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Oct 4, 2016

How you have put smiles on so many faces. Read about Safikul and Nasima


I had the great privilege of getting to meet a number of the beneficiaries of this livelhood project when I was in Kolkata in August.  

I want to tell you about two of them: Safikul and Nasima 

I wasn't scheduled to meet Safikul, but as we were making our precarious way along the railway tracks (the main thoroughfare through the squatter camp), he bounded up to us. He wanted to show me his new cycle van. Safikul seems younger than his years: I was surprised to hear he is married with a son and a daughter.  He is a carrier at the Sealdah Market. He explained that before you bought him his cycle van he had to hire one.  So every day, regardless of how much business he got, he had to pay away Rs100 in hiring fees. Now that he has his own van, he clears a respectable Rs 300 - 400 per day.  "I'm going to make a big business" he grinned. "You'll see the big chance in one year". I am looking forward to reporting back in a year's time!

Later I was taken to meet Nasima.  She has a jewellery stall on the street close to the Park Circus squatter camp where I met Safikul (and where she lives).  You gave her £150 to buy stock.  Before this her stall had been tiny - just a few items (hair clips combs and cheap jewellery) and very little business.  She was making Rs 50 (50 p) a day.  Her husband is a day labourer earning £4 - £5 a week - and they have 2 daughters to support.  I had to wait some time to meet Nasima because, as you can see from the photo, she was rather busy with customers.  She said that she now makes a profit of £1.50 a day, has no debt and does not have to borrow from money lenders to stock her stall.  She told me she is very happy indeed - and produced a lovely smile to show it.

I also got to spend time in the Tiljala SHED office and learn more about how this project is structured.  The grants are conditional upon a number of criteria e.g. the beneficiaries must guarantee they'll keep their children in school; that they save money where possible and reinvest; and that they ultimately contribute back into a revolving fund so that others can benefit in future; they are required to attend meetings and programmes helping them with their business skills. Now they have bank accounts under a Governement of India scheme which allows the ultra-poor to open zero balance accounts.  Slowly they are learning to make use of them and grow into a more sustainable future

So, by contributing to this project, you have lifted 87 families like these out of destitution.  Their children are attending school and they are learning business skills and good saving habits.

Please consider a further donation to this livelihood project. There are dozens more needy yet motivated and energetic people who would put your donation to very good use.  By promising to keep their children in school, Nasima and Safikul hope that they will be the last generation to live under tarpaulin and corrugated iron beside the railway.  

Thank you very much 

Safikul with his new cycle van
Safikul with his new cycle van
Nasima's busy roadside jewellery business

Sep 26, 2016

How you are helping us combat malnutrition

Distributing a nutritious meal
Distributing a nutritious meal

Ahmad is 9 and his mother is a rag picker.  She leaves home as early as 3 am to scour the streets for other people's rubbish.  By starting work early she will be first to find the discarded plastic bottles, soft drinks cans and cardboard packaging that will bring her her the best price from the local dealer.   Ahmad's father is a rickshaw driver.  However, like so many frustrated men in the community, he finds it difficult to resist the lure of country liquor at the end of a difficult day. He has to hire his rickshaw and then comply with the owner's restrictions on where he can ply his trade and what he can carry. The 100 rupees or less that he earns will pay for the brief escape the liquor gives him.

When Ahmad wakes up in their shelter beside the Topsia canal, his father is asleep and his mother is at work.  Ahmad is hungry.  He knows he should go to school, but he hates the lessons and it is hard to concentrate when you haven't had breakfast. Often he'll skip school and head onto the streets to go rag picking: it feels good to have a few rupees to give his mother when she gets home.

Because of the extremely difficult and chaotic lives Ahmad and his friends lead, they rarely get more than one or two meals a day and this will be mostly rice.  Their diet lacks the variety and nutrients needed for healthy growth and development.   

Since January this year Tiljala SHED has, with your help, been able to provide a nutritious meal to 450 vulnerable people like Ahmad every Saturday lunchtime.  Dal, rice, vegetables and an egg provide a nutritious and balanced meal. Moreover, this is an opportunity for the community to come together, for Tiljala SHED 's staff to encourage the children to attend school and to educate families on nutrition. Ahmad loves coming along on Saturdays, queuing up with his friends and then the wonderful feeling of a full stomach.   

Ahmad says thank you
Ahmad says thank you
Jul 19, 2016

A big "Thank you" from Nafisha

Nafisha  "I want to stand on my own feet"
Nafisha "I want to stand on my own feet"

Last time I visited Kolkata, in February this year, my colleagues, Aamna and Shreya, asked me for a special favour: to find funds to sponsor 15 girls.

For 20 years Tiljala SHED has been running a very successful programme providing educational support to girls from the nearby slums. The girls are carefully screened to ensure that they are truly in need and that they will respond positively to the opportunity sponsorship provides. Over the years we have seen almost 500 girls complete their schooling and many go on to colleges and universities. They have become civil servants, teachers, nurses and businesswomen. Many now work for NGOs around Kolkata and all are an inspiration to young girls from their communities. Through sponsorship, they are able to avoid the traps of early marriage, illiteracy, drudgery, poverty and abuse.

I have met many of the girls on this scheme and I am amazed at their confident and positive outlook on life. They know that they have choices that were not there for their mothers – and some of them have very big ambitions: Shaista wants to join the IPS, the most prestigious police service in India: Nasima is in her 3rd year at college and wants to become an English teacher (see her video).

The funds for the sponsorship program mostly come from an Italian NGO, but the funds are limited and these 15 girls have not found sponsors, despite having been screened and approved by Tiljala SHED.

Thanks to you, these girls now have some hope. On June 15th you helped us raise a magnificent £1900 towards our 5 year goal of £22,000. Once Global Giving has collected Gift Aid for us (at 25% of donations from UK tax payers) and the funds are remitted to Kolkata we will start to support these 15 girls. It should be in the next few days.

Zeenat is 18 and has stayed at school despite her very poor circumstances: her parents divorced when she was very young and her mother struggles to bring Zeenat and her younger brother up on just £30 a month. Your donation means that Zeenat can realise her dream of going to college and one day being able to support her mother and lift the family out of poverty.

Suhana is just 4 years old and is at primary school. Her parents are separated so she lives with her mother and grandmother in a 70 sq ft room. Her mother, Sonali aged 27, is uneducated and works as a maid servant earning just £15 a month to keep this little family going. Suhana’s father has a new partner and doesn’t support Suhana or her mother. Sonali wants a better future for her little girl than hers.

Nafisha is 15 years old and studying in class IX at an Urdu medium school. She lives with her parents and 3 siblings in a rented room 8’ X 10’. Her father takes home just £50 a month of which £10 is paid in rent. She says ”I really want to continue my education to masters level. I want to stand on my own feet”

Thank you for supporting these girls. They will be so excited to know that they are to become “Sponsor Girls” – have been the 15 unlucky “Nonsponsor Girls”. They have the guidance and support of Amna and Shreya and the rest of the great team at Tiljala SHED as well as the practical financial support to pay for their school books, uniforms, extra tuition fees, health checks and a small family stipend to encourage the parents to keep their daughters in education and not marry them off. There is also a small library, the Gyan Azhar Library,  in the heart of the Tiljala community, run by Tiljala SHED exclusively for these girls. 

I am visiting Kolkata again next month and I am looking forward to catching up with the girls and then reporting back to you.

Suhana: a better life than her mother
Suhana: a better life than her mother's
Zeenat: I want to go to college
Zeenat: I want to go to college


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