Dirty Good Work

September 15, 2011 12:37 pm by
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Like many foreigners who live in India, Kane Ryan’s story begins with a sightseeing jaunt around the country. Somewhere along the way, however, Ryan, a high-school educated 29-year-old from Victoria, Canada, ended up starting his one-man non-profit organisation the Dirty Wall Project in Mumbai in 2009. The Dirty Wall Project has transformed a pocket of the slum in Saki Naka, creating a playground from a garbage dump (view the slideshow to see the before and after images), expanding a 140 square feet classroom into a 700 square foot two-storey school with 12 computers and five full-time staff, and together with his cohort, Ashley Pereira of the Janvi Charitable Trust, providing opportunities to hundreds of children and adults in the neighbourhood. “I do six months in India, and then two and three months in Canada, where I raise funds for the school, and then come back,” says Ryan, who since moving to Mumbai in 2009 has made several trips back to his native British Columbia to hold fund-raising events such as dinners and photography shows in his parents’ restaurant.

The proceeds—each time Ryan estimates he raises between Canadian $20,000 to $30,000—are brought back with him to India and plowed back into the Dirty Wall Project, so named for a series of photographs of peeling, crumbling walls in India, that he sold to raise money. While in Canada, Ryan also takes on a series of odd jobs—like working for a gold mining company that would airlift him to remote locations to do exploration—to earn enough money to finance his stay in Mumbai. “After six weeks there, I have enough money to support myself for six months in India,” he says. With Pereira, Ryan helps manage the school, the playground, the community centre and in assisting local residents in getting medical treatment. Ryan, who never went to college because “school was never something I enjoyed”, realises the value of a good education. Soon, Pereira and he will launch an ambitious project called “Girls Can Be” that will help women in the slum generate income by providing them with vocational training and literacy classes. If you’d like to donate your time or money, Ryan exhorts that you consider giving them the latter first. “Everyone wants to donate time or clothes for the children,” says Ryan. “But we need a constant income, to fund everything, our gardens, the residents’ medical problems. Many people don’t want to fund boring stuff, but running a charity is like a business, you have to pay bills.”

To contact Ryan, make a donation, or offer your services, email him at dirtywallproject@gmail.com or visit dirtywallproject.com.