Ahsaay Baal Aashram

The other day, my cousin took me to an orphanage where they often go. The orphanage, Ahsaay Baal Aashram, is located and is surviving in a slum area called Nangloi. There were several boys there who are orphans, all adopted by this old man named Mr. Sharma. He started this orphanage with his wife. She passed away, but he has taken on her dream and is following it through, as his own.
Below is Mr. Sharma with the boys:

The boys seemed very disciplined; they are required to follow a schedule:

They are required to come and go to and from the orphanage in a group so that none of the slum kids harm them in any way. The kids from the slum are welcome to join the orphanage if they are orphans, but they choose not to. They prefer their life of “liberation”.

This is the space the 40+ kids share:

And it was great to see this computer room donated by several people:

A kid got up and narrated so beautifully – “Mat baanto insaan ko” (Don’t divide humans)

My cousin goes to this place usually for his kids’ birthdays to share new types of food and drinks with the boys – something they might have not eaten/drunk before. It brings a little bit of the outside world to their little orphanage. Any one is free to do the same. Or if you would like to donate, please go their website and see how you can donate. This is a place where you can rest assure that your money will be used for the right reasons.


Lakshay Badte Kadam (NGO)

My sister and I went to ‘Dastkar’, an NGO in Delhi, and met Ms. Laila ji, the chairperson and co-founder of Dastkar. Dressed in a crisp sari, with short bouncy hair, she seemed to be a strong woman with a modern outlook and very Indian values. Soon, in our conversation we found out something common between us – that our dads were diplomats in the Indian Embassy. This enabled us to chit chat about our experiences as children of diplomatic parents. But then that’s another story 😉

About Dastkar, we learned how it started and what its objectives are, from Ms. Laila ji. One of the objectives of Dastkar is to encourage and give a platform to smaller NGOs working with the “lower class” communities. Jan Sandesh is one of those NGOs that is supported by Dastkar and works with the women in the slum (see previous blog). The other small NGO that Dastkar promotes is ‘Lakshay Badte Kadam’. It is a very small NGO run by Ramesh who is working out of his house. He supports 13 street children whom he provides shelter and food in his own house, and he sends them to school, and he also teaches them how to make jute bags in their free time. These children, who might have normally ended up in the streets with no education and bad company, today at least have a chance to a better life. Lakshay Badte Kadam makes jute & recycled fabric bags. They also make bags out of recycled newspaper.

A day at the slum

Our day at a slum in New Delhi was very interesting but also very uncomfortable! The majority of the people who lived there are garbage collectors. As soon as we walked into this area, we saw that the people were living side by side with the the garbage, tied in 10 feet+ large white bags! There were uncountable flies everywhere – a very disease prone area! Most of the houses that we saw were concrete, not tents as I had expected. This confirmed that this slum was one of the better slums of India, but a slum nevertheless. I managed to take a few pictures on my iphone:

Avoiding the stares and unnecessary comments of these people, we made our way to this NGO called ‘Jan Sandesh‘ led by Shanti Paswan and Malathi. Jan Sandesh means Message to the People. This is a very small organization that started in 2000 but only started picking up a few years ago. However, even now they make very little things as they don’t get a lot of orders. Shanti and Malathi, the two ladies who we met, are working at Jan Sandesh on a volunteer basis, in other words, without any salary. They have employed 30 women from the slum who are willing to work on handicrafts. Shanti told us of various issues when it came to employing the women of these slums. She said that many of these women who are collecting garbage, do not want to do these handicrafts because it is harder and they can make more money collecting garbage in a month than they can by making handicrafts. It’s sad and unfortunate, but most of these people want to do nothing but get lot of money. Some other issues that Shanti told us are that some of these women leave after sometime because they get married and go away, or they have no interest in making these handicrafts, or they are simply lazy. I was surprised because I had ignorantly thought that any slum or poor person would happily want to take up “good” work – one that brought them “up”. But surprisingly, that is not the case. Shanti and Malathi have to work very hard with these women to convince them to work with the organization!

This organization started by re-using newspaper to make bags. Now they also make textile handicrafts and textile jewelery. It is definitely commendable to see these two women give their time and energy in a slum, which is know to get dangerous as the sun sets – just to make a difference! Below are some of the products they make :

Made from recycled fabric. It’s filled with cut up used plastic bags, that would have normally ended up in a landfill.

An IMPORTANT UPDATE about the post above – June 10 2011 (2 months later):
I’ve observed that by searching “Jann Sandesh” or “Shanti Paswan” or “seema puri”, a few people have come to this blog. I wanted to share with you my experiences with Jann Sandesh.

In April, after hearing about Jann Sandesh from Shanti Paswan and Malathi, I was very pleased and decided to work with this organization. We(Ichcha) gave them a few designs to work on. However, things didn’t end as they started. In fact, they ended soon after we handed them our designs. We were flexible, however, they didn’t even care to discuss any options. If Jann Sandesh is really what an NGO is supposed to be all about, they should have followed through what they started.

So for those of you who are thinking of working them, please be aware. Their intentions may not be as social as they seem to portray, after all.

Trip to a colorful world of the Artisans

It was a colorful world – whether we visited the block printers in Rajasthan or the embroidery workers in Gujrat! A craft tour with Neha Gandhi of Matsya to the western parts of India, gave us an insight on various art forms that are being followed by several families, in India, for several generations, because it is their family tradition! The mothers teach their daughters who teach their daughters and thus several of these art forms are alive today in the form of tradition and now a means of their living. After the earthquake in Gujrat in 2001, several NGOs came in and helped these families to grow from just artisans to – ARTISANS. I was excited to see that today several of these women ARTISANS have other women working for them, thanks to NGOs like ‘Kala Raksha’ and ‘Khamir’. Laxmi Behan is one of them, who’s work you can see below:


These are women doing embroidery in her backyard:



To see the different kinds of arts and crafts, we went to various villages that bordered with Pakistan. The people of these villages had migrated from Pakistan and have stayed here since then. Their houses made of mud and cow dung stand in round shapes with hay roof and are a sight to see. These houses are made to keep cool during the hot summers and warm during the winter seasons. It was obvious that these people have made art part of their life style which was reflected in the way they decorated their houses from both inside and outside. While outside they painted the house with beautiful colorful motifs, on the inside the walls had mirror and mud work in white!


Inside their homes:

The women in these houses, still following tradition, made beautiful pieces of embroidery and beaded jewelry, which they sold to people like us who visited them. One of these women, who will stay with us, was ‘Shama Behan’ (see below). She welcomed us to her house with blessings.

She is a very warm and charming woman who looked around 50+, but when I asked her how old she was, she said she is 20. She was not being funny, but she, and other people like her, really do not know their age or their birth dates. She had 2 daughters who were married away and her son and daughter in law lived with her; so did her grand-daughter. After serving us tea, she showed us her work – so that if we liked it we can buy it. Some of her work that she showed us were as old as her marriage. She had brought it with her when she got married and came to this house. Of course, those were the ones that stood out the most. Below are some moments captured with her at her house:



Rogan Art:
Below is “Rogan Art” – done by the Khatri family. “Rogan Art” has been the tradition of this family for the past 8 generations. It is the only family in the world that practices this art now. This family does not sell through any physical or online shop. Instead, people from all over the world come to their house to experience and if they want, to purchase products.


Block Printing:
We met families that have been doing block printing for generations, again for following the traditions of the yesteryear’s.
While the ‘daabu’ (daabu means mud resist) block printing is simpler, we observed that it is a lot of hard work which would get only worse in the summers! They hand block-print, dye, wash, re-dye, re-wash, and dry all in the outside. Yaseen Bhai and his family who is the 4th generation doing hand block printing, welcomed us into their family while we learned the block printing process. Another kind of block printing that we saw is called “Ajrak”. This is done by ‘Sufian Bhai’, who is the 8th generation doing this form of art. They showed us that the process is a 16 step process that takes about 14+ days to complete! See some of the process below:


Every day we would start with this colorful world and end it in the White. We would watch the sun set at the White Rann of Kutch, the area that borders with Pakistan.


A mother’s letter to her son

I started every morning in Anjo Gabriel, with Cielo, a four year old girl with hydra cephalus. Cielo would come with her aunt. Julie and I would perform therapy on Cielo, while Cielo’s aunt sat there and cheered Cielo providing her the emotional support that Cielo needed! I found Cielo’s aunt to be very kind and humble. She would ask me every day what I ate, where I went, etc. Basically she wanted to know about my experience in Peru. She would also suggest things to make my experience in Peru more memorable! We communicated in Spanglish – some Spanish some English and the rest was the Dictionary to our rescue! What I soon found out was that her four year old son also came to this school! And He was Autistic!

Her son, Piero, doesn’t talk at all but he would be loud when he would become restless and cry from time to time. On the first day I met him, he kept pinching me because I would stop him from mis-behaving :). I went through that day enduring his pinches but reciprocating back with love. From the next day, he not only stopped pinching me, but he would run towards me and hug me every time he saw me! I miss him 😦 !



One day Piero’s mother wrote a letter addressed to Piero. This went on the bulletin board in the lobby of the school. It was in Spanish so Julie translated it, the best she could, to me. And the little that I understood, it touched my heart. I took a photo of that letter and tried to find some one who could best translate it. Thank you Conchi for translating this letter! Below is the letter and its translation.

The Bulletin Board in the Lobby

Letter from Pierro's mom

Translation in English provided by Conchi:

To my son Piero,

My wishes of big things for you were very big when you were born.

I thought about happy moments, what you would do first in your cradle, the happy boy of the classes, your university studies and your desire to become challenge yourself.

One day in September, you were diagnosed with autism, something I did not know about that killed all my dreams. One day changed all. Since then I survive for you, you are my reason for being alive and I accept you the day you are.

I learned how to play with you in your noisy silence.

I learned how to smile with your indifference.

I learned how to talk to you without having an answer.

I learned to look at you with sweetness while you have that sad look.

I learned how to tell you to do things while you scream.

I learned to make an effort with your slow effort

I learned how to cry madly when you could not understand and hurt yourself.

I learned how to live being alone because you did not want to socialize.

I learned how to find autism, to be able to understand you, at least a little bit.

I learned to wait to the time, because one day you will connect with me, and just one day we will live immensely happy, and I will show you my world, the one you do not want to come to. But there will be an alternative world in which we will be both be very happy, and we may have managed to defeat autism.

I will always support your rights, because you will always be with your parents with the people that love you and put you into value and that they include you in their society.

With love,

Your mum.

Thanks for your support

We had a great event at the ‘Creek and Cave’.  Thank you all for coming down to the ‘Creek and Cave’ and supporting us!  We managed to fund-raise some money that I will be sending to Anjo Gabriel, the school for special education for physically and mentally challenged children.  Not only does this school lack in basic needs such as school supplies, etc, but many children drop out of school since their families cannot afford to send them to school.  I had volunteered there for 7 weeks, and would like to continue being of service to the children of that school.  I am thankful to my friends and family who have supported me and continue to support me in this cause. 

We created the “Anjo” line of jewelry.  I hand-made these with the red & black seeds that are found in Peru.   

Below is the picture of our display:

About these seeds:

These red and black seeds are from the Huayruro plant which is native to Peru, and has been an important part of Peruvian culture for centuries. Huayruro seeds are found in pods in the tall trees of the Peruvian rainforest. The red and black seeds are said to bring good fortune and abundance, while warding off negative energy. Locals collect the seeds that fall to the jungle floor, and many keep them in jars in their houses to bring them luck. They also make Huayruro seed bracelets for children to keep them safe from harm. In fact, newborn babies in Peru often receive Huayruro seeds as their first gift, with wishes for a happy and prosperous life.

So, the “Anjo” line of jewelry was inspired from this fact to bring wishes and prosperous life to the children of “Anjo Gabriel”.  When you own this jewelry, not only would it bring you luck, but 60% of your purchase will go towards the school.

I would like to continue fundraising for Anjo Gabriel.  If you would like to buy the ‘Anjo’ jewelry and support this cause, or if you would like to simply donate to the school, please contact me at info@ich-cha.com.