Help disadvantaged Bengali children + young people


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!

Whenever I visit the New Life Centre school my friend Alindra Naskar, the school’s founder, always takes me out walking around the local vicinity meeting the locals. This photo was taken on such a walk. Everyone is delighted to see us, whether they know Alindra or not, and they usually insist on us having a drink and some snacks with them. This lady as you can see has her hands full, but as usual we are greeted with smiles of welcome and everything else is put aside whilst chairs are brought out for us to sit on and refreshments served.

At these times I cannot help but compare what would happen in my local vicinity if Alindra visited me. Obviously the weather makes a huge difference to the lifestyle of the locals in West Bengal as they tend to spend most of their time outdoors and only really use their homes for sleeping in. Even cooking takes place outside as seen here.

But even if we were meeting neighbours here in the UK would they be so hospitable? What is it about this poor community that they want to share what little they have with you?

Unfortunately my life experience has taught me that generally the more people have the keener they are to hold on to it for themselves. The less people have, the more they seem willing to share it with others.

Alindra Naskar has taken this metaphor to heart and the education he received he wants to share with as many children as possible, which is why the New Life Centre school now has over 500 children. My son talked to me once about ‘Checking your privilege’, a phrase I hadn’t heard before. It seems an important phrase for our times when our society in the West seems more polarised than ever. What seems ironic is that the disadvantaged of this poor village in Bengal don’t ask it of themselves, as the answer would be too painful. And yet they still keep giving.

Wouldn’t you like to share your privilege with others?

Some of the Older Schoolchildren
Some of the Older Schoolchildren

The parents of the children at the New Life Centre School have married young. When I was there last year I was told a typical story of the parents of one of the girls in the school. Her father saw her mother when she was in Standard 8, 13 – 14 years old and he told her he wanted to marry her. She refused for a long time as she wanted to continue her education, but he was persistent and eventually she dropped out of school and they were married at 15.

They are happily married but the mother is insistent that her daughter will remain in the school and not drop out like she did. Alindra Naskar the Director of the school, as a father of 3 highly educated daughters is very keen that the girls should remain in school, as they are the future of the country he says, as mothers they will educate their families and lead by example. Education will literally save lives for according to the United Nations Girls Education Initiative, children of educated mothers are twice as likely to survive past the age of five!

The older girls in the school can be seen here and they are given every encouragement at the New Life Centre to carry on with their studies, including remaining at the school for extra curricular studies until the parents are able to escort the girls home. Parents are afraid of their young daughters wandering around the village, as girls have been known to be kidnapped from this area as it is close to the Bangladesh border, but also with Alindra’s encouragement and the understanding of mothers such as the one I spoke of at the beginning of this, parents are becoming enlightened to the prospect of their daughters having choices about their future.

As Barack Obama said when addressing the UN Assembly in 2012, ‘The future …………must be shaped by girls who go to school and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams, just like our sons’.

Wouldn’t you like to help empower these girls?


Southampton to Sarberia

I visited St Paul's Church in Southampton recently to update the congregation on the amazing work that Alindra Naskar is doing in the New Life Centre School. Two of the parishioners, Brenda and Peter went on a HATW project to Purulia and first met Alindra when he was working for the Leprosy Mission in 1994. They have been friends ever since.

This illustrates well the HATW ethos which is to 'Give a hand not a handout'. This translates as going on projects not only to help financially, but also to forge friendships with the local people which will sustain and support the project going forward in a very important way. 

I have always had the opinion that you don't have to force charitable acts on people. Whenever a group get together for whatever reason you will often find that there will be some charitable giving and I don't necessarily mean financially, but inevitably a financial reward will follow.

The emotional support you extend to a fellow human being when you are on a HATW project can enable the school/orphanage/training centre to sink or swim. When you extend the hand of friendship and 'never let go' you impart strength and confidence to your fellow that is inestimable.

Brenda and Peter's congregation have supported the New Life Centre school financially over the years, but it is their enduring fellowship that has given Alindra Naskar the inner strength that he needs to continue in his vision to educate the next generation of this poor deprived area.

Alindra set up this plaque to St. Paul's when he first opened the school in 2005. He is a Christian but the majority of the children in the school are Muslim and Hindu. Alindra is trying to make a better world for the children in Sarberia.

Wouldn't you like to be part of this better world for the children in Sarberia?

Just reach out your hand.

Students acting out polio immunisation
Students acting out polio immunisation

 Global Giving February 2017

Education in the broadest sense is paramount at the New Life Centre School in West Bengal. Alindra Naskar the Founder and Director of the school is keen to educate the parents as well as the children to be not only academically enlightened, but also to be ‘good citizens’ of India and their local community.

When I heard that the children were being asked to go in fancy dress for their Annual Sports day recently, I was intrigued to know how this fitted in to the day. Alindra wrote to me that this event is informative for general public awareness. ‘Go As You Wish’ is a way of educating each other in the school of current problems in society or general Health and Safety advice.

The pictures with this report show the children enacting various scenes illustrating issues currently being tackled in India at this time. Clean up India is an important theme in the school as the children are made aware of the consequences of litter. You can also see a boy showing Green India by Plantation.

Another topical dramatic scene is of a currency forger being arrested by the police as the Government has tried to clamp down on ‘black money’ recently.

Other scenarios covered by the students were the importance of immunization, as shown here representing the polio vaccine, the consequences of when people ride/drive drunk, over speed or talking with a mobile phone whilst cycling, equally dramatic scenes with liberal quantities of fake blood!

When I was there last November one of the girls in the school was extremely ill with measles, and had been off school for a month. Alindra went to see the parents who had sacrificed chickens and set up a loud speaker chanting prayers on her behalf.

Had they thought about using the money they had spent on visiting a Doctor Alindra asked?

Education at this level will save lives in this poor deprived area of West Bengal, and to inform whilst having fun at the same time, seems to me to be what will make the biggest impact. In being asked to participate in these dramas, the children will learn lessons that could never be learnt as effectively in class.

Wouldn’t you like to support this enterprising School?

Students illustrating the cleanup campaign
Students illustrating the cleanup campaign
Acting out a Police Arrest
Acting out a Police Arrest

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

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