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!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Please Send Messages of Hope to Japan

message of hope by a student of shikshamitra school

Mustard Seeds has sent off its first packet of messages to Japan with beautiful drawing and simple notes of friendship and love from children in India.  I continue to collect messages for Japan in various forms and let others know that the messages are being received.  You can send a simple postcard or greeting card.

 At the moment I know of two close friends of Mustard Seeds that are helping to get notes from around the world to people in Japan, to offer our support and let them know we care.  They have both asked for our help.  If you would like to, get a group of people and write short notes or make one card that you all sign and get it out in the post as soon as possible.

Mustard Seeds works with Kolkata Seeds-Japan in Nara to provide financial support to schools here in Kolkata that provide education to children from impoverished backgrounds.  They have been extremely supportive and this is something we can now do for them!  Here is the letter we received:

  Dear Maura-san
 Hope you are well. I am sorry that I haven’t talked to you since our phone call. It has been a big disaster in Japan. Because of the atomic power plant, the country is not well we are all worried about our future. Japanese people are uniting together to recover. Chautary is attending an event, Earth Day on 24th and coordinating a fund raising event at the Chautary on 29th. From both of the event, every single yen we receive from people are going to be sent to the disaster areas. I pray for people whom they are affected by this disaster for a long time.

 I have a favor to ask. Could you write messages to encourage people in those disaster areas and sent it to me in Japan?
I would like to have as many messages as possible. I am going to introduce them at the event for fundraising and eventually, I would like to send them to the disaster areas with our money raised. If we can received by 24th, it would be great, but if you can send me by 29th, that’s fine, too.  Please support us.

Thank you,
Etsuko Yamaguchi
5-1-1 Ayameike Minami
Nara-shi, Nara-ken 631-0033   JAPAN 

2) KAYOKO NADAMOTO worked with me at the Japan Environmental Exchange and Green Action in Kyoto.  We both worked together on anti-nuclear actions in the early 90s.  She has sent this note:

Dear friends,
Hello, how are you?  Hope you all are doing well, busy with your wonderful projects. Please forgive me not contact so often. The time is just flying as like a light.  I am still living in Sandpoint, a small town in north Idaho where Moose, Bears are around.  I am working and studying hard.  Since last month, when the great earthquake hit Japan, my birth place, I have been having hard time to concentrate my life here. I have been so frustrated not being there helping. Last night I made up my mind to do one little thing. I'd like to introduce and invite you if you want to join. I wrote a letter to all my friends, people I know around here and the world.  Please give me a minute to read the letter. I wish you my best and enjoy your life.
Peace from Kako (Kayoko Nadamoto)
Here is the letter:

Dear Friends,

As you know, yesterday is the one month anniversary of the great earthquake & Tsunami that hit in north eastern Japan. I have received a letter from a friend who lives in Sendai city, where one of the city that affected strongly by the quake. I am so happy to learn that she is doing all right. I sent her a little card a day after the quake - not fancy just a simple card. She wrote me back that my little card that only saying “Are you OK?”, made her so happy and gave her a hope to live.  I have been thinking what I can do for people in my birth country beside sending a little money.

My friend in Sendai doesn’t use a computer. I found that there are a lot of people who don’t use a computer in Japan (especially elderly people). There are millions of web sites that give them messages and news goes through online. But I have to realize that those messages reach only people who knows (or have) computer.

I’ve got an idea what I can do.  I’d like to collect written messages.  IF YOU WANT TO send a word to Japan, write your short message on a sheet of  a paper. If you have a group of people who wants to join this, make a card (doesn’t need to be fancy) and let your friends to write a word on your card.

For those who don't live close, please mail it to me. I will translate each of your messages into Japanese, and write it beside your message on your paper (or card).  I am planning to go to Japan in Mid May. I’d like to collect many messages as possible. So I can bring messages and send it to Sendai.  I am sure, your message will give people a hope and a strength to go through this difficult time of their life.

Here is my mailing address:
Kayoko Nadamoto
P.O. Box 2582, Sandpoint, ID 

Thank you,


Lastly, I'd like to draw your attention to this blog called Drowning Hearts at Lady River which clearly shows the devastation but also shows a simple, beautiful gesture to help people.  

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mustard Seeds Gets Active in January

Before the holiday season had a chance to even taper off, Mustard Seeds got moving and began the year 2011 with lots of activities and planning.

In the early days of the month we had a visit from a very special friend and supporter, Michael Yamaguchi from Kolkata Seeds-Japan/Chautary.  In three short days he managed to tour all of the projects our friends in Japan give financial assistance to so that he can report back on how each of the programs are going.  The projects included BASHA, a school for underprivileged children living in slums around the Gol Park area run by the lovely Saswati-di and her excellent team of friends and family.  Michael also visited SHIKSHAMITRA where Kolkata Seeds for the past three years has generously been providing the money to rent our space in Alipore.  We visited two projects run by EMPOWER THE CHILDREN, the school and vocational learning program at Prayroyna 1 (P1) in the expansive Dhakindari slum was the first stop.  Children performed a segment of their mime presentation which was done on a big stage at the end of the year, along with other schools.  We were warmly welcomed here and also had a visit through the local area.  Michael also visited a newer program being run in Khestopur, Prayroyna 3, which conducts a school, free lunch program and vocational skills training in tailoring and embroidery.  He also loves to stop in at PRABARTAK whenever he is in town and as usual we a wonderful time there too interacting with all of our friends and the manager, Mr. Tanmoy Ganguly!

Vocational group at the Dhakindari school, P1

On the same night his plane back to Japan was going to depart, Michael and I visited PRABARTAK home in Salt Lake.  Michael was given a few of the pianikas by a member of their organization who is a teacher at a primary school in Japan.  He gave these out as gifts as we went from place to place.  It was at Prabartak, however, that they turned into magic!  Arjun, a member at Prabartak promptly started playing his tabla and another boy pulled out his harmonica.  Suddenly a new boy, about ten years old, got up and started dancing.  We had a full-on concert happening.  Leave it to music to break the ice.  After we had all become friends, we passed the pianika around and almost everyone had a go on it.  

Making music and creating smiles at Prabartak

Also in January, Mustard Seeds planned two successful workshops with a volunteer group visiting Empower the Children from Connecticut in the US.  On 17 January, Malini and I organized a pouch stitching workshop with young women taking part in the vocational program at P2.  Each of the women had already embroidered their name and the name of the volunteer they'd be working with on that day into a piece of fabric that would become the lining of the pouch.  On the day of the workshop, volunteers were paired up with the girls and the pairs set out to stitch a lined bag, add a snap and decorated the front.  The results were beautiful and everyone was quite surprised that they were able to stitch quite a nice, practical gift item.  The bags were presented to the volunteers, perfect to be used to hold a passport or camera!

Our proud stitchers with their finished products!

On 19 January, again in cooperation with Empower the Children and the group from Connecticut, Mustard Seeds helped to organize a presentation by the patua scroll artist, Karuna Chitrakar, at RCFC (Rehabilitation Centres for Children). After Karuna presented the scroll that tells the story of her own life story in pictures and song, each child worked with volunteers to draw a scene from their own lifestory in a pata-style story frame. Thanks to friends from Shuktara who also participated!

Learning about the pata tradition and letting off some creative energy!

We'd like to thank everyone who was involved in this flurry of new year activity - and look forward to reporting on more networkings and activities through the year ahead.  

Special thank you out to Chris Rickerd who sent holiday contributions for the SUCHANA Early Learning Group in Khanjanpur and our Calcutta 100 Club.  We will let you know how this generous gift was used.

We also thank Mary Hurley, Kate Goldman, Pascale Maclean and Marianne Tokita for purchasing assorted cards from Suchana and Silence and Mustard Seeds.  They are our loyal customers!

In October, Catriona Takeuchi hosted a fun India Day event at her English school in Nara, Japan.  After woodblock printing and a cooking class with dal and chapatti, there was a Mustard Seeds handicraft sale that raised funds to keep us doing projects back in Kolkata.

Arisa and Naoki, who run Ragamala in Nara, Japan, recently visited and handed us money from pata and handicrafts that were sold at their shop over the past year.  Thanks so much for your long-time support!

A big thanks to Carol Lanigan and Moira Jones who raised money for Mustard Seeds in Ireland by selling handicrafts by Jeevika Development Society, Ankur Kala and various other small producers at Coffee Mornings they hosted and at a school fair.  This money is "re-invested" into vocational programs by ordering more items that Mustard Seed friends and family can sell at fundraisers.  Thank you so much for this needed boost!

Friends in Kentucky wrote to ask if they can use the story line of our children's book, To the Local Bazaar, as a small skit they will perform as part of their Bengali studies.  We look forward to hearing how it turned out and have been promised photos too!

Finally, if you are on Facebook, you can now 'like' us at Mustard Seeds Kolkata too!