Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Annual Report

The Annual Report of Social Welfare Institute for the period of April 2006 - March 2007 is already printed and available for public viewing. It can also be downloaded by clicking on Annual Report 2006-2007. The file is available in portable document format (pdf). Size 6.31 MB

Friday, November 16, 2007

Progress Report : Integrated Development

The progress Report of the Integrated Community Development Project in South Dinajpur district Supported by Caritas India, presently coordinated by Fr. Herman Kindo and Mr. Jayanta Das is now available for your view. You may download it by clicking on : Progress Report ICD July-Sept 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Managing Disasters Together - Kumarganj

The Community Based Disaster Preparedness (CBDP) Program started at Kumarganj Block with support from Catholic Relief Services in 2005, under the name of "Village Resilience Project - Kumarganj" was completed in June 2007, with the merger of the Project with a new CBDP project. The VR - Kumarganj project as it was called, was coordinated by Ms. Barnali Roy and her team of Staff covering 75 Gram Sansads in 8 Panchayats, with some more development programs in another 38 Gram Sansads (Total 113). We congratulate Ms. Barnali and her team for the successful completion of the project. A detailed completion report is available now for your viewing. Click on the following link to download a copy of the Report : Completion Report : VR-Kumarganj (.pdf 704 kb)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bolaigaon - A Feather on the Cap

The Community health program supported by Misereor at Bolaigaon has received a shot in its arms by a commitment from Misereor for assistance and continuation of the same project for a further period of two more years. This project will strengthen more community based organizations, self help groups and the poor in particular and help them acquire their rights and privileges. Sr. Anisha SDS, who has been on the forefront and her team of women who have done wonderfully well, are happy to know that their work has been recognized by Misereor in the form of continued support to the program.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Finance Management and Misereor

Misereor, the German Christian Organization that supports many good causes across the world organized a workshop on Finance Mangement and Control systems at Kolkata on 29-30 Oct 2007. Fr. Markus Mardi along with Mr. Gabriel Hembrom, the accountant, represented the Director. Misereor will be introducing more internal control systems for monitoring of the projects supported by Misereor.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Tracking Children with HIV

Social Welfare Institute gladly announces the starting of a new Project on tracking children who are living with HIV in the district of Malda. This is a pilot project in the area with an objective to identify the probable children who could be affected by HIV and still are not detected, and to help them brought within accessible medical help. The project will cover just five Panchayats in three months, although the program may be expanded to more areas at a later stage. This project is being supported by the Clinton Foundation. This project will be rolled out in the field from 16 Nov 2007 for a period of three months and will be coordinated by Ms. Barnali Roy.

Anti-Trafficking and Social Welfare Institute

Social Welfare Institute along with the Regional Forum ABCD will shortly launch a pilot program on anti-trafficking. Although until now we have limited ourselves to awareness building and occasional detection and rescue of women / girls in danger, this full fledged program will take care of both. Sr. John, FIHM at Bishrail will be the program coordinator. Since rural women are targeted mostly, we have concentrated on the Banshihari block of South Dinajpur district which sends a junk of girls and boys as cheap labourers to other parts of India. We wish Sr. John and her team all the best in controlling trafficking of humans.

Viable Vision

The Director R. Puthumai A. Nazarene, is attending a workshop with FVTRS arranged along with SES, and with Manfred Maurer as the facilitator. In the first group work, the team in which the Director of SWI was, presented a beautiful definition of a Viable Vision for an Entrepreneur. We state it here : " A viable vision is a Dream of the entrepreneur that is accepted by all as their common vision, and to the achievment of which all resources are pooled together over a period of time enabling the success of all--individually and collectively".

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A New Health Project

SWI will begin a new Health Project targeting the immunization of all children under the age of five in 78 Panchayats (counties) covering approximately 250,000 children and pregnant women. The project will involve a vast army of about 250 Staff and volunteers and an year to achieve the goals. Watch out this space for more details. The first training for the Staff is scheduled for 15 - 17 Oct, 2007. The project will be done in full collaboration with the District Administration and the Health Department of the districts of North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Malda.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

SWI goes Wi-Fi

Another crowning moment was added to the Social Welfare Institute! We have gone wi-fi. We have connected to the services provided by the BSNL, the national telecom service provider through their "dataone" broadband service, and on our own we have converted it into wire free! So, the next time you carry a laptop into SWI, wait for a pleasant surprise... you will remain connected to the world, without any of the other accessories that you may have, or you may not have. We thank the BSNL officials at Raiganj, specially Mr. J.K. Saha and his team for taking extra trouble to get this done. Enjoy the wi-fi spot, the first among all the partners in West Bengal!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Local Government Reduces Taxes of SWI

The Raiganj Municipality has reduced the Municipality Tax to be paid by Social Welfare Institute each year by fifty percent. As a mark of good relations with the Municipality and in appreciation of the works done by SWI, the Raiganj Municipality within which SWI offices are located have been asked to pay just Rupees 4,500 only, with a possibility of further 10% rebate if the money is paid in advance. This is a big relief, as the new taxes imposed on others has gone up by 3 to 7 times in parts of Raiganj. In actual terms, the present tax would mean just a raise of fifty rupees only under the new revision, which has taken place after five years, and the new tax will be applicable for the next five years.

At a meeting held on 5, Oct 2007 it was agreed between the Municipality officials and Puthumai A. Nazarene, the Director of SWI, that the new taxes will be applicable from the next quarter. SWI thanks Mr. Mohit Sengupta, the Chairman of Raiganj Municipality and all the Municipality officials for their assistance and support in this regard.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Arrival of the SEA

On 14th morning Scott, Erin and Andrea (SEA) arrived from Seattle, U.S.A. to Calcutta, and Puthumai A. Nazarene brought them to Raiganj on 15th morning. Since then they are involved in the activities of Social Welfare Institute as volunteers and they are visiting many places as part of their learning process. Their experiences on the Indian soil is available on their Blogs as well. We will have a link created to their blogs shortly in our blog as well. Erin had taken a short video on the children. You may watch it by clicking on Erin's Children. (2 minutes)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

More Visit Photos

If anyone is interested you may also visit the following for more pictures :

1. In the engine cabin of a train

2. The City Square at Madrid

3. At the Entrance to the Senate, Madrid

4. Palace of the Spainsh King

5. On High Way to Frankfurt

6. Mineral Museum of the Suhms

7. Another Picture of the Mineral Museum

8. The Hagen Station

9. The Churras for Breakfast at Spain

10. Cemetery at Geislingen

11. With Ms. Lobo-Badr, Misereor

12. At the Indian Dinner

Stranger on Board !

Once I boarded the plane, I had a strange young woman sitting next to me. I call her "strange" because she looked more like an Indian, but had accent of German English. We introduced ourselves, and it is then I got to know that she is a Russian by birth. Her family had moved into Germany during the fall of U.S.S.R Our dialogue centered around India, her personal tour to Thailand as she was traveling to Bangkok, her family and her studies. She was interested in India because she is planning to get a job in one of the large IT companies operating here. The woman named Xenia A. though still in her mid twenties had enough knowledge of Russian literature. I was delighted to know that she had some fair understanding of Dostoevsky. Indeed she was surprised to know that I had good knowledge of Russia and Russian literature! She is a free bird. She just wanted to be along in Bangkok. Not a running-away-a-sort of thing type. But, had responsibly planned her travel, and had enough material with her on Thai culture, people and places in order to make her stay more memorable. She also exuded special interest in knowing more...hated by a large modern youth, which thinks that everything that media and internet cough up are the best. At Dubai, she behaved like a little child with enthusiastic eyes. She was in Asia for the first time! She went into the large shops selling perfumes of the Arab world, tested almost each bottle and chose some, rejected some.... and planned to buy some of them. We had coffee together and then we bid bye to each other. She still remains in my mind as a child throbbing with life! I took my flight to India and reached Calcutta (Kolkata) at 7.50 a.m. on 12 Sept, and disappeared in the maddening noisy crowd of the great Indian city. (End of European Visit)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Journeying Back Home!

On 10 Sept I spent a lot of time in the morning in packing things and in spending some time with all the family members of the Kusters. We had an early lunch and then Julia, Barbara and me left by car to Seist, nearby town of the ancient Germany. The houses and churches had still the medieval touch. Many of them built in Gothic and Byzantine styles, it was a wonderful journey that included the visit to the Mohnesse lake and a cup of hot chocolate. (Photo : With Barbara along Mohnesse) In the evening we had some dinner and kept talking till almost 11.00 p.m. and then went to bed as I am supposed to leave for India on the 11th.

By 7.00 a.m. I, Julia and Sebastian left by car to Hagen from where the Inter City Express took me to Frankfurt Airport. Once I was in, I had lot of time, because I had reached the place by 11.15 a.m. The counter opened only at 12.15. Once I got checked in, I was a free bird. I moved around the whole of the airport, traveled by the sky train, went to see an A-380, and finally, took some snacks and waited. Believe me, being the 11/9, there was enormous security all over the airport which I had not seen in my previous visits to the airport. Even checking and security check were really strict in every possible terms. But, once it was done, it's time to fly back to India by the Emirates Airliner at 3.15 p.m. German time!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fr. Blottcher and the Church of Arnsberg

I must allot the day of 8 - 9 Sept for Fr. Blottcher and to the Christian faithful of his parish in Arnsberg. The town has a large catholic and a good number of protestant population. Barbara and Rudolf trained me and Julia in the morning as to how and what I must speak in the church, and the translation will be done etc. In the afternoon, I spent some time in updating my blog. When I and Julia reached the presbytery at 6.00 p.m. Fr. Blottcher was sitting with a group of people discussing about marriage ceremony of a boy and girl. The people looked like Indians. And soon I realized that they are all Sri Lankan refugees who got spread into many European countries in mid-eighties and later during the Tamil - Sinhalese problem. They were happy to see me, a Tamil by birth talking to them in a language that they can understand. I was pleasantly surprised to know how they were still trying to integrate some of the cultural elements within and outside wedding mass to make it "closer to Tamil culture"!

Fr. Blottcher is a very warm person. He welcomed me with an embrace and enquired about my health, stay, etc. We began the mass at 6.30 p.m. I had carried my cassock from here. Well, at the mass he introduced me to the people. Instead of the normal homily I was asked to speak to the people, with Julia translating. My speech was heard with apt attention and pin-drop silence. At the end of it people clapped! By the time the mass was over I could understand that Fr. Blottcher mentioned my name several times and he was speaking to the people, or he was praying for me. After the mass, few people remained back to meet me and other family members of Julia. Julia told me that Fr. Blottcher had changed his mind! I found then that although Fr. Blottcher had told me that he would do a church collection for my work later on at another week, but after hearing my speech, told the people contribute at that time itself. He also invited me to speak at the first mass on 9 Sept. Sunday. Both the collections were kept aside for our work in India. (I gave it all to Sebastian so that they can send it to me later.)

On 9th, the Parish Feast (7 th Sept Nativity of Mary) was celebrated with much fanfare, a small fete and a large crowd filling the church. I had breakfast with Fr. Blottcher, Fr. George and others at the Parish. I must thank Fr. Blottcher for his wonderful gesture. (I did that on 10th morning.) The afternoon was spent in little marketing for my journey back home with Julia. We had planned to travel to Mohnesse lake for a boat ride. But due to other works and few other guests in the family, we could not leave.

The Indian Banquet

07 Sept 2007

The day ran past quite quickly. I had little time to rest since I left Raiganj on 28 Aug. I woke up at 9.30 a.m. and had a quick wash and breakfast. I and Sebastian then went to the market to get some things for an Indian dinner to some guests who had been invited. Julia, her Mom Barbara and Mrs. Monica, a friend of Barbara, were the cooks. We assisted the women by shedding some tears as we cut the onions. At 4.00 p.m. Mr. Rudolf Kuester, father of Julia returned from office and I and he left home immediately for a "guided" tour of Arnsberg (which literally means the Eagle's Hill). Known for my forgetfulness, I had failed to carry the camera. (Note : No demand for the photos of that day will be entertained.) Well, he guided me first to the Regional Office where he works as the Personnel Manager. The office was so neat and clean that even many of the hotel rooms in India would be put to shame. I just can't understand how did these Germans achieve this sense cleanliness. Surely, it requires stringent laws, merciless execution of the rules, severe punishment against violation, and finally sacrifice from the people to do something more for achieving greater things.

He walked me through the streets of Arnsberg, specially the Alter Arnsberg (Old Arnsberg) where emptied monasteries and churches, old schools, the Bell Tower, the oldest town hall and the resteraunt etc. At every point he explained to me the things that I must notice. By the time we returned the sun was falling down. We all joined together to prepare the tables. At 7.30 friends and well-wishers came into the house. We had 22 of them. The dinner began with some tea, chicken tikka and Naan, and continued with mutton kofta, rice, sambhar, vegetables, mango salad, coconut chutney etc. At the discussion we had wonderful sharing on life in India.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A.. Aah ! Aachen !

Julia and me had an early breakfast and rushed to the Arnsberg Railway Station by car. It was very cold for the morning. Must be around six degrees celsius. As we reached the Station, Julia took ticket for us from the Ticket Vendor and then consulted one of the touch-screen machines to get different combinations of our travel plan. That was important so we could plan our travel even from here. We have to change twice to reach Aachen. The train, a very short one reached in minutes. It was 9.05. We entered the train that was almost empty. The heater was running so that we do not freeze in cold. We got down at Hagen and took another train in minutes and then at Monchengladbach for our final destination for the day : Aachen. Well, I had a very interesting experience as well. As the door to the engine was open, I walked to the engine and was watching the driver. I was amazed by the way the semi-automatic engine was being handled by the driver, a middle aged, little fat man. He was quite friendly. He allowed to couple of photos of him. I can not imagine getting access to the engine in India. People are accessible!

At Aachen, since we had some time in hand, we walked through the streets to reach the Cathedral at Aachen. It was in this church the German Empire was first declared, and Charles the Great was crowned. Aachen had been bombed several times during the World War II, but the church had escaped. The Church still draws lots of crowds each day as a sign of German Unification and Leadership. But the city has lots of very old buildings interspersed with new, as a mark of bombs that had destroyed the old where the new buildings have come up.

At 2.00 p.m. we had the meeting with Ms. Lobo-Badr. She was very courteous, supportive and friendly. She also showed keen interest in knowing how Misereor had supported us in the past, and what changes those programs had brought about. She promised to support the programs of Raiganj within her capacity as much as possible. For lunch, we had some backwater fishes fried in oil with flavours and some flour. On our way back, we were informed about half an hour before we reached Hagen that someone had fallen sick in the train. The train stopped at the next station within minutes, and the ambulances arrived. The man had a heart attack. We were delayed by about 20 minutes. And so, we were late to get the connecting train to Arnsberg. We got some time to walk around Hagen station. Hagen is an old town with lots of industries around. We had some Chocolate Macchiato (Coffee) and took the next train at 7.13 and reached Arnsberg at 8.00 p.m. At home, we had a very long chat till almost 11.00 p.m. Julia has a very loving mother Barbara, and a real gentle man, Mr. Rudolf, as her father. They helped us plan for the next day's Indian Dinner and the Presentation of my projects to the people. The sixth day of September saw me for the most of part of the day in Aachen.

From Madrid to Arnsberg

On the morning of 5, Sept I woke up at 7.00 a.m., had a wash and switched on my laptop to find that the hotel was providing free internet facility. I checked on the mails, wrote some and closed by 8.30. Julia and Sebastian had got ready by then. We checked out of the hotel, walked for some distance to look for a place for the breakfast. Julia spotted one in which we could have some real good Spanish breakfast. We had Churros, Porras (pronounced as Porraaz) and few other things along with a very tasty coffee. As usual, Julia went for two glasses of fruit juice.

We then went towards the palace, the Basilica inaugurated by the Pope John Paul II in 1993, the Senate, the Plaza de Espanol and many other places on walk to enjoy their beauty once again in the morning sunlight. The palatial gardens were very good, though not as good as the Indian Moghul Gardens in the Presidential Palace (Rashtrapati Bhavan). Then we took the Metro back to Madrid Airport for our journey back to Germany. From Madrid we reached in the evening. We spotted our car in the fourth floor underground where thousands of cars are parked in each floor, and then left for Herscheid. After picking my luggage at Sebastian's place, we came to Arnsberg, where the Küsters live. It was almost 9.00 p.m. We had a quick wash, dinner, said good bye to eachother including the parents of Julia and went to bed early, as I and Julia were planning to leave early the next day for Aachen, in the border of Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany.

Don't Think of Roam!

I had got roaming facility for my Cellone telephone. The officers at Raiganj had told me that they have activated it. But it just would not work. I tried several times in the past days. No way. I even put my SIM (Subscriber Identification Modue) in other people's mobile phones. No. It just would not take it. As soon as I return back to Raiganj, I must ask them for a list of countries in which Cellone has a Network, and which is the provider who gives them the service. This is essential because I had clearly told them that I am going to Madrid in Spain and Germany. If you are planning for a visit to other countries, and if you are planning to carry your cellphone, ask your provider to give you the list of the countries in which they have a contract with a local network provider, and get the company's name. Otherwise, you will have the same experience. You can see all the providers' names in your Network search, but all of them will tell that you are FORBIDDEN to use their network.

Madrid Welcomes You!

I, Julia and Sebastian rushed in the morning as we had to leave for Frankfürt to catch a plane at noon, leaving for Madrid. The ride was quite smooth. Julia had thoughtfully packed some chocolate biscuits for us. At Frankfürt we had some very good coffee and got ourselves lost in the sea of people. With three terminals and tens of gates, I just kept wondering how these airport people manage this massive "enterprise"! It is enormous by any means. At every minute a plane was leaving... that means, at every minute a plane was arriving as well! I could see through the window that at most of the times two planes were landing at the same time in two different runways, and planes were taking off simultaneously. It is credible. It was also very easy to take photographs as we had got ourselves security checked well in advance. The Security Check was very thorough... but once. So, no hassles after that. That was better. We should learn from them--not to disturb people too many times in the name of checking the samething again and again.

We landed at 3.40 p.m. Madrid was warm and welcoming. We rushed out. And we had to walk too long to catch to a Metro rail to the Office of Manos Unidas. Madrid has one of the best Metro networks in the world. It practically covers the entire city. And at each station you never wait more than 4.59 minutes- because at every fifth minute a train passes. That I would call it fantastic, user friendly. This avoids rush on the road, and people don't mind waiting for such a short-time. We changed the trains three times to reach the Office of Manos Unidas. At two occasions, we did not even have to wait for a minute. It is all well synchronised. When you get down from one platform and move to the other platform, another one comes! Our city planners must come to study how they function. (And not take holiday on Government money in exotic hotels).

At Manos Unidas, the visit was very fruitful. We spent some time with the women who were waiting for us. They were so happy to see that I had traveled all the way from India, and that Julia and Sebastian had brought me from Germany. Once we left the place, we took the Metro again and got down at Sol. Sol is an important place in Madrid, because it is from Sol that every house in Madrid is numbered, and every milestone to Madrid is marked. Julia had picked a cheap but decent hotel for our stay for the night, just a stone's throw-away from Sol. We went there and had a wash. Then we were out on a walk. We went to see the palatial gardens and the palace of the King. (In case you do not know, Spain still has the King, like the Britain having Queen.) Then we took a "Madrid Vision" Bus. The bus is a double-decker with an open roof. We chose the upper floor so that we can have a good view from the top. It was fantastic because the ride we took was a "Historic Places Vision" Ride. (They also have a Modern Madrid Vision Ride.) In this we were taken along all the historic places. Anyone can get in at any point and get down at any point. The ticket was for a whole day. To see them all in the bright lit night... you can just say, Superb! I must mention here one more thing. As we got into the bus, the conductor, a woman, gave us each a small booklet on the ride and an earphone. It is important. All that we had to do was just plug in the earphone into a socket next to the seat and choose any of the eight languages that simultaneously give you commentary on what you are viewing. It also guides you to notice at some particular details and explains historical facts. They have almost done away with guides who charge you too much, even blackmail in our historical places, and more so, they give you a choice of language. You can also hear the commentary digitally with very light music at the background. Something to learn more for us. Madrid's night life is really exciting. We could see thousands of people on the street, taking a fine walk in the evening sun (Sun was still shining at 8.45 p.m. Spanish time.) People were having plenty to eat, lots of beer to gulp down and enjoying with their friends. (If you are looking for some real good hot evening... or night... destination is Madrid.) We returned to the hotel by 11.15, and went to bed immediately.

The Herscheid Experience

Sebastian and Julia brought me to the house of Sebastian. His parents had gone on holidays to Spain. We had a brief walk around the place, and then went for a dinner to the grandparents of Sebastian. The gentleman and lady were very welcoming and they knew little English. That made me quite at home. They were very much interested in my work, in knowing more about me and the people, about my life etc. Something seemed to have touched them much. They gave me a small gift to take back as well. I just can not forget the generosity of people like them. I sent them through Sebastian the next day, a small gift that I had carried with me.

On the third of Sept. we spent our time in the morning planning our travels, booking place in Madrid for our stay, and designing the presentation for the evening. After a simple lunch, I and Julia left for the home of Aline, (pronounced as Aleena) an aunt of Sebastian, where the dinner had been planned for some neighbours and us. We walked a long way through a small hill that is used to cultivate grass for the cows. A beautiful landscape with pines surrounding it. That was an excellent view of Herscheid. Sebastian came and joined us after doing some marketing. Aline and Julia were the chief cooks. They were really smart in preparing Indian dinner with a German touch. I, Sebastian and a Son of Aline helped them. Soon, we had prepared, Tikka, Kofta, fried rice, sambhaar, coconut chutney, Naan, mango salad, and many others, including our own Samosa! The guests came in from 7.00 p.m. onwards. Very friendly people. The dinner and discussions went on till 11.00 p.m. By the time we helped Aline to put back the dishes and we returned, it was almost mid-night, and we rushed to catch with some sleep.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

At the Speed of Superfast

Michael and Anja Kunkel, after showing parts of Stuttgart on 2nd Sept, they put me in an Intercity Express (ICE) of Deutsch Bahn, the railway company of German Goverment. They had informed me that the train is a superfast. But I did not think of an experience of this sort. They had carefully booked a ticket for me on the window side so that I can have a view of the cities the train will be passing by. As I got in, I could see the seat No. 85 on Wagon 32. It was digitally written above my seat with the Words : Stuttgart - Dortmund. I looked around; above every passenger traveling to various places, their boarding station and their destination was written. The Ticket Examiner came with a small machine which digitally verified my ticked and put a mark on it. The travel from Stuttgart to Dortmund, a distance of 475 kilometers was covered in 3 hours 15 minutes. At every station, people were alerted about the next station, about other useful information, they were welcomed, thanked, and even we could see the speed at which the train was traveling at a particular time. We had hit 300 km/hour on several occasions. When I landed in Dortmund at 5.20, Julia Küster and Sebastian Pieper were waiting for me... I could not recognize Julia. She had gone thin since I met her five years ago.

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Gengenbach Story

First of September saw me spending little extra time on the bed, after seeing off Bettina & her family on a trip to northern Italy. We had a good lunch and little talk in the morning. And then went off to take some rest. I was watching a detective movie on the T.V. while resting on a beautiful bed prepared by Anja. At 1.40 p.m. we left Geslingen and traveled to Gengenbach through the dense Black Forest. The forest seem to have got its name “black” due to the number of tall long needle-leaved deep green pine trees that fill the hills in southern Germany. These pines, due to their color, do not allow the light to pass down to the ground, giving the name “black forest”. Since we rode through slowly, enjoying the nature, we took about an hour and a half to cover the 80 kilometers. At Gengenbach, me, Anja and Michael were welcomed by Evelyn and Peter. It was Peter’s birthday. Soon, more and more friends and family members joined in. Matze, Marcus, Gabi and so many others! Well, Matze, the great “cook” and brother of Michael & Evelyn began preparing the food. At 4.00 p.m. I accompanied Michael to Offenburg to bring Dr. Joachim Schmerbeck. He too joined us in the Birthday party. We had some good meal, and lots of discussion on Natural Resource Management programs in West Bengal, and also about what could be done in Raiganj.

At 8.00 p.m. we reached Joachim back to Offenburg so that he can leave for Freiburg. On return from Offenburg, the party continued. We three of us, left at 10.30 p.m. to the house of Gabi where she and her husband had prepared two well furnished rooms for us. I fell on the bed immediately, as I was feeling sleepy.

One important thing I must mention here. While working with Dr. Joachim, I realized that since the previous day, I have been noticing that there are two three-pin plugs in Germany! Oh, no! I just can’t charge my lap-top. Peter and Michael worked on a wire with a double pin to temporarily connect it to the laptop’s power cord, so that I can charge it for the day. Attention Everyone: If you are traveling to Germany or other European countries with your laptops, beware of your power cord!

In the morning, I woke up by 6.00 am and had a very good bath at a “beautiful” toilet at Gabi’s. Then I had a short walk around the house. That is when I realized that the family of Gabi deals in Minerals. Soon, I was treated to one of the best views of my travel. I was taken to the cellar where they have several rooms, entirely selling and researching in minerals. Hundreds of types of minerals, all in various shapes and sizes! Waw! I spent some time in the midst of minerals brought from various caves, mountains, seas and mines all over the world. Simply the passion of these two persons for the nature has entirely changed their life. I could see the garden all around their house, again filled with the grandeur of nature. The Gabis gave me a small medallion made of a rare mineral! We had breakfast at the house of Evelyn & Peter, bid farewell to everyone there. (I was informed that the party went on till 5.00 a.m, as Matez continued to play Piano till then!)

Well, Michael and Anja have been so generous to me. I do not know, how will I be able to repay them. They brought me to Stuttgart. The distance of about 200 kilometers was covered in an hour and a half, with Michael, sitting on the driver’s seat, hitting 175 km/h at most of the time. The high way close to Stuttgart was having lot of rush, and the roads were crowded with cars. Since the time I landed in Frankfurt on 30th, I had not seen a police man. But today, I could see some of them. We had a look around the telephone tower of Stuttgart, the soccer stadiums and then the large marketing plazas around the Stuttgart railway station. Where there are no spaces, people have made large spaces by creating lot of underground structures for marketing, railway stations and for almost every human need. I learnt another very important thing. The people and government have worked together to create a clean, litter-free country. We must do it. Yes, Indians can do it.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Castle of Hohenzollern

The travel from Dubai took over 6.45 minutes on 30 August. When the Emirates aeroplane landed at Frankfürt it was 7.50 p.m and the sun was still shining on the West. With the formalities completed, I came out picking my luggage from Belt 12, and my friends Michael Kunkel and his wife Anja were waiting for me. We went down four floors into the underground, walked more than half a kilometer and took our car to drive to Geislingen, through Stuttgart and Tübingen. It was 9.00 p.m., and the sun had just set. With a short halt for about 10 minutes on the way at a highway motel (they call it Raststätte, literally meaning, Resting Place), the travel from Frankfurt to Geislingen (280 kilometers) took about three hours. We were at the Kunkel's at 12.00 mid-night. In India, it is 3.30 a.m. We went to bed immediately.

The morning of 31 August saw me waking up at 8.00 a.m. and went for a wash, followed by a wonderful welcome breakfast. Mrs. Leonie Kunkel, mother of Michael, joined us with some delicious bread, sausages, butter, coffee etc. Then, we went on a long walk through the streets of Geislingen, a very beautiful little village with a population of 4,000 people... but there were almost 3,000 buildings! The streets were wide, long and with lots of cars zipping past us. We visited the Church, swimming pool, number of shops, the beautiful cemetery ( I call it beautiful, because, I have never seen a cemetery filled with flowers and every grave with flower plants and each of them filled with colourful flowers!), the Physiotherapy centre of Anja and the woods next to Geislingen. It was 1.00 p.m. We had some quickly made noodles with soup for lunch, and coffee & cakes at the house of Bettina Kohle, sister of Michael. By three in the evening we left to see the castle of Hohenzollern, (passing through Balingen, the district headquarters) roughly 20 kilometers from Geislingen. The Hohenzollern castle, like one of the castles of the 18th century, was built by the Bavarian and Prussian emperors. It was a wonderful experience to walk through the castle with a guide and a good number of people. The building is well maintained and clean. In comparison to most of our national monuments in India that are least cared for, and the people dirtying them all around, the cleanliness everywhere marked a sign of people's attention to maintain quality. It is not enough to say, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness". We must practice it. More photos are downloadable at : The Fortress, The Emperors, and the Facade

In the evening, the family of Bettina, and Matze and Sandra Müller joined us for a grand dinner. We had lots of talk about India, about the Bishop, and about the next day's plans.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Dubai Airport

The first taste of middle-east was given in the form of Dubai. Our flight from Kolkata, scheduled to land at 1.15 p.m. (Dubai time) landed at 12.40, well ahead of the scheduled time. We were brought by a bus to the Transfer Terminal (supposed to be for passengers who have an onward journey only. In the flight itself I had been informed through the in-flight TV that my flight to Frankfurt EK - 047 will be leaving by Gate No. 22. I thought that must be one of the last Gates in Dubai. When I got in.... Ooh, in spite of a sea of passengers, the security was quite tight, my Passport and Visa were scrutinized thoroughly--much more than at Kolkata, and then when I looked for Gate No. 22, I was shown a long street of shops, almost like the Burrabazaar of Kolkata, of course, much decent, clean and straight. And much more, I found that there are 50 Gates for boarding ! My goodness! When I think of six gates in Kolkata, where, still they keep shifting your Boarding Gate abruptly, I just can't imagine how they manage 50 gates. Well, I saw the staff to be prompt, cold without feelings, strict, and from all over the world. And of course, even my Boarding Pass went through a Swipe Machine to create records for on-flight details. And now, I wait at the 22nd Gate working on a free Wireless Internet connection provided on the laptops. That's a new world.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The European Journey - the Departure

I had finished packing all things by noon on 28 August, Tuesday, and had carried a heavy suitcase to my office in the ground floor. As the clock was ticking away the time, I checked and re-checked things. Everything seemed to be fine, and I had instructed sufficiently everyone on what needs to be done. At 7.00 p.m. accompanied by Fr. Markus and Fr. Herman, we went for a dinner at The Embassy. A simple meal with some fish fry, chicken, daal, mixed vegetable, a plate of vegetable fried rice, and two naan, were all in the menu. The delicious meal really helped me as I did not have a good meal during the day. At 9.20 p.m. some of our Staff took the luggages to the bus standing outside the gate. Mr. Mishra, a friend of mine, came to bid me "good bye". All of them waving their hands, and me waving back to them from the sleeper coach... it was all fine. But then, when I opened the mobile, the unthinkable had happened. It just would not open! Several times during the night I tried. It just would not budge. I think I slept off as we passed through Malda at 11.oo p.m. Again, I woke up at 4.10. The bus was still at Baharampur. The road had been bad and there was some traffic jam. So, we had taken five hours to cover 115 kilometers. Well, the journey continued. I reached Proggaloy at Barasat, just five kilometers from Calcutta airport, so that it is easier for me to leave in the morning.

After a wash and breakfast with Fr. Soosaimanickam, the Director of Proggaloy, I went to meet our Bishop Alphonse D'Souza who is at St. Xavier's College, Calcutta for some medical check-up. The Bishop has not been keeping too well of late. He was very happy to see me. I spent about 40 minutes with him. I briefed him once again my travel plans, asked him for his blessings, and came to Seva Kendra in Calcutta where I finished my lunch with Fr. Reggie. It was time to go to Esplanade in Calcutta, where I purchased some masala (Sambaar Masala and Rasam Masala) to take with me to Germany-- to cook some Indian food there, because Ms. Julia, my friend, has planned an Indian dinner there! I took a bus back to Barasat, to spend some time quietly in reading and in internet.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Sanitation for Agumpur Girl Children

Agumpur is 65 kilometers south of Raiganj, in Gazole Block of Malda district. The St. Anne's Children's hostel had 115 primary school girl children with just only one toilet. And the children were having hard time for bath and other natural needs. Ultimately, we approached Manos Unidas who sanctioned 4545 Euros for the purpose without much delay. Now, the children have five toilets, urinals, a tank to hold water for their bath, and a submersible pump that faithfully provides water to the needs of the children and other inmates. The Completion Report is made available here for everyone's view. We thank Manos Unidas and all their donors for their generous help. May the laughter of these children continue to motivate you and may the Almighty and Ever loving God shower His Blessings upon all the donors.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Let us Bank !

I am preparing to leave for Germany and Spain on 30 Aug. I had some pleasant experience as well in the process of preparing for my departure. My travel agent had helped me get some 200 Euro before I got my Visa, so that it got recorded in my Passport. But that may not be sufficient. I did not want to burden anyone when I reach Europe. So, I thought of carrying some more money. But how do I do it. Many suggested that I carry a Traveler's Cheque. Some told me to take hard cash. Can I use my Debit Card? Some said, "That is Better". I was told by some to get a "Traveling Card". I approached the Branch Manager of ICICI Bank Branch at Karnajora. Mr. Jonathan Noor was more than willing to help with with every bit of details. Although it is a rural branch, he coordinated with another Branch authorized to issue the Card, and took care to get all my papers done in a single day, and still more helped me to understand the entire concept of using the Traveling Card, its benefits, and how safe is my money. Waaw! I found the experience great! Thank you ICICI for selecting such good people. I really enjoyed the experience of Banking! We can bank on the banker at Karnajora!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Departure of Sanjay and Shivangi

Mr. Sanjay Nahak, presently the District Coordinator of Malda district, and Ms. Shivangi Gupta, presently the Micro-Insurance program officer, both working at Social Welfare Institute, were given a farewell on 14 August 2007, at a simple function. The Director Puthumai A. Nazarene and Fr. Markus Mardi, the Asst. Director appreciated the hard work put in by the two. In response, both of them thanked the Director and all SWI Staff for the learning opportunity they had while they were at work in SWI. Both of them are expected to join other organizations shortly.

Making of the Tailors

A six months long Tailoring training program for tribal girls --drop outs from primary schools-- commenced on 20 Feb 2007 at DDC, our training center, came to an end with the issue of Certificates, a cultural program and giving away of prizes on 14 Aug 2007. Of the thirty girls, 26 of them passed successfully and they will now join some tailors at their villages / towns for better experience or they will begin the trade by themselves. Mr. Mahadeb Dey, the Asst. General Manager, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development graced the occasion. In the picture you can see Ms. Lakhi Oraon, a poor tribal girl from Chanchol, Malda district, receiving a Tailoring Machine as first prize from R. Puthumai A. Nazarene, the Director and Mr. Mahadeb Dey.

Increasing Income...

The Community Based Disaster Preparedness Program (CBDP) aims at building resilience among the vulnerable people to ensure that they are able to cope up with the natural disasters. Since poverty is one important factor, and dependence on agriculture for the poor means, they are left with no alternate sources of income, SWI has begun to support over 500 families through trainings in animal husbandry, poultry and micro-fishery. This will mean that the selected families will have other alternate sources of income throughout the year besides the crop that is seasonal. Ms. Barnali Roy and Ms. Rekha Soren along with their team are busy ensuring that the trainings are completed on time and the fishes, chickens and other materials are distributed properly to the deserving community.

Positive Strokes

On Sunday 12 Aug, I drove to Kumarganj (110 kms from Raiganj) on the Bangladesh Border, close to Balurghat town along with Sr. Rosy and Mr. Mathias (our driver), and we reached there at 11.00 a.m. A Motivation Seminar for teachers of all the schools supported by SWI was coming to conclusion on that day. Fr. Babla Mondal was the resource person for the three days workshop. At 11.20 I was asked to give the final address, and the 53 teachers and me discussed on giving and the impact of Positive Stroke to the students in their primary schools, and also on the difference between Knowledge and Wisdom, and how, our schools must impart wisdom along with knowledge. After lunch, we traveled along with Fr. John Kennedy, the Parish Priest of Kumarganj to Katnidanga and Bagdol, where my friend Fr. Emilius Soreng lives in one of the most interior parts of the diocese with over 175 children there. We had coffee and some cool drinks and from there we traveled to Bishrail to wish the FIHM sisters who had inaugurated their convent that day in the morning. We had dinner with the Claretian fathers staying at Bishrail. Fr. Selvaraj cmf, Bishrail, is a wonderful host always. By the time we returned to Raiganj at 10.30 p.m. the body was aching to go to bed. And I did just that!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Garden at the Waterfront

Every person who has visited Social Welfare Institute knows that the present Director loves gardens. He had prepared a beautiful garden in front of the training institute (DDC) at Chotparua. Now, DDC is in the process of getting another. The entire large pond is being enclosed, and a beautiful garden area is being prepared. Mr. Mathias Hembrom and other non-office Staff of SWI are busy in the making. Besides a picturesque view and a romantic look, the garden will also have two large umbrellas built for people to have group discussions or for a cup of coffee beside the garden. Sr. Rosy of the Canossian sisters has agreed to take care of it, to make it bloom with roses and lilies!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The German Consulate

Tuesday, 7 August 2007 : It was an wonderful experience to spend some time at the Kolkata (Calcutta) German Consulate for me (Puthumai). I reached the Consulate at 8.45 a.m. The doors were well guarded. And once I was at the Security, I was told that due to some reasons they will not accept any more applications for the day. I was worried. Mr. Felix, a friend who came with me told the Security man that as I am from Northern part of Bengal, and that I am in very responsible position, it would not be possible for me to apply for a visa another day. The Security officer called someone on the intercom. I was allowed to file the application as the 12th man for the day. I went in. My friend was not allowed in. Once I was in the air-conditioned room, I spent the time reading about Germany.... about the technological innovations that is going on in Germany, the slowly progressing economy there and on the Indo-German relationship. There were plenty of matter to read. I sat quitely reading them. Others were making a lot of noise. Well, a German young lady came to the counter at 9.02 a.m. And the interviews began. I saw her questioning some, accepting some, rejecting some, getting upset with the travel agents who had not brought any original traveler, but had brought handful of Visa Application Forms and Passports of people etc. At 10.20 my time came. I gave the form and other documents. I introduced myself. She kept asking for some of the papers which I had in my hands. I kept speaking to her as she kept browsing through my papers. I told her the purpose of my visit. She was extremely satisfied. She asked me, " Are planning to return to your place today?". I replied, "Yes". "Well", she said, "you come at 3.00 p.m. And I shall get your Visa done!" I just couldn't believe my ears. "You mean, this evening?". Pat came the reply, " Yes. I shall do it for you. We can recognize the genuine travelers quite instantly." I thanked her and returned. All that I know was the number of notices I saw at the Consulate which said, "Visa Applications may take up to five working days for processing." My goodness! I know now, I am Welcome in Germany by every German citizen! The richness and the promptness of Germany was already visible.

Puthumai to Visit Germany and Spain

The Director of Social Welfare Institute, Puthumai A. Nazarene will visit some of his friends and benefactors in Germany and Spain. He is expected to leave India on 30 Aug, 2007 morning to Frankfurt via Dubai and will return on 12 Sept. We are grateful to all the friends, specially the Kuester family for taking extra-ordinary trouble in arranging for his trip to Germany. He may also visit the offices of some of the funding partners in these countries.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Possible Floods at Harishchandrapur

Ms. Bimala Baru, a Staff of SWI who is the Coordinator of a Village Resilience Project, living at Harishchandrapur II Block reports that the Fulahar river is above the danger mark for the past 15 days and is now eating into the bund (dike of mud) that is protecting Harishchandrapur. The situation, she reports that, is grim if the situation continues as the erosion on the dike is fast and quick. This can lead to the Fulahar river getting into the mainland and destroy vast acres of land threaten lives of the people of Harishchandrapur. SWI, as an immediate step, in consultation with the Block Development Officer, will use loudspeakers to alert the people on the situation and ask them to be prepared for the worst. Your prayers and support are welcome. Humanitarian Agencies are alerted through this to be prepared for giving required assistance if necessary.

Monday, July 30, 2007

On Trades and Practices : FVTRS & SWI

FVTRS and Social Welfare Institute conducted several trainings in various trades to empower the youth, specially the drop-out students in the three districts of Malda, North Dinajpur and South Dinajpur. This successfully completed project was mainly looked after by Ms. Sanchari Baral and other Staff of SWI. The narrative Completion Report as a pdf file is available on Completion Report of FVTRS-SWI joint project.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

FVTRS Bengal Partners Meet

The Partners of FVTRS from West Bengal met on 26 July at St. Mary's School, Malda for some discussions on further strengthening the tie among the partners. Since the Director of SWI R. Puthumai A. Nazarene is the Coordinator of the Partners, he will be attending the meeting of all Coordinators on 31 July at Bangalore. The whole report of the meeting is available by clicking on Report of W.Bengal FVTRS Partners' Meet.

Monday, July 16, 2007

CRS Visitors at Raiganj

The Deputy State Representative Ms. Sudeshna Mukherjee, Mr. Pallab De, the Partner Support Officer, and Ms. Sucharita Chakraborty, the Linkage Officer were in Raiganj on 11th July to discuss further development plans at SWI, Raiganj and also to have a meeting with all the Operating Partners on the Phase Out Plan of CRS - USAID supported food-aid programs. On 12th, Ms. Sanchita Banerjee joined the three, and they visited some of the Agriculture related field areas and they were very much impressed by the fact that women were actively involved along with men in agriculture development programs and also that some of the Self Help Groups promoted by SWI had received 14,00,000 rupees for developing organic farming and production of organic fertilizers. On 13 July, Ms. Sanchita and Mr. Pallab were in Raiganj and we had a whole day of discussions with the Staff at various levels and it was enriching to understand some of the further areas where CRS can become a partner with SWI.... including in the area of starting a Community Radio for Awareness Building among people on various socio-economic, cultural and agricultural areas of development. We had also discussion on strengthening the linkages with Self Help Groups through the monthly newsletter which SWI published in the past three years. Puthumai A. Nazarene, the Director, and all the Staff thank the CRS team for being with us and spending so much time with us.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Valiant Salma is in Bed

Salma Besra is a valiant tribal woman who has been a social worker and a health worker in the surrounding villages of Bolaigaon and Bajebindol in Raiganj Block, North Dinajpur district. She had fought against illicit liquor sales in the villages to such a level that the liquor-selling families hated her. She planted sting operations with the help of the Block Administration to catch two women and and a man who were involved in flesh-trade and human trafficking of girls to Delhi and other northern states. This was reported by newspapers! Now she has fallen sick suddenly and she is partially paralysed. Her husband deserted her few years back. With two children in the school, she had the energy to work for the poor, and she has formed over 25 women's groups. Having had no education, this year she has joined "Open School" for writing the tenth Standard. The district hospital at Raiganj could not help her much although all expenses were borne by Social Welfare Institute. She is presently bed-ridden at the dispensary run by the Sisters of Divine Saviour at Bolaigaon. She needs to go for some physio-therapy, which is not available at Raiganj. Salma needs our prayers and support.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Supporting Community Development Programs

The Community Development Project covering parts of South Dinajpur District has come to a close. The project was supported by Caritas India between Apr 2005 - Mar 2007. The project was designed for promoting Self Help Groups and Strengthening them. Whereas it was designed by the Director R. Puthumai, it was implemented by the Project Staff, and Fr. Markus Mardi did the monitoring and immediate management of the Project. We thank Fr. Markus and all the Staff who were involved in it. We also thank Mr. Sanjay Rozario, the Regional Manager, Caritas India and everyone at Caritas India in Delhi and Kolkata, and the donors and well-wishers of Caritas India for the support we have received over the period. The Completion Report is made available by clicking on CDP Completion Report. Caritas India has already given an extension of this project to cover some other parts of the same district.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Adieu ! Dear Friends....

Mr. Prasanta Kumar Bhadra, who was associated with the Routine Immunization and Pulse Polio Projects as Documentation Officer was given a farewell at a brief function at SWI on 02 July 2007. Mr. Bhadra was great at Microsoft Excel and in handling accounts of the project on Tally. His cheerfulness and readiness to help was always appreciated. Mr. Haraprasad Ghosh, who joined SWI after completing his Master Degree in Social Work in June 2006, also leaves SWI for a better opportunity. He will be given a farewell on 03 July. His jovial nature and willingness to put up with difficult situations is always a source of inspiration. We wish them all the best!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Phasing Over from Food Programs of CRS

The Director, R. Puthumai and Mr. John Hembrom visited Purnea in the State of Bihar, India for a discussion with the five Partners of Boarding Feeding program (now known as Residential Institutions support). SWI supports 1820 students below the age of 14 in the districts of Purnea, Katihar and Kishanganj in the most backward State of Bihar, in India. The program will be phased out in September 2009 as USAID will not support the program after that. The USAID gives food support to 7810 poor under-nourished tribal children in 53 Partner locations across three districts of West Bengal and three districts of Bihar, through Catholic Relief Services and SWI. So, the Director and Mr. John, the Program Coordinator met the Partners at Purnea and discussed the phase-over plan so that the partners in Bihar can begin to look for support elsewhere. A similar meeting with partners in Bengal will be held on 11 July 2007.

Day of Reflection

All the senior Staff of Social Welfare Institute gathered at SWI on 29 June at 10.00 a.m. for a day of reflection. Mr. Jiten Mahato and Ms. Sanchari presented reflections on Natural Resource Management and Watershed Management with implications for our working area. Ms. Shivangi Gupta presented a short report on her visit to Guwahati for the Monitoring & Evaluation workshop in mid-June. Mr. Sanjay Nahak gave his experience at ATI, Salt Lake for the "Psycho-Social Impacts of Natural Disasters" and "Community Based Disaster Preparedness". A short film on Impact of pesticide usage in parts of India was also shown as part of awareness building among the staff. Later, the Director, R. Puthumai, had some reflections and discussions on matters pertaining to the Staff. The next Quarterly Meeting has been fixed for 19-20, July 2007.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Amazing Teacher Student Ratio !

If you ever thought Indian education is growing faster.... think again. The District of North Dinajpur, where SWI is trying to bring in development by encouraging children to go to school, has hit a record ! Just imagine, the Sithgram Vidya Bhavan, a high School just 9 kms (6 miles) north of Raiganj town has 1,830 students enrolled in the school, and there are only seven teachers. That means, there are 262 students per teacher. A world record? (May be someone should suggest its name for the Guinness Book of World Records. And there are just 11 classrooms. Obviously, those students who do not find a place inside the classroom, spend their time outside the classrooms on the veranda. Amazing ! Believe it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Fr. Herman Kindo to Join Social Welfare Institute

The Bishop of Raiganj, Rt. Rev. Alphonsus D'Souza has appointed Fr. Herman Kindo as an Assistant at Social Welfare Institute. Welcome dear Herman! . Fr. Herman is presently the Priest-in-charge at St. Vianney Seminary, the candidate house for those who are willing to be priests, at Rajibpur in South Dinajpur District. He is expected to join by the end of June. So, SWI will now have two assistants to support the Director.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Capacity Building of Staff : NRM and M & E

Ms. Sanchari Baral, Mr. Jiten Mahato and Mr. Subhash Topno of Social Welfare Institute are in Darjeeling at Mineral Springs for a training in Natural Resource Management. Dr. Joachim S. from Germany is the main resource person. Ms. Shivangi Gupta of SWI is in Guwahati, Assam for the entire week for a training in Monitoring and Evaluation, specially of Community Based Disaster Preparedness Programs. Both these workshops have been arranged by Caritas India and Catholic Relief Services, with support from ABCD. Mr. John Hembrom, Mr. Budhan Mardi and Mr. Robi Lakra were in Kolkata, at the CRS office for discussions on Phase Over Plan for the boarding feeding program. The boarding feeding program that supports 7,810 is scheduled to be closed by September 2009.

Change in Telephone Number of Director

The Cellphone number of the Director has been changed to +91 94347 53999. Please note the change. The number is, as usual, available at your service.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Trip to Bhubaneshwar

I just needed a break for couple of days. What best I could do? I left on 1 June evening to Bhubaneshwar, the capital town of the State of Orissa, India. I reached on 2nd afternoon. My niece, Ms. Jenifer who is preparing to be a nun in the Congregation of the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and Sr. Valentine of the same congregation, and Mr. Mishra, a friend of mine welcome me as I land there. Then, I spend the evening at the Sisters' place and have a dinner with the Mishras. On 3rd, I celebrated mass for the sisters on the Feast of Trinity Sunday. Later, the time passes quickly. I sleep a lot, spend time in quiteness and silence. Later Sr. Rose, Sr. Valentine, Jenifer and me go for some sight seeing. My return journey was not as pleasant, as I miss the connecting bus at Kolkata and get stranded looking for a bus to reach Raiganj till mid-night. Having found none, I reached SKC, Kolkata at half past mid-night, and find a bed there to hit my head. In the morning, woke up at 4.30 a.m. to catch a bus at 5.15 a.m. on 4th June, and reached Raiganj at 4.00 p.m.! A very long and tiring journey through the day. Oh yes! I got a chance to meet some persons from a non-profit organization called ORISSA ! They seem to be doing lots of very good work in some of the most poverty-struck districts of Orissa, many of them, worse than those in Bengal. They asked me if I could help them with some support. I am not so sure dear! (All this from the desk of the Director)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Scholarship for High School and College Students

The West Bengal State Human Development Report shows that almost 84 % of the students drop their education and do not reach the tenth grade. In order to minimize this problem, that often arises out of poverty, a scholarship program for tribal students of High Schools and Colleges has begun with support from Gruppo India, of Italy. During his last visit to Raiganj, Brother Colombo S.J., and R. Puthumai, the Director of SWI made an understanding that Gruppo India would support the students for High School and College Education, including technical education as well. Following this, Gruppo India sent about Rupees One Hundred and Seven Thousand to SWI. And SWI has already put in its part with 60,000 rupees. More than 125 students have benefited from this program for this year. We acknowledge gladly the sacrifice of many people in Italy and Europe and the support of Gruppo India, and Brother Colombo. Your valuable money will continue to support more and more students. We hope to expand this network to more students. We welcome your contribution by way of donations and gifts to Social Welfare Institute and to Gruppo India for this purpose. You may avail of the list of students, their present grade and the amount allotted to them and the purpose, by clicking on the following : Scholarship List 2007

Learning Together.... Walking Together !

A team of Visitors from Madhya Pradesh graced SWI on 25th May and 27th May! A team of academicians, educationists and teachers involved in Joyful Method of education and initiators of the same in Madhya Pradesh, India were in SWI on 25th evening on their way to Darjeeling. On 28th noon they returned to SWI and stayed at our training centre. They spent about five hours a section of our Staff, and some from RCHSS and UBP, our Inter-Agency Group partners, on some the participatory methods they use to develop children's skill and community involvement. We are grateful to Mr. Jude Henriques, UNICEF Program Communication Officer, W. Bengal for arranging for their visit to Raiganj ! Ms. Manasi Garain and Sr. Philo, along with their team made all the arrangements wonderful, for stay, food, logistics, and the inter-active session. It was an enriching experience to share the thoughts from different parts of the country.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Children's Immunization - We Need Help !

With great sadness we received the message that UNICEF is withdrawing its programs relating to children's immunization program from West Bengal ! The news has come as a great shock to many. SWI is UNICEF's partner from February 2004. The recently published Human Development Report of the State notes that Malda district scores last in the Human Development Index and the other two districts of North Dinajpur and South Dinajpur stand in the 13th position on a scale of 17. That means, SWI covers the most vulnerable and most backward districts of West Bengal. It is very unfortunate that UNICEF has decided to withdraw its support. Imagine, we alone covered over 150,000 children of the most poor people of tribal and various ethnic groups who struggle to make their both ends meet. This withdrawal will also affect over 250 Staff who were dependent on this project for their minimum source of income. Imagine, the Social Mobilizers (volunteers who worked in 10 - 15 villages) earned just Rupees 300 ( 5 US $) a month for working on 8 to 9 days a month. Well, they served more as volunteers. Now, we need some immediate support. We have sent a proposal to Manos Unidas. As this project is extremely urgent, will someone come forward to help us, please! You may view the Project and the Budget by Clicking on : Project Proposal - RI 2007 -08, and Budget - RI 2007 - 08

Christian Children's Fund at Malda

The Christian Children's Fund is expected to begin its involvement in the District of Malda. Social Welfare Institute will partner in this exercise which will strengthen the developmental programs, specially in one of the most under-developed Panchayats in West Bengal. SWI for its part, has chosen Dhumpur Panchayat in Habibpur Block of Malda district as its target area. The project is expected to commence shortly.

Human Development Index and SWI

Towards the end of 2005 SWI had begun a journey with the Panchayat and Rural Development Department of the Government of West Bengal in preparing the State Human Development Report (HDR) and specifically the Malda District HDR, through various workshops, analysis and studies at the people level. Puthumai, Ms. Bimala Baru and the Staff at Harishchandrapur II Block of Malda were directly involved in the process. The District HDR were released by the Hon'ble Chief Minister of West Bengal State, His Excellency Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, in the august presence of Ms. Maxine Olsen, the Resident Representative of UNDP and the Minister in Charge of Development and Planning, Mr. Nirupam Sen. Fr. Puthumai was also an invitee at the special program organized by the Panchayat and Rural Development Department at Nandan, Kolkata. SWI would continue to be part of the exercise and build strong linkages in order to strengthen the arms of the Government. Importantly, Malda district scores the lowest in Human Development Index among all the districts of West Bengal.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

At the Partners' Meet

The Annual Partners’ Meet of Catholic Relief Services, West Bengal State is held at Seva Kendra, Kolkata on 17 & 18, May 2007. Social Welfare Institute was represented by R. Puthumai A. Nazarene, Ms. Barnali Roy and Mr. John Hembrom. The SWI team gave a brief presentation on some of the Star Self Help Groups in Raiganj. You may watch the same by clicking on SWI – CRS Partners’ Meet Presentation.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Thank You Sr. Rosily

Sr. Rosily T, who was the Administrator of our Training Centre, popularly known as the D.D.C., at Chotparua has been transfered to Allahabad to teach in a School there. A warm farewell was extended to her by the present group of tailoring students, and the Staff of SWI and DDC. We thank Sr. Rosily for her dedicated and edifying service to all at DDC. We will surely miss her love and affection. We wish you all the best sister and we pray for your future ministry at Allahabad. Sr. Rosily will be leaving Raiganj on 15 May 2007. Sr. Philo, the successor to Sr. Rosily has arrived DDC on 14 May. Sr. Philo was the Headmistress our supported school at Bangar, in North Dinajpur District. We welcome you sister into the SWI family and we assure you of our support. Thank you Sr. Rosily and a Hearty Welcome dear Sr. Philo !

Friday, May 4, 2007

Job Vacancy

There will be an interview for the Posts of the District Coordinators (2) and Supervisors (5), Documentation Officer (1) for the new CBDP project launched recently. The interviews are scheduled for 9.30 a.m on 24 May 2007.

Qualifications for District Coordinator : Minimum of Bachelor Degree with at least one year experience in CBDP in a senior position not less than that of a Block Coordinator.

Qualification for Supervisor : Minimum of Class XII with one year of experience in CBDP, or / at least two years experience in CBDP programs as Animator or Supervisor.

Qualification for Documentation Officer : Minimum of Bachelor Degree with experience in documenting and editing. Knowledge of English (both spoken and written) is a must. Students with ICSE (Higher Secondary) also will be considered if they have experience in documentation.

An application can be filed at SWI with Mr. John Hembrom on all working days between 9.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. before 20 May 2007. Application forms can be downloaded by clicking on Job Application Form.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Demise of Mr. Dham's Mother

Announcing the sad demise of the mother (aged 85) of Mr. R. N. Dham, the project coordinator of Routine Immunization project supported by World Vision and CRS in 12 Panchayats of Malda District, West Bengal. She had been ill for over six months and bed ridden. Social Welfare Institute is grieved by the sad news. We offer our hearty Condolences to Mr. Dham and his family! The funeral rites according to Hindu customs will be held in a family ceremony. May her soul Rest in Peace !

Monday, April 30, 2007

Immunization Reports of Feb - Mar 2007

The Routine Immunization project aimed at 100% coverage of immunization all children and health awareness in 12 Panchayats in Malda district, supported by World Vision and Catholic Relief Services was carried on by Ms. Manasi Garain and her able team. The reports for the month of February 2007, and March 2007 are available. Ms. Manasi is taking over the Chief Program Coordinator of Health from 1 April, 2007. We wish her all the best! Sr. Thankamma, SDS who was till now the Chief Program Coordinator of Health is shifted as the Program Manager of Sponsorships & Scholarships Wing. We welcome her to take up this new venture! Congratulations to both of them!

Report of CBDP March 2007

The Disaster Preparedness Program supported by Caritas India and its partner agencies is going through a face-lift over this month as we are preparing for the next project to begin. The full report for the month of March 2007 includes lots of additional files. But we have just a brief report which you can view by clicking on Report of CBDP March 2007

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Natural Resource Management !

Mr. Joachim, a Forest Expert was in Raiganj on 21-22 Apr to visit various places in North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Malda. He visited Chopra in North Dinajpur, Dikul, Pransagar and Rajibpur in South Dinajpur, Agumpur, Rahutara and Panchanandapur in Malda District. He interacted with farmers, villagers and people who have been affected by river erosion. He also had a fruitful discussion with the Director of SWI, R. Puthumai A. Nazarene. Mr. Joachim will be the main resource person for a workshop at Barasat, 20 kilometers north of Kolkata, India from 25-27 April. Fr. Prabodh, Ms. R. Soren, Mr. H. Ghosh, Mr. S. Nahak, and Mr. J. Mahato are representing Social Welfare Institute in the training. SWI will present a brief presentation at the meeting on Discovering Natural Resources. (downloadable .ppt)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Fire kills two and destroys 800 houses in Malda

A disastrous fire has damaged atleast 600 houses on 3rd April, Tuesday at Bilaimari & Mahanandatola gram panchayats of northern Malda District in West Bengal, India. These two Panchayats with a population of over 70,000 are in an island in between the river Ganges and river Fulahar. One old man of 70 years was burnt to death in the incident. The fire has destroyed a large amount of yielded crop and property as well. Though the Govt. has provided aid like some tarpaulin sheets and dry food, with the extent of damage people feel that the relief materials are not sufficient for them as there are 4-5 members in each family and they are left with the clothes they were wearing, including the children and women. The houses are all thatched houses with straw of the paddy. Most able men in the villages are all out to other parts of India in search of labour, leaving the women and children to mend for themselves.

On the same day another devastating fire totally damaged Dangi and Satrai villages of Boroi grampanchayat in Harishchandrapur – I Block of Malda district. It has claimed one life and has destroyed 140 households and property.

Habibpur : Another incident of fire has also affected Srirampur grampanchayat of Habibpur Block on 4th April. 128 households have totally damaged including the heavy loss of crops and property.

Social Welfare Institute has initiated a relief operation. The total cost of the relief operation as planned would cost Rupees 7,15,000. Catholic Relief Services has promised $ 2000 (equivalent to Rupees 86,000) and Caritas India has allocated Rupees 2,00,000. The relief materials would include, clothing for children, women and men, household utensils, repair of tube-wells for drinking water, etc. covering over 800 families. If you would like to partner with us, contact us immediately. This is an Emergency. HELP !

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Church and Nandigram, West Bengal

The Church has responded to the situation in Nandigram, West Bengal, where the Government has a plan to acquire about 10,000 acres of land of the farmers for industrialization. This led to violent protests since January to March 2007 with already at least 18 persons killed in various violences, including 14 short dead in a police firing. The church leaders had a meeting on 2 April. The minutes of the meeting is given below :
The minutes of the meeting at Seva Kendra
with regard to Nandigram held on April 2, 2007
The representatives from SKC, Jesuits, Salesians, Bambina Sisters, ABCD, Indienhilfe, CHAI, Youth Commission and National Fisherfolk Movement attended the meeting.
The meeting started with a prayer led by I.P.Sarto.
Sibani who visited Nandigram on March 24-25 to assess the issues briefed about the situation. She suggested the following to be taken up seriously
1. A neutral agency to make a camp and to stay there to ensure protection to the people
2. To do trauma counselling by personal sharing
3. To influence the authorities to abandon the move of land acquisition
4. To ensure livlihood for the families who lost the jobs
Fr. Thomas Kocherry of NFM emphasised the need to stay with the people to create confidence among the people.
All were unanimous that a team should stay there continuously under the aegis of Seva Kendra Calcutta among the people to create "Peace Zone" to promote harmony, reconcilation, forgiveness and peace.
Frs. Reggie & Sarto would talk to Archbishop Lucas and to meet other Relgious about this move and to get their support.
(Subsequently they met the Archbishop who welcomed the move and encouraged them for the peace Zone. Bishops Lobo & Monis also expressed solidarity over phone).
As a mark of Peace, "WHITE Flags" will be erected and about 10 to 15 people would stay continuously....at the camp...to share the anxieties of the victims and to express solidarity with them
Frs. Reggie, Xavier & Sarto and Ms. Sibani will coordinate the volunteers stay at the Peace zone.
Initially six member team from Hyderabad led by Fr. Thomas ( three priests, two sisters, a lay woman) would stay there during the Holy week from April 3, 2007. Fr. Xavier Jeyaraj, s.j. & Sr. Michael, SDS would also stay with them for a week. They would identify suitable place for a camp to be erected for the volunteers and would create rapport building in the area.
A team led by Frs. Reggie & Sarto would go on Easter Day to continue the Peace Zone initiative....
Vounteers would be welcomed from the Religious houses, seminaries, youth groups, SHG women, etc.....
Their stay would be coordianted by Fr. Reggie and SKC. The SKC would initially support for travelling and food expenses of the voulnteers. Initially "trauma Counselling" and to give protection to the people are the objectives. The vounteers will be motivated to be peace builders and to avoid absolutely any political side. Our Christian presence will be a witnessing one for re-establishing "Peace Zone" in the area. (Reported by I.P. Sarto)

The team has already set up camp to live in Nandigram in the Peace Zone. If any of you would like to be part of this peace process and would like to stay there for a day or two you may mail to Fr. Reggie at reg217@vsnl.net

The list of people who have given their names is given below:

Volunteers for Nandigram





Saturday, April 7

Reggie, Sarto, Vinnarasu, Jose

Ranchita & Mukta, DSA

Claretian bro.-1

Sunday, April 8

Sarto, Jose

Ranchita, Mukta

Claretian -1

Monday, April 9

Sarto, Jose,


Sr. Jeya, SCC Provincial & 2 Srs.

Tuesday, April 10

Jose, CSSR -1

2 SCC srs

Wednesday Apr. 11

Sarto, CSSR –1; Jesuit -1

2 DSA srs & 1 SCC

Thursday, Apr 12

CSSR- 1, Jesuit –1

Claretian –1

2 DSA Srs

Friday, Apr 13

Claretian -1

Saturday, Apr 14

Archbishop Lucas, Reggie

Sunday Apr 15