. The HAH is a rented two floor area, which has the administrative, kitchen and medi-care sections besides others. The upper floor has 11 cubicles, each with a double bunker bed and is used as a low cost residence by outstation families coming for treatment via Cankids. A quick fire introduction to Cankids by the Founder, Ms Poonam Bagai, was followed by delegation of tasks by the GM, Shaping Lives and over the next two days, the group members painted the entire lower level including cupboards, bunker beds, etc., and did a delightful value addition in spring cleaning as well. The area was sparkling by the time they were taken to the Gautam Nagar facility, 3 kms away and felicitated with individual certificates by the Cankids PSG (Parents Support Group) Director, Ms Sonal.
A lull of 10 days followed. Then came the downpour. Two groups, Haven’s and Noah’s Ark, came in on 18th and 19th Oct respectively and were given a similar round of introductions. Haven’s took on the Gautam nagar facility. Their task was to paint the Ground Floor of this 4 storey terminally ill centre for cancer children and also beautify the stairway. Ruth, the baby of the group at 21 years, took on an extra responsibility of livening up the two bedded special terminally ill room. This facility has a special room where the child is shifted with his parents when on his last few days to give more privacy and care. It was a drab and dull affair unlike the two other floors housing the children, but Ruth and Becky transformed this room into a paradise and the Cankids’ staff were elated at the transformation. The other Haven’s were no less and worked tirelessly to create motifs and brightness on all the walls they took on. Sandra, with a full time nursing background, even took time out to visit the Cankids ‘Chatai’ (Mat) clinic at AIIMS. The GM Shaping Lives of course escorted as volunteer well-being and safety is as deep a concern with us at Shaping Lives as is their spiritual and emotional experience with us. The visit of this volunteer group coincided with the Cankids annual Diwali function. Diwali is perhaps the biggest festival in India and at Cankids they allow each child to make a wish for it and then honour it by gifting it. The money is raised by selling ‘wish cards’ to donors. To the credit of this group that on learning about this ‘wish card’ over 80% chose to buy one over and above the gifts brought from UK by them.
Noah’s Ark team of 10, were given the task of beautifying the upper floor at HAH, Kotla. Except one, all other claimed to have no painting or at least fine painting experience. But then, as GM Shaping Lives, Col Alagh, was quite used to such statements from volunteers and gently led them over to the paints and brushes. What transpired thereafter on the walls in the next three days was sheer magic. Cankids had ensured a basic sketch of the animal kingdom motif in all the 11 rooms to be beautified. While imaginations and colors ran wild, all of us joined hands to create and fill up the remaining blank spaces ourselves. Lynn’s pond with bull-rushes and toadstools, Rebecca’s flower power or the team’s combined rainbow scene on the stairway gradually gained shape and by the end of last day, the residential block and the stairway leading to it were a joyous blend of nature …… flora and fauna come alive on the walls. A visibly happy and satisfied were then taken on a tour of the Gautam Nagar Centre to sensitise them some more of the good work done by the NGO and other volunteer groups. The surprise individual appreciation certificates were obviously the cherry on the cake and they walked out content of soul and with indelible memories of a lifetime.
What a beautiful month this was as Shaping Lives transformed most of the Cankids premises just in time for India’s major festival, Diwali, the festival of joy, lights and bonding. In the words of two of our volunteers from diverse groups and ages.
‘Fiona Alton wrote to say, “Hi Anil, Just a quick note to say it was an honour to meet you and your team and an absolute pleasure to help out in the HAFH. I have memories that will stay with me for life. I have passed on your details to my sister in law's church committee and sincerely hope that they chose your charity to help in the future. Kind regards, Fiona”
Hi Anil Uncle Ji! Just wanted to say thank you for these wonderful pictures and for the opportunity, it was definitely an unforgettable one! I hope you and all those at CanKids are well, and that the kids are loving the "animal kingdom"! :) Good luck with all your future endeavors and I hope that we will again cross paths in the future. Kindest regards, Varsha”
As we step into November, two more groups are already scheduled to come and complete other sectors of HAH, Kotla and the Gautam Nagar Centre.
SHAPING LIVES FACILITATES VISIT OF AUSSIE GIRL STUDENT GROUP
TO NGO I-INDIA’s JHAG VILLAGE COMPLEX, NEAR JAIPUR, INDIA
September went by in a flurry of activities. No major group or FIT visits except one, but a lot of inputs to and visits facilitated by Shaping Lives to its multiple NGOs, for prospective assessment by our wonderfully supportive overseas agents. Vocational products from our NGOs were also ordered in bulk by various operations teams. The prime focus however was the detailed meetings and coordination with Cankids…Kidscan at Delhi in preparation for the painting and beautification work of both their Centres at Kotla and Gautam Nagar, Delhi by 5 volunteer groups spread over the next 6 weeks.
The month-end, 30 Sept to be precise, saw a group of young Australian girl students and their three teachers from Melbourne, visit the I-India’s Jhag Village facility about 30kms from Jaipur. The visit was delayed by over 3 hours due to weather and unforeseen exigencies and as the GM, Shaping Lives, received them on the highway coming from Ajmere, the girls, all Class 10 and 11 students, seemed exhausted, desperately hungry and apprehensive. That lasted only until the coach stopped at the Jhag facility gate. Serenaded by a base drummer, they were escorted into the school building, given a traditional Indian welcome, and proceeded to mingle with the children in every class. Almost 45 minutes later, the giggling group had to be coaxed and forced out by teachers and the GM combo, to proceed for lunch. One of the girls walked up to the GM and said, “you know what Sir. We have been on two other such visits in other countries, but this was amazing, the children here are so different, they are so happy, well-behaved and polite.”
The lunch, as in traditional Indian style, was floor seating and served by the ladies and gentlemen of the two hostels for street children in the Complex. Served a pure vegetarian non-spicy meal, the teenagers and their teachers freaked out on the daal (lentil) and curds with ground roasted cummins seeds, and most went beyond the second helping. In the words of ‘Clam’, one of the senior girls, this was decidedly the best meal they had partaken in the past 8 days in India.
Mr Charu and Mrs Darshana, the husband and wife team who manage Jhag Complex as the Founders, thereafter escorted the group into their Ladli Vocational Training Centre. This Centre, newly inaugurated, has limited products on sale, since the main Ladli centre is in Jaipur. The Jhag vocational outfit focuses more on creation of new products and in its goal of empowerment of local backward community women from 9 surrounding villages, through vocational produce and financial independence. The hundreds of trinkets of all shapes and sizes, girlie stuff, scarves, aprons, bags and the ambience and love pervading all around, made the group go crazy. Shaping Lives is proud to state that this was the first ever ‘over the counter’ sale of products from this new Centre and it was worth more than a tidy amount. Mr Damien, accompanied by Mrs Ford and Georgia, the other two teachers, also donated a lumpsum as a sponsorship amount. This was in addition to Ekta handing over an appreciation cheque from Le Passage to India, the group’s tour facilitator.
Some of the girls also tried their hand at block printing and were fascinated by the low cost permanent cloth dyeing process adopted by the Centre. The 3 x 2 square feet block print trial done by 7-8 of them was gifted, much to their delight, as a memoir of their visit and tryst with Ladli. Purchases over, the group were ushered into the mini-auditorium where, for want of time, a small felicitation ceremony was held by the I-India team and children. The teachers were honored with the ethnic chunri and Rajasthani Pagri and the girls gifted all the goodies and games they had brought from Australia to the children.
The bonhomie ended with Mr Damien, promising future link-up amidst heartfelt thanks and goodbyes to each other. Jhag, though located 35 kms away from Jaipur, is Shaping Lives composite CSR intervention facility, where groups can have a multi-pronged experience over half or a full day. The NGO post visit note to GM, Shaping Lives stated, “Had an amazing time with all of you and thanks to you for the huge and generous support. Thanks for inaugurating the counter sale of handcrafted products developed by the women and children of Jhag Children’ Village.” Shaping Lives is happy that the first real group of this season, and our empanelled NGO, have derived mutual happiness and benefits from each other and we are now all geared to take on the numerous visits in October.
LE PASSAGE FOUNDATION DAY 2013 : VIA SHAPING LIVES
Come July and Le Passage Travel Foundation, aka Shaping Lives, the CSR flagship of the Le Passage family goes into overdrive, not for our esteemed inbound clients, but on an internal philanthropic journey. It commences the preparations for Le Passage Foundation Day falling on 06 Aug each year. There are no wine and cheese evenings. What happens is a series of philanthropic activities through the build-up and on the day of reckoning. This 11th Foundation day was no less. Such an august occasion, lots of august philanthropy and all done by the august colleagues of our pan-India Le Passage family.
Blood Donation : The day commenced with ‘Blood Donation’ across our Delhi (NCR) offices, as well as in Mumbai. While we at Delhi, laid open the doors to our local neighbors for the first time, Mumbai office co-opted a hospitality hotel partner, Hotel Orchid, into their donation drive, both a first by any offshore location. As always, the business heads led from the front and merry making adequate as volunteers awaited their turn at this noble cause. At the end of the day, the Indian Red Cross at NCR had collected 71 units, whilst at Mumbai, the haul was 100 flat. Cochin colleagues contributed another 4 locally.
An introductory innovation we had introduced in the form of ‘Organ Donation’ awareness, alongside the blood donation was well received and a lot of queries and approximately 40 volunteer cards were picked up. A similar drive in Dec had got 60, hence it was quite satisfying.
High Tea : Its called high tea, but it is plain pampering of tiny tots from our empanelled NGO Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group and NGO Deepalaya. Unlike the previous two years, this time, every Special Business Unit, ensured their individual contributions by gifting a lumpsum to Shaping Lives and allowing us to purchase and pack gifts for the NGOs. The Luxe segment chose to do only play and recreational items on its own while for the rest we focused on contributing the annual stock of books, stationery and classroom accessories.
The tiny representatives from our NGOs were treated like VIPs. Besides the plateful of goodies and about 30 Uncles and Aunts tightly wedged inside the small Board room at Haus Khas vying with each other to pamper them, Le Passage had packed individual gift bags for each of them to take home. Once Mr Arjun Sharma, MD, Le Passage, had welcomed all and the NGO heads put in a word of appreciation, Chintan was gifted a carton of goodies by each SBU head. The 15 or so carton contents would suffice to cover the entire stationery and recreational requirement of 180 children of Project Arman for this schooling year. This Project, run at Nizamudin, is totally financed by us and has given a new meaning to life to children of waste pickers through education and awareness programs that we run via Chintan.
Deepalaya was next. There were a few cartons of goodies for the special children of Deepalaya’s Special Unit at Sanjay Colony, as well. Those were the fringe benefits. The real reason they were present was that, while the MD presented a cheque to support the education of 12 special and 4 normal children from less privileged backgrounds for the third successive year, an affiliated partner, TI Infotech, headed by Ms Meenu Sachdeva also handed over a separate cheque to support 4 normal children. Including Le Passage, the NGOs were gifted 22 cartons of assorted children materials along with these recurring sponsorships.
Gurukul Lunch : The ‘Gurukul’, a school which trains less privileged children in scriptures as future Hindu clergy, on the ancient Indian principle of ‘guru and chela’, has been the lunch venue every Foundation Day since Le Passage’s inception I n 2002. A total of 200 inmates including the ‘Acharyas’ or teachers, were treated to a sumptuous lunch, served by volunteer colleagues. The company’s senior echelon including Mr Arjun Sharma, MD takes special pride in volunteering here, thereafter partaking of the same lunch and then distributing individual gifts to each child. Shaping Lives had also in the previous week, had the dining hall and front façade renovated and painted. This is an add-on we do each year, by taking the ‘gurukul’ wish list and completing it as part of our philanthropic activity for the Foundation Day.
Clothes to GOONJ : The last philanthropy of the day was dispatching the clothes collected for NGO GOONJ for their relief efforts. Most of the clothes would go towards the Uttarakhand cloudburst region of ‘char-dham’ and a few to the Gazipur slum waste-pickers whose homes had been destroyed in the fire a few days back. Besides 16 cartons of old usable woolens donated by colleagues across NCR, over INR 1.0 lac worth of new woolens were added by a collection of individuals. We all hope the contents will bring warmth to our brothers in the hills, whose villages had been razed by the flash floods in Jun.
Offshore Locations : Every office pan-India celebrated in its own way. The offices performed prayers, distributed sweets and took on some CSR activity commensurate to their numbers and time availability.
Jaipur : It organized a visit to NGO I-India’s Project Ladli vocational centre, where Mr Khalid Khan, our Rajasthan head distributed gifts to each girl.
Mumbai : Did wonders by scoring a 100 units of donated blood besides contributing old clothes for Goonj Centre at Mumbai. Ms Manisha Sharma, our Mumbai head was the brain behind this success.
Goa : The unit under Ms Reshma Alves donated a base drum to complete the band ensemble of the school which also has a girls’ orphanage and which is empanelled with us.
Trivandrum : Mr Joe Julian, our Trivandrum head went into Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity with his team, to pamper and feed the tiny tots lunch.
Cochin : Mr Hari KC walked down to the local blood collection unit with his team and donated their pint of blood.
BMVSS Donation : The culmination to the ‘social’ face of Foundation Day philanthropy came at a small event held at the Jaipur Foot Organisation or BMVSS (Bhagwan Mahavir Viklang Sahayata Samiti) facility in Jaipur. Mr Khalid Khan, LPTI Rajasthan Head, and Col Alagh, GM, CSR handed over a humble cheque towards cost of 40 artificial limbs to Mr DR Mehta, the Founder of BMVSS. In his thanksgiving on behalf of the assembled beneficiaries, Mr Mehta appreciated the commitment of LPTI as a travel company to give back on its tourist destinations regularly. He indicated that what was donated today was almost 50% of the annual output of limbs of AIIMS, Delhi. The congregation was thereafter also given individual snack packets and the ceremony ended with both Mr Khan and Col Alagh thanking Mr Mehta for his kind words and a promise to continue the association in times to come.
Conclusion : Shaping Lives takes this opportunity to thank all colleagues of Le Passage and TUI India families for their contributions in making the 11th Foundation Day memorable. We also take this opportunity to convey appreciation for the support you give in so many other CSR activities through the year. We may be spread across India but we live and enjoin as a family whenever the need demands. Thank you.
INDIAN ROUTES CELEBRATES ITS FIFTH ANNIVERSARY VIA "THE SPIRIT OF GIVING"
Indian Routes, a niche Destination Management Company for India and South Asia has a clear focus on Designer Tourism, Incentive Travel and Conferences & Meetings. Its passion leads them to redefine the meaning of personalized service & to create unique travel experiences, aiming not only to exceed the expectations of a traveler, but to deliver him a dream experience. With its vision of sustainable tourism, with the aim that each tour becomes a positive experience for the local community, tourism entities and the travelers, Indian Routes and Shaping Lives have been coming together to create innovative ‘karma’ experiences for FITs and Groups repeatedly in the past three years. Each interaction with our NGOs has been an experience of a lifetime for the visitors and is chronicled in the ‘events’ and ‘testimonials’ pages of the Le Passage Travel Foundation website, www.shaping-lives.com, as well as the Indian Routes monthly newsletter.
The team chose a unique way to celebrate their fifth anniversary which fell on 12 May. They sponsored a lunch for all inmates of NGO, The Earth Saviours Foundation. The NGO has about 150 less privileged children in day school, and another 75 abandoned senior citizens and destitute residing there 24 x 7. The 25 member team, led by their Executive Director, Ms Kiran Joti, reached the NGO an hour before their scheduled time, to familiarize with the inmates. They were shown the facility, briefed about the NGO’s wide ranging work and shown the community kitchen. They set about serving lunch to the inmates themselves, thereafter.
The joy and satisfaction one gains from community service is always unparalleled and it was no different for this team. Each one of them glowed as they cajoled the children to eat a little bit extra or helped the senior citizens and destitute by holding their plates or feeding them with their own hands. The contentment was visible on the faces and Shaping Lives has photographic proof of the same. The team partook of the same meal with some of the NGO staff before bidding farewell with promises of not just returning but also endeavoring to send in some groups to this wonderful NGO.
In her note in reply to ‘thanks’ from GM, Shaping Lives, Ms Kiran Joti replied, ‘Dear Col Alagh, Each member of Indian Routes is actively aware of Shaping Lives. Whenever possible, the team endeavours to make a place for its activities in our clients’ visits to India. We have just returned from our visit & lunch at NGO TESF. We really appreciated celebrating our 5th anniversary in such a wonderful way thanks to you. Warm regards, Kiran Joti, Executive Director’. She had voiced the feelings of every member of her team in these few words. To us at Shaping Lives, Indian Routes is an example of a DMC spreading compassion and kindness via the business route, and worthy of emulation by other travel business associates. Thank you, Indian Routes.
SHAPING LIVES ORGANISES VOLUNTEERISM FOR PUREQUEST GROUP IN INDIA
When Ms Poonam Bagai, Founder, NGO Cankids …Kidscan, India, walked in for her address to the motley UK Peace Hospice volunteer group on a hot Sunday May afternoon, her heart sank a bit. They were brought in by Shaping Lives, in partnership with our premium adventure travel business unit, PUREQUEST, on a 3 day painting volunteering, and none of them was a professional or even acknowledged an artistic trait. She left it to God and GM, Shaping Lives, to achieve whatever little this group, ranging in age from 23 to 75 year old grannies could in the sweltering May heat of Delhi. Mr Chris Williams, her support and senior colleague, and himself from England, had only one advice, ‘do not strain yourself and catch a heat-stroke’. The briefing over, Poonam showed the group the terrace and stairways and gave her vision of what would appeal to the cancer afflicted less privileged children, some of them terminally ill and spending their final days in her NGOs loving care.
Col Anil Alagh, took over proceedings thereafter. As GM, Shaping Lives, he dissected the work into tasks, levels and manpower requirements. He encouraged the group members to choose their own teams to take on each task, also seeking their ideas and color preferences. By late evening, the teams had been formed, a rough execution plan made, and paint demands placed. The instructions to the group were to report to the Centre for work by 0900h next day. ….. which they did.
Paint and accessories were distributed. Teams moved into their allocated sections after the mandatory aproned photo shoot, and the Centre came alive with the swish-swash of brushes and light banter. The initial hiccups over, the teams settled into a work rhythm, but, as the heat increased, the brushes became slower. Anil pushed and motivated and cajoled each team to work, occasionally taking on some more difficult or out of reach painting tasks himself from the more elderly volunteers. Each of the 19 members, including Victoria, their wonderful tour coordinator, unanimously labeled him ‘a slave driver’, broke into a grin as big as they possibly could the moment they saw him approach their team with his pep talk, whip and beautification ideas. Yes! Shaping Lives was being pushy, but then there were targets to achieve and every member of the group understood and appreciated their role and importance in this effort. Therein lay the beauty of a team working as one.
A lunch break of just 45 mins, with a 5 mins bonus to the 7 elderly ladies was permitted. Purequest coordinators, Lokesh and Deepak organized wholesome box meals. Meals over, we were all back to work. When Poonam and her team came around 1530h for a review on the first day, perhaps expecting little or nothing, their jaws dropped at what they saw. The Centre had been transformed. The terrace, kitchen, stairways had not just come alive but had value additions as well. Bright flowers, clouds, balloons, veggies, stars, moon, butterflies, etcetera, had all come alive on the walls much to their surprise. They were dumbstruck at what this group, with an average age touching 60 years, with no experience, had achieved in just 6 hours of work. Compliments were profuse. Poonam became bolder and more confident and in her own lovable wicked way asked Shaping Lives for additional painting coverage. No problem, Anil said…after all he was a certified professional slave driver, wasn’t he? As day one ended, not one amongst the group had an inkling of what lay in store for them the next day. They seemed happy and that’s all that mattered.
Next day commenced on the dot at 0900h and the first question the GM put to them was, “did you like the entry to Cankids?’ A ‘NO’ chorus went up. That was all that the slave master wanted. We curtailed manpower on the terrace and staircase and 4 volunteers, Paul, Elaine, Amanda and Marie, were given the task of making the entrance to Cankids befitting. While more flowers, fruits and butterflies came up at various places courtesy Victoria, Mary, Carly and Racheal, two windows with a view sprung up on the terrace walls under the expert eye of Tracy, Mary no 2, Hazel and Rachel, facing a British Double Decker bus heading towards the Big Ben as visualized by Heather. Thomasina, our new artist who had created the flower garden, filled the clouds with single motivational words in Hindi and English. Dominic’s latent talents aroused him to create the ‘kekada’ (Crab), the Cankids symbol and sketches of two therapeutic Cankids dolls on the terrace. The staircase on the terrace called ‘the stairway to heaven’ became bright and careful under Pippa’s brush. The kitchen had a new chef on the wall besides fish and vegetables and fruits making it vibrant and cooking friendly, all courtesy Sue and the husband and wife team of Neil and Andrea. Deepak from Purequest did the fish and chips artwork.
Lunch on the second day had a value addition. The Purequest box meal was supplemented with fresh ‘aloo parothas’ (potato filled wheat Indian bread), straight from the freshly painted Cankids kitchen. The group loved it as it was served with curds and pickle, in a typically Indian way. Post lunch, we all joined hands to give the finishing touches. Additional manpower toiled to finish the entrance, which eventually sparkled, some glass painting work and a few colorful designs on almirahs came up. By the time we called it a day and the group assembled for a closing photo shoot on the terrace before our tea with the Cankids children, their parents and staff, the Centre was as good as new, sparkling, vibrant, like a kindergarten just opened for the happiest tiny-tots in the world. Courtesy? This wonderful volunteer group, cajoled by Victoria, and brought in by Purequest.
The valedictories commenced before the tea. Poonam and every member of Cankids, was profuse in their appreciation and thanksgiving to this lovely group, even as each one was presented a ‘Volunteer Certificate of Appreciation” for the excellent work done. High tea courtesy Purequest was a big hit. Pizzas, chips, chocolates, juices were aplenty, so were the farewell hugs and tears. The group had not just painted Cankids, they had created an emotional bond of a lifetime and Shaping Lives, once again humbly proved that love and compassion is sans barriers, it only requires windows of opportunities to burst forth and create magic anywhere in the world. The high tea was a planned surprise for this lovely group by Shaping Live, and it worked magic as it meshed the material bonds of painting to the emotional ones of meeting and experiencing the beauty and resilience of the children afflicted with cancer.
Tears flowed freely even in London in the words of Rachael Townley, who was the 6’3” tall baby of the group at 23 years, “Anil, I will never forget my experience at CanKids and you are to thank for a lot of this for driving us so hard to get the results we did to help make a difference. The hours of sweating and painting were all worth it when we had the party with the children on the Tuesday afternoon and I was reminded just how much a difference our small little paint job could make. You will not be shocked to hear that I am still crying every time I think about what we accomplished...I had my first day back at work today and lost count of the amount of times I cried whilst talking about it. Once again, thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you helped us to achieve. I hope to stay in touch. Best wishes, Tall baby Rachael :)”. Ms Fowler, a senior citizen volunteer wrote’ “On the last night we asked everyone to tell us about the best part of the trip and the worst – without fail CanKids was everyone’s highlight of the trip”. In Victoria’s first few words after the departure, she wrote “Ah Anil! Thank you so much for your kind words! Everyone loved the time we spent at CanKids & delighted to have been able to help just the little bit they did. And you have 19 big fans”.
Magic never happens without preparations. Purequest and Shaping Lives where involved with our UK agent months in advance, not just planning for this volunteer program, but also taking into confidence Cankids management and ensuring that the areas selected for painting were kept free for the group arrival in May 2013. The financial and administrative costs and support mechanisms were worked out in detail. The group was merely to walk in, have fun and go away with a sense of complete satisfaction, both professionally and emotionally. That is what Le Passage Travel Foundation is all about, ‘a bridge between the inbound traveler and well researched NGOs on key tourism destinations’. So, if you have plans to leave your social footprint in India in the oncoming season and intend a CSR activity from 1-2 hours visits to volunteering for a few days/weeks, do log on to www.shaping-lives.org and allow us to make the difference via our operational partners.
Shaping Lives Events : French Students Group Visits NGO I-India’s Ladli Vocational Centre
Indian Routes was once again at the forefront of CSR activity facilitated by Shaping Lives as April drew to a close. A group of 35 French students and teachers of the Claude Bernard Group, descended on the I-India, Ladli Vocational Centre at Govindpuri, Jaipur, around midday on 28 Apr 2013. Although it was a Sunday, the NGO very kindly agreed to open the Centre and allow the interaction with their children, in view of our mutual respect and rapport with each other.
The group was given a traditional welcome with each person being blessed by an auspicious ‘tilak’ (vermilion on the forehead), a garland and tying of a beautiful and vibrant ‘moulli’ (sacred thread) around the wrist. A briefing on the NGO’s work was followed by a round of the vocational facility under the watchful and kind eyes of Ms Darshana Goswami, the Ladli Centre in-charge followed. The French youngsters, all aged between 19 – 20 years, mingled with the lovely Ladli girls and I-India boys called in from their centre as a special treat, as they explained the intricate and beautiful jewelry, gudri rugs, cards and miscellaneous other gift items they make at the Centre. The card and jewelry corners got maximum attention. In fact more than half the group opted to make cards themselves and Shaping Lives initiated an on-the-spot card making competition with prizes and gifts for all participants as a surprise happiness quotient for the group. Broken English on both sides joined many hearts that day.
All members of the group were also given tiny baskets and encouraged to take a round of the multiple vocational products on display – cum – sale at the Centre. The girls in the group freaked out and the NGO did a reasonably good sale of these products at the end of the day. The French teachers expressed happiness and satisfaction when briefed that the girls, although staying with I-India and being educated and nurtured by them, were yet given money for their work. This was put into their independent bank accounts to be utilized when they attained the age and maturity to move out into an independent world of their own.
Since time was at a premium, the group was literally coaxed out of the vocational hall and urged onto the Computer Centre. This new centre was the brainchild of Mr Charu Goswami, son of the I-India founder, Mr Prabhakar Goswami. Fitted with 10 brand new desktops, the idea had germinated when Shaping Lives gifted some financial aid in addition to the Indian Routes CSR effort, and suggested computers and some air conditioning as a long term investment for the I-India children esp the Ladli girls. They eventually installed 10 with the help of other donors and this Centre would now empower the local community youth, as well. Hence a small Shaping Lives idea is now expected to become a youth empowerment program for the local low income community where this Ladli Centre is located.
The group was requested to inaugurate the two donated desktops amidst much cheering and clapping. That done, a special vegetarian meal had been organized by I-India, sponsored and requested by Indian Routes for all present, and we, including Shaping Lives GM, who was present, sat down on the floor as a mixed group, the Indian way, for an Indian meal. Chairs were of course put for the senior faculty on request. Quite a novelty for the French students. They were apprehensive about the Indian ‘masala’ (spices) effect, but I-India which is internationally recognized for its work with street and abandoned children and often hosts them, knows how to cook superb Indian delicacies suitable for the European palate. Additional helpings were the order of the day. The Indian puri, a fried fluffed wheat bread and the assortment of vegetables were a big hit and even the most shy and apprehensive amongst the students finally succumbed to their taste.
The beautiful afternoon ended with the group leader, Ms Madeliene Arias, being honored with a ‘chunri’, a ladies intricately designed head cloth which is gifted as a mark of respect to key persons. Each member of the group was also presented a Ladli elephant key ring as a memoir. The students were profuse in their thanks. Quite a few, used their limited English to express that this was their most unforgettable experience, and two of them even took details with intent to return and volunteer with I-India. Overall it turned out a very satisfying and happy experience for all of us. It is always a joy to share love and experiences and that is exactly what happened when students from two different parts of the world and economic backgrounds met at Ladli, Jaipur.
AGRA : Indian Routes added icing to the cake, by gifting 50 bedsheets to the Shrimad Dayanand Anathallaya in Agra, the very next day. This orphanage of boys and girls is run like a gurukul and teaches children scriptures besides their normal schooling. It is a haven for the children and a visit here, esp to the girls section, brings a strange feeling of harmony and peace to the visitor. Situated in the heart of the old city, it can be navigated by smaller vehicles only. Mr Rajesh Sharma did the honors as the local head and representative of Indian Routes and Shaping Lives.
SHAPING LIVES EVENT VIA INDIAN ROUTES : TOTAL ESPANA GROUP & UMANG, JAIPUR
Total Espana group under aegis of Indian Routes, a premium travel unit in India, had a feel of the special talents of challenged children of our empanelled NGO UMANG at Jaipur on 12 Apr 2013. Facilitated by Shaping Lives, the nouvelle idea of gifting paintings made by special children was once again explored by Mr Dimple Singh, the Indian Routes organiser. Fifty of the best pieces were selected for display and the Banquet hall of Le Meridien, Kukas, Jaipur looked like a lively art gallery as the display tables got filled.
A total of 42 paintings were gifted individually, with each guest receiving his exclusively from one Umang child. The paintings are all the more exquisite and special as they are the pain staking and slow labor of children with a variety of cerebral and physical disabilities and it takes much effort and time to even synchronize and create the piece. The use of vibrant colors and motifs states the inner urge of these special children to live a meaningful mainstream life. As each child personally came up or was wheeled up to present one of their paintings, there was an abundance of smiles and pride in their eyes. The guests on their part were lavish and effusive in their praise and love and some of our tiny-tots were actually looking embarrassed when showered by hugs and kisses from the recipients.
Mrs Deepak Kalra, Founder - Director of Umang and the current Chairperson of the Rajasathan State Commission for protection of Children Rights, took time out from her busy schedule to grace the event. In her words post the event, she wrote, “Dear Col Alagh , It was indeed a great pleasure to meet you and your team including Dimple Singh who have been consistently and constantly supporting us .Thank you for always promoting the cause and the products made by our trainees . Sale of 47 paintings in one go is really amazing, and would not have been possible without your personal involvement and efforts . All the money raised will help us organise another painting workshop with our Artist from Switzerland in October this year. Hope you can visit us during the workshop this time and see the little artists creating these colorful creations. I really appreciate your involvement with all the NGOS your company has adopted . Any CSR program can only be successful when it comes from the heart and for you it does , this is the biggest reason for such successful projects you have build in such short duration . You have been a such a dependable friend of Umang, and loved by the children . Do convey our gratitude to your management . We look forward to our association in future . Deepak Kalra and all of us at Umang”.
We also acknowledge the staff of Le Meridien, Kukas, who displayed quick understanding and compassion in playing hosts to our Umang children. Some of them even took details for future volunteering and Shaping Lives hopes they will associate with Umang being located in the same city.
SHAPING LIVES ENTERS FINANCIAL YEAR 2013 WITH MORE “SMILES”
The Uppingham School, UK
For the first time since its foundation, Shaping Lives facilitated a T-20 day-night cricket match between touring students of the premier public Uppingham School, UK and our NGO Deepalaya children. Organised under aegis of the UK operations team of LPTI, Deepalaya preparations for the match started in end Feb post consent from their management.
The evening of 02 Apr saw the players congregate at the Jamia Hamdard University cricket ground, Delhi, in the afternoon. It was decided to make the match a mixed team one in view of the CSR nature of the event. The Deepalaya children, all charged up, were a bit disappointed at this mix-n-play decision but soon reconciled as both sides made concerted efforts to break the barriers of language and backgrounds. Teams, toss and a little tea later, the match commenced. The Deepalaya players proved their mettle in equal measure against their healthier, stronger UK friends and very soon the spectators were rooting for their teams in right earnest.
Unfortunately, the Gods decided to pour their hearts out and the covers had to be drawn with just 10 overs played. The deluge, totally unseasonal, lasted over an hour and totally inundated the ground. A soccer or rugby ball was sadly missed by all. But the camaraderie had been established and the spirits and mingling was high. That was what we had set out to achieve, confidence building and exposure for our Deepalaya children and an awareness and sensitization for the Uppingham students. Gifts and farewells were exchanged in the cramped changing room. The Uppingham team showered our Deepalaya children with various sports gear and kit, including cricket shoes, etc. The guests were touched when the Deepalaya children responded with a return gift for not just each of them, but also for all the School fraternity and a few accompanying parents.
As the rain slackened a bit, the Uppingham group departed amongst many high 5s, byes and come back / see you agains. The Deepalaya children were treated to some excellent Chinese box meal before they too bid goodbye to Col Anil Alagh, GM, Shaping Lives and the operational team that had made this wonderful match possible. In his thanksgiving Toby Makhzangi, Head of Politics, Uppingham School and their tour coordinator, emailed “Anil, Thank you so much for these and for arranging the match; as you say it went very well. It was certainly one of the highlights of our trip! We would love to come again as India has made a deep impression on us all. Yours, Toby”.
Wildlife SOS Visit : The Uppingham group had also been channelized to the Agra Bear Rescue Centre run by our NGO friend Wildlife SOS the previous afternoon at Agra, and everyone in the group was very happy and excited about having had a chance to visit this Centre, which is a haven for the erstwhile dancing bears of the Indian streets. Toby even mentioned that they would be putting in a proposal to sponsor bear once they briefed their management on return.
The Richter Group
This German group, facilitated by Shaping Lives, onto a short visit to our Project Arman Centre at Nizammudin, Delhi was impressed by the nature of our initiative to wean the rag pickers’ children away from trash picking and groom them for more respectful job, subsequent to their enrollment and education in formal schools via our NCIT (No Child in Trash) program supported by NGO Chintan. This elderly group, touring under aegis of Go India Journeys, took less than a few minutes to break the language barriers. So many times in Shaping Lives interventions one sees that whatever country they be, whatever language they speak, the visitors transcend all barriers through the language of love and it’s the twinkling eyes and wide smiles on the faces of our children that reflect within a short while on our guests’ faces as well.
As the time nears to bid adieu, one can feel their hearts beat in peace and harmony as the positive vibes envelop them onto their next itinerary. The Richter group was no different and when informed on their query that a donation was in order, a very tidy sum was collected within a few minutes and formally handed over by their group leader to Ms Rashmi, head of the NCIT program, who was also present.
A Word from the GM : The Indian new financial year has started well for Shaping Lives. To us, we calculate finances in terms of smiles achieved and distributed. As this note is sent for print, the week-end has something special in store for our very special children at Jaipur, but more on that in the next newsletter. Till then we bid adieu, with a request to explore karma opportunities with Shaping Lives when you are in India next. We promise you added positive energy and smiles during your sojourn in this beautiful country.
Events : Shaping Lives hosts holi 2013 for special children
Shaping Lives completed its Holi hatrick when it celebrated Holi, the wonderful Indian festival of gaiety and colors, for the special children of Deepalaya Sanjay Colony Special Unit at Delhi on 25 Mar 2013. It has become an annual feature and the joy that emanates from these special kids, whose disabilities range from hearing and speech impairment to various forms of cerebral afflictions, has to be experienced to be understood. Who doesn’t like colors? Which child doesn’t like to have himself or herself dirty and splashed in multiple hues while doing the same to friends and people he/she loves. That is what sets the mood at our Holi celebrations with these children.
They are more normal than normal and in their smiles, sometimes shy, sometimes overtly expressive, it is very easy to lose sense of time and age with these children and that’s exactly what happened. The day started with a drawing competition. Winners were given on-the-spot awards and then the fun started. Colors were distributed and the whole set-up turned topsy-turvy as the children squealed and laughed as they colored all of us to their heart’s content.
The colors and children exhausted finally and out came the snack boxes. Ms Sangeeta and her team of the Special Unit, outdid themselves in creating a fun time but under their strict and watchful eye to ensure safety of every child in this special Holi. The little rainbows finally were bundled off into their buses for home. The real Holi was the next day but the trailer had been great and they left amidst final hugs, a tiny naughty smearing of additional color and huge grins splashed across their multi-colored faces.
Shaping Lives : The Japanese Interlude
TESF Visit : 25 Feb 2013
Shaping Lives facilitated the visit of 60 Japanese students to our empanelled NGO, The Earth Saviours’ Foundation, on 25 Feb. The group and their coordinators, Ms Yasuko and Ms Megumi, were pleasantly surprised to be able to experience children, senior citizens, destitute men and women, live cattle and poultry, a media centre, and also be given a feel of the NGO’s environmental work, all under one roof.
The start was slow as the students, not being conversant with Hindi or English, were reliant on their escorts for the briefings and translations. Things however warmed up gradually and the barriers of language were overtaken by those of love and compassion and the students, most of them teenagers themselves, lost themselves in playing and interacting with the children or understanding how an NGO could be so kind and caring to the destitute.
The round included a trip to their field kitchen. This and the fact that they could touch and be near to live cattle had the students open-mouthed in awe and their cameras clicking overtime. Japanese courtesy is renowned the world over, and that came to the fore as the student leader came forward to give a small thanksgiving speech and exchanged some goodwill gifts they had brought for the NGO. Mr Ravi Kalra, the Founder – TESF, profusely thanked the guests and distributed TESF mementoes to the key members of the large group.
The closing address and official exchanges of gifts were actually overshadowed when prior to their departure the Japanese girls and boys dug into their bags and produced a variety of individual gifts which they were encouraged to give to the children themselves. That enhanced the bonhomie and camaraderie levels and obviously the smiles all around. The group left contented and educated, besides having a higher happiness quotient than on arrival.
Japan Day Festival 03 Mar 2013
A troupe of approx. 90 Japanese performers ranging from university students to elderly artistes over 70 years old gave an electrifying display of Japanese culture and grace in a 3 hour performance at the Siri Fort Auditorium on 03 Mar 2013, as an ode to Indo-Japan friendship . The show had a motley mix of the modern dance forms and traditional music, ethos and culture of this sedate and wonderful nation. Shaping Lives figured prominently in the evening proceeds as a partner to the sponsors Cotswolds Wind Academy in this unique program.
We brought in over 200 children and another 50 plus volunteer and staff of our empanelled NGOs in Delhi for this delightful experience. Shaping Lives also took this opportunity to invite Salwan Public School children and staff for the show as a token of acknowledgement for the stupendous love and compassion they show our Project Arman children. Unfortunately, the exam period is on and more children could not be brought in. The show comprised every art form of Japan, from humor to calligraphy to chamber music to creativity forms, besides the drums and dances by very energetic and well synchronized performers despite age differences.
A standing ovation shook the hall as the entire entourage finished the evening’s delight by a free for all dance to a very catchy and modern adaption of a Japanese tune. The Education Coordinator, Ms Shikha of NGO Deepalaya in her thank you note the next day stated, ‘ It was indeed our pleasure. The students had a wonderful time yesterday. I have been talking to the teachers and the students’. Mrs Mathur, Principal, Salwan Montessori School, wrote to Shaping Lives saying, ‘Hello! we have to thank you for giving this beautiful opportunity to our school children to enjoy and appreciate the culture and music of Japan! We look forward to more beautiful partnership in future too!’
Shaping Lives thanks the Japanese market operational team at LPTI, esp Mr Sameer Shukla, and our good friend and travel associate in Japan, Mr Markus in enabling this lovely exposure to the multiple empanelled NGOs and friends of Shaping Lives.
Shaping Lives facilitates tui india’s “paint a smile” volunteer initiative
Recall the Xmas promise of Ms Louise Bates, CEO TUI India to do more, soon, as she decided on a unique ‘Muffin Xmas’ for all children and inmates of one of our empanelled NGOs, The Earth Savior Foundation on the week-end preceding Christmas. Well she kept her word and involved her team in another unique effort ‘TUI : Paint a Smile’. This initiative was undertaken to paint 4 classrooms of the Deepalaya Special School, Sanjay Colony by volunteers from the TUI India team at Delhi.
Twelve volunteers descended on a bright sunny Friday afternoon at Deepalaya’s Sanjay Colony School for specially abled children. Welcomed by the GM, Le Passage Travel Foundation (Shaping Lives), which had facilitated this ‘giving’, they were given a quick briefing by Ms Sangeeta Kardam, head of the Special School and then partook a community lunch, also sponsored by themselves, with staff and available school children. The volunteers were thereafter divided into four groups and given a room each. A bout of giggles and doubts as Shaping Lives, a hard task master, made it clear that no team could leave for home that evening if the work was incomplete, were replaced with serious discussions on choice of colours to be used and the paint brushes were soon swishing and transforming the dull drab and stained yellow walls into vibrant rainbows.
The bonhomie and participation of the staff added to the smiles and zest, and by sunset not just the walls but a lot of cheeks and clothes were definitely starting to look more colorful than they were on arrival. The tea break had everyone get together for a quick review of the work by Ms Bates and this impetus added energy and speed obviously. The children, who had been invited for a high tea by us, also reviewed the proceedings from time to time, and their eyes and glee on seeing their classrooms being transformed into fairyland, reinforced the ‘TUI : Paint a Smile’ concept. Some of the more stable and physically able challenged children were allowed to dabble with paints, while the rest were encouraged to pep up their teams to work faster.
Some volunteers, who had the Picasso and MF Hussain touch, sprinkled the walls with a lovely rainbow, the alphabets, a huge butterfly and other beautifying touches, bringing the walls alive with their artistic talent. It was well past office hours as the team finally put their brushes down, eyes twinkling at the sight of brightly colored walls and doors and the ceilings painted to depict a starry sky. Three entities went home that evening in various stages of bliss, one, the TUI India volunteers, satisfied in soul and happy in heart, two, the staff and children of the Special School, elated that they would walk into a sparkling, refreshing classroom post the week-end, and last but not the least, Shaping Lives, satisfied that they had enabled painting of the entire school in two stages, as promised to these lovely special children when the main hall was painted in 2012.
Shaping lives : events update for period upto 25 jan 2013
“ Aaj ke bachche, kal ke Sitare” or “The children of today are the stars of tomorrow”, was the theme of the ‘Don Bosco Bal Mela - 2012’ (Children’ Fair), held under aegis of the Commission for the Young at Risk at Goa. Our Goa Le Passage office added to their year-end philanthropy by sponsoring a bus to carry children from one of our affiliated charities, Margaret Bosco Bal Sadan for runaway and orphaned boys to this Mela. In addition, the colleagues made a collection of INR 3000, over and above the Xmas collection for the youngsters to have fun.
Father Arvind Severes, the Sadan incharge was naturally happy and conveyed his appreciation to Ms Reshma Alves, our Goan office head. Besides the standard gratitude note, he penned ‘Dear ma’m, I acknowledge in gratitude your kind donation of Rs 3000 and for making the bus available to us from LPTI. Thanking you…..”.
Visits by our international partners in January saw probable high value CSR interactions in the offing. Besides this three more SBUs joined the bandwagon of placing orders for gifts and bags on our empanelled NGOs. One of the orders went to our new affiliate, NAB Centre for Blind Girls. Besides that, the GITB guests meeting Le Passage representatives will be presented gifts made by children with cerebral and physical disabilities at their work Training Unit in NGO Umang. We are hopeful that not just the product but also Shaping Lives and Le Passage intent at promoting sustainable tourism in India will be appreciated by the recipients of these items globally. .
A survey of the Special School at Sanjay Colony has also been carried out to paint the remaining 4 class rooms next month. More on that when we do it.
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