On my recent trip to Provence I receive an unexpected email from Pascal, the director of TARA Homes for Children in Delhi, that he was in France visiting – could he take the train down to house and spend a few days?   GoPhil has been a partner to Pascal and TARA since its first days, and to have a chance to discuss where the journey is all going outside of the madness of Delhi and pressures 31 children at his feet, was a rare opportunity not to be missed.   Walks along the trails and sipping local wine by the fireplace cast precious light on the highs lows of running a shelter for vulnerable and abandoned children in India and a chance to reflect on exactly what it is that they are doing right, and where the roadblocks might be in the future.

the TARA story defies our image of poverty India. 
Pascal outside the Boys Shelter in Delhi
Children who were once living in dire conditions on the street or in homes where parents could not afford the basic needs, are now excelling in English medium schools, starring in small films and planning futures they once never dreamed of.  This program blossomed from the beginning.  But why?  And how can we take some of this magic and help our partner programs in India, Cambodia, Uganda, Kenya see similar results?  Our few days together in Provence helped us explore these questions…
a small family-like setting model works.  
No more than 20 children per shelter.  Recreate what it is like to be in a healthy family and a child will almost naturally thrive.  This is much easier said than done when there are so many homeless children on the streets of Delhi.  But Pascal knew from having worked in larger institutions that there was no way you could give them the attention they needed without limiting the numbers–doing so keeps the quality of life high.  The children at TARA, both the Boys and the younger Tots, have access to top notch health professionals and exceptional academics institutions.  The ratios of staff to children reflect their ability to actually listen, to nurture, to empower.
Paid staff at a non-profit brings a high level of quality and accountability
Vaishali –Child Welfare Officer at TARA
Part of TARA’s success is its ability to pay a qualified staff.  In actuality, 40% of its operating budget goes to staff salaries.  While this may seem high next to similar programs running on a shoestring, it might be the key to success.  When a program employs skilled professionals to administer its mission, there is natural accountability and quality in service.  Regular staff meetings, organised timetables, and consistent updates to donors are all established practices at TARA.   Not to mention, with professionals to manage the day to day running of the two shelters, Pascal can focus on long-term funding, grant writing and attracting corporate sponsors.
But donors don’t want to fund salaries at non-profits–they want to fund things!
While the success of TARA might be inextricably linked to its model of paid employees, what donor wants to fund administration costs?  “Sponsors want to fund things,” said Pascal.  “They like items that are concrete and where the financials at transparent.  Everything from school supplies, to vans.  Fixed assets are what people and corporate sponsors wish their donations go towards–not to office supplies, night staff or the pay-check for the director.”(who by the way, also does need to eat and put a roof over his head).


GoPhilanthropic donors commit to these “unwanted” line items

Founder of GoPhil visits TARA 2-3 times a year
We have spent enough time at TARA to know that the children are excelling and defying the odds because of the trained PEOPLE caring for them.  For the past year, GP has committed to these “less desirable” funding line items and we will continue to do so.  We are also involved is assisting TARA in measuring the impact of its program, by tracking stories of significant change in the lives of the children, offering valuable insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the program overall.
on to the exciting news…
TARA Girls would most likely be a reality in 2014
sights are set on TARA Girls Shelter
When you build a solid program with sound practices, you can continue to build…. TARA Boys opened only 5 years ago.  Three and a half year later, TARA Tots opens.  With all little ones now tucked into routines of preschool, kindergarten, yoga and library activities, they set their sights on a shelter for girls.  Opening TARA Girls will mark a true milestone as offering poor Indian girls a proper start in life, access to the best education and a chance to discover their strengths as capable young women.
The 72 hours of time, rest and reflection brought more than imagined for Pascal and myself.  Perhaps for him, being able to trade Delhi’s pollution for Provence’s spring fresh air provided a well-needed respite. For me, it represented that constant reminder of the importance of spending time simply listening and learning how best to share in the work that needs to be done.  The value in this is too great to capture.

Lydia Dean–Founder GoPhi;anthropic

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If you are interested in our continued support for this incredibly important program, we are seeking monthly donations in any installment…$10 / $20/ $50…. it all counts in a big way.  Click here to join in our partnership with TARA