Root Funding has been privileged to work hand in hand with Gabriel Project Mumbai (GPM) since it began as just a vision in 2012. Since it’s fruition it has had a significant impact on the daily lives of the families living in the slums of Mumbai. To learn more about the GPM journey we interviewed Jacob Stzokman, the founding director.
RF: What is your current role?
JS: I am the Founding Director of GPM. I handle volunteer programming, fundraising and strategic planning. An onsite director and programming staff supervise the many teachers, women’s collectives, medical staff and social enterprises in India.
RF: What motivated you to start the organization?
JS: Gabriel Project Mumbai (GPM) was started in 2012 after I visited Mumbai for the first time and saw children living in difficult conditions and eating organic material from heaps of garbage. I knew that something needed to be done to make a change. GPM has become a community development organization providing nutrition, education, health care, clean drinking water, women’s social enterprises, and other community development initiatives. The initial motivation was to help vulnerable children with food but it now has turned into a robust holistic approach to community development in the slums and underserved villages in India.
RF: What population do you service?
JS: The Kalwa slums north of Mumbai in the district of Thane is a slum of 200,000 people almost all of its residents have migrated from other states in India from rural villages. GPM also operates in a district of dozens of struggling remote tribal villages creating a full model of development by providing solutions to forced migration to urban centers.
RF: How does Gabriel Project Mumbai affect the lives of others?
JS: GPM is true community development. Women are empowered and children are educated on nutrition and health that leads to viable futures for them and their communities. We establish long-term sustainable, replicable programs that can be scaled-up and have the greatest impact. We are encouraged when we see the community benefiting from our work.
RF: What about your work excites you the most?
JS: We love it when we collaborate with the community on a game changing idea. When sewage contaminated drinking water caused disease and even deaths, we initiated a collaborative safe drinking water project in the heart of the slums. When the tragedy of a child’s passing spurred the creation of our medical clinic and our ability to provide accessible quality healthcare to thousands…well… all this excites us!
RF: Who are the supporters of GPM?
JS: We have many individual supporters, small family foundations, faith-based organizations and a growing corporate social responsibility support. We partner with several organizations to achieve the greatest impact with limited resources.
RF: Is there advice that you can offer to others that have a vision of starting a cause?
JS: Research before starting, consult with other like organizations working in the area, talk with the community and see what your added value is. What can your organization add that no one else can? Make sure you can make an impact and think holistically. We believe in partnering with local communities – a down-top approach. Also, be brave enough to change your vision after evaluating your impact. Be flexible to change direction with the needs of the community.
RF: How has Root Funding been instrumental in your fundraising efforts?
JS: Root Funding is a user-friendly, crowdfunding platform for friends and supporters to create campaigns to raise funds for GPM initiatives that they are passionate about. Our donors can be specific as to how they donate and to what campaigns they would like to support.
As a development organization, we can create a fundraiser in just a few minutes, spread awareness about the issue and see the response. We recently saw an amazing response to an emergency appeal for flood victims in the slums and a wonderful campaign for a 5-year-old girl who needed cleft palate surgery. Both campaigns were set up in minutes and the outpour of help was tremendous.
RF: What are the benefits of working with Root Funding as GPM's fundraising platform?
JS: Root Funding is quick, user friendly, and aesthetically pleasing. The staff gives a personal touch, always responsive and helpful and their unique pricing structure allows for more funds to be passed directly to the cause.
RF: What advice can you give to others?
JS: If you are passionate about an initiative then pour out that passion into the campaign message. Don’t be afraid to express your passion, it will only help donors to give.
RF: Anything personal that you would like to share with the readers?
JS: There are a lot of people out there who will share our/your vision and desire to help. I am constantly amazed about how eager people are to help in so many ways and I love meeting people who really show the loveliest side of humanity.