There has been a long gap since our previous Post but, at long last, here is one for August. A lot has been happening. August is always an important time for everyone here because it is when we concentrate on agricultural work. The monsoon blessed us with good rainfall this year so the farmers in our village are hoping for a good harvest. The rains just about filled the ponds, which are so important to us, both for daily life (for washing, bathing and cleaning) and also for Pujas, spiritual occasions and family events. In August each year we honour Ma Manasa Puja and celebrate Independence Day. In Dabar this year we also built a new dining hall, repaired the storm damage at the school and are doing what we can about the health problems that followed on from the previous months of drought.
The River Before The Rains Came
After months of drought and weeks of severe heat, with temperatures regularly over 50 degrees Centigrade, we finally got some good rainfall. The earth, the plants and animals were all thirsting for a drop of water. Unfortunately, when the cool, moist air finally arrived it reacted with the hot earth and so the first rains came in the form of violent storms driven by strong winds. In just a few minutes we lost the roofs of two buildings at the school. Since then everything in nature has cooled down because the rain has been falling steadily, just enough each day so that the earth can absorb it without flooding. Now the land everywhere looks green and the farmers are starting their agricultural work again.
In this post we are focusing our attention on the Village Bank. This wing of our Foundation has been helping many villagers quietly behind the scenes.
In fact our Village Bank is different from the usual commercial banks we are all familiar with. Its purpose is to help local villagers with small loans when they have come to a time of crisis in their lives or else to help in starting up a new small business. Read more
First of all we would like to say how much we appreciate the recent blog published by Prabhatalloi Inc in Australia. We echo all their thanks and congratulations to you all.
Here in Purulia our summer hot season is fast arriving in its full intensity. Although it is now only just knocking at the door we can already see its effects everywhere, mainly because we had such poor rainfall in July in August. Read more
The New Boys Hostel is Now Complete
Now Holi, the festival of colour is over, we would like to publish a special posting because our new Boys Hostel is finished. The original four plus seven more new boys have moved in to start living there this week. Read more
In our last blog we told you about some of the work we did last year. There were some ups and downs but in the end the year 2014 turned out to be a good one for PAF and PAI.
I’d like to invite Robin Atkinson, Shivanii, Robyn Ramsey and any other PAI members to send us material for our blog. If there is anything you would like to share or discuss then please do send it to us so we can publish it. Read more
18th August 2014
Hello again to our well wishers and friends. I have a number of things to tell you about in this Post:
*Ceremonies marking India Independence Day
*Our most important festival: Manasha (Snake) Puja
*A Chhou Dance Workshop held at Nabodaya Central School
*Computer Class, Our First Practical Session
India Independence Day
This is an important event in Dabar Village, in Purulia District and all over India. We held our own flag raising ceremony at the school after class ended for the day. Below you can see photos of our event and also a similar one taking place at the Nabodaya Central School, a nearby boarding school for boys and girls.
You may already know that snakes have an important place in the cultural and spiritual life of this area. Manasha Puja honours the Snake Goddess, Ma Manasha. It takes place on 17th August and in fact is Purulia’s most important festival.
Nearly every home observes it by sacrificing a duck in the evening which is meant to be eaten on the following day. Having the meat is an important spiritual ritual which also has a sound basis in medical science. Typically the work of planting the year’s harvest will finish on about 15th August. In the weeks running up to this date almost everybody, both men and women, will be working the fields, often in deep mud. Unfortunately, while they are doing this, a particular type of worm enters their bodies through the instep of the foot and eventually lodges in the stomach. People eat the duck because its meat kills these worms. It also acts as an effective medicine against fever, which is very common now and at other times of the year when weather patterns are changing.
We held our first practical sessions last week. We felt they ran to a high standard. The children very much enjoyed the tasks we assigned to them. They were very excited and pleased finally to be able to start working with computers.
The photographs should show this. Although the classes are directed at young people in Year 10, we also have some adults coming to the Computer Workshop to learn. Also, above and below you can see photos of Shanta giving a demonstration to some young girls after their sewing class last Sunday. In a few years they can enroll in the course too.
In the short term, our next aim is to find some money to install a practical WiFi link. It would be very helpful and important in the later months of the Course. And in the medium term it would make it possible to take up opportunities for computer-based outsourcing work that we could carry out in the village.
Chhou Dance Work at Nabodaya Central School
An important aim of Prabhatalloi is to preserve and promote the local performing arts, such as Chhou Dance, Jawa and Karam, and indigenous languages such as Kudmali which are under threat from otherwise welcome development and mass media.
This includes local dance, song and instrumental music. One particular thing the Foundation did early on was to establish a school to give free lessons in Chhou Dance to boys and young men. This is still running well. There are six artist instructors and they meet every Sunday for training.
After hearing of the classes and seeing some of their occasional performances, the staff at the Nabodaya Central School (named after Jahar Nabodaya Vidyalia), a very highly respected local boarding school for boys and girls, asked our teachers to come and run a workshop for some of their own boys. Forty of their boys are training with them for four hours a day over a fifteen day period. It has been a great success. It is easy to imagine that these boys will wish to continue their training and others will want to join them.
Best wishes to you all and thank you for all your support and encouragement.
Sanjay Kumar Mahato
From Dabar 14th July 2014
Today we would like to report on how things are going with the women’s group and the tailoring classes we run at the school.
But first I would like to tell you some news about the village. July should mark the start of monsoon, the rainy season. It is an important time for everybody here because it is vital to us having a successful harvest. In addition, the underground water supply and the ponds have to be replenished because it is from there we get our main water supply for the rest of the year.
Unfortunately we are still waiting for some significant rainfall and so all agriculture work has been stalled. We had distributed seed among ourselves and planted it so that now green shoots have begun to appear. Indeed, at the moment the landscape certainly looks very green. But without any substantial rainfall very soon, in the next three or four days, the young plants will begin to wither and die. This will have very serious consequences for this, our main harvest. We are all still very much hoping for rain
A few days ago in our village, in Upper Dabar, the people arranged a Kirtan performance [Kirtan are local traditional spiritual songs whose roots go back to ancient times]. And a few days later the people in Lower Dabar arranged their own Kirtan performance. Both performances ran continuously over three days.
We perform this type of spiritual ritual in the hope of a successful harvest and a good rainy season. Many people will sacrifice a goat and mark the occasion with a celebratory Puja in honour of the village god [Ours is the god of the tree], again hoping for plenty of rain and a productive harvest.
Traditionally it is this time of year that many marriage ceremonies take place. This year in our village we celebrated at six marriages
Our school is quietly going on as normal. Yet this is for us the most significant project in terms of numbers of staff involved and the number of people (the children) who benefit directly. Today we held a meeting at the school with all the teaching staff to discuss our work schedules and other school related matters. We also discussed what improvements we could make and how we could further develop the school.
Today, as we do twice each month, we distributed two copybooks and a pencil to each child. We are also carrying out a survey of the parents to get their feedback and find out about what problems they may be having.
Women’s Group Business Venture and Tailoring Class
Cherie from Australia started this business with a few women from the village and it is now running well. The women are making women’s personal items such as pads and panty liners. They also make flags intended to used at festivals, fairs and Puja. Although this business is not related to Prabhatalloi, it does indirectly help some of those women who have trained at the PA Foundation sewing and tailoring classes.
The women earn wages and we receive income from selling the goods wholesale, to be sold on retail in Australia, We are also receiving a percentage of the profits made from these sales. Cherie also pays us rent for using workshop space at the school.
In local villages most of the women use cloths for their period time. Too often they do not use clean cloths or they wash them in dirty water. Because of this they run a high risk of infection. They are also shy about discussing personal health problems. So in addition to the pads we send to Australia, our female staff speak with the village women to make them aware of the issue and distribute these pads among them for free.
We are very thankful to Cherie for her initiative and encouragement. This project really contribute here to people’s confidence and their hopes of making a better.
Sometimes after class or work the girls relax and enjoy the school area before they go off home. They sit about chatting for a while and here we see some of them giving poses for photographs.
Sewing and Tailoring
Our Sewing and Tailoring classes have been running since the beginning of PA Foundation. It was Shivanii Di from Australia who started them. At first there were only four or five students taking part, who met up every week at Chaina’s house. We had no sewing machines, only needles, thread and waste cloth. But now, we have about seventy or eighty children and young women learning about sewing and tailoring. It’s been a long journey but, if you considered where we began four years ago, you can appreciate what a great success this project is turning out to be.
Here are a few photos from both the past and present to refresh the memory.
This Post is to bring you up to date with what we have been doing up to 7th July 2014
1] Chhou Dance.
In May we were invited to take part in a Chhou workshop at Navodaya Central School. Boys from our own Sunday Chhou class were invited to perform along with some other very experience and accomplished groups. We were very proud of how our dancers performed. The boys very much expressed their hearts with the dance and some of their spectacular moves were met with spontaneous roars from both the children in the official audience and those in the unofficial audience which gathered on the roadside to watch and listen.
Navodaya is a boarding school for both boys and girls which was built not far from Village Dabar, off the main road into Purulia, just 2 years ago. The children attending the school come from many other Districts but the staff at the school believe it is important that they learn about the local culture in Purulia locale. The School have asked us to participate in their first annual Chhou Workshop starting on 1st August. Both boys and girls will be invited by the school to take part and the Workshop will go on for a full 15 days. We think such events can serve as a model for other big schools as to how they can help to keep this ancient art form alive.
2] Leprosy Village
We are needing to expand our services to the village because the Government has had to completely withdraw their support. Our medical staff made their regular bi-weekly visits to the leprosy village, where they check check blood pressure and distribute medicines. One man need a crutch this time so this was supplied from our Prosthetic Factory and fitted (for free). We also distribute bandages, dettols etc. as necessary. And we now have a diabetes diagnosis machine to use there and at the medical centre.
3] Tree Planting
This year we lost many trees. which were cut down and sold to make some short term income. Most people here do value the trees and appreciate their importance to the environment. But times are very hard just now. The recent high inflation has made staple food very expensive and the Government’s long term weather forcast predicts poor rainfall during this year’s monsoon, which will mean that the upcoming harvest will be poor and food and money will be even more in short supply next year. So people are forced to chop down the trees in order to make enough money to survive. Some very old trees which sheltered our school had to be cut down. To compensate for these sad losses our Foundation now plans to plant fifty new trees.
4] A Room to house the Computer Training for young people in the village.
We are still trying to arrange funding for this important project but in the meantime we can carry out work for the necessary infrastructure. We already had a large room on the school grounds set aside for the Prosthetic Factory but we now carry out this work in Purulia Town in the same building where our sewing units are located. We contemplate partitioning the room into two areas, one for storage and one for the computer courses. We will also put in furniture, additional power points for the computers and two additional windows for better ventilation.
5] Audit Work
We have been very busy finishing the audit details required of us for the previous financial year. We very much hope that the time we are now investing in learning the Tally accountancy software will make this job much less time consuming this year.
We are building a guest house on the school grounds, which has meant digging a new bore hole well and installing a water purification system. This new water supply is already fully funded because it was meant to provide a supply to the new guest house. But we are seeking some additional funds so that we can also extend this new clean water supply to the school. That way better water will be conveniently available to the school children.
The new guest house is on track to be completed in June
And we just got funding from Australia to pay for a diabetes diagnostic machine, which will be especially helpful to the people we support in the Leprosy Village. From that money there will also be some left over to help buy some medicines for the village. This will certainly help alleviate the short term crisis. But we do need to find reliable funding for the longer term too, because the government has reduced its aid so drastically.
Finally, we are seeking funding for two very important and substantial new projects. Firstly, we wish to run a course to develop computer skills, a course which our young people themselves have urged us to provide. Secondly, we want to find ways to improve the shared water used by all our villagers, both in terms of having a convenient, reliable source of clean water and also examining how it could better be stored and used once carried into the homes.
Sanjay Kumar Mahato (Tinku)
Villagers repairing the road through Dabar