Kids postcard Project



Dear Friends of KPCP,

Happy New Year 2017! Thanks to you all for your support of the Kids Postcard Project, amazing to think we've completed ten years, I really never set out with a long term plan! It's really thanks to your help and encouragement that I've managed to keep things going.

In the past two years I have decided to focus on India, since ODA in Cambodia is doing very well with the help of the devoted Shirley Hawe, and it's too much for me to visit both India and Cambodia every year. But, I've just discovered I have cousins living in Chiang Mai, so when I visit them, I will surely take go back to Cambodia and do a workshop with ODA again.

However India is where my passion lies for now and I'm discovering there's ample opportunity to spread my wings there, doing extra workshops with other organizations. Last year I did a little drawing with the kids of a wonderful NGO in Jaisalmer, that works with the marginalized Merazi musicians and in 2014 I ended up doing a workshop with about 50 children in Sri Lanka, at the Paynter Home in Nuwara Eliya.


The biggest change in AAWC in the past few years is that they now how two centers instead of one. There is the old Falkland Road (FR)center and now the newer KP center in the heart of Kamathipura red light district, where Manju has finally been able to realize her long-term dream, of opening a night shelter. What does it mean for AAWC? --- now they are able to have double the amount of girls and the most vulnerable can stay overnight. So whenever I go to Mumbai I do workshops at two locations now instead of one. Some of the new girls are just wonderful at drawing, especially since the KP center has the advantage of weekly art classes with the most wonderful art teacher, Kavita.

By the way, none of this would have been possible without the tireless work the director Manju Vyas, and AAWC has won the “Guidestar India” gold award for NGO transparency and accountability for the past two years running!


It was great to be back in Mumbai on Jan 6th last year, and reconnect with the wonderful director of AAWC, Manju Vyas. She was thrilled to receive the 2016 “Mumbai Valley Animals” calendar and the girls were so excited to receive the glossy greetings cards made from their drawings! It was a little sad for me too, since some of the older girls I'd  known for ten years had turned 16 and moved on to job placements or apprenticeships, which means I will probably not be seeing them again. I remember Ritika, just six years old, holding my hand as I took the girls around the Prince of Wales Museum back in 2007, and now she's grown up and gone. But of course I'm happy they're going on to better things, and leaving the red light district behind them.

The year got off to a great start for Kids Postcard Project, just a few days after my arrival, on Jan 9th I took about 15 girls from the Falkland Road center to draw “en plein air”.... something we have not done before. With the help of Shikha Kashyap, program manager at AAWC and other staff members, we walked from the F.R. center to Chowpatty beach, and sat in the park there to draw the bronze statue of Lokmanya Tilak. Like Gandhi he was a great advocate of Indian Independence, and the bronze shows a strong, turbaned figure walking towards freedom. It was a good place to start, since unlike the beach, the park was quiet and we were not disturbed by onlookers.  I had no idea how the girls would do, but they were totally focused and even the youngest ones, 7 or 8 years old did some great and fun drawings with lots of character.

As the sun started to set, we all walked down Marine Drive --  this is the quintessential Mumbai sunset stroll, there were dozens of people from young groups and families to elderly couples and businessmen. We found a spot to sit on the sea wall and I asked the girls to draw the silhouetted Mumbai skyline as the sun sank into the hazy sea.

This was to follow up on the Postcard Exchange Project we did during 2015 --- every month or so I sent postcards I'd drawn of New York, using different drawing techniques and materials to Shikha, and she helped the girls try out those new techniques making postcards of Mumbai. It was a fun way to try and keep the girls at the FR center drawing while I was gone, and thanks to Shikha's hard work I think they enjoyed it very much.

People came up to stare over the girl's shoulders, but they remained totally engrossed in the process of drawing. It was really a wonderful afternoon and proof for me that taking them out to draw is fun and easy, since they were all so well behaved!

Our next meeting was in February, when I took the girls to the famous Kala Ghoda arts festival.  It's held every year in Mumbai, I'd always wanted to go and it finally worked out. Some of the art was great,  a giant “ Fish out of Water”, giant cast iron animals, and a favorite with the girls – the forest of hanging chai cups and teapots and colorful paper lanterns in the street. By far the most relevant  and interesting was for them to see the “Crazy Animal” installations done by school children around their age. We were also lucky enough to catch a traditional puppet show that had them all enraptured with the singing and gorgeous puppets.

Finally during the April Summer holiday break  I was back again for a more prolonged visit with  AAWC to work on the new postcards for our 2016 theme for our 10th anniversary calendars. For the past two years we've been lucky enough to work with the NGMA, National Museum of Modern Art in Mumbai, who have so generously allowed me to take the girls to draw in their galleries. You may remember our lovely “Composite Animal” theme from 2015 which was hatched in their galleries, with the help of their wonderful deputy curator, Manjiri Thakoor, who supplied us with paper and drawing materials.

Again in April last year, she allowed us to draw in their galleries, during the show of the famous Indian artist A.A. Almelkar (1920 – 1982.)  Although his favorite subjects were tribal people, Almelkar's style was influenced by Moghul miniature painting and he drew the most beautiful faces. So, for the first time ever, a bit apprehensively, I asked the girls to draw faces. To our delight, they did the most wonderful drawings. I followed up with some workshops on color and I helped the girls work on their final postcard art using watercolor pencils, with the constant help of Shikha, whom I simply could not have done without! The results were really quite stunning, and especially surprising since I was working with a younger age group than previous years, mostly 13 or 14 years old, since the 15 and 16 year-olds were doing final exams. 

One piece of wonderful news from AAWC is about Paro, some of you may remember she started life as one of their beneficiaries and trained to become a kindergarden teacher, after which AAWC employed her to take care of their Balwadi. Paro went from being a desperately shy young girl to a confident young woman, taking charge of her class, and usually accompanying us on our many outings. Well, this year Paro got married, and she is now expecting her first baby! Sadly it means that she will no longer be working at AAWC, but we wish her lots of luck and joy in her new life.

Another person I will miss terribly is Shikha, who has assisted me so much the past few years. She left last Fall to pursue further academic studies, of course we wish her lots of success and thank her for all her hard work.

So now my 2016 sales are finished and all the calendars sold, thanks especially to the wonderful Karan Gorstayn, who host an annual sale for me in her lovely apartment and the Shala Yoga Center here in New York, who always take the cards in December.

I am about to return to India, the end of January and have some new plans afoot for a collaborative project between the girls of AAWC and the education program at the Rubin Museum! Let's hope we can make it work!

Meanwhile thank you from myself and all the girls at AAWC for giving us all hope and encouragement to carry on.

Best wishes to you all for a Happy and Peaceful New Year,


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Encouraging Art for Life