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


Jul 11, 2016

How you have changed Soni's life.

Soni in our office to receive her grant
Soni in our office to receive her grant

Soni, a widow, resides in a small hut beside the dirty canal in Topsia. She has to work day and night to meet the expenditure of the family through rag picking. But since the Kolkata Municipal Corporation installed huge compactors around the city, there is much less waste for this vulnerable and marginalised commuity to live off.  These days Soni barely clears 100 - 150  rupees a day (less than £1.40).  Once again food prices are rising in India, placing yet more pressure on society's poorest.

Soni's only son has recently started a small business. He has a sound box with mic which he rents out for special events in the community. In this way, he is able to help his mother. To grow the business, and make a decent living they need to buy a DJ Box with other electronic gadgets which will eventually increase the revenue. They applied for a bank loan but bank rejected their loan request as they are rag pickers and there is no guarantee of income.  Depressed and frustrated they didn't know which way to turn.

In this challenging situation, Global Giving fund came as a sigh of relief for both of them. This fund will help them to grow the business. They got 12000 rupees (£110) with which they will purchase the DJ Box and other electronic gadgets. Now, they are happy. They can earn enough to keep themselves as well as to invest further in the business. Your donation through Global Giving was the game changer in their lives and they never imagined that resources from UK would open the doors for them when the banks in India have shut the doors for them.

Many families have now benefited from this project.   

Total No. of families covered: 72

Total Amount Disbursed: INR 753184 (£8000 approx)

Type of business covered: Cycle rickshaw, cycle van, selling new clothes, cobbler shop, selling female accessories, sewing machine, DJ box with music system, selling fruits, tea stall, jhaal muri selling (popular junk food), vegetable (grocery shop) selling, satoo selling stall, imitation jewellery selling door to door, buying scrap-making and  selling slippers, bangle shop, selling bangles door to door.

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