Sunday, December 14, 2014

mustard seeds Calcutta 100 Club December 2014

mustard seeds
Calcutta 100 Club
December 2014

I’d like to introduce the next Calcutta 100 Club campaign. As you know, the idea for this club is that no one breaks the bank but together we all add a donation of $10 (or more if you feel like it) in order to reach a goal that may have meaning to someone else’s life.  For this particular project I have already received a portion of the total donation of $450 so I am looking for approximately $100 more to begin a vocational skills program at a school that runs alongside a brick factory in Kharmagachi. The program was introduced to me by my friend Willeke van Nieuwenhuijze from Stichting Help2Help, who does fundraising in Holland for several projects in West Bengal. I felt this request was well suited to Mustard Seeds: as the children are already doing studies in the morning this will allow the school to get an arts and crafts teacher and basic materials in order to keep the children out of the factory (where they end up working without being paid) and occupied for more of the day.

Our friends at Stichting Help2Help have pledged to provide for a crèche to be set up at the school since many of the students bring along small babies that sit in their laps and require their attention during classes. We would like to help get the vocational program in place. Our pledge is for the vocational Arts and Crafts program (teacher and supplies) that will run for the 7 months of the year that parents migrate to Kharmagachi to work at the factory. We hope to help support this in the future if it takes off well.

**A special THANK YOU TO Chris Rickerd, Lisa Malaney, Mary Hurley and Jude Hill, who have already donated the first $350 for this Calcutta 100 Club campaign.

BUDGET FOR Vocational Training center (9:30 am to 2:00 pm)
School sharing grounds of the brick factory / target: 30 senior students
Art & Craft teacher: Rs. 2,000 x 7 mos.  = Rs. 14,000
Art materials:  Rs. 2,000 X 7 mos. = Rs. 14,000
Total: 28,000  (US$450)

If you would like to contribute to the vocational program from the US, please send your donation by paypal with a note that says CALCUTTA 100: mseeds.maura@gmail and if you prefer to send a US check please email me on the same mail and I can tell you how.

If you would like to contribute in Japan, please use postal transfer yuubin furikomi:
mustard seeds, japan

Nandankanan Sristwi Mahila Unnayan Samity (NKSMUS), founded by Shelley Chatterjee, has successfully been running a school in the factory area of Khamargachi Bricks. Approximately 56 students are receiving education and medical help. Students are provided with school supplies (books, copies, pencils, erasure etc.) and take drawing classes as an extracurricular activity. They attend the drawing classes very joyfully. Most of the students are very regular in class. The school runs from 7 to 9 am in the winter and 6:30 to 8:30 am in the summer. After running the school for three years we found that some families return the next year, so we are getting some of the old students back to our school. They are encouraging the other students to be regular in their classes. Guardians are also very interested to send their children to the school.  Tiffin is one of the attractions for the students at the school; they are very happy to get a balanced meal. 50 students received woolen sweaters last winter. They are very happy to get those.  The group would like to expand the program so that children have more to do after school and also so that they do not have to care for the young siblings they bring along with them.

Problems faced
All parents head to the brick factory for work after dropping their children at school. This means that some children are coming to school with their younger brothers and sisters in their laps; these are infants and toddlers who are too tiny too walk (between 8 months to 1 ½ years old). There is no one at home to look after these babies so the older siblings, aged 7 and 8, bring them and keep them in their laps all day.  These students are unable to fully concentrate on their studies. The situation is disturbing to the whole class because the babies cry, wet and require special attention.
   This organization opened in the grounds of the factory in order to provide education to children, while putting a stop to child labour at the brick factory. The owner of the factory is of the same mind and has provided a school room, however after school finishes at 9 am most of the children run to work at the factory. They are between 10 and 14 years old. Some are working and others are disturbing the work their parents are required to do (the opinion of the factory owner). This is hampering our efforts to stop child labour so we have set forth the following new proposal.

NKSMUS is planning something new to support education at the Brick factory school and we ask for support.
1.    For the babies coming with older students, we propose to start a crèche. In order to care for the babies, we need: a room , a staff person, toys and food.  (THIS WILL BE FUNDED BY STICHTING HELP2HELP)

2.    For those children working in the brick factory after school (10 am - 1.30 pm), we propose vocational training classes (VTC). We hope to have art and craft class, music class, handicraft classes, and exposure to other types of work to help them settle in a different way in future. The class will help them understand their talents and skills since not all children excel in studies or have the means to do well in a school setting.  Through this program they can progress in their life in different way.  We need: a room, materials and at least two staff people.  (MUSTARD SEEDS WOULD LIKE TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE LAUNCH OF THIS PROGRAM)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

CALCUTTA 100 CLUB: Please help us recondition a friend's home

Some of you have signed up for our Calcutta 100 Club project.  The idea is that we get 100 people to donate just a small amount of $10 each time when a specific project comes up that we feel could easily be funded with the strength of our group.  The C100C appeals are usually very personal projects where I see that a $150-$300 could really benefit someone. We welcome new members and if we go over our goal, money is automatically put into the next project.

This time I'd like to ask your help in reconditioning the home of one of our young library members.  Bittu attends our Sunday library sessions.  His father lives elsewhere to earn money.  His mother lives in Bihar and his grandfather runs a business out of their home in the complex where I stay.  "Dadu," the grandfather irons clothing for all the people in our complex and Bittu helps by delivering the clothes when they are ready.  They live in a very small, temporary dwelling in the park. For quite some time, we have been talking about a few repairs and reconstructions we could help out with.  The idea is to set a few rows of brick at the bottom, build up with bamboo, cover with plastic tarps and then add woven bamboo walls so that the structure is a bit more sturdy and warmer than it is now.  We estimate this will cost about Rs. 8,000 - 10,000 (approximately $170)

If you would like to donate $10 or more to help make Dadu and Bittu's home more comfortable for the coming cold, the best way is through paypal.  If you don't have paypal there are other ways -- Please email me for details if you'd like to participate:

For me, small-scale is still beautiful and your continued support always means so much to me.   I look forward to showing a photo of their home after the work is finished.

Thank you! Thank you!

Friday, October 04, 2013

A small income generation project with Paripurnata

Swapna Nath was once living at Paripurnata, a half-way home for the psycho-social rehabilitation of women.  She now goes there only when Mustard Seeds places orders for her wrapping paper. 

Swapna picture on right block printing on a saree
As part of its effort to offer some support to organizations addressing the problem of mental health for underprivileged people in Kolkata, this holiday season Mustard Seeds is once again selling beautiful handmade woodblock print wrapping paper made by Swapna.  It offers her an income to help her become more independent now that she is back at home.  We have some beautiful new colours and designs this year.

Even a small personal order will help us make this project work.  
Block printing is just one of the activities that make up Paripurnata's rehabilitation program, the women work alongside the teacher when they feel like doing this activity and try other handicrafts, etc. when they feel more inclined to do those.

You can purchase this handcrafted woodblock print wrapping paper (on unbleached paper)  from Mustard Seeds by sending an email to:  We can send abroad no problem ($1 per sheet + postage)  and if you think you can sell it at a craft fair or other venue, let's discuss the possibilities by email.  I ship by regular Indian mail and it takes about 2 weeks.  I fold the pieces to send.

Your purchase not only helps to support Swapna's beautiful work, but all the different positive seedlings we try to plant through Mustard Seed efforts aimed at art, education and the environment.  These wrappings look beautiful in use, with a string of jute or tinsel!  Look forward to seeing your packages or other ideas for putting these to use.

Here are the latest colours and patterns.  Let us know if you want an assortment or specific types:


small ellie.op

small ellie.xmas

square flower.ob

square flower.xmas

star flower.blk

star flower. lb-r

star flower.db.r

star flower.xmas

Monday, July 30, 2012

Calcutta 100 Club Project • August 2012

Hello to my Calcutta 100 Club friends.  We have two projects that I'd like to fund with your help.

1) Every year we use funds from Mustard Seeds to cover the cost of rice for one year at Basha school.  That time has rolled around again.  With the rising cost of living, this time we need to raise about Rs. 8,000 ($144) to help Basha serve a nutritious meal to its students for the year ahead.  We have been helping to support Basha in various ways since it began six years ago.  On my recent visit to the school, I was happy to hear that the curriculum now also includes sports and dance!  All the children are doing so well and some of the mothers now come twice a week to make products for sale.  Basha is growing beautifully!
Saswati, who runs Basha, serves up the rice!
2) The patua painter, Karuna Chitrakar, will need to go in for surgery as the doctor has found a tumor in her stomach.  She is a diabetes patient so they have been waiting to stablize her blood sugar but it seems like they will need to go through with the operation soon.  In the meantime, Karuna needs to purchase medicines and has requested help with about Rs. 15,000 ($270) for the surgery and meds.

Karuna Chitrakar
If you can make a small contribution to either of these funds, please email me at  The idea behind our Calcutta 100 Club is that if several people (say, around 100 people!) make a small donation of $10 or so toward a specific goal, we can easily help someone in need.  I usually request support when specific funds are needed.  Let me know if you have any questions.  Any amount above what is needed will be saved for a future project when it arises or used to purchase handicrafts from our vocational skills groups  to support the producers and sell at Mustard Seed sales.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Way to go, Sophie!

Sophie Rust and her mother visited us in November last year. One of the places they visited was SUCHANA, a rural learning centre for tribal children outside of Santiniketan. Last week, when Sophie had her birthday party, she decided to collect donations for the school from her friends. She collected $200 and her parents matched the amount bringing the total to $400! Way to go, Sophie! Her mom reports that everyone was happy to give a little to make this a success. Thanks for sharing your birthday fun with other children who are in need. Your efforts are truly commendable!

Be sure to have a look at the website and see the good work SUCHANA is doing to support education possibilities for the children in their village!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Block print wrapping paper by dalbhat
Block print wrapping paper, a photo by dalbhat on Flickr.

I recently visited Paripurnata Half-Way Home Centre for Psychosocial Rehabilitation for women after meeting some of the very dedicated people working there at a mela being organized by our friends at Ankur Kala. I was so happy to see the beautiful handicrafts being made through the rehab program here that I quickly placed an order for some of my favorite designs. I hope that we can have a lasting friendship with this organization.

As part of its effort to offer some support to organizations addressing the problem of mental health for underprivileged people in Kolkata, this holiday season Mustard Seeds is selling beautiful hand-printed wrapping paper made by the teacher and residents at Paripurnata Half-way Home.

Block printing is just one of the activities that make up Paripurnata's rehabilitation program, the women work alongside the teacher when they feel like doing this activity and try other handicrafts, etc. when they feel more inclined to do those.

If you are in the US or Japan, you can purchase 6 sheets of assorted paper at $5 plus postage. This not only helps to support Paripurnata, but all the seedlings we try to plant through Mustard Seed efforts. Please send an email to if you are interested in making a donation and receiving some handcrafted brown wrapping paper for the holiday season.

Mustard Seeds would also like to thank FAIR shop in Brighton for placing a large order with this group. We hope everyone there likes the new designs!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Calling our Calcutta 100 Club

Karuna Chitrakar
12 September 2011
I look forward to telling Karuna this morning that we raised the money to help her do house repairs in response to the message I wrote below.  Thank you for your concern and generosity, everyone.  I am touched by how quickly responses came in.


Last night we received a phone call from  Karuna Chitrakar asking for some emergency help from those friends who helped her build her house in Medinipur some years back.  Karuna is a patua, a story-scroll painter and singer who lives in the village of Nadia in Medinipur.  Several years back, friends of Mustard Seeds helped to build a house for Karuna and her family.  The house, however, is built of mostly natural materials which  means that it is fairly impermanent.

Karuna told us that there have been heavy rains for the past two weeks and because her house is made of bamboo with a mud-straw covering for the walls, the water logging has caused the wall to collapse on one side of the house.  They need to repair it right away.

We asked her what her plan would be to repair the house and she says that she needs to elevate the house with a cement foundation and she would like to build up the wall again but in bricks this time.  She estimates this repair work to cost about Rs 12,000 - 15,000 (Approx. $320)

Karuna lives with her two sons, their wives and the grandchildren.  The rainy season is always a difficult time.

If you would like to donate some money towards an emergency repair for Karuna's home, please email me at:

Remember, the idea for the Calcutta 100 Club is that we can do something for someone else by giving just a small amount – and that amount can add up to something that really makes a difference.  In this case, if just 3.5 people can get 10 friends to give $10 - we have reached our goal.

If donations over the amount are received, I will keep them aside for the next such project that comes to us.

I will let you know when we have collected the money - I know that times are tough but if you can donate even $10 or ask a few people to donate $10 I know that we can help Karuna out in this time of need.

Please email me for more details on how to donate.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mustard Seeds Joins Greenpeace in saying 'No More Fukushimas!'

Mustard Seeds took part in a rally to send support to Japan and to voice the message that nuclear power is not the answer to India's energy needs.

We worked with Silence, a fair trade organization in Kolkata that provides training and employment to disabled artisans, to design special candles for the event.

Monday, July 25, 2011

dig it

dig it by dalbhat
dig it, a photo by dalbhat on Flickr.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Enacting the Mustard Seeds Storybook: To the Local Bazaar

A while back I was contacted by a woman by the name of Rita Basuray.  She asked if I would give permission for she and her friends to use our storybook, To the Local Bazaar, which she came across at CIMA gallery while visting Kolkata.  They had a plan to enact the simple story for a Durga Puja performance being done by their Bengali language club. After writing back and forth, we found that we were connected by a number of friends and acquaintances. Rita raised money for some of the art projects Mustard Seeds was working on and for some supplies for the budding artist, Noor Islam at Shikshamitra. The show was held and the results are amazing as this video clip shows:

We thank everyone involved.  I look forward to showing the clip to Karuna when she comes to visit next!  This is an excellent way to spread information on the patachitra culture and to study Bengali!