News from January and survival during COVID19 Lockdown
By Jane Manson - Fundraising
Girls and their parents at our January meeting
It seems like a very long time ago, but when I was in Kolkata in January I met up with almost all the sponsored girls on this programme. What struck me most of all was how confident the girls have become. They all spoke English with me and were able to tell me about school and what they hope to do with their education. I was so proud of them. Their living conditions are very difficult especially for those who need to study.
I was concerned that Zainab’s attendance at school was very poor, as low as 30%. We have set 85% minimum attendance as a qualification to remain on the programme. This seems to me fair – as there are many girls desperate to have the opportunity in life that our donors have given Zainab and co. So Shreya, Aamna and I tried to understand from Zainab and her mother what the problem was. The family of 5 lives in a single room. So Zainab only gets to sleep at 11 when her parents go to bed. Her school day begins at 6 am – and she had been struggling to wake up in time, and felt exhausted all day. She’s a teenager and her body just wasn’t able to cope. Her mother was very co-operative and said that they would try to make changes in the family routine so that Zainab could get enough sleep and be fresh for school. They agreed to come back into the office a week later to report on how things were working out. Mother and daughter duly returned. Zainab looked 100% better. She had attended school each day and was getting enough sleep. She loves school and wants to do well in life, but the family had slipped into a routine that made schooling difficult for Zainab. Very few of these girls have literate parents so it is sometimes down to the programme staff, Shreya and Aamna, to provide the mentoring, guidance and sometimes firmness to keep the girls on track.
Since my January visit the world has changed for all of us. India’s lockdown began in mid March so there has been no school or college for any of the girls. Many of their families have suffered terrible hardship as their parents cannot work.
Shreya and Aamna have kept in touch with all the families and have ensured that all got food rations as part of Tiljala SHED’s emergency food distributions.
But India’s pandemic is far from abating. Kolkata is not as hard hit as other large cities, but there is still no regular education available. Your donations will be needed more than ever once the girls are back at school and college. Meanwhile, we are doing our best to get as many of them joining online classes as possible. Sofia, for instance, has no access to the internet but three times a week she is able to join online classes on a friend’s phone. Ayesha has been attending online classes but is now able to go along to tuition classes. Gradually things are opening up. We are working with each girl to ensure she's getting whatever help is available to her.
One of the mothers receiving food rations
May 12, 2020
Relieving Hunger during COVID-19 Lockdown
By Jane Manson - Fundraising
Receiving food rations
This project has for the last 5 years successfully provided emergency food rations and medical care to some of Kolkata’s most vulnerable families at times of crisis. Thanks to our generous donors our staff have been able to step in to relieve distress when help is most needed.
In India’s current COVID-19 lockdown, almost every family in ALL our target communities is hungry. Our beneficiaries across all our projects are mostly daily wage earners. So if a rickshaw driver cannot go out onto the streets to work, he earns nothing and cannot feed his family. A ragpicker, who depends on daily outings to collect paper, plastic bottle, aluminium cans, cardboard which she then sells to a dealer, cannot earn money if she is swept from the street by police enforcing the lockdown. Factories are closed; begging is impossible. Those who had small savings have used up their resources. Everyone is desperate.
But thanks to your generosity, there are some funds available to help out. Our team has been working tirelessly to purchase, to repackage and then to distribute food rations to almost 2000 families so far. Donations have come from individuals like you as well as other sources. But after this week, we don’t know where the funds for the next round of distributions will come from. The lockdown continues and so does the hunger.
Shafkat and his team of volunteers are working under the most terrible conditions in temperatures above 30 deg C. They are wearing full PPE and ALSO are fasting as it is Ramadan, so they cannot even drink water. During Saturday’s distribution one of the volunteers fainted and others felt dizzy and unwell. But they are determined to continue this work as long as there are hungry families and donors to provide the funds. So please show your support for some of India’s most vulnerable and hungry communities as well as solidarity with our volunteers on the front line and make a special donation today. Rs7500 (USD100, GBP80) buys ration packs for 4 families (of approx 6 people) for a month.
2000 ration packs distributed so far
Tiljala SHED team in full PPE
Packaging the rations ahead of distribution
Ration Pack for one family of six
Mar 24, 2020
By Jane Manson - Fundraising
Suman is 16 years old. He lives in a makeshift shack in Kolkata’s Topsia Canalside squatter camp. He lives with his parents and two younger siblings. His father, formerly a rickshaw driver, is now a security guard. His mother is a housewife. Family income is Rs5,000 – 8,000 a month (£50 - £80).
Suman has just sat his Class X exams and wants to be an electronics and telecommunications engineer. How can that possibly happen for him?
Suman belongs to Tiljala SHED’s education programme, attending after school classes for children aged 12 and upwards. It’s a very successful programme, encouraging youngsters to remain in education. There are 40 other young people like Suman in his Evening Class. They all desperately want to make something of their lives. The girls are fighting social and parental pressure to drop out of school and to marry. The boys face the pressure to drop out of school and take up labouring jobs. Many of the boys end up involved in crime, violence and substance abuse. Suman looks at the other boys. He says “They could do so well in studies and in life. But most of them ruin their lives”. It is a credit to Suman’s parents that all their three children remain in education and that they support Suman’s ambitions.
Please consider a generous donation, to help other ambitious youngsters like Suman realise their dreams. My colleague, who interviewed Suman for me yesterday reported “He is sober, nice, calm, peace-loving, gentle, patient and shy.” Yes he is. I met him in January and was so impressed.