It has been my privilege over the fifteen years that I have been visiting the NLC to watch the children grow. Not only physically but in their potential, which is all the more important when they are born into such a disadvantaged community.
I took this first photo of Pallabi in 2008. This was my first visit to the New Life Centre school and she is in front of the building Hands Around the World volunteers helped local builders to build. Alindra Naskar had built the first school building in 2005 with his pension from the Leprosy Mission.
Pallabi’s father is illiterate and when he married her mother his in-laws were so unkind to him that instead of continuing to live with them as is customary in West Bengal he moved his family to Sarberia.
Alindra has counselled Pallabi's father over the years as he told me he is a decent hard working man but felt worthless because of his in-laws’ treatment. Pallabi’s father was determined that his children would succeed where he hadn't, and so Pallabi and her brother have remained at the NLC.
The second photo was taken in 2014 and I wrote about it here in GlobalGiving, comparing the two photos: ‘Here she is in 2014, older, smarter and ever hopeful that these new buildings will enable her to reach her potential in life; the right of any child surely?’ This time HATW volunteers witnessed the third school building being erected.
Here is Pallabi today on the cusp of University a self-assured young woman who has choices, unlike her father who has remained a manual labourer. Pallabi is unsure whether to study Art, her passion, or Geography.
Pallabi's father is now considered a success by his in laws as their granddaughter will be the first in their family to attend University.
How is success measured in education? One individual's story at a time.
Celebrations in the NLC!
Education in the broadest sense brings out the individual talents of the children. When I was teaching I enjoyed being involved in the school plays, behind the scenes, as I saw another side to the children who sat in front of me in class. Mr Naskar knows this only too well and despite the difficulties of the past few years he is always keen to balance education with celebration.
There are fixed events in the New Life Centre school timetable, such as Father Ante Gabric’s (the person who inspired Alindra) birthday, Sports day, but also Teacher’s day and Children’s day. World Children’s day in November was celebrated in the school and the parachute we took out with us in 2019 was used for games and fun once again. This is followed by a meal prepared by the teachers for the children, providing nourishment for the body as well as the mind. Then games ensue with Alindra keen to show his football skills!
When we visit the school Alindra always arranges an outing with the staff to foster a sense of teamwork and community. We have been to the Sunderbans National Park for a day out on a boat, but more often we have just taken a boat locally in the delta. One time when we arrived for Diwali we met in the school in the evening and lit candles around the roof and then had fireworks.
As Director of the school Alindra promotes an ethos of family support, which I enjoyed in some UK schools but not all. Of course the childrens’ academic studies are paramount, especially in this poor deprived forgotten area of West Bengal, but what is also essential for a school is to know the children who are sitting in front of you, their family situation, their motivation and their dreams.
Alindra has not only established a school which provides a higher level of education than is seen anywhere locally, but also an ethos of a caring fun environment, a model unparalleled in this region.
Wouldn’t you like to be involved in this inspirational school?
As well as running the New Life Centre school, Mr Naskar has provided a tailoring course and a computer course in the classrooms after school, for young women and men who leave school with no qualifications, and are in need of vocational training.
The computer course has had a difficult time as the electricity in this area is unpredictable, and the pandemic curtailed this activity for the time being. However the tailoring course has been running since 2008, when a group of Hands Around the World volunteers helped to build the second block of classrooms, which provided space for this programme.
One of Alindra’s extended family, who had trained in tailoring has run the course since 2008, and over 200 ladies have completed it, many going on to be self-employed working from home as can be seen in the photos.
This vital source of income in an extremely deprived area is just another way that Mr Naskar enables the local community to broaden their horizons and have more choice in their own lives and their childrens.
Many of the women who have attended the tailoring course have sent their children to the NLC school, thus ensuring a good quality education for the next generation, which they were deprived of themselves.
The New Life Centre school finally reopened to all the pupils on 16th March 2022. The last two years have been difficult for Mr Naskar as he has struggled to keep in touch with the older children in the school by various means. The Indian government advised schools to go online, as schools did here, but in an area where the majority of parents do not have access to the internet, this was impossible!
Undeterred Mr Naskar kept in touch with the staff who maintained some contact with the older children, either through phones or delivering hard copies of work to be filled in and returned. Despite these conditions, those sitting their Board exam in 2021 did extremely well and have moved on to college and further studies.
The consequences of the pandemic will be felt for many years in this isolated rural location. Many families left the area to go to the city, where there was more help and the chances of a better living. The Government schools in the area around the NLC are offering food packages, which is a Government incentive to get children back to school, but also means that the school roll for the NLC has diminished.
As always Mr Naskar remains positive that the lure of a good education will win and he is confident that parents who are now sending their children to the Government schools will return to the NLC in due course. The discipline and ethos of the NLC as seen in the assembly photo means that the students, who are destined to repeat the ‘hand to mouth’ living of their parents, if they attend the local Government schools, will be given greater choices in the NLC and further education, which is their gateway to a better life.
In the meantime if you would like to enable this inspiring individual and his school to flourish please donate to this life changing cause.
In my last report I wrote about one of the female students who had passed her Board Exam with flying colours. The whole class of Year X at the New Life Centre School did well scoring between 87% and 75%.
Quite a few of the students were sponsored by HATW and Alindra has enabled them to go onto further education in Senior Secondary schools locally. As well as Nilima who I mentioned last time Abu is another student who was sponsored throughout his time at the school.
The photo below is of Abu when he entered the school in 2012. He had the same sponsor for 9 years and so the sponsor has watched this young man develop into a well-educated confident teenager. It is always a privilege for me to see the difference a good education makes to these young people when I visit, and watch them grow in confidence throughout their time at the school.
On my last visit in 2019 we took a parachute with us, and although Abu looked ‘too cool for school’ as a teenager in his ‘shades’, he enjoyed joining in the parachute games, as seen above.
Now he has left school and as I said is in a Senior secondary school, where his important beginning at the New Life Centre school has laid the foundations for a life better than his parents could ever have imagined for their children, thanks to Alindra.
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