Saturday, February 06, 2010
Balo is a small, volunteer organization working in the Howrah district of Kolkata, a satellite town of Calcutta, that is in an extremely dilapidated state. Howrah is situated beyond the river Hooghly and connected to Calcutta by the famous Howrah Bridge. It is an extremely marginalized area that is known to have been the inspiration for Dominique Lapierre's famed novel, The City of Joy. Residents in the area where Balo is working to provide some basic relief and education services must cope with open sewers and garbage pits on a daily basis, along with scarcity of water taps and lack of any toilets. Most families live all together in a single brick room or shanty, with the door being the only source of light.
Balo aims to involve the local people in all aspects of its initiatives. In particular, Balo' is involved as much as possible in the training of young women from this Howrah area. Balo runs a program that provides young women with technical sewing and embroidery skills. The courses are run by a local Indian woman and an Italian seamstress, Elisabetta, who journeys back and forth to Howrah share her skills and designs. The young women are producing handmade fashion clothing and accessories, which are sold in Italy at special events and venues. The women are receiving very fair salaries for their work and are supported with livelihood needs. This activity provides funds to support the other work being done by Balo'.
Balo also runs programs to sponsor the education of children in English-medium schools and to provide nutritious meals and day care to youngsters. Recently they purchased a small flat in order to have a permanent place where healthy meals can be prepared for the younger children, especially. They are hoping to set up a kitchen in this flat and have asked help from Mustard Seeds.
For the next Calcutta 100 Club project, I'd like to propose we collect the amount they need to purchase the cooking pots, gas stove, utensils and other basic kitchen items. The estimated amount for this is Rs. 8,000 which is approximately US$ 150. Please email me if you would like to put your C-100-C $10 contribution towards this (firstname.lastname@example.org).