It’s very easy to look at my pictures from India and see how beautiful it is and all of the tourist attractions and the Hindu culture.
It’s also very easy to assume that Mumbai is made up of lots of beautiful temples and we are strolling around having the best time, taking a train to the slums, helping like heroes and leaving feeling accomplished.
I have been in Mumbai slightly over two weeks – I spent the first couple of days in India with insane amounts of anxiety, my head and heart couldn’t deal with the amount of poverty that I was seeing.
I thought I’d come to India for 2 months, live in a very basic accommodation and travel to the slums by train every day then work as hard as I could to make a difference to the lives that I came into contact with. I wasn’t aware that the poverty outside of our accommodation would be just as bad as the slums.
The poverty here doesn’t discriminate. There are females and males lining the streets made up of babies, adults and the elderly. Within my first twenty-four hours of being in India, a man came up to my taxi window and repeated, ‘I have no mum, I have no dad, I’m starving, help me’. It broke my heart that a middle-aged man had come to an 18-year-old to beg in desperation for some money.
Yesterday I was in a Tuk-Tuk going back to the accommodation after a ‘break’ from the work at the slums. A young child from the streets came up to the side of me and tapped me with a balloon he was trying to sell. He motioned a prayer sign followed by a sign of eating, trying to tell us that he’s begging us to buy the balloon in order for him to eat.
As we drive around Mumbai the same thing happens again and again. I keep describing my experience as emotionally draining. My heart aches for all the people struggling to find enough money to eat, never mind have a roof over their heads. But there are so many people here in need which makes it impossible to give everybody money to eat, and it would be an extremely short-term solution if we did.
Working with Gabriel Project Mumbai in the Slums is a really great experience for me and I am extremely grateful to all of you who have contributed to funding these projects.
Every day the children of Kalva go to the GPM learning centre which is made up of 4 small classrooms and a medical centre. Parents pay 500 rupees a year for their children to attend the school, in British pounds that’s £5.54. The GPM school is for children who fall between the gaps of the Indian education system. We are trying to teach the children how to think creatively. They could tell you the days of the week in order perfectly, but if you tell a child that today is Wednesday and ask what day it was yesterday, they wouldn’t be able to tell you.
As well as an education, the children also receive a free bar of soap each month to take home from a project called Sundara. (I have written about Sundara on my Instagram -> _laurenhannah_x ) as well as a meal that they can take home each day. The children receive a nutritious meal at the end of each class which is perfectly sized for one person, but the children would much prefer to go home and share the small meal with their whole family.
The children at the school try so incredibly hard, they don’t always get the right answer or understand what we are trying to teach but they always give full effort.
I’ have been very hesitant about posting pictures with the children, it doesn’t show you what my impact has been, whether I’ve made an impact or any reality about their life.
Since I’ve fundraised for the project, I do think it’s important for you to see that I’m not just skipping around India, taking pictures of the amazing views and posing which a group of small children. I wanted to write a blog to inform anyone interested in the work that we’re doing, the reality of social media and how important the project is to the children.
Our classes have increased in size so much that we have so many children and not enough room. There are still mothers constantly bringing their child to the centre asking how they can get involved.
It IS hard to know our impact, and I am putting all my effort and energy while in India to ensure that my impact on the children is as big as possible. We plan our lessons and try to make it as interactive yet as educational as possible. We are putting an emphasis on making sure that the children are aware that they ARE important.
I just wanted to mention the other projects that GPM runs. Other than Sundara who make soap, the clinic and the school, GPM also runs a water filtration project where water is purified and 20 litres is sold for 20 rupees (just over 20p – which is affordable within the slums). GPM also is in control of a project called Naya who make recycled paper (also on my Instagram). The last project that I will get to work with is another female NGO called the Masala Mama’s who make the nutritious meals every day for the children (we also support the project as volunteers by paying 30 rupees (slightly over 30p) every day and eat the same meals as the children).
To finish off this blog post, as well as thanking everyone sincerely for all the support, I wanted to remind everyone that on social media I post photos of myself having a great time exploring India. It isn’t right for me to take photos of the people on the streets in need, even though I don’t think it’s possible to fully understand the amount of poverty and people struggling from a blog post. I’m spending my time here working as hard as possible to make an impact. Where I am staying in Mumbai, I am seeing the extreme amount of poverty, I can’t speak about India as a whole because I haven’t seen the whole of India and I’m sure that some areas are better than others.
Thank you for reading my blog post, I hope it was thought-provoking and gives you a better insight as to where your money has gone to and my experience so far.