Sunday, April 22, 2007

Earth Day 2007 at Mustard Seeds

Earth Day 2007 at Mustard Seeds
Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
It was a nice day at MSeeds Library yesterday. First Karuna arrived with her new picture scroll on 'the problem of plastics," which I had asked her to paint. She found this to be a difficult topic, and asked her son to help her paint it too. The results were folksy depictions on an issue that strikes a real serious chord in me – littering. The pata features scenes of people at the tea stall, people in cars and buses, on trains littering plastic from the windows, and people burning plastics not knowing anything about the dangerous dioxins they release into the air. There is also a crocodile trying to swim away from a load of plastic that is floating in the water.

Our April display highlighted some of the best books on environment. One member, Momo, came in with a great poster on reducing consumption and proper disposal of trash and another smaller boy told me that he had cleaned up one small area of our campus so that he could make a secret clubhouse there. Children made magazine beads and worked on their blog. When everyone left, Bapu finished up his foresty Earth Day mural which he has been painting on the wall of the verandah. Malini and I made two Earth Day cakes for her class, now studying rainforests. It was a magically spontaneous Earth Day for our little community

Friday, April 20, 2007

Organics from Balia Bio-Agro Mission

On Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Bhaduri from Balia Bio-Agro Mission stopped by to pick up a donation for Godhuli, the Adult Learning Center run through this organic farming initiative. He brought this delicious array of produce from the farmers there as a thank you -- I only wish that I could share it with you all too!

Mustard Seeds presented Godhuli with Rs. 8000 (approximately $200) to help sustain this organization's efforts to address deep-rooted (pardon the farming pun here) problems in BASIC education opportunities for all levels of society. A special thanks to Chris Rickerd, whose quick-hearted donatoin set this meeting into motion, and to friends in Japan who contributed generously in November.

Fundraising for Godhuli and RCFC, the children's center, will be the focus of the next Calcutta 100 Club project. If you would like to make a small contribution of just $5, the idea is pretty simple. With 100 members paying $5 twice a year...we make a total of $1000 per year which can be used for specific projects that can be accomplished with this sort of "mustard seed size" financial push!

GODHULI is an adult education centre located in Nadia, West Bengal. Tarun Bhaduri, who manages an organic farming initiative in this area, organized this school approximately a year and a half back. It is open from 5:30 to 9:00 every night except Wednesdays and Sundays since there is an evening market which farmers sell at. Currently there are 29 students: 8 men and 21 women. They are learning basic literacy and can all now sign their names and write their address in order to sign important papers. They can all count up to at least 20. They are all day laborers, working in the fields which are gradually turning over to organic. A teacher's salary is Rs. 1000 (approx. US$ 20). There is one teacher working here at present, Mrs. Maya Mondal. They are also in need of teaching aids and materials such as pencils, notebooks, sample books, etc.

C/O Mr. Tarun Bhaduri
Village Jagganathpur
P.O. Purbabishnupur
Dist. Nadia
West Bengal 741223

Friday, April 13, 2007

Making a contribution to Rehabilitation Centres for Children (RCFC)

Recently I received the following email from the folks at Rehabilitation Centres for Children (RCFC), an organization we have tried to send support to since I met the founder, Jane Webb, over 10 years back. She was such an inspiration to me that I used her name as my daughter's middle name. Jane died of cancer about 9 years ago.


Dear Maura,

I would like to take this opportunity to write to you about RCFC once again. We are very proud to have your name on the list of donors and we hope that you will wish to continue helping us in whatever way you can.

Started by Jane Webb in 1973 for rehabilitation of orthopaedically handicapped children, we are still continuing the services relentlessly. We are doing 25 operations per month and patients are coming from remote areas of not only West Bengal but also from Bihar Jharkhand, Orissa, Bangladesh. Around 50 to 60 children are staying at the centre for treatment. 

RCFC is now suffering from an acute financial crunch. All the services are continuing but we are facing great difficulty in meeting the expenses since no fund is forthcoming from our foreign donors almost over a year. We are managing both ends with great hardship with our strong determination and goal of services to the children in order to give them a chance to live a purposeful life.

At this point of time I would seek your help for some donation as you deem fit for medical rehabilitation of orthopaedically handicapped children undergoing treatment at the Centre. In the past you have always been kind enough to donate to RCFC on several occasion. We fervently appeal to you for help and would also request you to approach benevolent donors to extend their helping hand to generate fund for the welfare of this Centre. (All payments should made in favour of REHABILITATION CENTRES FOR CHILDREN)

Kindly note that donations of RCFC are exempt from Income Tax under Section 80G

Please help us to continue the work Jane started by giving us your financial and emotional support.

Thanking you once again and we look forward to your esteemed response.

Yours Faithfully,
Sr.Vice President


I had been hoping to visit the centre but as it is quite far from where I live, I asked RCFC to visit us to pick up the donations I collected from the coin caddies and kind well-wishers in Japan. Mustard Seeds was able to donate Rs. 7000 to RCFC and with the remainder, we have become Lifetime Members so that we can stay abreast of the work being done at RCFC. Also, children at the library donate from time to time by dropping coins into the coin caddy that sits on the shelf; we for our little stamp collectors, we also collect used stamps and sell them at the library. This money also always goes into the caddy. Today we gave Rs. 110 from the children and have started the collection again by placing the empty coin caddy back on the shelf at the library.

Special thanks to Adarsh Sharma, Noriko Takemura, and Hiromi Yamamgami in Japan for their efforts to collect contributions for the treatment of the children at RCFC. A very special thanks to Mary Ohdai who has been handling the mustard seeds postal account in Japan.

Rehabilitation Centres for Children
59, Motilal Gupta Road
Kolkata – 700 008, West Bengal, India

Cheque should be drawn in favour of "Rehabilitation Centres For Children"
Bank account number for foreign donation
Name of the bank: Standard Chartered Bank
Bank's address: 41 Chowringhee Road, Kolkata - 700071, India
Savings Bank Account Number: 332-1-00-6193-8

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Learn & Earn at Shikshamitra

Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
There is a new program just being started at Shikshamitra, the school where I teach in Alipore. It's called Learn & Earn. For the older children in the school, the pressure to start thinking about how they will make a living is already on and they have lost some of their interest in pure academics. The Learn & Earn program hopes to expose them to various trades and handicrafts after school, so that they might find a niche which they feel comfortable in.

The program began this week. The older kids will come in two days a week afterschool to participate. CLOTH, as you can see from our bulletin board, is the focus. At least for the first two months. On Tuesday, we held a small exhibition of cloth: cloth puppets, wall hangings, clothing, cushion covers, bags, pouches, ornaments, etc. It came together very nicely, especially as some of the children also remembered to bring something in for the display. One boy brought in his sister's embroidery sampler, and another brought in a small hanging she had in her house. We discussed the connections we have to cloth, and how emotions can be attached to pieces of fabric. Sudeshna showed us a quilt her mother made for her using Sudeshna's very own frocks from childhood. After the discussion, the children got to work making their Learn and Earn notebooks, covered in scrap fabric. On Thursday, we began one of the first production projects. We will focus on creating unique products that may be for sale. To start we will be making some patches to sew on bags which I hope to sell in the US this summer to raise money for this project so we can buy supplies and get the kids set up to start producing and selling for themselves.

We are also looking for donations of CLOTH, any old clothes or fabrics that people want to discard will be recycled here.

Some other possible exposure experiences will involve paper, clay, food, etc.

Wish us luck in this endeavor!!

Cloth Exhibition for kids at ShikshamitraSudeshna talking about clothCloth book coversDSCF1060