Caring for vulnerable children living in the slums and villages of India

History and Mission

History and Mission 

GPM was founded in 2012 by former hi-tech executive Jacob Sztokman turned social entrepreneur. On a visit to Mumbai in 2011 while working for an internet security firm, Jacob toured the city’s slums and was deeply moved to work on the issues of poverty and illiteracy among the children of India. Troubled by what he saw and motivated to help make a difference, Jacob met with grassroots Indian NGOs who provided research, experience and expertise, and instilled in him the belief that change is possible. Together they developed a model for combining long-term and short-term solutions by bringing international volunteers to work on food distribution and literacy, the signature GPM Eat to Learn program providing hot, nutritious meals for children in school. This model became the foundation of GPM.

In June 2012, as Jacob left hi-tech behind for good, providing nutrition and literacy for 500 children every day. By the end of the school year, GPM had grown to
 providing daily hot nutritious meals for 750 children. Today, GPM runs it own schools in both the Kalwa slum and the Shilonda village region, and provides nutrition, and health care to over 1000 children in these vulnerable communities. GPM has also opened a series of communal development project in order to address root causes of poverty and promote long-term growth for the entire community.

Some key milestones

2012: Women’s empowerment

GPM approached Delicio, a women’s economic empowerment group in Kalwa to prepare the meals for the Eat2Learn program for nutrition in schools. GPM developed this win-win model for education and development in which children receive education and nutrition while the women in the community build their social enterprise. GPM supports the women, now known as the “Masala Mamas”, as they provide hundreds of daily, hot, nutritious meals for children in school.  Thanks to the support of the Good People Fund, GPM has enabled the Masala Mamas to open up a new kitchen and café in Kalwa where they prepare the meals and further build their social enterprise.  

2013: International volunteers

GPM began partnering with  the  Jewish American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the world’s largest Jewish humanitarian aid organization, and Entwine, to bring young Jewish adults from around the world to volunteer in Mumbai, helping in food delivery for the children, and providing informal educational support in areas of English, geography, math, and more. The first cohort had three volunteers. Today, over 200 volunteers have spent 8-10 weeks with the children of Kalwa, bolstering the children’s educational experience and providing much-needed scaffolding for the GPM programs in the community.  

2014: Health care

The Eat2Learn program was just the beginning. GPM quickly learned that education alone is not enough – even education and nutrition are not enough to keep children thriving. Children in vulnerable communities also need healthcare.

GPM learned this lesson through tragedy. In June 2014, Shravan Shah, an 11-year-old boy with whom GPM had been working with, died suddenly (27 June 2014). Shravan was a beautiful boy, full of energy, humor, intelligence and affection. He loved drawing, he loved learning, and he had an endearing mischievous streak and a captivating smile.  He developed quick and easy relationships with our volunteers, who he would readily chat with and hug. Shravan died of an undiagnosed and quick illness, the kind of illness that most Western children would have for 2 or 3 days, receive treatment and simply stay home from school. On Tuesday, the GPM staff noticed that he wasn’t his usual vivacious self, and he said that he wasn’t feeling well, that he had a headache and fever. By Friday night, he was no longer among the living. It is a tragedy of mind-numbing preventability. We are all left wondering if Shravan would have visited a doctor, received some medicine, maybe had a throat culture, would this of happened?

GPM decided to address this issue by ensuring that the children in the Kalwa slum have access to health care. In July 2015, GPM opened the Shravan Health Center, which provides basic medical care for 7000 children and 3000 women in the Kalwa slum.

The launch of the Shravan Health Center marked a crucial event for the people of Kalwa, as well as for the clarification of the GPM vision. With this, GPM formed the Triad of Children’s Well-being: Education, nutrition and health-care in order for children to thrive.

2015: Expanding to the villages 

GPM began addressing root causes of the slum poverty in a multitude of ways. One of the main issues is the slum overcrowding that comes from forced migration. That is, throngs of migrants flood the Kalwa slums from villages – since 2012, Kalwa grew from 130,000 residents to 200,000 residents – often leaving their home villages not because they wanted to but rather because they were not receiving the services that they need. Families often love their villages – the air, the land, the family, and the community – but they do not have access to education, health care and jobs. The GPM families in Kalwa often speak lovingly and longingly of their villages, and many plan to go back as soon as they are able.

As a result, GPM decided to launch some key initiatives in the villages. GPM opened up a the Love2Learn school that provides high-quality, progressive-minded, creative and student-centered education for 600 children from 25 villages in the Shilonda region in Western Maharashtra. GPM also created a new women’s empowerment social enterprise to replicate the successful Eat2Learn nutrition program. The women of the villages provide daily, hot, nutritious meals for the children in school.

GPM also brought a mobile unit of the Shravan Health Center to the villages to ensure that children in the schools receive regular health care.

2016: Opening Love2Learn in Kalwa

After four years of providing meals and informal education for kids in classes in Kalwa, GPM made the bold decision to open its own classes in the slum. This decision was based in part on the wonderful success of Love2Learn in the villages of Shilonda. It was also based on the need to create  a space to apply the entire GPM vision in one place. By opening the school, GPM was able to fully implement the vision of education-nutrition-healthcare for children. Students receive high-quality, progressive, student-centered learning, along with daily hot-meals and easy access to regular health care from the doctors of the Shravan Health Center next door.

2017: The Dr. Gerald J Friedman Infant Malnutrition Intervention Program

The doctors at the Shravan Health Center noticed a crucial problem among their patients: severe malnutrition in infants and babies. This is a harrowing problem in the slums. According to the World Bank, the prevalence of malnourished children in India is among the highest in the world, and has dire consequences for the children. Malnourished children have more infectious diseases, such as pneumonia and tuberculosis, experience stunted physical and mental development and have higher mortality rates than children who receive proper nourishment.

Thanks to the generous support of The Estelle Friedman Gervis Family Foundation,  GPM launched the Dr. Gerald J Friedman Infant Malnutrition Intervention Program to provide emergency nutritional intervention to save the lives of 300 malnourished children per year who are under the age of five. The program is named in memory of Dr. Gerald J. Friedman, a New York-based physician who practiced medicine for over 55 years and specialized in diabetes, cardiology and internal medicine. During World War II, Dr. Friedman served as a young army doctor in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific and was struck by how severe malnourishment affects the growth and development of children.

The Dr. Gerald J. Friedman Infant Malnutrition Intervention Program uses the universally acclaimed Integrated Child Development Program (ICDP) protocol to treat severely malnourished children. Through this program, which is advocated by WHO, the UN, and other emergency relief organizations, children undergo weight and height checks, upper arm circumference measurements and other physical and cognitive development measures, in order to diagnose the severity of their malnutrition. In addition, parents in the Malnutrition ICDP program are provided intensive nutritional counselling in order to help families emerge from dangerous cycles of malnutrition.

The women of the Masala Mamas group received special training on preparing the treatment and now provide the ICDP protocols for the babies in the program.

Community development  

In order to continue to address root causes of poverty in vulnerable populations, GPM has launched several creative, sustainable projects in partnership with the local community, businesses and NGOs. Here are a few examples:

  • 2014. Sundara soap recycling
  • 2015. Naya paper recycling
  • 2016. Waste recycling
  • 2016. Village community center in Ashte
  • 2017. Agricultural education.
  • 2018. The Joshua Jacob Greenberger Learning Center in Kalwa
  • 2018. Clean water.

2018 portrait

Thanks to the support of partners, volunteers and donors all around the world, GPM has been able to record the following successes in the 2017-2018 school year:

   

Provided 200,000 nutritious hot meals a year to kids in school
Ensures that 1000 children ages 4-14 attend classes in the slums.
Fostered 825,000 hours of learning for children living in the slums and remote villages in Western Maharashtra.  
Dedicated over 600 volunteer hours to the children living in the slums, delivering informal classes in English, Math, Science, Geography and Hygiene.
Supported the Masala Mamas, the women’s social enterprise in Kalwa, as they moved to a bigger kitchen to expand their work and impact. 
Equipped a central kitchen in the Kalwa slums with essential cooking equipment to help local women cook food for the children in the slums and build their social enterprise.
Launched the Clean Water project
Opened the Joshua Jacob Greenberger Learning Center in Kalwa, serving hundreds of students after school. 

For more information, contact GPM at info@gabrielprojectmumbai.org
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