Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dr. Seuss September

dr seuss
Originally uploaded by dalbhat
Our highlighted display at Mustard Seeds Library this month is Dr. Seuss and Bapu has done a nice job of getting it all ready for those members who drop by this coming Sunday. There may even be a reading!

44 children's books and every single one of them G•R•E•A•T. I need to do a sequel to 'To the Local Bazaar...'

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Making friendship bracelets

MSeeds: Friendship band workshop
Originally uploaded by dalbhat
As the rakhi celebration (where brothers tie a small decoration onto their elder sister's wrist as a symbol of their bond) is coming up soon, we had a mini-workshop to learn how to make decorative, knotted friendship bands.

Thanks goes out to "Pinky-di" and Baliraj who came a long distance to show us how to make the bracelets. Pinky-di, who wanted to become a nurse, learned how to make these at school and sold them to raise money to be able to take her Madhymik exam. She is now working as a doctor's assistant here in Kolkata. She and Baliraj are experts at crafts like book binding, glass painting and quilling and we hope to have them visit the library again soon!

Monday, August 13, 2007


Originally uploaded by dalbhat
refuse plastics with an
by mustard seeds

My sister found these tote bags (literally hundreds of them) in a thrift shop in arkansas at 10 cents a piece this summer and bought a whole heck of a lot of 'em. We are jazzing them up to promote the idea of "carrying your own bag" to the market less plastic ends up on the streets here!

This sure was a nice way to spend a very rainy monsoon Monday. Hashi and I were stitching and pinning all day. When Girl arrived home from school, she helped me with the labels as we already had an order for six of these.

Refusing plastics, by always carrying an extra bag inside your daily bag, is one of the easiest ways I know to help this planet!


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Saturdays at Prabartak Home

Originally uploaded by dalbhat
Not far from my home in Salt Lake, there is a government-run home for people with epilepsy and other disabilities and every Saturday my friend Rosalie does a two-hour class there. Her class is not an English class but an amalgamation of all sorts of learning to get the children involved and interacting, and gaining a new understanding of the world around them and far beyond.

In 1999, Rosalie, an American speech therapist spent her summer vacation vounteering at one of Mother Teresa's orphanages in Kolkata. She was schocked that disabled children were left in their cribs all day or on the floor without any stimulation or educational opportunity whatsoever. Without hesitation, Roasalie took an early retirement from the New Jersey Public School System and returned to Kolkata to develop the special education programs these children required!

Rosalie now runs Empower the Children , an organization which gives formal structure to the work on-the-ground in Kolkata. ETC works to provide security and opportunity to Kolkata's most vulnerable children, including the disadvantaged and disabled children living on the streets and in the slums-- for whom basic needs are often beyond the financial capabilities of their families.

I am so happy to have Rosalie, and her surge of ever-expanding good ideas, here in Kolkata on the NGO front. Visiting her class at Prabartak Home, one of the eight ETC projects, is always a great source of inspiration for me as a teacher...and as a human being.

Today we learned about elephants -- those majestic gray mammals that roam the West Bengal forests. Rosalie had a beautiful plasticene elephant to show to everyone and some photographs of elephants in their natural habitat. These were passed around as she talked about their LARGENESS and their ROUGH skin and how they sometimes do WORK in forests. She told them how the mother and baby walk - with the baby holding the tail and each student got up to try this with a friend. She talked about how elephants actually walk on their tippy-toes...and then all the students gave it a try. They all tried throwing inflatable hoops on an inflatable elephant. Taking part in the class and having a turn at each topic is a big part of the class and everyone (rightfully) gets excited. Each class ends with a craft and often the components of the craft have been prepared by students in schools in the US as part of a volunteer program (Rosalie likes TOTAL involvement!).

Today each student got a cute little cardboard elephant. First they glued on the rough skin (a swatch of paper that had elephant skin on it); then they added a swatch of fabric that was the elephant's blanket; lastly, they added the head dress (some tassles). The craft requires motor skill coordination and a fresher on things that were presented in the lesson.

Classes usually end with a lot of music and dancing - and hugging!

She has an excellent class on teeth and Tibet also!

Good luck to Rosalie for all that you do. I hope that our collaborative efforts will also be successful.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Field Trip to Karma Kutir

Originally uploaded by dalbhat
As a culmination of our course on cloth, the Moon Group of the Learn & Earn Project at Shikshamitra went to visit Karma Kutir, another Kolkata NGO specializing in batik dyeing.

We piled into two taxis and made our way over to Gol Park, where Karma Kutir is located by the Ram Krishna Mission. We were first given a demonstration of the batik dyeing process outside on the roof, and how the wax is put on the cloth to create designs. The women at Karma Kutir were extremely kind to us and gave us a warm welcome and an unforgettable experience to carry back home with us.

Shikshamitra students were each given a handkerchief-sized cloth and got a chance to try their own wax designs. They brought along their design notebooks to get ideas. Once their designs were down, they went back outside to dye the cloth. Everyone exclaimed, "Oooooh!" when the colour magically appeared as the handkerchief was dipped into the dye and turned a surprisingly bright color. The last step was taking off the wax in a vat of hot water and hanging up to dry.

As you can see from this photo, we had excellent results and a very fine outing!