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Dec 20, 2016

Happy Festive Lunch Today after Weeks of Hardship

A happy occasion. Lunch resumes after tough times
A happy occasion. Lunch resumes after tough times

The rag picker community in Topsia has had a very rough time over the last two months.

First, one of the tube wells upon which 1500 families rely for (reasonably) clean drinking water stopped pumping.   The water supply dropped so far that the community was struggling to manage.Tiljala SHED’s weekly feeding programme needs a large quantity of water – to cook the vats of rice, dal and vegetable curry, and to boil the eggs. For a few weeks it wasn’t possible to cook in such large quantities so the programme was interrupted until the meagre water supply was back to normal.    

On top of this, the Indian Government’s recent demonetisation has had a profound effect on the ultra poor and on the NGOs striving to help them.  With 86% of circulating money (all the 500 and 1000 rupee notes) ceasing to be legal tender overnight, activities which relied heavily on cash transactions were put under enormous pressure.The obsolete notes could be exchanged or paid into bank accounts, but the banks had difficulty coping with the long queues and people who relied upon their daily labour (exactly these ragpickers and rickshaw pullers) found themselves standing in lines to ensure that money they had already earned didn’t become worthless and, at the same time, losing several days of work.  Tiljala SHED was forced to reduce their activities and could only work with suppliers who would accept credit.This feeding programme has been a casualty of the demonetisation.

However, I am delighted to report that the Topsia community enjoyed a wonderful lunch today for the first time in two months. The water (such as it is) is running again and the cash crisis has eased enough for Tiljala SHED to resume business as usual.

Thank you as ever for your generosity. Every donation is carefully used and goes directly to the beneficiaries. This last two months have shown just how vulnerable the poor are when local infrastructure fails and also when there are decisions made at national level. This community needs Tiljala SHED and supporters like you more than ever.

Please consider a special donation this holiday season to help us ensure that our community can be fed at least once a week.

Langar in Topsia
Langar in Topsia
Happy faces
Happy faces

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Oct 11, 2016

Great News for Ayesha, Suhana and Tabassum

Anjum (now a librarian) and Tabassum
Anjum (now a librarian) and Tabassum

Ayesha is 12 years old and studying in class VII. She lives with her family of 5 in a single room. Her father is a poster painter. His monthly income is not stable because his work is temporary. Total family income is £30 a month, not enough to run the whole family.  Ayesha is a bright and ambitious girl: she wants to become a designer. But the family were finding it very difficult to keep Ayesha in school until Sheila stepped forward to provide sponsorship.  Now Ayesha is able to stay in school and get the extra tuition needed to help her pass her exams. Her books and uniform are paid for.  She gets health check ups and nutritional supplements. The staff at Tiljala SHED noticed that she is very thin and will use some of the funds to ensure she gets a proper diet.  Thanks to Sheila's generosity, Ayesha now stands an excellent chance of completing high school and going on to train as a designer.  She will avoid the trap of early marriage, illiteracy and poverty.

Tabassum is 17 and in class XII, the final year of school. She lives in her grandmother's home (a single 60 sq ft room) with her parents, her brother and her sister, Anjum.  Tabassum's father is very unwell and unable to support the family, so her mother works as a maidservant, earning just £20 per month.  Happily, Anjum was also a sponsored girl with Tiljala SHED and completed her degree and now works as a librarian, bringing in just enough to keep this family going.  Like Anjum, Tabassum is bright and ambitious and wants to make a success of her life.  And this is now possible - as Helen has come forward to support Tabassum through her college education.  I have met both Anjum and Tabassum and they are a formidable pair.  By giving Tabassum this chance, Helen is empowering a young woman who will not only transform her own and her familiy's life, but is also a role model for other girls.  

Suhana is just 4. She is a happy fun loving child with absolutely no idea what a terrible hand she was dealt at birth. Suhana's father is long gone and doesn't support the family in any way.   Sonali, Suhana's mother, is a maidservant (one of the only respectable options for an illiterate woman) and earns just £20 per month.They live with Suhana's grandmother.  They only survive because Sonali's employers sometimes give her food to take home to the family. Thanks to Karen, Suhana now has sponsorship.  Suhana will receive all the necessary support to keep her in education and to ensure that she progresses well from grade to grade.  The family will also receive a small stipend to encourage them to keep the little girl in school. 

For the other 12 girls, we are doing what we can with the funds already raised.   Our experienced project team, Shreya and Aamna, assess the greatest needs and help each girl accordingly.  But it isn't nearly enough: what we really need is more sponsors to come forward to commit just £27 per month to help a vulnerable girl like Suhana, Tabassum or Ayesha to stay in education, to avoid the terrible traps of illiteracy, early marriage, and poverty which have blighted their own mothers' lives.

I have met all of these girls and their mothers and I can absolutely reassure you that every penny goes where it should.  I have also met a lot of girls who have been sponsored through this scheme and, like Anjum, are now in work, confident and self sufficient.  

If you want to discuss this in any more detail, please contact me janemanson27@gmail.com

Thank you from all of them.  They are very happy indeed to be on the programme.

Ayesha with her mother
Ayesha with her mother
Suhana with her mother
Suhana with her mother
Meeting all the girls
Meeting all the girls

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Oct 4, 2016

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

Safikul
Safikul

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
Nasima
Nasima's busy roadside jewellery business
Nasima's busy roadside jewellery business

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