Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Taking Mustard Seeds to Japan

Originally uploaded by dalbhat
As I prepare to head to Japan, to do some exchange projects and presentations on the topic of Children in Kolkata, I have to review just exactly what we have been doing lately. It is always good to review the work at the beginning of the year, and this has given me the impetus to put it down in writing once again.

In Japan, I will be doing some mini-exhibitions of my students artwork on the theme, "Who am I?" as well as making dal and chappati with Japanese children, and of course, selling handicrafts! A big thank you to all my friends in Japan who have helped arrange venues for me to share my experiences and the products from Kolkata!

Mustard Seeds •••
Small efforts for Big Results in Kolkata, India

The mustard seed is an important part of Bengali cooking. Although it is very tiny, it packs a potent and powerful taste!

Mustard Seeds is a small-scale family project that runs a community library and does fundraising projects for several social development and environmental organizations in Kolkata. It is our hope that, just like the mustard seed, through our small efforts and limited time, we can participate in some of the important projects to alleviate poverty and strengthen education opportunities in Kolkata and outlying rural areas - by creating cultural exchanges, giving financial support, networking and distributing information whenever possible.

Some of our major projects include:

We run a small lending library in our apartment in Kolkata for neighbor children. We organize various projects for kids to take part in and keep a blog called MANGO SMILES, a newsletter the children help put together. Children can access books on the environment and other world issues at the library (see 
MSeeds believes that income generation is the best way to support marginalized people, so we continue to purchase high-quality craft items made in vocational skills programs, and continue to sell them as a means of telling the lifestories of the people who produce them. We are always looking for volunteers to help us give these groups more exposure by offering to sell handicrafts at small shops, fairs, cafes, etc. Please be in touch if you have ideas!

Jeevika Development Society provides rural women from very low-income backgrounds with embroidery and tailoring skill training and a fair wage for their work. Through the help of well-wishers, we sell their unique kantha stitched handicrafts at small venues and fairs in Japan, the UK, and the US. We also sell some of the colorful handicrafts made by street children and young adults who take part in the schooling and vocational skills program at Calcutta Rescue (founded by Dr. Jack Preger). Mustard Seeds also designs silk-screen greeting cards with a group called Silence, which gives handicraft training and employment opportunities to deaf and 'otherly abled' workers.

A few of the other groups we work to support through financial contributions (thanks to members of our Calcutta 100 Club, who give a small donation for specific projects every once in a while) inclue :

• Balia Bio-Agro Mission, is an organic farming initiative offering free education to migrant workers; Empower the Children, which also provides education opportunities to some of Kolkata's poorest children.

• Suchana, is a rural school that has been running for over three years and is ready to move into its own building. Suchana serves three villages in Khanjanpur in West Bengal by offering study-support to children in government education programs, and to pre-school learners. We are collecting funds now to help them build a proper school building so if you have a fundraising idea, be in touch!

• Shikshamitra, an alternative education model school working to address complex issues related to education in India - and show positive examples! Maura works as the arts and crafts teacher here, and helps manage the Learn & Earn Project. Several visitors have come to share their time and talents with our students. This creates meaningful exchanges that last a lifetime.

To the Local Bazaar (¥500) is a children's book we published using illustrations by our friend, a village pata story scroll artist Karuna Chitrakar. It is written in English with Bengali subtitles. We have also made a postcard sets using artwork by artists from the pata tradition. We hope by making these we can bring this traditional art form to the attention of more people and help support Karuna and others like her through its sales.  Last year, Mustard Seeds raised enough money to significantly support the building of a house for Karuna and her family. Thanks to everyone who put their efforts into this project.

Please be in touch if you have ideas.
If you would like to make a donation in Japan, send by postal transfer to:
mustard seed, japan

Please contact me if you would like to send support from other places and I will let you know how.

Thanks for your interest and support.


Anonymous said...
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Sita said...

Hi,I came to your site while doing some search.All the best for your endeavours.It would be nice if we can replicate what you are doing in Kolkatta,in other Indian Cities too.Do you have some Tie-ups with other organisationselse where in India?

tik-tiki said...

we are just a small family effort and we do what we can when we see THAT we can. you can replicate these activities by joining up with a few friends and making a tiny difference to something you care about.