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
The Foundation organized a day trip on 03 Jan 2011, for a group comprising of 33 college students and their coordinator from Hongkong. The group was taken to our affiliated NGO Deepalaya’s hostel-cum-school facility ‘Deepalaya Gram’, Gusbethi, near Sohna, Haryana. Located about 45 kms from Delhi, this is an approx 22 acre facility run by NGO Deepalaya and comprises a School for 500 children, a static and mobile Dispensary for all local residents ( under conversion to a hospital) and separate hostels for a total of 110 male and female inmates.
The group reached the location by 11.00 a.m. and were given a traditional Indian welcome followed by a cup of tea and biscuits. The program thereafter was as under :-
A guided tour of the Dispensary as the same closes down at 12 noon since the same staff then take their mobile medical van to villages for various kinds of medical and hygiene care.
Taken to the school where they interacted with students of various age groups, in their classrooms and outside, and generally had fun getting to know each other through light games. The school has 500 children from the surrounding 22 villages associated with the NGO.
Moved to the neighboring village for a round and introduction to the rural India way of life. They loved it after the initial hiccup of the village smell and liberal availability of cow dung everywhere.
The afternoon meal was a Community lunch with the 110 boarders. This was followed by a brief entertainment program organized for them by the children and in which the Foreign guests were also cajoled into taking a hearty part.
An introduction to the game of kho-kho by the Deepalaya team.
Final cup of tea and departure around 5.15 p.m.
Overall the group, besides their interaction with the NGO children, also had a first hand experience of rural India, with most of them seeing crops and various vegetables actually growing live for the first time in their lives, and also every possible domestic animal in our typical village homes.
If time had not been a constraint, the group would have stayed on, such was their happiness and joy at the experience. The group made their customary presentations for the children of the Gram after the entertainment thanksgiving. Both the group and NGO thoroughly enjoyed the day and such experiences add value to both parties as rustic rural experience to the guests and a confidence building interactive opportunity to the hosts.
Shaping Lives facilitated a morning of fun and frolic for approx 40 children with escorts at Dera Amer, Jaipur on 15 Jan 2011 under aegis of Le Passage. The event was an elephant polo match followed by a sumptuous lunch courtesy the hosts from the United States of America. The children were invited from our affiliated NGOs Umang and Disha, both of which cater to the educational and support needs of children afflicted with autism, down syndrome and other cerebral diseases.
It was an outing of pure happiness for the children from the moment they arrived at Dera Amer in their school buses till the time they were dragged into the buses for departure. Each child was encouraged to feed bananas to the elephants lined up in their welcome. Amidst squeals of delight, a little fear and a lot more prodding, the children were finally emboldened to ask for repeat feeding opportunity.
Camel cart ride followed and the more stable lost themselves in kite flying before the match commenced. The match saw a division of loyalties and support groups which each side clapping and shouting encouragement to their respective elephant teams. Loyalties also did a swift somersault to the winning side when the match neared its end, but then, every child likes to win, and these children were no different.
A lavish lunch followed by loads of ice cream made their eyes twinkle in delight. The guests, were drawn to these excellently behaved happy children and many a photograph and thank you(s), and till we meet again, exchanged. Rapport was also struck between the two NGO’s Executive Directors and the foreign guests for future interactions.
The children had to be finally ushered into their buses by their escorts, tired but still unwilling to leave their elephant friends. The guests presented a high end digital camera to Disha and two annual sponsorship amounts @ Rs 15000/- per child for Umang, in addition to the event enjoyment. This gifting was as per the wish list obtained from our affiliated NGOs.
A small event, big smiles and happiness on each child’s face and value additions to each NGO, were achieved in the space of just four hours of togetherness. In the words of the NGOs, such exposure was new to most of the children which naturally made it a lifetime experience. They all forgot about their disability for those hours of outing and the social interaction provided them an atmosphere of inclusion which has a positive long lasting impact on them. Such children also gain confidence when they receive attention from people who are strangers to them. It thaws apprehension and fear of meeting new people in them which in long term helps them in social interaction. The NGOs felt it was a boon to have such events and hoped that the Foundation would organize many more of them. To us at the Foundation, it was satisfaction in that we were able to create the ‘small bridge’ we have envisioned, between our clients willing to give and our NGO friends who were in need. A second exhibition elephant polo match witnessed by 40 special children on similar lines was an equal success in Apr 2011.
SHAPING LIVES ; LE PASSAGE TRAVEL FOUNDATION (a unit of Le Passage To India)
"What can be more fascinating to a child than to be a traveler in that same aeroplane, which oft takes him on his ‘flights of fantasy’ every time he gazes at one in the sky."
When Le Passage Travel Foundation was formally launched in December 2010, one of our prominent NGO partners from Jaipur, NGO Umang, working with special children afflicted with cerebral palsy, autism and other cerebral disorders, mentioned the joy of travel as being a unique experience for these children. The NGO plainly wanted to know if, as a reputed destination management company, Le Passage to India, could make the dream of air travel transform into a reality for its children.
This small mention became a challenge and a catalyst for creating that air travel opportunity for not just Umang but for children from all our NGOs in Delhi and Jaipur. As costs involved in direct air travel were high, the business teams at Le Passage to India set to work exploring feasibility of seats on empty charter legs between the two cities. The opportunity to create that air travel bridge in close coordination with other travel partners became a reality as early as Feb 2011, when Subha Aviation offered us 50 seats each on three Jetlite charter legs, two emanating from Jaipur for Delhi and one vice versa.
The Foundation was however required to pay the tax component for the passengers on this ‘empty charter legs’, an arrangement which it readily accepted being a small effort for the ‘larger smile’ on the children’ faces expected as a return. Once the dates and schedules were confirmed, the allotment of seats to our affiliated NGOs was conveyed. The Foundation also planned overnight stays for the children in Delhi and Jaipur respectively, with a detailed sight-seeing itinerary prior to their return home.
The stated aims of this excursion in consultation with our NGOs were:
Foremost to give them the joy and experience of air travel.
Encourage children to undertake long distance trips, away from the comfort and safety of their parents/known environment (but with escorts, esp for differently abled / special children) and thereby encourage them to be self reliant and gain self confidence.
Expose them to new places and experiences and thereby widen their imaginations, dreams and happiness quotients.
Create bonds of friendship between normal and special children of different NGOs by clubbing different NGOs on each trip.
Teach them the joy of sharing and bonding with unknown people in unfamiliar surroundings.
To create an incentive within students of our NGOs to excel, even if merely in the quest for air travel and other exposure opportunities as a reward.
Flights of Fantasy
The Foundation undertook three flights of fantasy with 50 children on each over Feb 2011. Every affiliated NGO from Delhi and Jaipur dealing with children was given a fair share of seats on these flights. The clubbing of NGOs was done such that it allowed special and normal children to experience the outing together, thereby encouraging friendship, sensitization to each other, mutual acceptance of limitations and talents, and hopefully long term bonding. For instance, the special children of NGO Umang flew in with normal ones from Akshar Society, while the special children of NGO Disha Foundation, were made to holiday with Project Ladli of NGO I-India. The NGOs Deepalaya (special and normal children), Manzil and our Project Arman children from NGO Chintan went as one group from Delhi on the single flight to Jaipur.
The sightseeing at Delhi included historical monuments like India Gate, Qutub Minar, Nehru Museum, Purana Qila etc, while the educative and interactive visits were undertaken to the Rashtrapati Bhavan (President’s residence), where they were treated as special guests, Nehru Planetarium, National Science Centre and the Rail Museum. The Jaipur itinerary was designed to cover Albert Hall, Hawa Mahal, the tigers at Jaipur Zoo and an enthralling experience as guests of the Indian army for an exclusive evening, stretching well into the night.
"A lifetime experience". These three short words elegantly sum up the collective experience of the children and their escorts. Not only did they soar high, they did it with confidence and elan. Whether it was during the flight, or their sightseeing or their interactions with total strangers, everything resulted in a feeling of positive inclusiveness. They saw the unknown, conquered it and made new friends in the process. They lost their apprehensions along the way and enjoyed an outing and experiences created specially for them. Everything, from Delhi’s swank airport terminal, the Mughal gardens of Rashtrapati Bhavan, and the interaction with the Army at Jaipur, left an indelible imprint of joy that they will cherish forever. Write-ups and pictorial depictions of their experience received subsequent to the trip were absolutely and amazingly full of joie de vivre and expressions of thanks for having a friend and well-wisher in Le Passage Travel Foundation.
The Foundation in its own post event review felt that :-
Its vision of ‘a smile on every child’s face’ was more than surpassed.
Fledgling it may be, Shaping Lives has the will and enough motivated colleagues within Le Passage family to convert dreams into reality.
The company colleagues are ever eager volunteers or resource mobilisers in support of the Foundation’s activity.
Our travel partners are equally magnanimous and willing to walk the extra mile when it comes to creating bridges of opportunities in our social initiatives.
We are ready to be the ‘bridge’ between our travel partners and our NGOs.
Our goal to create an event which was not merely fun and frolic but which also acted as a catalyst and incentive to other children from within our NGOs to strive for excellence to enable their selection in future Foundation outings as a reward has been achieved.
Our understanding and handling of children’ requirements be they special or normal, improved after each flight.
The immediate gains that have accrued out of the 'Flights of Fantasy" are:
The Foundation’s bonding and warmth with our affiliated NGOs has taken a positive and long term status with this single event.
An increased willingness by the Nizamudin waste picker parents to enroll their children in Project Arman, during the survey carried out for the next education session, as per norms in Feb, has perhaps been the coup de grace of this event.
An enhanced confidence in our NGOs and ourselves, in our intentions and capabilities.
In synopsis, the three ‘flights of fantasy’ have been truly magical experiences for everyone involved, to include Shaping Lives, as the organizers, the NGOs and our participating children. Our attempt to be a bridge and secure willing cooperation from other travel partners in the Foundation’s social goals has been successful. We have gained the confidence and experience of undertaking more such, and even higher, partnership initiatives in future.
It is obvious that with the will, any destination management company, can make a difference in the lives of less privileged marginalised sections of society, along our travel routes, and Le Passage to India has perhaps pioneered the way by successful completion of this unique initiative, called ‘Flight of fantasy".
April once again saw 40 special children duly accompanied by their caretakers from NGO Umang, Jaipur, disembark gleefully at Dera Amer, Jaipur. The sight of five elephants in their regal polo attire and the sound of drums and trumpets had most of the children clapping well before their entry into this picturesque elephant polo ground and hillside locale.
The event was hosted by a group of clients from Iceland through Indian Routes. The summer heat notwithstanding, the children cheered on their teams and had to be restrained from spilling over into the ground in their excitement. It was once again a pleasure and a deep satisfaction for the Le Passage Travel Foundation to have brought on so many smiles to these children afflicted with cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, etc.
The Icelandic hosts took turns to interact with the children and sponsored a special child, Shubham Jain's, education and care at Umang for one full year. So happy were they to meet the children that personal stocks of chocolates and various curios and CDs and presentations from their home country spilled out into a collection and were presented impromptu to the staff for fair and equal distribution amongst the children. Indian Routes added with their own bounty of crayons, water colors, drawing books and tee shirts for the older children.
The children were treated to an exclusive meal thereafter, and all of them signaled the 'thumbs up' appreciation with their tiny hands amidst happy contented smiles. As they were bundled up and ushered into their buses amidst loud and vociferous 'thank you(s), byes and see-you-again(s)', the Foundation, Indian Routes and the Iceland travel partner felt that they had once again made a difference in the children' lives for a day, and in their happy memories for a long time to come.
NGO Umang was thankful for this level of exposure to the children reiterating the importance of recognition, love and care from normal people outside their known circle of family and caretakers.
Mr Christopher Hill, Chief Experience Officer, HUH accompanied by Ms Audrey had expressed a desire to visit two suitable NGOs at Jaipur, wherein they could channelise their Indian tour groups for visits, funds and other support. Mr Sanjeev Chopra, Go India Journeys, had guided Mr Hill onto our Foundation for the needful.
Our travel partner was visibly impressed with the work being done by our affiliate NGOs, Umang ( special children) and I-India (Project Ladli). They spent time on 20 Apr 2011, in interaction with children as well. At the end of the visits, Mr Hill was quite confident that HUH, in tandem with the Foundation, would be able to make a difference to these NGOs, as opportunities came his way.
For the Foundation, while many groups from across nations have been successfully hosted by our NGOs, this was the first inspection or assessment visit to an NGO by our travel partners. We are sanguine that this will be the harbinger of more associations and eventually help realize the Foundation basic goal of being a bridge between the affiliated NGOs and our esteemed Travel Partners.
Tired as they were, the teachers and some others amongst the Icelandic Group that visited Jaipur in Apr 2011, showed immense eagerness to visit NGO Akshar in the evening after their sightseeing, at the behest of Shaping Lives. They were greeted with customary openness and warmth by the children at the Subhodh Play School Centre. Mrs Reeta Kuhad herself, who is the founder member of this unique evening school for approx 850 marginalised children from the slums of Jaipur, was present with her key senior management team to conduct the visit.
The children and guests were given adequate opportunity for interaction, and both parties thoroughly enjoyed the same, as there were enough teachers in this group and their natural affinity towards students immediately came to the fore. They exchanged views and news of their countries and the elder children were especially eager to know the after effects of the volcanic ash and how the people had coped with it.
The guests were so charmed by these children that the guests’ personal and private stocks of chocolates and goodies were freely doled out to the children beside the presentation of a complete computer set including a printer. Time being at a premium for both students and guests, clinging goodbyes and thank you(s) rung the air at the evening school at Subodh Play School, Jaipur. For the children, the meeting gave them a small insight into Icelandic people and raised their confidence and belief in their abilities to bond with the best due to their education and grooming at Akshar. The computer at this Branch, will help link the five outlets of Akshar onto a common learning platform and systemize the educational and coordination needs of this grassroots level changing lives of the less privileged children at Jaipur. The Foundation felt once again that the smallest of bridges it creates, makes mile long smiles on the children faces, and it feels satisfied that its raison d etre is being achieved gradually.
The guests were thereafter treated to a lavish tea spread at Mrs Kuhad residence as her personal guests. The warmth and care of an Indian home’s hospitality, her exquisitely kept home and her fine art collection (she is also the Curator of a contemporary art gallery, the Samanvai Art Gallery at Ganpati Plaza, Jaipur), had the guests gasping in admiration and departing with hugs and happiness while in animated conversation with each other at this unique NGO-cum-home-visit opportunity provided to them during their tour of India. Our nation’s tourism motto, ‘attithi devo bhavo’, which can be translated as ‘a guest is the equivalent of god’, could not have been better achieved than through this unique evening.
The first guest visit to Bhagwan Mahavira Viklang Sahayita Samiti, (Jaipur Artificial Foot Centre) was organized by the Foundation on 30 Apr 2011. The family from USA had specifically desired to see this facility, having heard the Founder, Mr SR Mehta’s give a talk at their college in Castilleja. The visitors’ were briefed and conducted around the facility by Mr Mehta himself and were explained every nuance and economics of the Jaipur Foot organization.
Freedom to interact with the numerous new and old beneficiaries of the Jaipur Foot enlightened them to the genuine and lasting quality of this unique low cost prosthetic limb. They were visibly impressed by the humility and kindness shown to the patients, many of whom had heard of the Centre and gathered enough money and courage to reach Jaipur, from far flung interiors of India, confident that once they reached BMVSS, they would get a free prosthetic limb or even two, and go back walking happy men/women or children, to lead lives independently once again.
The BMVSS has performed approx 65000 limb operations in the year ending Mar 2011. Relying solely of external donors and funding, the organization takes great pride in transforming the ‘crawling sad dependent people’ who enter its premises, into ‘walking smiling independent faces’ when they leave the Centre.
Shaping Lives considers it a privilege to be associated with such an esteemed and benevolent organization.
Esteemed guests on the Indian Routes fam trip from Venezuela were treated to a delightful surprise by their host, Mr Dimple Singh, on 18 May evening at their Hotel in Jaipur. They were invited to tea with 14 physically and mentally challenged students accompanied by their escorts from our partner NGOs of Umang and DISHA Foundation, which look after children with such disabilities. The occasion was made all the more special, as the guests were to be presented paintings done by these children as a memoir to take back home from India.
The guests were so overwhelmed on being informed of the proposed ceremony, that they took immediate leave from the venue for a few moments, rushed back to their rooms and returned with a shower of chocolates and goodies from their personal stocks for these lovable children. Mr Singh, actually had to initiate a draw of lots, as the guests could not decide which painting each one should take much to the joy and laughter of all the children at this grand importance being given to them and their paintings, which take them painful months at times to make due to their disabilities.
Tears flowed aplenty amongst the guests ..... not of sadness ...but of compassion, of love and of a strange bond that God chose to establish between them and the children within minutes of their togetherness. Hundreds of photographs in every possible pose and with every one of the children were clicked. The warmth was such that the children, who are generally reclusive and withdrawn, volunteered themselves and expressed eagerness to meet and talk to each guest. Hugs and kisses aside, emails addresses and open invitations to visit Venezuela as their guests were readily forthcoming for the children as special bonds were created.
While every event the Foundation has organized thus far, has exuded warmth and brought smiles to the children and happiness to our guests, this presentation ceremony seems to have been in a world of its own. Time, distances, countries, language barriers, disabilities, ... all seemed to stand still in that hour of togetherness, all that was visible on each face was love, care and mutual respect and regard for each other.
The event has lent another dimension to the Foundation in promoting paintings and other knick-knacks made by these children. A special painting was also additionally delivered by Umang the next day, on demand of one guest who wanted to take home two of them, while DISHA showcased cards and bags made by other children. Seeing their work so appreciated was in itself a motivating experience for these children, and will hopefully create zest and motivation in them to produce more beautiful works of art and give flight to their latent dreams and creativity, unmindful of their own disabilities.
The Foundation is also particularly thankful to such fine travel partners, whose hearts and souls deluged our children with so much impromptu love and affection without the least inhibitions. The children have expressed great happiness and seek many encores of such events, and have decided to bring large bags next time to store the huge chocolate stocks gifted to them at each event. One NGO Director, has however admonished us. She stated 'stop spoiling our children so much .... they have fallen in love with your Foundation and the affection and care you bestow on them'. We are elated to be so admonished.
The World Environment Week from 30 May to 05 Jun was celebrated as a joint event with TUI Travel PLC - SD, A&D Sector and Le Passage to India, in partnership with Select CITYWALK and CHINTAN Environmental Research and Action Group through its Travel Foundation. Spread over four days from the 02 – 05 Jun, the event comprised office level environment actions and motivations as well as a three day grand event at the premier Select CITYWALK Mall in South Delhi.
Special TUI SD / LPTI interface
The special interface with TUI Travel PLC, SD was achieved through daily circulation of all Environment briefs and presentations received from the TUI A & D Sector, Sustainable Development office. Besides, all TUI offices across India were made partners to the ‘green celebrations’ undertaken by the Le Passage Travel Foundation.
The events commenced on 02 Jun at the office level in Delhi and Noida. The Foundation in partnership with Le Passage, TUI Travel PLC and Select CITYWALK, thereafter organized a three day ‘green event’ at the premier Select CITYWALK Mall in South Delhi from 03 – 05 Jun. The event comprised of indoor activity between 11.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. due to the severe summer conditions and shifted outdoors between 6.00 to 8.00 p.m. for the evening. This activity was coordinated by NGO CHINTAN Environmental Research and Action Group, which is one of our Foundation’s key NGO allies in Delhi.
02 Jun 2011
The day saw a talk to Le Passage and TUI colleagues at our Haus Khas and Noida offices by a recycling expert, Mr Jai Prakash Chowdhry. Popularly called ‘Santu’, he is associated with CHINTAN and has over 15 years ground level experience in handling and recycling waste in Delhi and is the spokesperson of the ‘Safai Sena’ comprising 15000 waste dealers / pickers in NCR. He is an active participant of the waste management policies of the Government of India and has taken part in the ‘climate talks’ at Copenhagen. He enthralled the audience with his wisdom and practical suggestions on handling, disposal and optimum use of home waste. His talk at both offices was followed by two skits by children under tutelage of their coordinator, Mr Ashish, from our affiliated NGO Manzil. The children belong to less privileged backgrounds and are groomed in English, computers and mathematics besides numerous extra-curricular activities in evening classes at Manzil, with a view to enhance their motivation and self confidence for a better future. The theme of these two skits was ‘making compost out of wet waste at home’ and ‘evils of tobacco use’. The children’ talent and confidence held the audience spellbound and they were given a standing ovation at both offices for their educative and entertaining performances.
03 Jun 2011
The CHINTAN team set up a ‘green desk’ in the atrium area of the Mall. Visitors to the mall were cajoled into coming to the desk by our umpteen volunteers. At the desk, each guest was tagged with a green ribbon, given a 9R flower sticker expounding the benefits of re-use and recycling for home use and thereafter requested to sign a pledge, imprinted on a green leaf, to save the environment. This leaf was then pasted by the guest, on the barren tree especially installed for the purpose next to the desk. Suffice to say that the tree, which had been barren at 11.00 a.m. was lush green by the afternoon and a second one had to be brought in to accommodate more ‘greening’.
The evening outdoor program brought on the Manzil performers once again but this time on an open air stage. Their confidence and élan caught the casual audience by surprise and as the performance progressed the crowds grew and a befitting applause greeted the finale of their skits.
04 Jun 2011
The day was a huge success. The trees which had been barren in the morning were overflowing with leaf pledges before we moved outdoors. Any and everyone who came up or was brought to the desk by our ever energetic volunteers was all praise for the uniqueness of the idea of greening a tree and more than happy to wear the green ribbon and take a 9R sticker home.
The outdoor program started at 6.30 p.m. due to the severe heat. However, with the live potter wheel in action and take-away tulsi (basil) plants prominently displayed for individual planting, our volunteers could get some respite as the crowd got attracted to our venue out of curiosity and by the sight of people, especially children, leaving with their tulsi plants. From aged to children as young as 2 years old, everyone wanted to try their hands at the potter’s wheel and then plant a tulsi. Such was the demand that we had to call for an additional 50 plants and even then restrict the take-away to a maximum of one plant for the nuclear families.
There was natural radiance and glee amongst all the volunteers and the Foundation at this success and despite the long hours everyone had spent, the cheer and helping hand to each visitor was never in doubt. The pledge and ribbon campaign continued outside as well and the youngsters coming for a light weekend evening at the Mall seemed to especially enjoy being with us. This is beside the smile and happiness on every face that planted the tulsi or saw their loved ones do so. The potter’s wheel was of course a source of laughter as well, as all the guest volunteers were novices and created grotesque and funny shapes out of the clay ….. more like modern art work actually than any pot or displayable product.
Alternate green initiatives been undertaken at the Mall by others could not meet the accolades our indoor and outdoor initiatives received. Some of the accolades and comments are listed in the testimonials paragraph below.
05 Jun 2011
The world environment day dawned to a hot sunny morning. With four trees already full to the brim, we had to organize back-up. As the day progressed, the barren tree replacement once again started to ‘green’ and by afternoon the leaves had started overlapping as young and old pledged to ‘use only a bucket of water for a bath’ or ‘never to use plastic bags’ or ‘to switch off lights not in use’.
The evening was again planned with visuals, signature campaigns, tulsi planting and the potter’s wheel. An on the spot drawing competition was additionally organized for children in the open air Plaza. While parents and elder siblings enjoyed their pottery and planting, the younger ones set about creating environment dreams on green colored drawing sheets. The concentration and poses by the young artists were varied, but the end product was a creation of vivid young minds as they saw the world and wanted it changed. With almost 300 tulsi plants gifted, 4500 leaf pledges made on our trees and fun, participation and smiles on the faces of so many children and their parents, the event achieved what it had set out to be. The gratitude and kind words by everyone who graced the desk in the Mall and our outdoor set-up were enough reward for the dedicated and hardworking volunteers from Le Passage and our Chintan partners.
The environment event this year was the first of its kind by the Foundation and Le Passage in close tandem with TUI Travel PLC. Its goal was to create awareness of the environment and the need to protect it. It achieved more than that. It created joy and happiness for over 4000 visitors and colleagues as they pledged and pasted a leaf and felt proud in greening a tree and took home a tulsi or a 9R sticker as memory to remember and be responsible for the environment not just for these three days but through out the year, hopefully. Our partners Select CITYWALK and NGO CHINTAN Environmental Research and Action Group were superb and we have together pledged to make this an annual and more meaningful event through the years.
Most of the children lodged at Deepalaya Gram hostels in Gusbethi, Haryana, belong to less privileged parents, single mothers or others unable to keep them in their personal care. However, some are either orphans or their parents are too poor to accept them home even for the summer breaks. Our NGO Deepalaya called us to seek some entertainment or outing for 45 such children, who had nowhere to go during the holidays.
The Foundation promptly liaison and organized a day picnic at a 4 Star property, The Heritage Village Resort and Spa, Manesar, for these children accompanied by their supervisory staff. The children were welcomed at the Hotel with a high tea followed by a movie of their choice. A lavish lunch with loads of ice cream had them beaming ear to ear thereafter. The Hotel then took them for a familiarization round.
Rounds of party games followed with keen contests for the numerous prizes on display. By late afternoon, the children, especially the smaller ones in age group 5-7 years looked happy but exhausted and it was decided to call it a day. But!!! The Hotel wouldn’t let them go until they had finished another dose of high tea and the children reluctantly?? succumbed to their demand.
A round of thanks to all the staff followed, with the tiny toddlers tying friendship bands and presenting handmade thank you cards to the management. As they mounted their bus back to the Hostel, their smiles and ‘byes’ and ‘thank you’ gave the Hotel management and us at the Foundation the joy and satisfaction that we had made a happy difference once again in a child’s life.
Le Passage Travel Foundation had the unique experience of playing host to NPO International World Peace Symphony, Japan. The NPO was established on June 1st 2010 and accepted by the Prime Minister of Japan as an organization that wishes and acts for world peace. Their mission is to play an active part for world peace movement not only in Japan, but also in other countries in the world, mainly through their peace event called WPPC (World Peace Prayer Ceremony).
The WPPC is a ceremony to pray for each country?s peace, with participants (children) holding up the respective country?s National flags or flag cards and uttering "May Peace Prevail On Earth, May Peace be in _______(name of country)." Its purpose is to unite all the people's heart as one, paying respects equally to every country in the spirit of "world peace", which is the common wish of all the people in the world. The WPPC was first organized in Japan. The first international WPPC was organized in the city of Los Angeles introducing this moving ceremony to an international audience for the first time outside in Japan. Since then this ceremony has been organized on every continent and in every major city throughout the world. In 1990 WPPC was organized in the UN Headquarters with more than 2,000 people filling the General Assembly Hall on 21 Sept (Peace Prayer Day) to take part in this powerful call for peace. Since then, WPPC has become an annual standard event at UN International Peace Day.
In an explanation of the word "prayer", the delegates led by Mr Takamooki, explained that it is an affirmation and declaration of the wishes and aspirations that exist within each one of us, in communion with the heart where there is only Oneness, Compassion, and Love for humanity. The Symphony believe that the power which will create a completely new world filled with peace ,harmony and brightness is the power of the energetic words, thoughts and prayers for peace by each one of us. It is their aim to let children, the future citizens of the 21st century, increase awareness of peace through this Ceremony.
Our Foundation organized the peace ceremonies for our ?guests of peace? at Deepalaya School, Sanjay Colony, and at the Salwan Public School, Rajinder Nagar, in Delhi. Besides the prayer, the group had also brought a peace pole inscribed with ?May Peace Prevail On Earth? in English, Hindi, Bengali and Japanese. The pole is embedded permanently into the ground wherever the peace ceremony is held to remind us of our pledge towards world peace for posterity.
Both the schools enjoyed the uniqueness and exclusivity of such a strange and wonderful ceremony. Our guests where impressed by the children? zeal and motivation to participate and assurances to adopt peace as a way of life. While NGO Deepalaya, schooling less privileged children from the local slum clusters showcased a small cultural program to honor the visitors, Salwan meshed the United Religions Initiative into the ceremony thereby adding further value to it. The URI is a worldwide initiative which encourages peace amongst different religions through dialogue, understanding and mutual respect.
The gods blessed the Salwan ceremony with an impromptu torrential downpour, which had everyone of us soaked to the skin, but smiles and happiness ran higher as the efficient Principal, Mrs Puri, the Montessori Head Mistress, Mrs Mathur and their staff and students, quickly organized an alternate indoor venue, and ensured that we could still continue to draw inspiration from the ceremony, as well as see it through in totality with the right amount of grace and decorum despite being drenched.
Our guests and the Foundation both felt that the superimposition of the United Religions Initiative into the Peace ceremony was a great idea and that the URI path the school has chosen to lead the children on, will help them become sane, peaceful and responsible citizens of the future.
Our guests from Japan appeared very satisfied and grateful and their expression of thanks and show of affection in the gifting at the tea ceremony was a fair indication of that. This was the Foundation?s second event in collaboration with the elite Salwan Public School (earlier being with their Montessori section under Mrs A Mathur), and it is a matter of joy for us to be associated with a school that is socially very active, and besides expounding the URI concept, has adopted a village on the outskirts of NCR where it encourages its students to undertake social upliftment.
Coincidentally, both Salwan Public School and Deepalaya were in the top five list of change-makers, awarded the Gobar Times Green Awards on 15 Jul 2011, by the Centre for Science and Environment for their efforts to make sure that the environment lands up in wise hands tomorrow. Salwan Public School, where the peace ceremony was held on the same morning in fact topped the list of change-makers.
The Foundation is also thankful to Rtn TK Mathew, CEO, Deepalaya and Maj SK Kholi, a senior Director of Salwan, and Mr Negi, URI Head of the region, for gracing the ceremonies at their respective schools, and thereby lending credence and further respect to the importance of such a ceremony and to our Japanese NPO guests.
Ngo Manzil is one of our affiliated NGOs located in Delhi. Focusing on teaching less privileged students Maths, English and computers to prepare them for suitable job opportunities in today’s IT environment, the NGO also lays strong emphasis on arts and dance as a means of expanding one’s limits and gaining overall confidence and grace.
The annual festival of this NGO was held at the Nehru Museum amphitheatre on 17 Jul 2011. The children put an excellent program with a wonderful theme as ‘what Manzil means to them and what it has taught them’. Every item had a Manzil centric touch. The audience ranged from volunteers to dignitaries to parents of these less privileged children and as the medley of entertainment unfolded, the applause grew louder by the minute.
These children are self taught, whether in choreography or direction or acting. The range varied from a wonderful starting ‘vandana’ and moved on to a kathak performance, followed by the choir and a number of song and dance sequences. The contemporary dance depicting the need and opportunity to learn provided by Manzil and culminating in its strong bias towards environment projection was energetically and gracefully performed. The mime act by seven students enacting different roles took the audience from lush green forests and happy fauna to de-forestation, pollution of water resources, city smog and pollution and eventually self-realisation and yet a depiction that it was too little too late. The self trained students of Manzil could well have been performing at an elite opera house, such was their natural grace and expressive content.
The loudest applause as always was however reserved for the tiny-tots performing to a child song ‘taare zameen par’ and a hearing and speech impaired girl who did a solo dance merely on one clue from her guide that a song had started.
Le Passage celebrated nine years of its existence and metamorphic rise into a premium inbound destination company in India, on 06 Aug 2011. The onus of organizing, in toto, the extensive social participation by colleagues and company combined, fell on its CSR Department, Le Passage Travel Foundation, acronym Shaping Lives, for the first time. With the large hearted support system of both the Company and every colleague on its payroll, the events undertaken at its offices across India were a huge reflection of the motivation and the spirit of giving in every soul.
We will cover the offshore events eventually. In this newsletter, we bring you the highlights of events in our Delhi and Noida offices.
The blood donation kick-started the Foundation day celebrations as always. Volunteers lined up at both Haus Khas and Noida offices to be the amongst the first to donate blood and their was much bonhomie and encouraging words as the donors smiled and egged on the late comers. While over 250 colleagues, male and female, volunteered to donate blood, the stringent medical requirements of Rotary Blood bank could not be met by all and the Blood Bank went away in the evening with a total of 118 units collected. A good healthy collection by all means.
This is an event which has the heads of business units swarming like bees to a beehive. The reason is simple. They get an in-house opportunity to meet and pamper children from our NGO Deepalaya and Project Arman (Chintan). The high tea for these representative tinytots is organised as a prelude to the presentations to the NGOs.
Sponsor a Child
As per an initiative floated last Foundation Day, colleagues are encouraged to voluntarily contribute any miniscule amount not exceeding INR 500 towards collectively sponsoring education of less privileged children. The amount collected across India is then doubled by Le Passage to India, as its share. This year the collection far exceeded the requirement for renewal for the annual sponsorship of 12 differently abled and 4 normal children of NGO Deepalaya. The balance amount is now being utilized to make a lumpsum limb/caliper gift to the Jaipur Foot organization within this month and we hope to bring ‘smiles’ to quite a few amputees in addition to our children, as well. Rtn Mathew, CEO Deepalaya and Ms Sangeeta heading the special children unit received the cheque on behalf of all colleagues of Le Passage to India. In addition, TI Infotech, our affiliate, sponsored another 4 normal children, an increase of 100% over last year.
This initiative is also a carry forward of last year. Herein our strategic business units (SBUs) pool in internal voluntary gifts and hand them over to Shaping Lives. The Foundation in turn packs them into gift wrapped cartons. The entire gift hamper totaling 25 cartons this year, was handed over to representative children from our Nizamudin based Project Arman (Chintan). These gifts are subsequently distributed amongst Project Arman children by our affiliate NGO Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group. Ms Panchali, Operations head, alongwith Rajneesh and Gaurav, field officers in charge of Arman, received the gifts for all children.
The children were of course loaded with goodies and post lunch given a return gift goodie bag as well to make their visit to Le Passage unforgettable.
Sponsored Lunch at Gurukul
It has been a tradition to sponsor the midday meal on our Foundation day at the Gurukul in Gautam nagar, about 3 kms from the haus Khas office. This Gurukul is a grooming school for children from less privileged backgrounds into the realm of religious and vedic education. These children eventually become the ‘pandits, acharyas and shastris’ (religious teachers) in Hindu temples and spiritual education institutions. This year again, lunch was sponsored for the 225 inmates including the wardens. The highlight of this lunch is that colleague volunteers, dominantly our SBU heads, serve the lunch to the children with their own hands, distribute gifts of books and stationery thereafter, and post this social volunteerism, partake of the same lunch in the Gurukul premises. The Company also donates an item as per the Gurukul wish-list, and this year it was two steel cupboards for storage of utensils.
Old Clothes Collection
The day is also used to pre-collect old clothes which any colleague wishes to donate to an NGO. The entire collection is then formally handed over to NGO Goonj, which is one of India’s premier NGO in this type of social service. This year at Delhi itself we were able to hand over almost one TATA 407 worth of old clothes, in the prayer that someone, somewhere, would feel their warmth and semblance of self respect in their possession as perhaps the only set he or she possess in this world.
Shaping Lives introduced this small self initiative for this Foundation Day. Any colleague could just make a commitment to ‘be there’ in cash or time should any emergency arise at any one of our affiliate NGOs. In fact some of them have gone so far as to sponsor children at a personal level, as their show of commitment on Foundation Day. This is in addition to the company effort contribution. We are indeed blessed to have such kind souls in our team.
In conclusion, Shaping Lives brings you a small but significant aspect of Le Passage to India corporate culture, in stating that we celebrate our Foundation day through the joy of giving and not by lavish self entertainment. It is a tradition from the day the Company was founded and each one of us are proud to be its custodian in letter and spirit. This 9th Foundation day has once again proved every colleague’s social inclination and we hope to add more initiatives as we grow from year to year.
A team of Mintcentive’s key tour agents from Belgium, on a fam trip to India, were given the Akshar experience, by Shaping Lives, at Jaipur on 08 Aug 2011. Akshar Society is one of our empanelled NGOs working on the education and upliftment of approx 850 less privileged children from the slums of Jaipur, through an afternoon school program run at five different centres.
The guests arrived to the welcome of a cloudburst which had the entire area outside the Subodh Play School Akshar Centre, temporarily deluged. The dampened spirits, however, soon came alive as the children greeted the guests at the entrance and the intermingling sessions started. The tiny tots of nursery, mostly new and less than confident babies, overcame their initial awe on seeing so many foreign faces, and were soon happily singing various nursery rhymes and posing for pictures much to the amusement of the Belgian guests.
The camaraderie and bonds strengthened as the guests moved onto senior classes and soon enough, the ‘guest group’ had broken up into individuals and pairs, setting up mini-communication centres randomly dispersed across the hall, with their Akshar children groups. A visit scheduled for 30 mins prolonged to over an hour, as the intermingling flowed into a school song and national anthem recital by the children. Toffees, sweets, gifts of ball pens didn’t seem enough and the guests made a spot collection of an additional INR 4600 and handed it over to Akshar Founders, Mrs Reeta Kuhad and her ladies team for buying gifts for the children on 15 Aug Independence day function.
The guests were given token presentation of a bookmark with the Akshar insignia as they departed amidst thank yous and goodbyes and lots of flying kisses between them and the children.
The Akshar Slum Centre
Akshar Society started their journey at the Kathputli slum centre almost 15 years ago with 5 children. This centre which also runs morning sessions, is for those local slum children who can not make it to the afternoon school program due to various compulsions. The happiness and education quotients are fairly high and the children highly motivated and eager to become ‘doctors, engineers, teachers’ when they grow up via this Akshar initial education foundation
We also showcase the young man, Rishab, as the young and successful Aksharite. Rishab grew up in this slum as a student of Akshar. Today, he is a support centre employee with Vodafone in Jaipur earning a reasonable salary. He has married a girl who is also an Aksharite and such is his affiliation to the NGO that he spends 2-3 hours of his free time each day at the Kathputli slum centre doing administrative and teaching work to create future success stories like him.
A presentation ceremony was organized at the main Hall of Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS), Jaipur on 24 Aug, to complete the planned initiatives and commitments of the 9th Foundation Day, of Le Passage To India (LPTI) celebrated earlier on 06 Aug 2011, and covered in the newsletter the following week
Le Passage Travel Foundation - Shaping Lives, gifted a cheque of INR 80000 to cover the cost of 40 Jaipur Artificial Limbs including all fitments and accessories to the hundreds who crawl in each day into their premises, looking for a free fitment and a new lease to life. The limbs were distributed on first cum first served basis, and the beneficiaries ranged from very elderly citizens coming from Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, to younger ones from States like Odissa, Gujurat and Maharastra. As Mr D R Mehta, the CEO and Founder of BMVSS, often quotes, ‘people crawl in crying and walk out smiling’, from this organization each day, and nothing can be more true and fulfilling, than the sight of smiling faces of these less privileged and poor, testing out their free of cost, newly fitted limbs, with the visible glint in their eyes of once again leading an active self sustaining life with respect and renewed confidence.
The event was graced by the staff and top management of BMVSS. Shaping Lives was represented by its General Manager, Col (Retd) Anil Alagh and Mr Khalid Khan, the Rajasthan head for LPTI, with a small support team of Mr Milind and others. Mr Mehta, in his introductory address apprised all beneficiaries of the source and intent of this donation and thankfully accepted the cheque on their behalf. For Shaping Lives, all we had to say was that we were humbled and happy to provide this tiny drop in BMVSS’ vast philanthropic enterprise, and would endeavor to create more such opportunities through not just our colleagues but our inbound travel guests as well.
The event ended with refreshments being served to all patients and staff members of BMVSS and ample goodwill and affectionate endearments of thanks from the beneficiaries.
Project Arman (Chintan) had another set of foreign visitors within the space of 10 days on 07 Sept 2011. The first visit, organized and facilitated by NGO CHINTAN, had Her Excellency, the High Commissioner of New Zealand, Ms Jan Henderson, visit the two Arman Centres at Nizamudin on 30 Aug, and return visibly impressed with confirmed promises of financial and other support.
On 07 Sept, Mr Devindra Sapai, Dean, Character and Citizen Education, and Mr Stanley Tan, Subject Head CCA / PAL at the Seng Kang Primary School (SKPS), Singapore, paid a visit to the our Centres. The visit was facilitated by Shaping Lives on behalf of Go India Journeys. They were part of the reconnaissance team come to explore socially interactive opportunities for their primary school children. The intent was to do an inclusive tour of India with at least 1 – 2 days devoted to social work by the children in less privileged environments. The focus would be on sports, language skills, IT, renovation of the classrooms, or any other volunteer work deemed mutually productive and suitable by both SKPS faculty and NGO CHINTAN.
Both the representatives were suitably impressed with our Arman goals and visions and the visit was followed up with detailed discussions on the kind of interventions which would be suitable for the Armanis and also meet the SKPS children’ financial limits, as this was designed as a pure social interface based on external fund raising by the children with assistance from the school.
They have returned with an assurance of a probable 1-2 day interaction as early as the last week of Oct / early November and we at Shaping Lives are hopeful of a new chapter being written into Arman history. The guests were also apprised about the Foundation’s other works and NGOs and would be taking time out to visit our affiliations both in Delhi and Jaipur when they return in October 2011.
The off shore locations imprinted their CSR signatures in different ways. Goans are especially known for their large hearts and compassion and our Goa Le Passage team was no different. When the generous collection by all colleagues for ‘sponsor a child’ exceeded the previous year’s amount, the team decided to add-on and indulge in local philanthropy as well.
They chose the Shaping Lives empanelled, orphanage-cum-school, of Holy Family Convent for social intervention, and in discussions with Sister Claret, a decision was taken to gift the under 14 boys andgirls’ soccer teams with soccer jerseys and some equipment. The orphanage primarily has girls and the new coach had recently raised the girls’ soccer team as a successful confidence building exercise. The financial status of the school eluded a team uniform, and it was decided to present only jerseys to both the teams instead of the entire kit to just the girls’ team.
With this association Shaping Lives has made its first foray into Goa. We have some visits and volunteer programs on the anvil in the coming season and hope to make a more significant presence then.
The first week of Sept also saw a short visit to Akshar Society by our travel partners from Germany, Italy, USA, France, South Africa and Poland, invited on a fam trip to India, as guests of Mintcentive. Like last month’s visit to this NGO involving Belgian travel partners, these guests too appreciated the well run and happy educational environment available to the less privileged children from the slums of Jaipur. The ‘karma’ memories must have carried, because Shaping Lives received a request within 48 hours of departure from Dr Ricarda Merkwitz, Managing Director, “immens-events”, Munich, that she desired to be given options to be ‘godmother’ to a girl child.
Shaping Lives accordingly gave her multiple options in Delhi and Jaipur. She chose a girl from theDeepalaya Special School, Sanjay Colony, New Delhi for her love. The paper and other fund transfer formalities are already underway and as this newsletter goes online, Shaping Lives would have its first godmother on our roles.
Not just this, but she is also planning to spread the word to her professional colleagues and friends and hopes to make a larger difference. Thank you very much, Dr Ricarda Merkwitz. You are the kind of beacon that we need at Shaping Lives, to spread our message of compassion towards less privileged children, and social interventions to bring ‘smiles’ on their faces, even as you enjoy your sojourn through ‘Incredible India’ with the Le Passage family.
The month saw a new chapter in CSR being opened for intervention in the golden city of Jaisalmer. Delegates from Singapore and Hongkong arrived for coordination of a major event in Feb 2012. Shaping Lives was co-opted into the coordination as the event organizers were keen on some worthwhile social responsibility initiative to be undertaken by the participants who are expected to number over 200.
Whilst shortlisting the Jaisalmer possibility in ‘Organisation for the People with Disabilities (OPD), a daylong CSR itinerary for Jaipur was also outlined for the guests. OPD, Jaisalmer is unique that it is started and run by a lady, Ms Shubangi, who is herself visually impaired. Yet her will and compassion are visible when she proudly introduces her NGO and accompanies you on a conducted round of her premises. Run as a husband – wife team with 2-3 staff, it currently has 21 special orphaned / abandoned children, mostly hearing and speech impaired on its rolls. Ms Shubangi wants to be able to expand the infrastructure and take in more such children and also to reach out to special children who cannot reach her and have no other access to education or growth in this border district of Rajasthan.
The guests were also enthralled by their visits to the Jaipur NGOs of I-India, Umang and Akshar Society and we at Shaping Lives, are sanguine that avenues for volunteer tourism are in the offing from the Far East, in the very near future. Thank you Luxe India and Jetairways, Singapore for the association for the event and beyond. association.
The Bobath Group of 10 volunteers from Scotland and Wales graced the Special Unit of Deepalaya for a volunteer program under aegis of Shaping Lives in the first week of October. The Bobath group has its genesis from a well renowned physiotherapist, Ms Berta Bobath and Karel Bobath, a neurophysiologist, both of whom specialized in working for children with Cerebral Palsy and other mental disorders with the main concept being ‘regaining normal movements by this category through re-education’. Ms Bobath’s therapy and clinical doctrines are followed in CP centres across the world including India to this day the use of orthotics and appropriate compensations, instead of aiming for completely "normal" movement patterns.
Pre-recce for the group’s volunteer program with this Deepalaya unit dealing with special children was done by our esteemed travel partner, from UK two months in advance. The special unit, recently shifted from another slum which was razed, was in a very shabby state. This was targeted as the social work on the Bobath group’s India itinerary.
The group arrived to a warm welcome and familiarization program by Deepalaya on the first day. They were taken around the slum cluster and interacted with the children’ parents, understanding the environment and social backdrop of the special children whom they were to benefit.
Work on the painting of the main hall started in earnest the next day and the dull drab walls came to life in a rainbow of vivid colors. The ceiling, the doors, everything, seem to get rejuvenated as the group pushed themselves to the limit with the children happily watching the transformation of their building into a vibrant home. The special therapeutic equipments and the slides and playground equipment were next in line.
In deviation to standard protocols, there was not just one but two coup de graces. The first one was when the more talented and enterprising amongst the group, volunteered to draw landscapes and caricatures on the freshly colored walls in the time available. A cherry tree and a beautiful magic fairy came up along with a caricature of Lord Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god. The second moment of delight was when each child of this special centre was cajoled to dip his/her hand into paint and implant their hands onto the freshly colored walls. The entire group and staff also followed suit, thereby leaving a permanent ‘handprint’ as a memoir of their visit and the lovely work they had done.
This group has people who have some association with CP in the form of near and dear ones. Only one, Julie, was a CP afflicted volunteer herself but that did not stop her from donning the apron and painting one of the walls pink with a little support. She also shot a clip for the BBC Scotland special show and we hope it goes live and brings back happy memories of their Deepalaya sojourn, aegis Shaping Lives to each one of them.
Deepalaya Special Unit entry and main hall are shining and ready for Diwali. The joy and pride in the children’ eyes at this ‘rainbow’ transformation is to be seen to be believed. Bobath Group and Sarah, there have been many a silent blessing sent out in your names from the tiny lips that matter. Great work. Come back for more. Shaping Lives and our children await you.
Indian Routes, one of our business units, organized a tour itinerary to Rajasthan for esteemed guests of Toshiba for their French travel partners in the first fortnight of Oct 2011.
During the tour, Mrs. Roma Satara - Vice President - Indian Routes organized a very exclusive and innovative half day CSR interface with Mr Rajender Singh, Ramon Magsaysay award winner, and known as the ‘waterman’ of India. Rajenderji has traversed the 54 major rivers of India on foot, camping in the wilderness and creating awareness about water pollution, preservation, policies and its acceptability as a spiritual gift of nature in the Indian sub-conscience. He is a leading authority on water management and is consulted on every major water policy being formulated by the Government.
The group comprising leading Distributors and Managers of TFIS- Toshiba’s French Subsidiary, and were accompanied by the President, and the Executive Vice President of TFIS France.
Based in Bhikampur, 30 kms from Alwar, Rajasthan, and heading the Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS), an NGO on water management, Rajender Singh is internationally famous for turning this arid region of Alwar district of Rajasthan into a green belt with a perennial water source.
The group was fascinated to be personally received by Mr Rajender Singh at his TBS HQ and taken around the farmland while he conducted a running commentary on his work and the local villager’s extreme cooperation and enlightenment to ensure its success. The interpreter was in high demand as questions and answers flowed at F1 speeds.
The delegation was particularly impressed with a step well cut into a rock formation and were left speechless on hearing that a member of his village support group had tracked the water source under the rock by dint of a natural gift and not via technology or satellite imagery. Rajenderji was all praise for his man and woman volunteer teammates who had, and were still ensuring, the water management and greening of the project undertaken in this arid zone and on his recommendation, each of these support group members was presented a bicycle courtesy Toshiba. The delegation also presented monetary aid for TBS work before they were honoured with the ‘rajput safaa (ceremonial headgear) and chunris (women accoutrement)’ on behalf of TBS.
The Toshiba group were also taken to NGO Akshar Society at Jaipur, prior to Alwar. One of the empanelled NGOs of Le Passage Travel Foundation, the NGO educates approx 900 less privileged children in afternoon schools and enables them admissions into government schools subsequently.
The visitors interacted with the children and teachers and were moved by the excellent work and organized atmosphere of this unique initiative undertaken by 15 leading ladies of Jaipur for the up-liftment of the children of marginalized families, and affirmed their intent to make suitable contributions to their cause.
This year’s annual Diwali bash for our children from Project Arman was held on 29 Oct, i.e. the Saturday following Diwali. Having learnt from past experiences, the time was shifted to lunch instead of evening, to allow the children more happiness time and sunlight. The lawns of the park at Sunder Nagar, our venue for this annual event, were decked out in a multi-hued enclosure, lined with balloons with our entertainment of DJ, balloon artists, make up and tattoo teams, etc, etc eagerly awaiting the arrival of our esteemed guests, 160 of them, and all in the mood for pure fun and frolic.
The arrival, a little short of noon, was heralded by a loud ‘YAYYYY’ emanating from three buses as the children poured out amidst ‘Hi’ and hellooo’ and onto the enclosure. The ‘bouncy’ took the first hit being in their line of sight, until the 100 odd girls amongst them realized that eye and nail make-up beside other girlie goodies were awaiting at another corner. Twenty staff, including volunteers from the LPTI and their children, against 160 charged up children … it was an absolutely unfair contest for the former. Finally, reason prevailed, and a little push here and a little shove there, saw the children get into their own protocols and queues as they made a beeline for various counters with their candy floss sticks in hand.
The afternoon progressed to the beats of the DJ and some pretty neat dancing steps by the more talented Armanis. The magician cum entertainer took over midway and conducted his games and tricks much to the delight and squeaks of every child. His magic brought out laughter and awe and the claps of appreciation were thunderous. Our clown and ‘Charlie Chaplin’ clones nudged and prodded the more shy ones into laughing submission or participation depending on the event. All this activity without a moment of rest induced a sudden hunger, and they were quick to sit in disciplined rows for once, when lunch was announced. Each child was given an individual pre-packed tray with a supplement of salad and ‘roti’ (Indian bread) and Sunder Nagar park became quiet for a while again as the children concentrated on their special meal.
Meal over and tucked in, the children were back onto the dance floor. Hindi film hits and some strong energetic moves by individual amateurs were followed by a special program of ‘song and dance’ put up for us as hosts by these little children. Their quaint costumes and dainty moves won over every heart and they received a loud ovation as this last event of a beautiful Armani day picnic ended amidst the setting sun.
The eagerly awaited ‘return gift’ ceremony as our children call it, commenced with each child’s name being called out to come up and receive their personal tracksuit complete with the Shaping Lives logo in front and the ‘ARMANI’ and Chintan symbol embossed on the back. Their eyes sparkled at this new and special gift and some had to be constrained from trying it on there itself. The tracksuit is envisioned to bring them warmth this winter and to be used for Arman classes as a demi-uniform as they attend classes in at our Arman Centre in Nizamudin.
A word of thanks to the staff and individual separate gifts to each of them by the Foundation, marked the end of the evening. Visibly tired but happy children trouped in line to their buses for the move back home, to the shanties, but each a ‘dragon’ or a ‘cobra’ or ‘a rose’ for a day, depending on their tattoo. Sunder Nagar Park once again became silent as the sun gradually set on this wonderful Diwali experience for both, the children who have fun and are made to feel very special, and for Shaping Lives and its volunteers for whom it is another small but significant step towards spreading smiles on its path.
The month of November saw Shaping Lives once again indulge in some internal CSR interventions after the Foundation Day in August, in the form of financial support. The first recipient was a girl doing her MCA, and the others our empanelled NGOs.
Nisha Thapliyal : Nisha became the first individual face of Shaping Lives to get monetary assistance to assist her in meeting an MCA course fees. She has been nurtured at NGO Manzil for two years, and is currently pursuing her MCA course in Madhya Pradesh. She is one of the four female siblings of a serving BSF soldier. The cost of educating his children and especially putting Nisha through an MCA course simultaneously after her successful completion of the BCA degree was proving cumbersome for the single earning member. Shaping Lives recognized the need to offset some of the expenses and accepted her request for the monetary assistance for the current term. Her account was remitted a sum of Rs 15000/- within 7 days, much to her surprise and joy. This is but a start to help many more less privileged or financially constrained children to realize their dreams.
NGO Cankids …Kidscan : An appeal to financially assist the NGO in its Diwali celebrations for less privileged children afflicted with cancer was readily honored by the Foundation. The NGO works in close conjunction with the Indian Cancer Society organizing, funding and monitoring cancer care for children coming from BPL families. The NGO requested for Rs 25000/- and cheque for the same was handed over to their representative. The children had loads of fun and Shaping Lives feels satisfied that behind the scenes, it had a part to play in their ‘smiles’.
NGO Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group : On a request to assist in the education of one of their ‘bright sparks’ ASSAD, Shaping Lives has assured to fund the one year’s tution fees for this illiterate young man. The first installment of fees uptil Mar 2012 was despatched to Chintan in end Nov. The boy is street smart but totally illiterate. He will undergo one year’s extensive tuitions to learn basic letters and assorted, and thereafter be enrolled in the NIOS program for a school certificate. Chintan is our Project manager for Arman, the Shaping Lives initiative for waste-pickers’ children of Nizzamuddin.
A team of 12 trainees from a premier Japanese management institution were guests of Shaping Lives on 16 Nov. The trainees were all mid-to-senior level managers of MNCs like Sony, Toshiba, Caterpillar, TDK and premium Japanese pharmaceuticals. In the half day devoted to their social interface in India, Shaping Lives lined up visits to two different empanelled NGOs.
Visit to Deepalaya School : The guests reached Deepalaya School, Sanjay Colony at the appointed time of 8.15 a.m. They were received by Mrs Renu Loomba, Principal of the school. The briefing was cut short to allow the guests to witness the morning assembly. At insistence of Col Anil Alagh, General Manager, Shaping Lives, the guests were convinced that they should first see the slum cluster from where these children lived, to understand their reality and the importance of the work being done by Deepalaya. The 200m walk along the slum lanes culminating in the house of one of the students was an experience they will remember through out their lives and most of them thanked us for it as an eye opener. Photo shoots followed as each member entered the house, was briefed and dumbstruck as to how a family of 6 people could live in a 8 x 7 single room and yet be smiling and looking at the world with positive energy.
The walk back into school and interactions with children in various classes and the nursery rhymes by the swinging smiling toddlers had all of them glowing with satisfaction. The Special Unit with challenged children had also opened by then, and the initially hesitant guests, were cajoled by Col Alagh into getting down onto their knees and hugging and loving these special children. Inhibitions became history as the first of them followed this advice and within moments it was sheer chaos …. simple ‘fun and joy’ chaos …. with excited children scrambling all over the visibly gleaming guests, wanting their pictures taken and then wanting retakes when they saw or felt they were not looking debonair enough.
Visit to The Earth Saviors’ Foundation : The next stop was at this NGO in Vasant Kunj, where the head, Mr Ravi Kalra received them with his customary warmth and radiant smile. A round of the premises, meeting with the senior citizens in this old age shelter, interaction with the volunteers and the children from the local slums they were teaching and fascination at seeing live goats and buffaloes and geese being tended to had them amazed. The star of the day however was one goat and her little lamb born the previous day. They couldn’t take their eyes or camera lens off it.
With professional meetings to attend, the guests had to decline the lunch offer made by Ravi and left with warm handshakes and contented ‘thank you’ to Shaping Lives. For this NGO, it was the first visit by any foreign group and it made us at Shaping Lives smile at having facilitated it, assuring them of more in the near future.
Ms Akemi B, the editor of the Japanese Airlines onboard magazine visited the country with specific intent of a photo shoot for the carrier’s onboard magazine. Part of the 5 day itinerary was interaction with a young and upcoming contemporary artist followed by a meeting with the man behind a concept called ‘upcycle’, initiated by Mr Ahuja, via his company named ‘CONSERV’. The ‘upcycle’ method uses recycled waste to create internationally marketable products.
Both the meetings were facilitated by Shaping Lives, for whom it was the first such foray into art. Ms Akemi was accompanied by her professional photographer, Mr Satoru T and the entire shoot was to focus around the third participant Mr Iseya Y. This gentleman, a young, handsome and dynamic large hearted human being, besides being a well known Japanese film star, has also starred in English movies with the likes of Julianne Moore. He is also a master of Fine Arts, owns a Fine Arts company, is a keen environmentalist and social entrepreneur and one who believes in leaving behind a legacy where society remembers him for his contributions rather his personal excellence. (IMG 810)
The Indian artist selected to meet the JAL team was Mr Chander Shekhar (CS) from Jaipur. Barely 25 years old, CS is also a Master of Fine Arts, specializes in art with a folk theme and captures the pleasures and pains of daily life on canvas. He is also currently pursuing a Doctorate in Rajasthani folk art. The artist is showcased regularly in Samanvai Art gallery, owned by Mrs Reeta Kuhad in Jaipur, and was recognized as the most promising artist of Rajasthan state in 2010. The guests’ first stop was the personal residence of Mrs Kuhad in Delhi, where they were given a brief review of CS’s works, via a personal collection of the Kuhad family. During this short preview, Col Anil Alagh, General Manager-CSR, who had facilitated on behalf of Shaping Lives, was present and able to cajole Mr Iseya into the possibility of both him and CS engaging in a painting medley at Jaipur, thus creating something exclusive for the JAL magazine. On being informed that Mrs Kuhad was also running NGO Akshar Society, which was empanelled to Shaping Lives and educated approx 900 slum children, Mr Iseya, visibly impressed, wanted to visit the slum school, and a change in itinerary for Jaipur was made on the spot. Mrs Kuhad, of course, was positive and happy with both developments.
The evening of 11 Nov at Samanvai Art gallery (www.samanvaiart.org), saw an immediate rapport being established between the two artists and having reviewed CS’s displays and recorded conversations, both of them agreed to sit down and draw each other in charcoal. In fact Mr Iseya chose the floor seating over the easel and canvas laid out for him. Mr Iseya follows the strict anatomical form of Fine Arts whereas CS is non-conformist and deviates onto his own particular folk mix. The rhapsody in charcoal was further beautified when a third budding artist, Ms Nikhaar, who was present, was requested to join in. Barely 23 years old, she uses Urdu calligraphy as the base and words of ghazals(songs) as fillers, extensively in her sketches. An encounter planned for 30 mins, extended to over 2 hours with hundreds of close-ups capturing the moods and joy of the artists and CS’s works. Mrs Kuhad, as the gallery owner, was delighted as was everyone present. The artists exchanged notes and experiences and the evening ended in a gifting of the charcoal sketches to each other in addition to some special smaller ones that CS already had ready for each guest.
The next morning saw a happy JAL team alight from their vehicle at the Kathputli Nagar slum cluster. Received and escorted again by Shaping Lives, they walked into Akshar School looking a little apprehensive due to the environment. It barely took 2 minutes to break the ice and Mr Iseya and the photographer had a field day, shooting children at different angles, entertaining them, enjoying the Akshar school song by the tiny toddlers. All of them came across as particularly warm but Mr Iseya was the one who mingled and became the children’ favorite and had them laughing and wanting ‘more’ of him. The grins, sheepish, crooked, wide, gritted, all earthly yet divine samples, were readily available to Mr Satoru, as his huge wide angle lens camera fascinated the children. With another meeting to catch, the children presented ‘thank you’ cards to each guest and in a final maze of close up shots, the JAL team and children of Akshar bade each other a last sayonara.
This was a wonderful encounter. To some of our guests who fly JAL and read through their magazine, do put in a silent blessing for Shaping Lives, Akshar School and Samanvai Arts Gallery who worked behind the scenes and in tandem to make the experience memorable. We at Shaping Lives are of course indebted to Mrs Reeta Kuhad for her niceties and cooperation with Shaping Lives beyond the ordinary.
The Foundation celebrated the day with its special children at the Deepalaya Special Unit, Sanjay Colony, Delhi on 03rd December. The festivities started with a limited over cricket match between the hearing and speech impaired teams, with a fair mix of boys and girls as Ms Sudha Parthasarthy, Executive Director, Deepalaya and Col Anil Alagh, General Manager – Shaping Lives cut the ribbon and did the ‘toss’. The teams were captained by old boys of the Unit and every boundary was treated with a dance instead of the whoops which normal children would have let out. The umpire, Mr Pandey, their special educator, won accolades and laughs every time he signaled a boundary in a style that would have challenged his international level counterparts.
Dances, rounds of musical chairs to signals and signs, and general happiness pervaded one and all. The parents, who had been specially invited for this mini-sports day, were encouraging and participative in all the activities. Their smiles and esteem grew when, on a suggestion by the Foundation, Deepalaya Special Unit Head, Ms Sangeeta Kardam, called them on stage to give away some of the individual gifts to each child, in addition to other guests present.
When the children finished their heavy snacks and tucked in the remaining into their school bags, the Foundation organized a small ribbon cutting by Ms Sangeeta of a complete computer set gifted to this Unit by the Foundation. The computer had been gifted at her request to assist the hearing and speech impaired children in their learning phase, and we are hopeful it will raise their confidence levels.
By mid afternoon the children and the parents were tired and they trudged into the school buses a happy lot of smiling faces. The day was special for Deepalaya also in that four of their students won prizes at the photography competition organized by another affiliate and the second runner up romped home with prize money of INR 2000, no mean amount, where the average income of a parent is barely INR 4-5000 per month. We congratulate the special children’ will to excel and each moment spent with them is a revelation that one can transcend disabilities and barriers when one has the attitude and the inclination to stay positive and happy from within.
December 2011 saw small activities which mattered happen as winter set in and Xmas spirit pervaded. Overall the year had been stupendous considering the Foundation had just been born. Besides a key participation in the International Day for People with Disabilities, Shaping Lives reached out to other empanelled NGOs in its own way in the festive season.
Dec 10, 2011, World Human Rights Day : We merely supported the children from across Deepalaya schools in NCR as they gave a beautiful and enchanting performance of song and dance titled ‘ Melodies for Peace’. The Deepalaya choir numbering over 100 children between the 6-16 years age group received a standing ovation from all present as they wove a fabric of religious renditions culminating in a song for peace, love and oneness amongst all. The alumni of Deepalaya under the name ‘DOST’ entertained the audience with self choreographed and theme based dance skits.
Annual Sports Day - Goa : The St Joseph’s High School at Salcete, Goa was touched by Shaping Lives as it facilitated a very special Chief Guest, Mr Suresh Amonkar, Padma Shree awardee, a man who changed the Goan education system in his lifetime, for their function. The happiness factor was further increased as special headgear was couriered at short notice for the newly formed school band much to the delight and appreciation of the Principal and staff. (Pics the new school band and Mr A addressing the children)
Xmas and New Year – Goa : In addition to the above, the Goa team once again got together to make the festive season truly delightful for the charities Shaping Lives supports in Goa. Their philanthropy covered :-
Margaret Bosco Bal Sadan (approx 45 male street children) to a sponsored special lunch and dinner for Christmas and New Year for all the children in addition to gifting of black canvas BATA shoes for the children as requested by the Sadan.
Sister Valentina’s Little Heaven (approx 70 female orphans) was gifted Rs 15000/- for one year fee to facilitate monthly visit and children medical check by a local doctor for every month.
St. John Convent (approx 21 male and female orphans) were given three months grocery stock as per list given by them.
TUI Appreciations : The Foundation also received its first international recognition in the form of an award for the most improved TUI Travel Sustainability Customer Communications segment and its case study on Project Arman at Nizamudin was chosen to be included in the TUI’s annual Travel Report. The TUI Travel PLC also found it befitting to include the Foundation in its worldwide Responsibility Communication Campaign titled ‘Spreading Smiles’ and gifted us a camera to send in our entries for this grand initiative to create an ecosystem of smiles across the world.
Greetings : Shaping Lives closes 2011, with warm Seasons’ Greetings to all our NGO friends, travel partners and the numerous guests who blessed us with karmic interventions via interactions with our NGOs. It was a pleasure to be touched by your goodness and compassion and we hope that not only will you return but you will also encourage your friends to avail the Shaping Lives experience on their India sojourns in 2012.