Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Signing with the UNICEF

Puthumai A. Nazarene, the Director of Social Welfare Institute has signed a Project Cooperation Agreement with the UNICEF, West Bengal State Office for a project on Community Based Disaster Preparedness in Harishchandrapur - II Block of Malda District, 350 k.m. north of Kolkata. The Agreement was signed on 18 March 2008 at the UNICEF office in Kolkata. This project will aim at reducing the vulnerability of the community and building their capacity for promotion and strengthening of support systems that that ensure reduced damages to lives and livelihoods of the people. About 100,000 people will benefit from this project. The program is supported by the Ministry of Civil Defense, Government of West Bengal, and DIP-ECHO.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

How Many Days Make A Week?

If you thought the answer is seven, well, think again... not all are sure! I was at our training centre today and personally chatting with the tribal girls who have come for a training program. That is when I met Sujala and Lily two girls in their teens (Lily is the elder among the two) from two different families from Goalpukhor II Block of North Dinajpur District. Since both their families had migrated to India from Bangladesh, and I had been told that they were recent arrivals, I asked them how long are they in India. Sujala being the smarter one, spoke most of the time. She said, it was quite some time back, and that they have land here. "How many months ago?" I asked, and she answered, "I do not know". "Well, how many years back?", I retorted, and she replied, " I do not know." Lily also nodded her head in approval. "How big were you when you came to India?" "We were big." The dialogue continued in the following manner :

Puthumai : "Do you know what day is today?"
The Girls : "Hmmmm... Friday...? No. Saturday"
Puthumai : "That's good. You are right. Do you know how many days make a week?"
The Girls : "No".
Puthumai : "How many days in a month?"
The Girls : "We don't know".
Puthumai : "Do you know if this is a day time or night time". (It was morning 8.00 a.m.)
The Girls : "It is morning".
Puthumai : "Excellent!".

Then I went on explaining to them how many months are there in an year, how many days make a week, and how our calendar is made of, and other things. This is just to give you the taste of the type of persons we are working with. Your support to the education of Lily, Sujala or many other such girls will make a lasting change in the life of the poor. You can make a difference. Make it now.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

About Brick-bats!

The brick industry is a back-breaking industry. You can say this safely because, the men and women need to sit or bed to handle the mud, to knead it, shape it and then after drying carry it to the furnace. And all that you get are brick-bats : in the form of abuses, slangs, slurs, poor payment and layoffs as soon as the first rain falls (because, the bricks, before they are taken into the furnace, need to be kept under the sun for drying). Click on the pictures to download large images.

Bricks ready to go into the furnace

Our camera looks into the furnace 10 ft deep

People at the Brick-fields (At the background of the picture with the young girl helping her mother is a temporary house in which people live in crowds, exposing them to various dangers, and the dust from the brick-field affecting their lungs)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Brick by Brick....

Puthumai A. Nazarene traveled with Johannes Becker and Matthias Kunkel, the German Students currently at Social Welfare Institute, for a visit to a brick-making (field) factory close to Raiganj. This was part of sensitizing the German students to some of the realities of the extent of poverty in this part of India. The North Dinajpur district alone has over 100 brick-making fields. Since this is the best time of the year to visit brick fields, we could see the people in full activity. There were many migrant families living within the brick-making fields working over 16 hours a day to earn their living. They live in unhygienic conditions, with no sanitary facilities. The women and girls get easily exposed to sexual exploitation in many of these places. The children have no access to health and education as these fields lie outside the main villages and towns. We thought of sharing some pictures with you in this blog. Let this season of Lent be a time of repentance for all sins of humanity against human persons. And let your hearts open to help these poor, specially the children and young girls and boys at these places.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Christmas at Sydney

Christmas is the best of all seasons! I have always tried to design new things with every Christmas--from a crib on a boat in water to a mountain of wheat plants to this year's Sydney Harbor. Social Welfare Institute had thousands of people flocking to see the Christmas crib designed in the shape of the Sydney Harbor by my humble self, and was made real by the efforts of Mr. Gurupado Sarkar, an artist friend. I thank all those who encouraged me with kind words. The crib was 26 feet high and 48 feet long covering a space of over 2000 square feet. Though I am uploading it too late, well, never it is too late! enjoy a masterpiece.

Projects on the Card

Social Welfare Institute is planning a new project on promotion and awareness building on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in collaboration with PRIA in the Blocks of Gazole and Bamangola of Malda District. The project is expected to benefit over 60,000 families. Puthumai A. Nazarene, the Director has also held discussions with the UNICEF in the past month, and SWI is expected to bag a project of supporting eight Gram Panchayats in Harishchandrapur II Block of Malda district towards promotion of Community Based Disaster Preparedness (CBDP) Program.