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!


Ron Eisenman said...

Tik-Tiki- I'm sorry for trying to contact you this way, but Tracey Lauriault suggested I contact you. She's a close friend of mine from Japan in the early 90's. I told her I was going to Kolkata this summer as part of an educator program. She thought it would be great to talk. Please contact me at

tik-tiki said...

a friend of tracey's is a friend of mine! i've written to you by email. thanks for being in touch - look forward to hooking up. that's what it's all about!