Help disadvantaged Bengali children + young people

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Help disadvantaged Bengali children + young people
Help disadvantaged Bengali children + young people
Help disadvantaged Bengali children + young people
Help disadvantaged Bengali children + young people
Help disadvantaged Bengali children + young people
Help disadvantaged Bengali children + young people
Help disadvantaged Bengali children + young people
Help disadvantaged Bengali children + young people
Help disadvantaged Bengali children + young people
Help disadvantaged Bengali children + young people
Help disadvantaged Bengali children + young people
Help disadvantaged Bengali children + young people
Help disadvantaged Bengali children + young people
Help disadvantaged Bengali children + young people
Help disadvantaged Bengali children + young people
Help disadvantaged Bengali children + young people
Hand washing lesson
Hand washing lesson

Every year on 15TH October “Global Hand Washing Day” is celebrated in many countries around the world. We also celebrated this day by organizing a “Hand Washing Camp” with the small children of our school. Our objective is to develop this habit in their daily life. They enjoyed the camp throughout.

We taught them through posters and acting out. We taught them also to convey this message of what they have learnt in the school to their parents and friends.

Apart from organizing this camp we also conduct many other programmes on environmental sanitation, health and hygiene for parents on every last Saturday of the month and to the general public once a year on the school annual day on 22nd of December. The New Life Centre school covers not only health education, but also programmes on the values of an all-round education for children and family life.

We guide them also to go for proper treatment to a specialized doctor or a hospital when they are sick instead of being prey to a quack in the village.

We are very much looking forward to starting a mother and child health clinic at this remote village when necessary funds will be available.   

On the Hand Washing Camp day the following was covered:

Washing hands with soap and clean running water protects us from many harmful infections and saves life from deadly diseases. 

When should they wash their hands?

  • Before and after eating
  • After playing with pets and toys.
  • After using the toilet.
  • Before and after visiting someone who is sick.
  • After sneezing, blowing nose & coughing.
  • After touching a cut or open sore.
  • After playing with various articles outside

At the school we are privileged to have an appropriate water supply system from a 1000 ft. deep tube well. We pump water into an overhead tank and supply water through taps fitted over wash basins for drinking and washing purposes.

We taught the children HOW to wash their hands in 10 steps and explained through the poster and acting out (as seen in the photos)

This was a big step in building up the good habit of washing their hands; making them understand how important it is to practise this habit in daily life to maintain good health.

Clean hands!
Clean hands!
Hand washing poster
Hand washing poster
School assembly with flag-raising ceremony
School assembly with flag-raising ceremony

The New Life Centre family of students and staff enjoy celebrating important events throughout the year - such as the birthday of the Croatian priest who motivated Alindra to set up the school in Sarberia, Indian Teachers' Day and Independence Day.

The school day closest to Independence Day (15th August) begins with an assembly as you can see and the raising of the Indian flag to the National anthem. I love the Indian National anthem written and composed by Rabindranath Tagore in 1911. When I visit the school, most assemblies end with the anthem and I always make sure those visiting with me have the words to sing along. It is such a beautiful piece of music and the children sing it with pride.

This year, as part of the celebrations, the male staff played the older boys at football and as it is still in the monsoon season as you can see, a mud bath ensued! There is such a lovely sense of fun between the staff and students that they felt perfectly at home following the football with a swim in the pond in Alindra’s garden.                                                           

No one is left out in the celebrations at the end of the day, with all the staff enjoying some time together.

As a retired teacher I know only too well the benefits of engaging with the children you teach in an extra-curricular way as you then become a person to them and not just a figure of authority. It takes a good level of community to provide this and the New Life Centre capably demonstrates the care that the children receive in this extended family.

School can be fun too!

Football mudbath!
Football mudbath!
A welcome dip in the pond
A welcome dip in the pond

Tiasha Banerjee, a representative from GlobalGiving, has visited the New Life Centre recently and reported on "...the inspiring work that you all (Alindra Naskar, the Director of the school and the staff) are doing. I was overwhelmed by your hospitality."

It is heart-warming to have the work recognised and valued.

Once again my visit to the school this year was a mixture of joy and frustration; joy at seeing the children grow and prosper in this excellent school, but frustration at the difficulties Alindra faces, in this disadvantaged area of West Bengal.

The children who go to this school have very different lives to the children in a school in the UK. Their parents mostly live at subsistence level, their fathers in jobs as daily labourers, mothers at home looking after the children. Homes are made of mud, brick and thatch and daily existence would seem basic to young people in the west.

And yet, children are the same the world over, as this photo (above) shows. When I asked these teenagers to get closer together for the photo they fell about giggling at the thought that the girls would have to move closer to the boys! The middle boy was having none of it as you can see.

My life has been enriched by my visits to this school as I witness how people manage on so little and yet remain joyful and childlike in their delight. The staff at the school are incredibly hospitable as the GlobalGiving representative commented, not only with their material goods but their time.

On my last day I was delayed on an errand and was dismayed to think that I hadn’t said goodbye to them, some of whom I have known for 10 years now. Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the school an hour and a half after the school finished to see that they were all waiting patiently to say goodbye and have some photos taken. The male staff were wearing the Charity’s polo shirts we had taken out with us (below).

Wouldn’t you like your life to be enriched by such contact?

Children at the New Life Centre
Children at the New Life Centre

I joined Hands Around The World in August last year and have been learning about all the projects from a distance. So I was thrilled when the opportunity came up to visit the New Life Centre in Sarberia recently. I last went to India during my gap year in 2000, where I taught English at another village school in West Bengal, and as I stood listening to the children singing the Indian national anthem in morning assembly, the memories came flooding back.

I was welcomed with great warmth and enthusiasm during my stay. The children greeted me with big smiles and “hello Auntie, good morning Auntie” and our host, founder and centre director, Alindra Naskar (below), kept us entertained with stories from his fascinating life, which he has dedicated to helping those in need,

“I worked with Mother Theresa in the slums of Calcutta and from there I went to work with the Leprosy Mission for 34 years and later I started the New Life Centre. I found that my village is so much trailing behind and there is so much darkness of education and many children are growing up without any purpose in life. So I sold up everything I had and used the money to start the New Life Centre.”

Sarberia doesn’t benefit from the interventions of the many NGOs operating in neighbouring Kolkata and like many places in rural India remains a neglected and underpriveliged village. The NLC opens its doors to the less fortunate children in the community and has grown from supporting 39 children when it opened in 2005 to over 500 today.

Although the centre’s primary objective is to provide a quality education for children in Sarberia, it quickly became apparent that it is also a place where people at risk can go and ask for help. They will be welcomed and helped if at all possible. For example, on our first day we met Manu (below, front row, far right in blue)…

At just 21 years old, Manu has experienced a lot of trauma in her life and is vulnerable as a single mother with limited support. When she came to the NLC for help, her son aged 6 was enrolled immediately and all his books and uniform were provided. She is now employed in a part time capacity to care for the younger children and to do some cleaning and general duties. Joining the NLC has opened up new opportunities and hope for the future for both Manu and her son.

Another example, is the story of Sauvic B (below), who joined the NLC in kindergarten and is now in his final year. His mother first came to the NLC in great distress as she was suffering from terminal cancer and was so worried about what would happen to her son when she died. Alindra made her a promise that he would make sure her son was taken care of, that he would finish school and come up in life and so she enrolled him in the NLC. Sauvic lives with his uncle and cousins. Alindra has always offered support as a mentor and talks to Sauvic about working hard and coming up in life and what his mother wanted for him. He will continue to act as mentor when Sauvic graduates from the NLC and moves on to senior secondary level at a local college. Sauvic has done well in school and in Alindra’s words, “his mother would be very proud of him.”

I admire the commitment and enthusiasm with which the children approach school and wonder at their achievements even when the odds are stacked against them.

For girls especially, it takes persverence and determination to make it through to grade 10 and beyond. There is a lot of pressure to marry as young as 14 or 15 years old. Some of those who left school early have returned to join the Vocational Training Programme. I enjoyed getting to know Manabika B (below) and the other women in the VTC, who are working towards a certificate in tailoring.

To date, 96 women have graduated from the programme and many of them have become self-employed and are now better able to support their families.

Thank you for supporting this inspiring project.

Mr Alindra Naskar
Mr Alindra Naskar
Manu in blue, at the front, far right
Manu in blue, at the front, far right
Sauvic B
Sauvic B
Manabika B
Manabika B

It's report time, but as I am going out to the New Life Centre School later this week for a short visit, I will be in touch on my return with up-to-date photos and news.

The school is at the beginning of another academic year, so as you can see, a busy time for allocating new books. There have been a further 65 admissions so far this year. Its reputation is spreading and some children have come from other schools as the parents have heard great things about the NLC. There are now about 550 on the school roll.

I am going out with Bridget the new HATW Operations Manager to show her around, offer lots of encouragement and to acknowledge a job well done. Please watch this space!

 

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Organization Information

HANDS AROUND THE WORLD

Location: MONMOUTH, MONMOUTHSHIRE - United Kingdom
Website:
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Project Leader:
David Steiner
Executive Officer
Monmouth, Monmouthshire United Kingdom

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