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Jun 8, 2017

Feeding the Poor in Ramadan

Waiting to tuck in!
Waiting to tuck in!

It is Ramadan, a time of prayer and fasting.  This year Ramadan falls at the hottest time of year. Between 3.30 am and 6.20 pm no food or drink is taken.  But the people in the Topsia canalside squatter community in Kolkata are accustomed to hunger.  It is what drives them out in the small hours of the morning to collect other people’s rubbish so that they can earn enough each day to feed themselves and their families.  With the recent introduction of waste compactors by the Kolkata Municipality, there is less waste to be found and the prices paid by the dealers have halved. Where they were very poor a year ago, many are now regularly hungry.

We are working hard to help these rag picker families find alternative livelihoods so that they no longer need to depend on the uncertainties of rag picking. (see our project here)  And your generous donations to the weekly feeding programme help us to give a nutritious meal to 450 people every weekend, but I would like to ask you to consider a special donation this month of Ramadan, so that we can provide a celebration Iftar (breakfast) to every one of our neediest target families.  

This Iftar breakfast will consist of fruit, savoury snacks, chicken halim, milk drinks, paratha, sweet flattened rice, cucumber, dates and sweets.  We can hire or borrow a hall, hang up decorations and give everyone a party to remember. The cost will be around Rs140 (USD2.20   GBP 1.70) per person.  

I am looking forward to reporting back how your generosity has brought smiles to the children’s faces and filled their empty stomachs.

There is one more thing we’d like to do with your very kind donation:  the oldest member of the Topsia community is Sabra. She is a widow of around 80 years old.  She used to walk every day to collect a free lunch from another organisation, but she is now too frail to make the journey.  Her neighbours will sometimes spare her some food from their own meagre supplies, but she often goes hungry.  For this month of Ramadan, at least, we will ensure that has at least two good meals a day.  If enough funds are raised we will continue to ensure she is fed daily. (cost of feeding Sabra Rs2500 (GBP30  or USD39)

Please help us to remind the rag pickers of Topsia that they are not forgotten, by giving them a wonderful Iftar celebration and by ensuring that the most vulnerable resident is cared for.

Sabra - now badly in need of food daily
Sabra - now badly in need of food daily
Jun 6, 2017

Our girls are doing well: exam results are in

Prizes for our top regular library users.
Prizes for our top regular library users.

It is very hot indeed in Kolkata this week.  The Monsoon rains are just a few days away and everyone is sweltering in 37 deg C as I write.  Imagine how difficult it must be to sleep at night in a tiny airless room shared with your extended family.

It is also Ramadan – a time of fasting and prayer.  Families share Iftar (or breakfast) after the sun sets at around 6.20 pm having had no food or water since before 5 am.  Some of our girls will be fasting for the first time this year: they may fast just a few days this time and build up to the full month as they grow older.  All of them will be looking forward to celebrating Eid when Ramadan is over.

For school children and students all over India it is results time.  Exams were in March and the results are now coming through.  I am delighted to tell you that all except one of our girls has passed her exams and all of them are starting the new academic year in the next grade.  The other girl hopes to be promoted to the next class anyway and we will work especially hard to help her catch up.  She is only 6 years old and studying in an English medium school so we expect her to do well in the long run.  She is very fortunate to have your support so that she does not get left behind. 

With the new school session beginning, we are busy sorting out any fees that need to be paid (school session fees, private tutors), making sure all the girls have uniforms and well fitting shoes.  With the monsoon rains just days away we ensure every girl has an umbrella a well as a school bag and a lunch box. Each girl will also receive all the books and stationery she needs for the beginning of the academic year. And importantly we ensure that every girl has proper nutrition by arranging small payments direct to the guardians.  

These are all the practical ways in which you are supporting the girls.  They are from such impoverished families that none of this would be possible without your help.  But of course, the girls receive so much more than this: they have access to the Gyan Azhar library, use of the books and computers; they attend extra curricular music and art sessions; we take them on excursions; and they have opportunities to volunteer with other organisations.  And being a member of this group of 17 sponsored girls is a source of great pride and motivation.  

Our special congratulations go to Nafisha who has passed her class X (public exams at aged 16, GCSE equivalent) and is applying to other schools for her class XI – XII studies.  We must also congratulate Sabahat who has passed class XII and is applying to go to college.  Without your help neither of these girls could have dreamed of gaining such qualifications. You have enabled them to reach for the future their mothers wish for them – economic independence, choice, dignity and freedom from poverty.

I am still looking for donors to come forward to take on individual girls.  For instance, we support Nafisha from the general fund, but I think she would benefit enormously from knowing she has a sponsor encouraging her.  Apart from a monthly donation via Global Giving, you’d be able to send & receive notes, and have detailed feedback on her progress.  You would also be very welcome to come to Kolkata and meet her.

Please contact me directly if you’d like to be a personal sponsor janemanson@tished.org

Motivational meeting for all girls
Motivational meeting for all girls
Nafisha - thrilled with Class X pass
Nafisha - thrilled with Class X pass
Mar 29, 2017

How your support provides all-round opportunities

Thank you for your support
Thank you for your support

It is summer and exam time in Kolkata. At the mercury rises so does the anxiety. The girls all need to pass their exams to progress into the next grade.  And because of your support for extra tuition the girls have a better chance than ever of succeeding at school and going on to higher education.

But of course education is about more than exams and results. Being a sponsored girl at Tiljala SHED opens up many other opportunities for all round growth and development. 

In February the project staff held an oral hygiene meeting.  They were shown how to brush their teeth, encouraged to visit a dentist annually (paid for out of sponsorship funds of course) and shown how eating too many sweets causes decay. 

Good health is also assured through physical activity. 11th February was our Annual Sports Day.  Six of the girls won prizes: Tabassum's team came 2nd in the relay race and Kahakasha (aged 5) came 3rd in the cap race.  They all did well in the garland making competition!

Our regular activities include bead making classes every Sunday; a guitar class on Saturdays; Maths coaching for the older girls on Sundays.  In January they held a special session to learn sandwich making.

The girls also join in other external events and national celebrations.  They all got together to celebrate on Republic Day 26th January and helped out at a huge distribution of rice to destitute families on 28th January.  In time for Valentine's Day they created greetings cards to distribute to the elderly. All the girls assembled in the library to celebrate International Women's Day on 8th March

Sponsorship provides these lucky girls not only with a good education but also many of the opportunities that we take for granted for our own children.  

If you haven't already please consider a regular donation of just £27 per month so that at least one girl is assured of ongoing support through these crucial years.

 

Thank you very much

Exam time is here
Exam time is here
Celebrating International Women
Celebrating International Women's Day 2017
Jane meets the girls and their mothers. 16/02/17
Jane meets the girls and their mothers. 16/02/17

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