Dabar News 21st July

21st July 2014

Computer Training Project

One day recently we were chatting at a local café where, in addition to drinks and snacks, you can even buy a little petrol in an emergency. We were talking with some young people and discussing technology and modern science. One point in particular that came out was the important role that computers and the internet play these days and how the new technology is very much more accessible in the main towns than in the villages.

In the villages very few people have a computer whereas in the towns most people have a computer at home and they will have started becoming familiar with the new technology in their childhood. Young people in the villages miss out on this opportunity and this very much puts them at a disadvantage when they are looking for jobs. In more and more offices it is now essential to have computer skills in order even to be considered for employment. Our aim is to give our young people the skills they need better to compete in today’s job market.

We had a long discussion while I was there. I was very much struck by what had been said and discussed it afterwards with PA Foundation members and staff.

We surveyed the young people in local villages, applying the principles of the Ten Seeds Programme, and learned of many of their concerns regarding the future. Local young people felt that urban boys and girls were better able to advance because they already had training, knowledge and experience of computers. They also were at a disadvantage financially. In the villages many families live below the poverty line and it would be out of the question to be able to  afford computer training for their sons and daughters.

As a result we decided to include Free Computer Training as one of our major project goals for 2014. This meant we needed to draw up a proposal with an estimated budget,  to set up the necessary physical infrastructure, to select experienced teachers, to design a syllabus and so on.

And, not least, we had to begin a search for funding. Our young people are very enthusiastic and have kept on asking when they could start their training. But we needed to find at least part of the funding to make a start.

Some of  you may know of Robert Lush, who has been a very good supporter, friend and guide to us for a long time. He is staying with me here in Dabar and the young people often discuss these issues of training with him too. He is here working with some of my other colleagues on a long term project to archive the film we made of our traditional song and dance and interviews with accomplished local artists.

Robert is financing this major research project. However, recognising how important this computer training is, we have decided to divert some of the money earmarked for the archiving project so that we can start the computer training project now.

Everybody here is very excited about this project. The first offering of the course will last six months, with classes on three days a week, and cater for 30 boys and 30 girls. Above you can see some of printed advertisements we posted in nearby villages with information about the course, the admission dates and other details.  Below you see the new students registering. The young people are eager to get started. On the very  first day, twenty boys and fifteen girls came forward to register and we have already now nearly reached our quota of sixty.

So this month we are making preparations to start teaching and training at the beginning of August. We have engaged a professional computer teacher. We have renovated, repainted and installed new power points in the room at the school which we are converting into our computer training centre. We have bought four computers with tables and twenty stools. Thanks again to Robert for his help getting this very worthwhile project underway.

So now that we have managed to purchase and arrange the physical infrastructure requirements, we need to fund the salaries to be paid to the theory teacher and  supervisors for the practical sessions, plus maintenance and running costs. We estimate the amount required for the first year to be around A$3,600. Broken down in rupees this is:

54,000 = Theory teacher 4,500 x 12 months
84,000 = Practical teachers 3,500 x 2 teachers x 12 months
24,000 = Computer lab attendant 2,000 x 12 months
14,400 = Electricity bill 1,200 x 12 months
  6,000 = Computer maintenance 1,500 x 4 quarters
Total 182,400 Rupees or about A$ 3,600

We have now put a proposal forward to PAI Australia. Robyn Ramsay suggested we also make representations through her to Apex Club Maleny, who sponsored the library which has become such an important part of our community projects. Unfortunately our timing was bad because Robyn then had to be out of station for three months. Ideally we would  waited for her return before we tried to progress but we are trying to make a start now because we do not want to risk dampening our students’ enthusiasm.

Those participting will  get a real boost to their employment prospects. We see it as helping them along on a path to greater self reliance and independence.

Dabar News 14th July

From Dabar 14th July 2014

Hello everybody

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

School
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.

 

Dabar News 7th July

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.