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May 14, 2018

How you help Kolkata's most vulnerable people

Salma with her food parcel
Salma with her food parcel

Salma lives with three of her family members in Topsia. She earns Rs. 200 a week as a beggar. She has faced many physical and psychological hardships. Salma used to work in a factory and, a few years ago, her right arm got chopped off by a machine. She was admitted to the Park Circus Chittaranjan Hospital. Because she was in a government hospital, the doctors discharged her prematurely when other patients who needed more attention came. Around this time, her daughter’s husband became violent. He hit his wife with a stone, and, as a result, she began to have mental problems. Neither her daughter nor any other family member came when Salma was released from the hospital. Because of her amputated arm she cannot work. 

At Tiljala SHED we focus on empowering society’s most marginalised groups, especially the rag picker communities who live in illegal makeshift dwellings beside the railways and canals.  We ensure the children are educated and kept out of labour; we provide microloans to rag picker women to help them start up alternative businesses; we link our beneficiaries to government schemes and help them to assert their rights and make their voices heard.  We help them to help themselves.  But for the most helpless, especially the elderly and disabled, sometimes we need the resources to provide them with food and medicine that they can’t otherwise earn.  

Salma is someone who needs this special care.  Thanks to your generosity we are able to provide Salma and others with some dry rations every month.

Each one receives rice, lentils, chana, chana dal, sugar, refined oil, mustard oil and bread.

Sabra lives in a small makeshift structure near the Topsia canal. She is one of the oldest people in this community. When we recently spoke with her, she started crying. She said she feels weak because she does not have enough food to eat. Sabra eats a few biscuits for breakfast and lentils for lunch. Dinner is not guaranteed. Sometimes she eats rice; sometimes she goes to sleep without eating anything. She cannot walk long distances and cannot work. Because she has poor eyesight, her neighbours cook for her. Sabra does not have electricity in her home because she cannot afford it.

Sabra’s other family members lives nearby and they help her when they can, but they are also very poor so it is a struggle for the whole family.

You can see from the smile on her face that she is thrilled to receive these rations and to know she won’t need to go hungry any more.

Ramadan starts this week.  Please consider a special donation to ensure Sabra and many others can be properly looked after.

Hamuda - supports family of 5 on Rs1500 a month
Hamuda - supports family of 5 on Rs1500 a month
Sabra - too old to work and often starves
Sabra - too old to work and often starves
Apr 30, 2018

What your support means to Shehnaz


We have recently enrolled Shehnaz onto this education programme.  Shehnaz is special because she comes from such a deprived background that most girls of her age (19) would already have been married off and producing children.

She is from the rag picker community in Tangra. Her parents are both illiterate.  Her father is 40 and a violent alcoholic and no longer lives with the family. Her mother, aged 35 (must have been just 16 when Shehnaz was born), keeps her family of 5 together by rag picking.  They live in a shelter of about 2.5m x 3 m.  They have no toilet and no running water.

Shehnaz has remained in education and is about to sit her class 10 exams.  We enrolled her on the scheme because she needs continued financial support to help her pass these exams and go on to complete 2 more years of school and maybe even go on to university.  It takes a great deal of determination and the support of her mother for a girl like Shehnaz to choose education against the social pressure to drop out and marry. 

She and her mother deserve and desperate need this support.

So what does it mean to Shehnaz to join the Global Giving Education Programme?

 These are the costs that Shehnaz’s mother would have to cover – out of her £35 per month income from rag picking:

  1. Any necessary academic fees will be paid.
  2. She will receive a nutrition allowance – ensuring she eats enough nourishing food to keep her healthy
  3. All school books: The girls purchase the books they need and bring the books in to be stamped (see the picture below) and the costs are reimbursed.
  4. They receive a school bag and an umbrella
  5. School uniforms and shoes are supplied where needed
  6. Any costs incurred in travel to school are covered (usually for those at college – most walk to school)
  7. All stationery is paid for

 But as a member of the programme Shehnaz also benefits in the following ways

  1. She is a member of the Gyan Azhar library, a safe space to work peacefully, to borrow books, to use the computers
  2. She will enjoy excursions – to the cinema, museums and exhibitions
  3. She will be invited to events held at the library where she will learn new skills – dance, jewellery making, guitar lessons
  4. She will have computer training
  5. She will attend various sessions on health and hygiene, her rights, use of social media
  6. And she will have access to the staff of the library and of the education programme for advice and mentoring.

We want every one of the girls on this programme to reach her full potential and we work closely with the girls and their families to ensure that they can fulfil their ambitions.  Their mothers are always supportive – as they know the consequences of failing to complete an education.  They want more for their daughters.

We all want to thank you so much for your amazing support and please do tell your families and friends what a difference they too could make to a vulnerable girl like Shehnaz

Thank you

With mother & disabled brother - at our office
With mother & disabled brother - at our office
Labels go in all books purchased for the girls
Labels go in all books purchased for the girls


Mar 26, 2018

How your donations work for India's poorest

Hena and her cycle van
Hena and her cycle van

Hena is 24. She was born and brought up in the Narkeldanga Canalside Bustee, a strip of makeshift illegal shelters alongside the so-called canal - actually a giant sewer.  Hena has never known fresh running water or a sanitary toilet.

She was born to immigrant parents and, as the oldest daughter, was kept at home to help her mother with her 6 siblings. Married off at 14 years old to Nabis it probably felt like an escape.  Nabis is also from a destitute and illiterate family. He is a van puller, carrying loads between Burrabazar and Sealdah.  They have three children: Suleiman is 13, Sabana is 10 and the youngest, Kurban, is 9.

Hena and her family are absolutely typical of the families in this desperately deprived part of Kolkata.  In June 2017, Hena applied for a Rs10,000 ($150, £112) loan from Tiljala SHED through a CIG*.  She bought a new van for her husband’s business.  Previously Nabis had hired a van every day which ate into his meagre earnings.  Now that the family owns the van, Nabis takes home everything he earns.  Hena herself does paper binding to bring in more income, though it doesn’t amount to more than a few pence per day.

Overall since taking out the loan, the family’s income has increased by 2000 – 3000 per month.  Hena has paid off the loan on time and now only has about 3 more months until they are clear of the debt and the van is theirs.  All three of the children are in school and Hena hopes for a better future for them.

And the Rs10,000 can be loaned out again to another family – or indeed to Hena herself.

By providing Hena and her family with access to credit, with the training and advice she needs to understand and manage the loan, you empowered her to make a difference to her own life and that of her family.

We have found that women like Hena who have financial power suffer less domestic abuse and gain more respect from their husbands and the wider community.  The loan repayment rate for this project stands somewhere between 97 and 98%.   So every donation will be recycled again and again.

Please consider a generous donation today so that we can give opportunity and hope to more women like Hena.  We have a waiting list of over 90 women, screened, approved and just waiting for the funds to come available….

*Credit Interest Group. Lending/borrowing is organised around these community based organisations. Each of the 5 women in the group is responsible for all the others in the group. They support one another and recommend others for loans.  It is a system which works very well indeed. Members of this CIG always repay early every month.

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