The fortunate children of the Prana project: Praveen’s story

With heart and soul, flight attendant Monica Nowak helped Praveen to find his feet on the road to independence

Through help alliance´s Prana project and the uncompromising support of Monica Nowak, flight attendant at Lufthansa, what seemed impossible at the beginning has become reality for Praveen. Praveen had an almost forgotten desire: to become a cook. For a child with his past this was no easy goal. At only 20, Praveen is already reflecting on a turbulent life: his mother was burned to death in a so-called “kitchen accident” when he was four years old. His alcohol-dependent and violent father took no responsibility for him and his siblings. In the following years, he was passed back and forth between relatives and children’s homes until he and his siblings finally came to the Prana Project in 2013.

Since a superstition still prevails that they bring misfortune to others by their mere existence, institutionalised children and orphans in India are mostly austracised, stigmatised and excluded from society. With its “Glückskinder” (Fortunate children) project, Prana places a special focus on children who, like Praveen, bear this fate. Monica Nowak travels regularly to India and found her calling in the Prana Project; to make fortunate children out of these supposed children of misfortune. She is in close contact with many of the children and supports them on their long journey to independence.

The first step is education

The Prana project pursues the strategy of providing a foundation for people in need through appropriate school and medical programs, so they can create new perspectives for themselves. Thus, helping Praveen began with school education and studies. Although it wasn’t very easy – Praveen saw no importance in school and often got into trouble. Nevertheless, he succeeded in completing his schooling – not least thanks to the competence, patience and benevolence of his care providers.

From stigmatised child of misfortune to passionate cooking student

Having received his school leaving qualification, Praveen came one step closer in his hopes of becoming a chef. With some luck and persistence, he found a place studying at a college for hotel management and catering technology. The course was the next step towards fulfilling his dream. In the Chennai dormitory, however, Praveen became an outsider due to his past and, after severe confrontations with older college students, was expelled from the dormitory. Nowak and the Prana Project were also there to help him then and found him a place in a dormitory for young working men. Although he didn´t feel at home there either, he did not let himself be distracted and put all of his energy into his studies.

Finally, Praveen was able to confide in Monica Nowak. He spoke with her for the first time about his depression and the incisive experiences that he had already lived through in his younger years. “The conversations we had in this time were a minor miracle. Such openness was completely alien to him, he gained more and more trust in me, and you could tangibly see how an inner rebirth was taking place,” says Nowak. The support and constant contact with his reference person helped him to further pursue his goal. “That created a close connection between us, but above all it showed him that in far-off Germany there were people who really cared about him,” recounts Nowak.

Soon these hard times were also over and Praveen’s life took a turn for the better: a place in a shared flat  with fellow students became available for him and he was finally able to find good friends and an environment in which he felt comfortable.

Praveen received his diploma in May. The next step is the job search. But here, too, he can rely on support from Nowak. “Of course, I will continue to be at his side, supported by my fellow participants in the project. We are incredibly proud of everything he has accomplished so far,” says Nowak.

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