Help disadvantaged Bengali children + young people

Jul 1, 2014

July 2014 Update

Slow Cycling Race!
Slow Cycling Race!

When I was at the New Life Centre School in February, there was a sports day held for our benefit. The visitors from England could hand out the prizes to the winners. Several of the games were entertaining to watch, the biscuit game where the children had to eat a biscuit off a string and then run to the finishing line. It struck me then how inclusive these games were as it wasn’t necessarily about being the fastest or the fittest, everyone had a chance.

The game in the photo was the most intriguing though as the cyclists had to pedal as slowly as possible without falling off. The winner was the last cyclist to cross the line. This was not only amusing to watch, but also extremely skilful, as some of the students were barely advancing with their bikes in an attempt to win.

This game turned the idea of fastness on its head; the slowest won.

In the West, life seems to be always at an increasing pace - unless you fill your days and minutes with activity, you are missing something.

Winning isn’t always about being first and speed does not always produce the best results.

The New Life Centre school will be 10 years old next year, and it has been a long struggle for Alindra Naskar to educate the parents and the children of this poor area, but in establishing the school slowly Alindra has provided a firm foundation for the future of this school.

If you support Alindra you will enable this school to grow at a pace which ensures its continuity, not only for these children, but for their future children as well.

The new and growing Library
The new and growing Library
May 6, 2014

A letter from our Friends

The new school building growing rapidly!
The new school building growing rapidly!

Dear friends,

I am extremely sorry for not being able to communicate for some times. We all are keeping well and our work is in progress. But the summer heat this year has affected our routine life bit unkindly.

The temperature over here now is fluctuating from 35C to 43C with moderate humidity. It might be still worse during another 45 days before the monsoon appears if we do not have any rain in between.

Our summer holiday will commence from 9th May till 1st June. But if temperature remains still high then holiday might be extended for another few days.

Electric power supply and internet access has become more unpredictable than ever before. Surface water almost drying up and the underground water level is also going down.

However, it is not at all a matter of discouragement for us, we just look forward to give a better tomorrow in the life of many brilliant children of this area.

If I would have little opportunity and authority, I could request the big international charities to focus on the facts and be more supportive directly to micro-projects serving in the vast rural areas.

I am always proud to be associated with the HATW family and fulfil it's objectives through our New Life Centre.

Our building project is in progress but going little slow because builders often taking rest due to summer heat. I am trying to send few photographs of the progress but it takes hours to attach even a single photo from here.

Regarding building work, this building will have 9 class rooms of 24ft X 16ft each in 3 floors which will meet up the need for up to senior secondary level (4-18 years). If we have more than one sections for some classes then we may have 2 shifts school hours, one for the primary session (4-10 years) and the next for high school session (11-18 years). So far this is the future plan but we never can be sure about God's plan!

I can only assure, New Life Centre will witness as a model project of HATW in long run.

We need to set up drinking water system on priority basis and I am going to work out during this summer holiday out of some money we have.

By the grace of our loving God we all are keeping well and things are going on well but may be little slow in building work due to labour problem and unfavourable weather condition.

Let us pray and thank God for all that we are able to do with hand in hand for His glory.

Please pray for us.

With regards


Mar 11, 2014

March 2014 Update

I have recently returned from Sarberia, West Bengal, my fourth visit to this inspiring school. When I first visited in 2008 on a building project I took this photo of one of the students in the school.

The new building in the background was the reason I was there, the Vocational Training Centre which doubles as classrooms during the school day. This girl’s thoughtful look as all around her seem distracted captured my attention.

The school has grown from 100 students in 2008 to over 300 now. The area is extremely poor and most of the parents cannot afford the small school fee, so Alindra Naskar the Principal, is always looking for ways to subsidise the school, a constant struggle.

When I was there last month I asked about this student and she posed for the photo below.

Six years on and a new building, a day boarding centre for girls, which will serve her well, and more classrooms, which are vitally needed.

This girl is one of the lucky ones, she has stayed on at the school despite lack of funds, local mistrust of why girls need to be educated, and fear for her safety as she goes to and fro from school.

All of these things we take for granted in our country; education for these children is essential if they are ever to escape the poverty trap, and yet at the same time fraught with difficulties.

Here she is in 2014, older, smarter and ever hopeful that these new buildings will enable her to reach her potential in life; the right of any child surely?

Thank you for your support!


Dec 18, 2013

December 2013 Update

The School Building
The School Building


I visited the New Life Centre (NLC) in West Bengal, travelling on 2 December and returning on 9 December, flying from Heathrow with Emirates via Dubai to Kolkata (Calcutta). The initial leg was my first experience of one of the new 10-seat wide, 750+ seater, double-decker Airbuses – a long trip but very comfortable even for my long legs!

Mr Alindra Naskar met me with his nephew at the airport and we drove to Sarberia, taking about 2 hours on a reasonable road alongside the many ponds and rivers in the Bay of Bengal area. The 5 ½ hours time difference certainly makes you jet-lagged...

The weather for the whole week was calm, warm, dry and spring-like. The food was lovely, varied and not a hint of Delhi belly thankfully! And just a few mozzies which were quite well behaved.

The school was looking good, classrooms clean and the children happy, well-behaved and alert. There are now over 340 of them aged from 3 up to 13+, from a start in 2007 of just 36. Largest classes are in the early years, with up to 68 children. They all attend mornings only and go home to eat at lunchtime. All are taught in Bengali medium but with English as one of the subjects.

This week all had exams, and were spread around the classrooms to stop the possibility of looking over anyone's shoulder – this was taken very seriously by all! Many of those who started in kindergarten in 2007 are now ready for secondary school, so this is Mr Naskar's new priority as the government provision is woefully unsatisfactory in quality (poorly resourced, badly controlled behaviour and with very unmotivated teachers). He would also like to develop their IT room and computer training, and develop a library.

Currently 24 children are sponsored through our HANDS AROUND THE WORLD sponsorship scheme 'Hand in Hand' and this makes a big difference to the school's running costs. Another 25 in 2014 would be much appreciated.

Here are brief stories about some of them:

NM who is sponsored is now nearly 14, having started late. His grandfather pushed for him to be accepted. He is the oldest of 4 siblings. 2 sisters have been taken out of school as they were deemed a low priority by the father who is generally not very supportive. He is a labourer shifting sand, often works in the city and does not much value education. NM is doing quite well, is capable of secondary education and training in a trade.

NK is also sponsored; she is aged 10 or 11, described as quiet and gentle, attentive and well disciplined, in class 5. She has a younger brother who dropped out of school. Father is an itinerant fishmonger, keen to encourage her in school where she is doing well. The family may not allow her to stay on to secondary school however.

AK is 13 and in standard 7, one of 4 siblings. All attend the NLC school. Her mother created quite a stir by having a sterilisation op without her husband’s consent, but they are now reconciled! Father is a very hard worker who used to repair car tyres, then bought a truck, since when the family's fortunes have much improved. All the children are doing well with mum's enthusiastic encouragement.

The vocational training of young women in sewing and embroidery continues as before, with about 10 students at a time for a course lasting several months, but it is quite flexible to allow for outside family commitments etc..

I donated an electric sewing machine given to HATW – the first most had ever seen.

We visited Suraya Bibi, one former student aged 28 who is now doing very well with her own small business (making mainly school uniforms and ladies clothes which she sells through her roadside shop) although sad to be childless. She was married at 13 and lived with her husband from 16. Her husband supported her in training against her parents' wishes, she then trained him, and he works there too. Their 2 sewing machines are kept busy for most of the year – up to 18 hours per day! She was very enthusiastic about the benefits to her of the NLC training. I asked Mr N to write her story in more detail for me.

Tess Molloy has been able recently to send 7000 Euros from her UN Women’s Group in Vienna to build new classrooms and a teenage girls refuge, and these works are well under way. Sadly the money only is sufficient for in-ground work (prepared for a 3 storey structure) and reinforced pillars, the total estimate being nearer 28000 Euros. When I asked from where this would come, Mr N's replied as usual: “God will provide...”

Dr Sreena Das (a past HATW volunteer and later a Trustee) was visiting her parents in Kolkata during my visit, and although sadly I didn't get to meet them, she had arranged for us to visit and talk to two of the city's Rotary Clubs. They were welcoming, and the experience very positive; the second one particularly showed much interest in members visiting the NLC and hopefully getting involved. There were many medics in this group and they were keen to embark on local rural health-care programmes (they are doing this already in the city and other areas) such as child malnutrition screening, eye clinics / surgery, cleft palate and hare lip clinics / surgery, assessment of children with disabilities – all ideas close to my heart as well as that of Mr Naskar. We are hoping to work up specific proposals for them shortly.

We talked a lot about self-sufficiency in the future, and income-generating ideas. On my last day there we had a 'Blue Sky Thinking' session based around this - all the teachers were asked anonymously to provide 2 written ideas which could bring funds into the school. We had a general chat afterwards and agreed the list would be posted on the wall, teachers asked to vote on their preferences, and the best ones would be evaluated and costed. I said HATW would be happy to help them develop these ideas, and as Tess, Lyn Helyer and others are visiting in February I am asking them to continue this discussion. (One of the most favoured ideas appeared to be Spoken English language classes out of hours – maybe as teachers, Tess and Lyn would be interested in launching this when they go?)

There were some duplicates, but for your interest I list the income-generating ideas proposed here:

  • Spoken English classes

  • English language film show

  • Sports coaching e.g. ping pong, judo

  • Evening IT classes for adults

  • Making and selling cakes to children once a month

  • Charging mobile phones

  • Drawing / art classes

  • Dance classes

  • Health Clinic with a doctor

  • School canteen / tuck shop

  • Singing classes

  • Poultry farming

  • Brick making

  • Fishery

  • Technical training e.g. repairing mobile phones, computers

  • Increase school fees

  • Selling story books and toys

  • Approach wealthier people in the community

  • Sew garments for a monthly sale

  • Every evening coaching classes for years 5 to 10

  • Sell general knowledge and poetry books

  • Build a science lab for years 6 to 11

  • Sell saplings, plants

  • Occasional raffle

I asked Alindra to dream about the future. He would most like to develop the age range of students upwards, develop the IT room, introduce vocational training for the less academically able, and develop a health centre. He says the school could continue without outside support but would need to become more commercial i.e. it could only help children whose families could pay fees, (currently many are supported on a Robin Hood principle) and could not develop any new facilities.

A challenging but inspiring visit. Beautiful children and lovely people working hard. A well-organised school doing great things but needing more support. Good ideas planned for the future, with Mr Naskar's daughters all involved and keen to help development. Since I left, the school has had a positive inspection visit from the education department, which will formalise its position and acknowledge the quality which the school offers.

I do hope HATW can continue to work with them for the benefit of the many children we all seek to help.



One of the children in Class
One of the children in Class
The Start of the new Building
The Start of the new Building
Vocational Training Workshop
Vocational Training Workshop
An exciting new Machine!
An exciting new Machine!
Alindra, Agnes N and DS, Victoria Memorial Kolkata
Alindra, Agnes N and DS, Victoria Memorial Kolkata
Sep 17, 2013

September 2013 Update

The New Life Centre school in Sarberia has been awarded a bursary to build a day boarding centre for girls. Alindra Naskar the Principal of the school is keen for girls to stay on beyond the primary age. When the children begin at the school between the ages of 3 – 4, the classes are more or less 50% boys and 50% girls, but as you go up the school the number of girls decreases. In many cases as soon as the girls hit puberty, their parents keep them at home. They are afraid for their daughters to be out unchaperoned during the day.

In an attempt to overcome this, Alindra decided that a day boarding facility for girls would allow them to remain within the school grounds, until their parents can collect them after work.

In the photo we see some of the girls in the school in an after school sports session. These are a minority, whereas the boys who return for sports are many.

Wouldn’t you like to provide a better future for these girls by sponsoring one of them?

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