Thursday, December 24, 2015

The story of Anju

Anju has lived in the Bhaskar Nagar slums in Kalwa all her life. At a young age her parents saw that she was a clever child and made it a priority for her to receive an education. This was no easy feat as Anju's parents were struggling just to survive in the slums of Mumbai.  Anju was part of the only 10% of children who continue their education in highschool; most children enter the work force at age 12. After finishing year 10 Anju was selected by ourpartner organization, REAP, to teach in one of their classes in the slums. Anju taught for 5 years and was admired for her professionalism and dedication to her students.  Indeed Gabriel Project Mumbai (GPM) volunteers enjoyed working with her while giving informal classes to the children in her class. Anju married and has a beautiful boy Ansch.

In 2015 Anju joined GPM's Shravan Health Center as the clinic community outreach coordinator. Her connection to to the medical clinic is very strong as she was Shravan's teacher for many years including when Shravan tragically passed away [Read more HERE]. Anju is excited with her new occupation as she manages outreach health programs for her community with the guidance of the doctors and medical staff.

GPM and our partners Doctors For You are glad to have Anju join our team and work together to make a profound impact on her community.

Anju showing a group of GPM volunteers from Princeton University (Center for Jewish Life) her medical kit that she takes with her on house visits to pregnant women in the slums. Anju has been trained to take blood, pressure, measure sugar levels check fetal heartbeats, and other basic medical procedures.

Anju and other medical staff outside the Shravan Health Center

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Bringing GPM to the East Coast of the US

In a series of talks around the East Coast of the Unites States, GPM's founding director Jacob Sztokman, spoke about the enormous challenges faced by children living in acute poverty in India and how GPM is caring for the health, nutrition and education of thousands of vulnerable children in the slums.

Gabriel Project Mumbai wants to thank its many supporters who came out to the talks in New York City, West Hemstead NY, Teaneck NJ, Stamford and Greenwhich CT and Chicago IL.

Much thanks goes to Sarah Gribetz who hosted  a parlor meeting at her home in NYC. Thanks to the three GPM alumni - Shayna Lebovic (GPM alum 2012), Melissa Rutman (GPM alum 2013) and Harmony Richman (GPM alum 2014) who attended and discussed their time volunteering with the children in the slums of Mumbai. Thanks to David Marlyles for sponsoring the GPM event at the Chabad of West Hempstead. It was great to hear the vounteer perspectives from Hayeem Rudy and Rena Kirshblum (both GPM alumni 2015). The Teaneck event was at the lovely home of Debra Hoffman and Alan Brill. Local resident Jenny Samad (GPM alum 2013) spoke about her volunteer experience with GPM in Mumbai where her grandmother was born and raised . In Stamford CT at the home of GPM board member Gladys Delman Teitel, the presentation was peppered with insights from Perry Pickei and Debra Feinberg (both GPM alumni 2014). Also in Connecticut,

Sztokman spoke to students at the Bi Cultural School in Stamford and with students at the Carmel Adademy in Greenwich. Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein (GPM alum 2014) the Spiritual and Experential Teacher at Carmel Acadamey spoke about his time volunteering with GPM. The students at both schools had great questions and the were moved by the presentations.

In Chicago at the home of Carol and Bob Minkus, there were several doctors in the audience as well as the parents of current GPM-JDC volunteer Erin Dopplet. Sztokman emphasized the amazing work of the 'Shravan Health Center' a GPM-Doctors For You initiative providing health care to tens of thousands of people in the slums.

The presentations spread awareness of the incredible community development work done by Gabriel Project Mumbai in the slums and poor rural villages.

Hadassah Magazine on Gabriel Project Mumbai

In Hadassah Magazines fantastic article "Nuturing Mumbai Dreams"(Nov 2015) Rahel Musleah writes about Gabriel Project Mumbai's goal of caring for the children living in the slums of India. Read more HERE

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The First Month of the GPM/Doctors for You 'Shravan Health Center'

What an amazing month we had at the Shravan Health Center in the Bhaskar Nagar section of the Kalva Slums in Thane, India!

609 patients were treated by the good doctors and nurses of Doctors for You in September '15 [Thank you doctors Kamraan, Gill, and Amit!]

Patients included 89 babies and toddlers, 97 children between 5-12 years of age, 407 children
Dr Kamraan with one of the residents
of the Bhaskar Nagar slums
above 12 years of age, women and men and 16 senior citizens.

Illnesses treated included: Fever, respiratory infections, breathing problems, and skin infections (Scabies, fungal infections etc)

Ms Anju Mishra, a local resident, serving as the center's Community Health Educator, is launching an outreach program to mobilize the community in accessing quality health care from the Shravan Health Center.

SHC's in-house pharmacist Mr Price Ja has been busy distributing medicines and coordinating medical treatments at SHC.

The Center's hygiene partner, Sundara, has distributed hundreds of bars of quality recycled bars of soap and is launching a community run hygiene awareness class in the coming months.

Certainly there is a lot more work to be done but this is an incredible start!  We are grateful for SHC's activity and professionalism and seeing the community based medical clinic really having a positive impact on the overall health of the residents of the slums!

Click HERE for more information on the Shravan Health Center
Click HERE to support the Shravan Health Center

[SHC was made possible with the support of the AJDC, The Estelle Friedman Gervis Family Foundation, Altico Capital India, Awakening Women’s Institute, Modern Trousseau and Sundara Fund and others]

Monday, August 17, 2015

New life-saving children’s medical clinic opened in the Mumbai slums

Mr Sharma, Shravan's father cutting the ribbon of the
opening of the Shravan Health Center with Mr Nimrod
Assouline of the Consulate General of Israel in Mumbai
 and Dr Ravikant Singh of Doctors For You
16 August 2015, Mumbai – A brand new medical clinic for children and mothers of the Kalwa slum was opened last week, thanks to the working partnership between Gabriel Project Mumbai and Doctors for You. The Shravan Health Center, which will provide medical services for a community of 200,000 people, including thousands of children and hundreds of prenatal/postnatal women in Kalwa, was named in memory of Shravan Sharma, an 11-year-old boy who died last year due to lack of accessible health care in the slums.

“This clinic is a life-saving initiative for the children of the Kalwa community who until now had no access to basic medical care,” said Jacob Sztokman, founder of Gabriel Project Mumbai that spearheaded the initiative. “Shravan’s death was a wake-up call about how many preventable deaths there are among children in the slums. This clinic will be transformative for the entire community, saving lives of children and promoting basic health and medical care.”

The clinic, which was made possible with the support of the American Jewish Distribution Committee, The Estelle Friedman Gervis Family Foundation, Altico Capital India, Awakening Women’s Institute, Modern Trousseau and Sundara Fund, opened with a festive ceremony on August 13 where Shravan’s father cut the ceremonial ribbon. The event was also attended by the Deputy Counsel General of Israel in Mumbai Mr Nimrod Assouline and his wife Dana, JDC representatives from Israel and India, REAP directors, Shravan's teachers, doctors, nurses and other health professionals and over 80 members of the Kalva slums community. (The Shravan Health Center needs your help, please donate here:

The Bhaskar Nagar slums in Kalva is home to a wonderfully vibrant but 

underserved community. The Shravan Health Center is the only clinic in the

immidiate area which will provide accessible health care for

women and children in the community of 120,000 people
The slums of India are also home to over seven million children under the age of 14 who are growing up in poverty with limited access to electricity, clean water, food, and educational opportunities. Slums have overcrowded communal bathroom facilities and many have open sewage that contaminates sources of clean drinking water. The lack of adequate sanitation, nutrition and safe water has significant negative health impacts. It was estimated in 2002 by the World Health Organization that around 700,000 Indians die each year from diarrhea. According to the New York Times, 42.5% of the children in India suffer from malnutrition. The World Bank, citing estimates made by the World Health Organization, says that about 49 per cent of the world's underweight children, 34 per cent of the world's stunted children and 46 per cent of the world's malnourished children, live in India.
Mrs Anju, Shravan's teacher spoke about Shravan
and the importance of the health center in his name

The clinic will help offset this harrowing reality by providing services including: sick visits, minor acute care, treatment for burns and injuries, immunizations, health and nutrition education, prescription assistance, preventive checkups, and referrals to specialists. Other services include curative services, preventive health check-ups, growth monitoring, periodic de-worming, Vitamin A and Iron Folic acid supplementation, and minor procedures like cleaning and dressing The clinic will also provide free vaccinations and immunizations, some inexpensive or free medicines, and will have a special fund to subsidize advanced treatments that need to be conducted outside of the clinic, such as blood tests and x-rays. An estimated 80 % of the children will be managed with available facilities. The remaining 20% with more serious issues that require referral or hospitalization will be assisted during their protracted procedures.

Doctors for You, a partner organization in this project that has had great success in providing comprehensive health services for underprivileged populations in Indian slums for the past seven years, offers curative and health promotive services such as general health, immunization, family planning, dental, ophthalmic services, tuberculosis prevention and control and physiotherapy and neuro rehabilitation. In two other slum areas where DFY has opened clinics, the organization has achieved 100% immunization coverage among children below five years of age in the area.

The outside of the Shravan Health Center in the slums of Kalva. 

The clinic will provide health services to thousands of children as well

as antenatal and neonatal care to hundreds of women. The list of 

services include: General Health Check ups, AnteNatal Care for pregnant woman,
Immunization for children, DOTS (TB) services, Family planning services, 
Growth Monitoring clinic for children and hygiene education. 
The clinic will also has its own pharmacy dispensary!
“The impact of this clinic will be enormous,” Mr Sztokman added. “At GPM, we have been providing nutrition and literacy for children for the past three years. But when Shrawan died, we realized that this is not enough. We also need to be providing basic health care. This triad of health, nutrition and literacy is the formula necessary for real transformation and giving these beautiful children a real chance at life.”

The Shravan Health Center is a two-room center open five days a week, between 9AM-2PM, with regular evening operations Monday, Wednesday and Friday 6PM-9PM to meet the needs of working parents. The clinic will be staffed by a pediatrician, a general practitioner, a nurse and an administrative manager. It is estimated that the staff will be able to service an average of 45 patients a day, approximately 200 patients a week, or almost 10,000 women and children a year.

Additional hygiene and health workshops will be run for the children and community in general from
Representatives of the JDC International and JDC India
 receive a tour of the Shravan Health Center
the clinic after operating hours. The focus of the workshops will be hygiene, disease prevention and promotion of healthy living. The community outreach team made up of local women who will be trained as health representatives in the slums and led by a social worker, will go house to house giving vaccinations, and providing basic health-care education. Partner organizations will work hand in hand with the community outreach team to encourage families to utilize these services.

The Shravan Health Center needs your help, please donate here:

The doctors, nurses and other health professionals of Doctors For You with Gabriel Project Mumbai staff in the vaccination room of the Shravan Health Center in the slums of Kalva

Dr Ravikant Singh of Doctors For You speaks about the services provided to the community by the Shravan Health Center

The triad of health, nutrition and literacy is the formula necessary for real transformation and giving these beautiful children a real chance at life.” Jacob Sztokman GPM

A woman and child leaving the doctors office. Thanks Emily Rose Weinstein for the wonderful photography! See more of her photos of the opening of the Shravan Health Center HERE

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Education in classrooms in the slums

The following is from the personal blog of Maia Ferdman, a GPM-Entwine Summer 2015 fellow. Maia is a recent UCLA graduate with a B.A. in Global Studies and an M.A. in Latin American Studies. Maia hopes to pursue a career related to education and global conflict alleviation and development. Maia has worked as an opinion columnist for UCLA's Daily Bruin and a journalism intern for the International Rescue Committee's Los Angeles. We think she describes the work GPM does with the children in the slums quiet beautifully...

July 5, 2015

As volunteers with the Gabriel Project Mumbai, we are one piece of an established and dedicated approach to improving education in very poor areas, both urban and rural. Our group works in four classrooms run by the NGO Reach Education Action Programme (REAP) in Kalwa Slum. REAP runs hundreds of classrooms and other literacy programs throughout Mumbai and the villages in its outskirts, striving to provide quality education and stem child labor at its roots. GPM volunteers are present year-round in multiple REAP classrooms, providing daily interactive and fun informal learning sessions. GPM also takes children from various REAP classrooms on “Sunday Funday” field trips, and is working on other nutrition, sanitation, and overall health initiatives (details to come later).

Each day, our cohort of seven takes a sleepy 45 minute train ride to Kalwa, where we split into two
Outside one of the REAP classrooms in the slums
groups. My group – Rena, Molly, Hayeem, and our trusty security/translator/confidante David – first visits a classroom of about 30 children, ages ranging from around 6 to 13 (average ages are between 8 and 11). The 10×10 foot cement-walled classroom is scantily decorated with a small world map and two posters about food groups. Children trickle in slowly, backpacks and notebooks in tow, removing their flip flops at the room’s open entrance. The children’s regular teacher, a middle aged woman dressed in a bright sari, hovers over them as they sit on the ground.

Some children, like Lakshmi, a uniformed girl with perfectly combed pigtails and a soft dimpled smile, sit quietly in the front row, eyeing us meekly and patiently wait for the lesson to begin. Others, like the wiry and bright eyed Sabridi, prance into the room giggling and poking at friends, looking for trouble and attention. Identical twins Rahul and Rakesh always arrive a few minutes late, exuding enthusiasm with collared shirts tucked in, and climb over other other students to find a spot on the ground. Our days in Kalwa always start with a high-pitched and resounding “Good morning teachers!!!”

The brilliant Rahim, always attentive and participatory

Last week’s lessons focused on relationships: self, family, friends, and community. We got to know each other, discussing what makes each of us who we are and teaching the phrase “I am unique.” We discussed different roles in the family, and each student drew pictures of their different sized families. We also discussed the importance of being nice to our friends, and the English word “compliment.”
Some focus on drawing their families, others proudly present their final products

Golu focused on the letter 'A'
Golu, a wide eyed and adorable six year old, had been relatively silent most of the week. He is part of our lively second classroom, which sits next to the train tracks and has tin walls and a low-hanging ceiling fan. During our lesson on family, Golu sat at the edge of the room, head down and fixated on his notebook. I approached him, and noticed he was copying the letter “A” over and over again in light pencil. “Bahut acha,” I told him softly. “Very good.” He didn’t acknowledge me at first, and when I asked his name he told me in a barely audible whisper, without lifting his eyes from the page. Eventually, he noticed me taking a photo of the classroom, and looked at me silently but inquisitively. So I took a selfie with him. A timid smile emerged on his face, and he pointed at the photo. While the class vibrantly discussed what it means to  appreciate our family members, I sat in the back with Golu, silently making faces at the camera and playing hand games.

Making faces with Golu
The next day, learning about compliments, our class sat in a circle, and each child stood up and said something nice about one of their friends, tying a small bracelet on their wrist to go along with it. When his turn came, Golu chose a young and excitable girl called Parvi, whispering an inaudible compliment to her and tying the string bracelet on her wrist with the dexterity of a child twice his age. Other compliment exchanges followed – some straightforward (“I like to play with you”), some detailed (“you go to school every day and are a good student”), and all very sweet (“you have a great smile”). The older preteen Rishma, always setting an example for the younger students, proudly recited her compliment in English. The class, Golu included, departed all smiles, proud of their tokens and the recognition that came with them.

Despite the sleepy starts to our days, the slum smells, and the stuffy sweatiness of the cramped classrooms, the children of Kalwa infuse us with this incredible energy. At the core of their attentiveness and enthusiasm, their uniqueness, their smiles, and their shyness, is childhood, pure and simple. And this invigorating childhood, in the context of education, turns the Kalwa classrooms into small safe havens for exploration and growth. For all of us, teachers included.
Paying close attention
I can’t wait to start our next unit this week; we will be discussing hygiene and health. For now, I will leave this post the same way our classes say goodbye to us every day: with a loud and cheery “see you tomorrow!!!”
Proudly showing off our compliment bracelets

Monday, June 29, 2015

New album, KOCHI, celebrates Indian Jewish history - proceeds to GPM

The award-winning San Diego Jewish Men’s Choir, has released their latest album, 'KOCHI' - a
 musical celebration of the history of the Jews in India.  A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this album will go to Gabriel Project Mumbai's nutrition, literacy support, and health care programs to thousands of children living in the slums of Mumbai, India. 

KOCHI album cover
KOCHI, now available on Amazon pre-sale HEREis a fresh blend of timeless Jewish melodies infused with the sounds and flavors of traditional Indian instruments. The album celebrates Indian Jewish history; India has welcomed the Jewish people who were escaping persecution and  Jewish immigrants were encouraged to build synagogues and worship peacefully. Kochi, or Cochin and we know it, is a small fishing village which once had over 5,000 Jewish residents.   One of its two synagogues still functions today, the other is presently under reconstruction. 

KOCHI   The album features performances by notable artists; Butto, Dominic D’Cruz, Daniel Flam, Ricky Kej, Varsha Kej, Emilia Lopez-Yañez, Enrico Lopez-Yañez, Karthik K., Keerthy Narayan, Vanil Veigas, and Keith Wolzinger, and Renah Wolzinger.

Album selections range from traditional Ladino songs, Avraham Avinu (Abraham Our Father), and Adio Querida (Goodbye My Love), to the boisterous Hebrew wedding song, Od Yishama (It Will Yet Be Heard), and Eretz Zavat Chalav (Land of Milk and Honey). The beloved Yiddish song Sha Shtil (Hush, Quiet), is a stark contrast to the haunting plea for peace, Shir La Shalom (Song of Peace). 

Graphic Artist Suzanne Parlett has created the beautiful album cover and insert.  The insert features a forward by Rabbi Marvin Tokayer, acclaimed author of Pepper, Silk & Ivory-Amazing Stories About Jews and the Far East, and beautiful photos and illustrations of traditional instruments and Jewish relics from India. Translations are included as well.

A new year of initiatives and a fabulous matching grant from the Good People Fund!

This week marks the start of the academic year in India and for Gabriel Project Mumbai (GPM) it
means the start of our many development initiatives caring for the children in the slums of Mumbai.

What makes the start of the new year even more exciting is that the wonderful people at the Good People Fund have generously offered a $20,000 matching grant for the GPM 2015 Nutrition program for 1000 children living in the slums of Mumbai! So please, if you want to make ‘double’ the impact on vulnerable children in acute poverty, give generously to GPM’s nutrition program through the Good People Fund’s matching grant @ 

One of the 60 classes of children receiving nutritious meals every day as part of the GPM Nutrition program

Welcome Gabriel Project Mumbai–Entwine Summer fellows 2015

The newest cohort of Gabriel Project Mumbai-JDC Entwine international volunteers arrived in Mumbai and are already enthusiastically working in the slums. The group, the 13th cohort of GPM international volunteers, includes young adults from all different backgrounds – four Americans, one Canadian, one Australian and a volunteer from the UK.  After a week of orientation, in which they received targeted teacher-training, took classes in conversational Hindi and Indian culture, briefed by the Israel deputy consul in Mumbai, visited Dharavi (the largest slum in India) and toured Mumbai, the group of seven young Jewish adults were invigorated and ready to start their work. They have begun volunteering with classes of children ages 5-14 studying in the REAP classes in the slums of Mumbai.

We welcome: Alex, Maia, Hayeem, Molly, Ellie, Yael and Rena to the GPM team and wish them 2 months of meaningful teaching experiences with the children in the slums.

Alex was born in New York, lived in London until she was 9 years old and moved to Vancouver B.C. Alex spent her high school years at King David High School, participating in a variety of school sports, which demonstrated leadership and teamwork. Alex was a camp counselor at Camp Solomon Schechter where she created programs for children and cared for their everyday needs. Alex is currently attending The University of Western Ontario, where she is studying in the faculty of Health Sciences. Alex hopes to follow up her degree in health science with a nursing degree. Alex is involved in the OHM Fashion Show club, which hosts a fashion show in order to raise money for cancer research. Alex enjoys sports, cooking, exercising, and socializing. In all activities, she is involved in; Alex exhibits kindness, dedication, and teamwork.

Maia is a senior at the University of California, Los Angeles. She hopes to use her passion for writing and education to effect global change. Originally from San Diego, Maia grew up in an Argentinean and Jewish home. She is currently pursuing her M.A. in Latin American Studies and B.A. in Global Studies with a minor in English. Maia hopes to pursue a career related to education and global conflict alleviation and development. She wrote her undergraduate thesis about how diaspora tourism has transformed the relationship of Jewish and Armenian diasporas with their homelands. She is continuing her research on immigration and the global hybridization of culture. Maia also worked as an opinion columnist for UCLA's Daily Bruin and a journalism intern for the International Rescue Committee's Los Angeles.

Rena lives in New York City and is currently a teacher at Manhattan Day School. She has a BA in Jewish Education from Stern College and two Master’s Degrees; one in Jewish Education from Azrieli with and a second one in Early Childhood and Special Education from Touro College. As an active member of the Washington Heights community, she is a member of the Mount Sinai Young Leadership committee. She has a history of volunteering in nursing homes and fundraising for Israel, but her true passion is working with children. Rena enjoys baking, hanging out with her friends, and kickboxing. Rena traveled on JDC’s Entwine Insider trip to India in January 2015.

Hayeem was born and raised in Brooklyn, and is a senior at the City University of New York –
Brooklyn College studying Biology and Chemistry. He hopes to attend medical school next year. Hayeem’s Jewish roots extend back to Syria and Poland. In summer of 2012, Hayeem embarked on a medical mission to Jerusalem, where he served as a volunteer first responder with Magen David Adom, Israel’s primary emergency medical response organization. He has been involved in fundraising efforts for the American Friends of Magen David Adom and consulting with Artists 4 Israel, a group that uses art therapy to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder in war-affected children. Hayeem has worked closely with the Sephardic Bikur Holim in Brooklyn, an organization that serves needy, Sephardic immigrant Jewish families. Hayeem is involved in Israel advocacy and is currently a fellow for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

Ellen was born in Australia and currently lives in New York City. She attends Barnard College of Columbia University, as a pre-medical student intending to study Molecular Neuroscience. Outside of school, Ellen is working towards her New York State Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Certification. This certification means being CPR certified, as well as trained in a vast array of emergency medical techniques. She plans on serving as an EMT on her school campus in the upcoming fall 2015. Ellen is great with children, having closely worked with them in as a care-giver as well as in an educational capacity. In her spare time, Ellen enjoys volunteering in her community at a local hospital and soup-kitchens.

Molly is a sophomore at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts studying International Development and Social Change with a concentration in Gender Studies. At school, Molly is President of J Street and is a NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts intern on campus, leading the club as the Membership Coordinator. She also works in the Worcester community with refugees from Somalia, teaching them English as a second language and citizenship classes. Some of Molly’s unique skills are theatre performance and being a certified cake decorator. 

Yael is from a small but active and Zionistic Jewish community in Liverpool, North West UK. In high school, she was a founding member of Nishnoshim, a group dedicated in providing informal Jewish education to the school. Some of the Nishnoshim activities included teacher education sessions, Chanukah/Purim plays and charity drives. In her final year of high school, Yael was chosen to be Deputy Head girl, a role that involved representing the school. Yael has participated in many youth movements, including BBYO, Bnei Akiva, FZY. At the age of 13, Yael participated in a 3 month residential trip to Israel on Kibbutz Lavi, where she learnt about Israeli culture and volunteered. After high school, Yael began her higher education at Leeds University studying Neuroscience.Yael was a committee member of the Jewish Society, volunteered for the Leeds marrow charity as well as for the British Science Association. Yael did a year in Industry at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where she was an undergraduate researcher. On return to Leeds University for her final year, Yael became course rep as well and is continuing to volunteer for other organizations

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

GPM partner Sundara brings hygiene through soap recycling to the slums of Mumbai

India's first and only soap recycling initiative has arrived in the slums of Mumbai thanks to a partnership between Sundara and GPM. Sundara, which collects soap from dozens of Mumbai hotels – soap that otherwise would be thrown away, employs and trains local women to recycle into new bars. In a new initiative, the Sundara women have begun to distribute free soap to children, along with specially crafted lessons in hygiene and sanitation. So far over 4,000 children have received soap and hygiene education. This supported by logistical assistance of The Mulshi Springs Water Company.

Sundara is also a major partner in GPM's planned Medical Clicic in Kalwa providing direct access to medical care for 7000 children in the slums, as well as new mothers. Sundara will run hygiene trainings for children and adults in the community in the afternoons from the center.
"Sundara  is thrilled to expand upon its mission to provide sustainable health initiatives for undeserved populations with the help of the GPM team" said Sundara director and founder, Ms. Erin Zaikis.

Hayley Dsouza, GPM Educational Director, delivering an hygiene workshop at Sundara

Monday, March 30, 2015

GPM joins the new Jewish Service coalition OLAM

GPM has been invited to join the newly formed Jewish social justice initiative, OLAM, a shared platform to promote global Jewish service. OLAM, created in partnership between the Alliance for Global Good, Pears Foundation, and Schusterman Family Foundation, that was launched this month in Tel Aviv, aims to strengthen Jewish volunteering and service learning, international development and social justice advocacy by supporting vulnerable communities around the world.

“It is thrilling to be part of this wonderful new collaborative effort that includes so many amazing international service-oriented organizations,” said GPM Founding Director Jacob Sztokman at the OLAM opening conference held at the Tel Aviv Hilton last week, where he facilitated a discussion group about developing empathy in communities.

“It was exciting to be with so many people who care so deeply about development work,” added GPM alumna Rose Pollard, who also attended the conference, where she shared her experiences as a GPM Entwine fellow volunteering in the slums of Mumbai.

OLAM will serve as a field-building resource, championing, coordinating and educating for the benefit of existing organizations, practitioners, and volunteers. It will expand the global Jewish community’s awareness and philanthropic support of these fields; build and strengthen practitioner networks to facilitate sharing knowledge and best practices; and grow the number of volunteers and practitioners and direct them to development work around the globe.

Click HERE  for more information about OLAM

Thursday, March 19, 2015

GPM shares development lessons with Glocal students

“Never give up hope. There is always something you can do to make a real difference in the lives of others. If you live with your heart open, you can find a way to reach out to those who need and make a real change.” These words, written by GPM founder Jacob Sztokman, were featured in a special magazine dedicated to educating students and former-students around the world about community development. The magazine, produced by the Glocal Masters’ Degree program of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, highlighted the work of GPM, and was shared with 30,000 people around the world who work in development.

The current Glocal cohort includes students from Congo, USA, Brazil, Uruguay, Serbia, Uganda, Palestinian Authority and Israel. Jacob is also a proud student, and is scheduled to graduate in January 2016.
“Glocal has been a phenomenal place for me,” Jacob says. “I have acquired vital knowledge and theoretical expertise, engaged in stimulating discussions about development work around the world, and most importantly met the most inspiring people who are all dedicating their lives to making the world a better place. I’m deeply honored that Glocal chose to feature the work of GPM. It means so much to me.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Special chocolates: Sweet volunteering with special women

GPM-Entwine fellows volunteered last week with developmentally challenged women at Om creations in South Mumbai. GPM fellows worked side by side with Om members to create and package chocolates for sale throughout Mumbai.

Om Creations is a NGO founded to provide professional training and support to women born with Downs’ syndrome and other mental disabilities in order enable the women to work professionally and be fully active members of society. The organization is self-sustaining, with baking, handicrafts, painting, and more.

The GPM volunteers, together with the women of Om Creations, made hundreds of chocolates for business clients.

“The women of Om Creations were extremely friendly and welcoming, which inspired us and made the work fun,” said Leya Ellias, GPM Program Director. “We were all talking and chatting the whole time, and it was a great environment.”

This was the first collaboration between GPM and Om Creations, and plans are underway to continue this project and expand opportunities for collaboration.

Friday, March 6, 2015

When Purim and Holi fall out on the same day!

This year, the Jewish holiday of Purim and the Hindu holiday of Holi (Duli Vadan) fall out on the same day, highlighting some fun and some serious shared aspects of the two cultures. Both holidays are colorful and exuberant, with people turning the streets upside down in playful festivity. In Holi, Indians celebrate by throwing bright colored powder (Abeer) on each other, while on Purim, Jews celebrate victory over the destructive Haman by dressing in costume and make-up and sending sweets to each other.

Another major shared characteristic of the two holidays is the idea of standing up to evil in order to achieve great good. On Purim Jews revel in Esther’s courage to stand up to a powerful tyrant bent on genocide. During Holi Hindus commemorate the salvation of a pious son (Prahlada) over his tyrannical demon father. Through the Purim Seuda and Holi Milan, celebrants emphasize the ideas that people belong to the same global human network, connected by a commitment to goodness and determination to act in the face of evil. As Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

Happy Purim and Happy Holi to us all!

Emily during Holi
Purim party at Chabad of Mumbai

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Food Packages for Needy Families in Mumbai this Purim

On the eve of Purim, Gabriel Project Mumbai volunteers, JDC India staff and members of the Mumbai Jewish Community came together to assemble mishloach manot and matanot levyonim packages - holiday gifts and food packages for 50 poor Jewish families and elderly. Packages consisting of basic staples such as rice, lentils, oil, flour, salt, sugar, milk and tea, were delivered to fifty families in the Jewish community. The money for the project was collected from GPM alumni and friends. The current cohort of international volunteers spent the day with local Jewish youth on packaging and delivery throughout the city of Mumbai and the district of Thane. A lot of fun was had by all!

Sharing Ideals: Gabriel Project Mumbai and Tzedek UK

Education, Service, Development and Care are four principles shared by the UK based organisation
Tzedek and Gabriel Project Mumbai’s activities in the slums of India. Tzedek is the British Jewish community’s response to extreme poverty. Tzedek ensures the community plays its part through practical support to local partners in Ghana and India; always aiming to help some of the world’s poorest help themselves out of poverty. Gabriel Project Mumbai (GPM) is an innovative project providing nutrition, literacy support, health and hygiene to children in the slums of India.

Tzedek and GPM have a deep respect for each other’s work and are beginning to build mutual support. Through the sharing of educational resources and by providing volunteer opportunities, we will work to promote awareness, service and development for vulnerable children and communities facing the many challenges of extreme poverty.

This is a great opportunity to advance the core value of tikkun olam in the developing world.

To find out more information about Tzedek’s activities go to

Monday, February 23, 2015

Interview with Emily Weinstein: GPM-JDC fellow Spring 2015

Emily Weinstein, a 23-year-old graduate of Fordham University graduate and New Jersey native, is a participant in the current 12th cohort of GPM international volunteers. Emily brings with her a wealth of experience in international volunteering, and some profound insights into development work. In an interview with GPM founding director Jacob Sztokman, she talks about her love of the children she is working with and the impact of her encounters with the Jewish community of India – and she says that GPM is unlike any other volunteer program that she has been part of. Read the rest of the interview to find out why.,,

J: Welcome Emily. How are you?
E: I’m excited to be here
J: Tell me about yourself. Where are you from?
E: My parents live in New Jersey. I’m originally from New York. I went to Fordham University in New York, studying anthropology, visual arts and photography, a little bit of everything.
J: So you’ve been here for two weeks now. What made you decide to come on GPM?
E: I had done volunteer programs before. I had worked in Ghana briefly. It was a wonderful experience, to tell you the truth. But I really like GPM. It is really different. First of all, working together with the Jewish community in India is really different. It’s not just someone coming in from the west, having no knowledge about India. I mean, I knew a little bit about India. But working with the Jewish staff, I felt like I was coming in to a community that I had familiarity with, at least on that level.
J: Instead of feeling like a foreigner, it’s more like you’re coming in to a community that you have a connection with?
E: Exactly. We have something in common, so it just made it that much easier to be in India and integrate into my surroundings. Also, I love working with children. And that’s part of the reason why I was so attracted to this program. I didn’t know so much about the slums or about the poverty situation in India. Coming in to see that has been pretty drastic, a little traumatic. But it’s great to feel like I’m part of something that’s working to remedy that in some small way.
J: What was your reaction to the slums?
E: When I first got there, it was worse than I was expecting. The hardest part is seeing the children and how the situation affects them. I mean, there are some children in our class who are sick, and it seems like they are perpetually ill. Like one child, sometimes during games she has to sit out because she can’t. A lot of the children seem, I guess, delayed. I was a babysitter in the United States for over a decade so I’ve worked with lots of children, and I know where they should be at that point in their lives. These children are far behind and it’s hard to see that. We come in and we bring these lessons and we ehope that they gain something from the information that we’re bringing. But maybe the most important thing is that someone is thinking about them outside of their world. Maybe that’s really the most important thing.
J: The slums were worse than you thought
E: I mean, it’s exactly what you told us it would be. But imagining and seeing are two totally different things. It’s difficult to process.
J: Last weekend GPM took the children to a park for an activity with the local Jewish interns. How was that?
E: It was amazing to see the children. The park was near the ocean. Even I was taken aback by how beautiful it was. Many of the children had never seen the ocean before. To see the children’s reactions was very special.
The program itself working with the local Jewish staff members was really great. The lessons we were delivering were about health and about fruit and vegetables. The kids were so sweet and they loved the lessons and picked it all up very quickly. They were so happy just to see us here. It was really great. I mean, I was a little nervous coming in. I didn’t know how we would be received as volunteers. It was a new experience for me to work with a local staff. But they are all so professional and well prepared and they really know what they are doing and they made us feel really comfortable. It was a great introduction for us to working with the kids. It was our first time really running a program. It was really amazing. I really enjoyed it.
J: So you worked in Ghana before this?
E: I was working at a human rights law office. It was through a UK volunteer organization. I worked on three projects. In one, we would go into local high schools in Accra and teach a curriculum about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the second, we also worked on a women’s outreach program. And we would go into communities and speak to women, usually older women in traditional communities where most men have multiple wives. Ghana only recognizes one wife, so once the man dies, if he doesn’t have a will, there are a lot of times when women and children are left with nothing. We would teach the women about the laws and about wills and we had a pro bono lawyer helping the women with wills. The third program was working with children on a child trafficking. We would go in and work with children, a lot of older boys who had been trafficked, who lost very important years when they should have been in schools. We had 18 year old boys reading and writing at a first and second grade level. So what we did was we came in and found out how well they were reading and writing and we were able to report to the teachers.
J: Why did you choose to volunteer instead of just going to university or traveling?
E: I was at university at the time that I went to Ghana. It was between my freshman and sophomore years. I knew I was interested in humanitarian and development work. I was working at the time with an Ethiopian non-profit. I had been working with them since my freshman year of college. And I really wanted to go to Africa and see the situation there. I originally wanted to go to Ethiopia because that was my experience. It was my colleagues and the culture that I was engrossed in. I stumbled upon this program in Ghana in human rights and I’ve always been passionate about human rights so it seemed like the perfect fit, so that’s how I ended up in Ghana.
In terms of GPM, so I had initially applied for a yearlong fellowship in JDC in Ethiopia, but the position was taken. But it all worked out – because I ended up in this amazing program in India! And my mother likes to remind me, she says, ‘You wrote a report on India when you were in fourth grade!’ So I knew basic things about India. I knew a little about Gandhi, about caste systems, and Hinduism. And I knew the slums existed but I didn’t know much about them. And I learned about this opportunity to really work with children, which is a major passion of mine. So I said it sounds like the perfect program for me!
J: So what’s next for you?
E: Trying to figure that out myself, every day. Right now I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the whole humanitarian versus development aspect of my career. I’m very passionate about it. But there are a lot of things about working in a career where you, as a westerner, come into developing countries, it’s hard for me and I’m having trouble with that. So that’s why I like being a photographer. I like going in and taking pictures of the program and helping organizations like GPM promote their programs. I want to help spread the word so that people like me who are passionate about it can find out about it and hopefully participate and make a difference. That’s kind of where I see myself
J: You’re saying that you have an issue with westerners coming in and doing development for local people?
E: I have an issue when they come in and don’t work with local people. That’s why I like GPM so much, because I think that it’s an amazing organization. It brings in volunteers from all over the world. It doesn’t have to be just western volunteers. The local staff, they are so amazing, they have been so helpful and so influential. All of our skills that we have been able to bring have been enhanced and complemented by them. We need each other. I think that’s one of the reasons why GPM is so successful
For me, as someone growing up wanting to go in and help people who have so much less than I did, I went to school and started studying I’m trying to find my place in this industry.
I don’t always love volunteer programs but I really love GPM. I think a large part of it is that you found a wonderful staff. They really empowered us to do so much. You created a wonderful model. I’m so happy that JDC gave me the opportunity to do this. They made this happen for me.
J: Thanks so much Emily.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

What we learn from children in Mumbai

This week’s GPM-JDC Internship was even more inspiring than usual! GPM-JDC intern, Seema Dhokarkar developed a fantastic day of fun and learning for 30 children from the Kalva slums. Joining them was a group of children from the Jewish community’s Gann Kattan Sunday school class! The group spent the day at the Metro Train and Bhakti Park where they learned about the Indian Railways, Indian geography and landmarks and heard stories encouraging honesty and fairness.

But what was so inspirational was the way the children interacted with each other. The two groups of children come from totally different socio-economic backgrounds, they live in different realities and have different challenges in life. It took them 10 minutes to bridge the gaps in their differences and to start enjoying the day together. There was a lot of laughter, camaraderie and team work.

The ease in the way the children with so many differences became instant friends is a message for us all.
Salome Abraham, Deputy Manager of Programmes at JDC India noted that “ this is a program where the children end up giving life's very important lessons to us more than we can ever teach them by just being themselves. Their real selves unadulterated by the ways of the world and this picnic of the two groups is a classic example. They enjoy with each other without being bound by the background they come from. They converse and mingle without any inhibition and nor do they care about it.

Nikita Worlikar, volunteer internship coordinator said “It is always amazing to see that children interact without any inhibitions...  There is such innocence and purity in their acceptance of each other...  As long as they play and get along, they are friends without even the consideration of their social difference as the world has created it for itself.  Each one of them have thing to share with each other making this interaction enriching for all the children....

GPM co-coordinator Leya Elias commented on It feel how she felt “really great to see the passion that every volunteer has and the effort that they put in for the sessions that they take. Everyone is so involved and dedicated in the sessions to make it fun and educational for the kids. The children are always excited to be with the volunteers and engrossed in the activities. It is really ‘Funday-Sunday’ for the kids as well as for the volunteers.