The staff and especially the children at Deepalaya have been a constant inspiration for me ever since I first visited the program. It was only a few weeks after the tsunami and one of the first things I noticed was how Deepalaya helped to collect and distribute resources to the devastated areas. That was 5 years ago when Deepalaya was celebrating its 25th anniversary, and we learned how the program developed respect and trust, an incredible track record of strategic development from a program of only 7 children into a comprehensive high quality education and habilitation program serving all sectors of society, but especially outreaching to the marginalized, differently abled and girl. I visited as an exchange delegate from USA on an India-US exchange for child welfare providers to share common issues and advocacy strategies. It was funded by the US Dept of State through Child Welfare League of America; it was the second exchange. The Americans were immediately impressed with the size and scope of the needs in India, that less than 50% of children have accessible public education, that many families became homeless or children orphaned when a parent became ill or injured on the job, that families typically will chose to educate their boys but especially when funds or their own education is limited either cannot or will not chose to educate their girls. During our visit the newspapers were discussing a recent dowry death in Delhi. Deepalaya practices "positive discrimination" to balance their classrooms with girls based on their belief "to educate a girl child you educate the whole family." There are many surprises for a first time American visitor to India. Since we all know so many well educated Indian physicians and other professionals living in US, inaccessibility to free and high quality education in India took us by surprise, as did child labor and current dowry deaths, villages without electricity or running water, in fact, some had no water at all. Of course we as Americans have dirty secrets, such as the victims of rampant child abuse that our programs seek to treat. The enormity of obstacles to safe, healthy childhood with the possibility of developing to each child's potential overwhelmed us as Americans when we compared access to resources for our US programs with those we visited in India. As we spent more time we realized the success of Deepalaya is due to an incredible work ethic, practice of transparency and accountability unlike anything we had observed in the US, despite all of us having years of experience in the most altruistic, philanthropic, humanitarian programs. Due to several huge traffic jams, we arrived for an unannounced visit to Deepalaya's administrative offices at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday evening. All were present and welcoming. The childcare staff and teachers are incredibly dedicated. There are no discipline problems, difficult for the US participants to comprehend. When the exchange came to the US we were able to see how Mr. Mathew not only leads Deepalaya, but he nurtures other programs and focuses on sustainability. Much later I observed the same relationships he has with other executive members of International Forum for Child Welfare when they met in New York. Deepalaya taught us an Indian saying that the whole world is one big family, and it is clear that Deepalaya while working well at the microcosm with individual children and their families, has made huge social changes in families, their communities and has touched the way the world deals with the rights of the child.
My admiration lies in the fact that 15 years ago Deeplaya took the bold decision to develop their own identity and seriously start fundraising in India, knowing that one of their major international funders was likely to withdraw support. Support was withdrawn, but Deepalaya has more than survived. It has expanded its' work, reaching out to a much wider group of people and institutions in India and internationally, than previously; and is now much more widely respected for its services.
I have worked with Deepalaya over some years to help develop teamwork and leadership in the organisation. In my view Deepalaya is very unusual if not unique in its commitment to transparency, integrity and outstanding leadership. Deepalaya's leaders are committed to working 'on' the organisation and its development, not just working 'in' it - and in any walk of life this is an unusual and courageous stance. The results it achieves and the difference it makes to so many people's lives is testament to this commitment. I wish them every success and commend them as a role model to others in their field.
I had the opportunity to visit several of the Deepalaya programs as part of the US funded international exchange program of child welfare professionals from India and the US in 2005. I was the leader of the US delegation. We visited 6 child serving agencies in India. My wife joined me on the exchange. We are both professionals in the child serving profession. She and I were very impressed with the excellent work and commitment shown by all the professionals involved with all the agencies but were most impressed by the Deepalaya leadership and quality of the programs. We were amazed how effective and efficient they were with their resources and how open they were in helping other NGOs grow and develop. We went back to India in 2008 to join in Deepalaya's 30th anniversary celebration and again see the remarkable work being done by the agency.
i have been connected off and on wiht Deepalaya for quite a few years now. that they are doing excellent work is common knowledge but what is amazing to me is the quality of the work as well. whether its the infrastructure or the software within the organisation, everything strives to be top of class and acheives it. The other positive experience i have had with Deepalaya is the platform they provide for various other not-for-profit organisations. that's an amazing thrust to peers in the community which will ensure an across teh board development.