The Prana project in India enables disadvantaged people to lead a free and independent life – through the help of mileage donations.
The impetus for setting up the project we are sharing with you today was the devastating tsunami in 2004. Many small villages on the southern coast of India were destroyed by the severe flooding.
Two ethnologists living in the region, Hilde Link and Matthias Laubscher, spontaneously founded the Prana project in their village to provide immediate emergency assistance for the flood victims.
Over the following years, it evolved into a German–Indian charity promoting intercultural understanding and featuring various project goals:
• a special school for educating children from all castes and religions
• a therapy centre for disabled children
• a self-help group and tailoring workshop for teaching women how to gain occupational and financial independence
• the “Lucky children” project for ostracised and stigmatised children
• a study fund for providing student grants
help alliance has been funding the project since 2006, helping to implement many measures on the ground through mileage donations.
Jaga: a bright future for an unlucky child
Monica Nowak is a flight attendant for Lufthansa and has been leading the Prana project for many years. She would like to share one particular story with us.
The story of an “(un)lucky child” called Jaga, told by Monica Nowak
"Jaga grew up as the youngest of four sisters. As a result of providing a traditional dowry for his eldest daughter, her father got heavily into debt. Believing his situation to be hopeless, he took his own life. The two youngest daughters, Jaga and Vella, were declared “unlucky children”. All across India there is a common belief that some people bring misfortune to others through their mere existence. In order to avert any further disasters befalling the family, Jaga and Vella were put in a home. Only years later did they find out that their mother and older sister had also met with a violent death.
Getting to know Jaga
I first met 11-year-old Jaga in 2003 on a stopover in Chennai/Madras, when I visited the small children’s home where she lived with her sister. Fortunately, my schedule allowed me to make monthly visits to the children’s home, and I soon built up a strong relationship with this fun-loving, inquisitive young girl.
Prana gets involved
Over the years that followed, I took a regular interest in Jaga and several other children in the home. At the same time, I forged contact with the Prana project, enlisting the assistance of help alliance in 2006. When Jaga finished school, she was therefore able to become a “Prana lucky child”. In the protected and caring atmosphere of the project, she soon completed her first degree with a BA in English.
However, Jaga wanted to achieve more with her life. Her ultimate dream was to help other children in need.
For her MA in Social Work, she had to move to Madras University in Chennai. This was a big step, as it was the first time in her life that she was entirely self-reliant.
At first she coped really well – but then reached her limits on a placement in a slum: having to deal with mentally and physically disabled children in problematic family situations brought the unresolved trauma of Jaga’s own childhood flooding back.
Depression and self-doubt
Jaga fell into a deep depression and had to break off her studies. A visit to a psychotherapist only triggered more bad memories of her childhood experiences. Patience, plenty of talking and the trust she had in me and in Prana slowly brought about a recovery. In time, Jaga found the courage to embark on a new course of study. She decided to go into teaching – a profession that means a great deal to her – and help alliance was able to help fund her college education. Jaga graduated with distinction and soon took up her first teaching post – until corona struck.
Schools in India have been closed since March 2020 – with no pay or job security for teachers. Jaga lost her job straight away. I’m very grateful that help alliance is able to provide financial assistance for Jaga and the other Prana protégés, to help them through these difficult times. Unfortunately, Jaga’s working life was brought to an abrupt halt just as she was finally on her way to being independent.
A new start
Jaga is highly resourceful and soon rallied a small group of children round her, whom she teaches very successfully in the open air. But of course she is desperately keen for schools to reopen so that she can finally get started on her teaching career.
And we are both equally looking forward to seeing each other again. We haven’t been able to meet for almost two years, but we remain in close contact and our relationship grows a little stronger with every crisis.
You can use your mileage donations to help disadvantaged children like Jaga to lead an independent life and escape from the vicious cycle of poverty."