In the month of December we haven’t traditionally held any major festivals so many people here in India have adopted Christmas as an additional opportunity for celebrations. After all, the period of British rule is part of our heritage. The British established the leprosy hospital here in Purulia and Christian missionaries founded English-medium schools which will still run today, now taught by Indian teachers.
At the end of November, the temperatures usually start to become very cold. Everybody has to start dressing more warmly. This year, in fact, winter came late for us so we hadn’t felt the change of seasons until now. However now, as always, many people have started suffering from fever, coughs and colds because of the change of weather.
So in this blog we’ll tell you about our distributing warm clothes to the children in our hostels. We’ll also tell you about the new planting in our school campus garden, about Elena from Spain and her campaign for a plastic-free village and about Jyoshna Latrobe organizing a Kirtan Music Festival and Competition that we plan to run here next April.
We have important news to tell you about our water projects. Our farmers are now using the water from the refurbished riverside pump system to plant additional crops. We have also just started construction work to create an irrigation hub and public water station on the Foundation’s land just across the road from the school campus. On the same land we’ll build a Community Hall to accommodate local events and ceremonies.
Warm clothes distribution
Our boys and girls in hostel all are in good health. They have now returned in good spirits from their home villages after the Pujas in October and November. There are now 15 boys staying on the school campus. Word has spread among local people that the new boys are doing well and are happy so other people have asked us to take their children on. Because of the cold, we bought new warm clothes for everybody and distributed them during the first week in December.
Gardening at the school campus
Rice has in the past been our main crop and it is grown immediately after monsoon. There is just the one harvest each year, whereas at the school campus we have plenty of water so we can plant a variety of crops all year round. My mother, with the help of Arati, Manu, Master, Sami and Manu, plus Manunjoy and the other kids have planted and are cultivating a variety of greens, cauliflower and cabbage. We even cut down our first bunch of bananas a couple of days ago. In three months time we won’t be needing to buy vegetables from outside markets for the hostel children’s meals. In fact there will most likely be a surplus, which we can distribute among other villagers who might be in need.
Plastic free village
Elena from Spain has been staying at the guest house at the school campus and is doing a great job for the village. The kids really like showing her around and doing things with her. Their latest idea is a campaign to talk about and clean up some of the plastic that is just lying about around the village. She and the boys choose a particular part of the village and target it for a cleanup operation. The area looks much tidier afterwards. They also made rubbish bins for the school and even some pillows out of plastic that people had thrown away. It will take while, but these projects all show that there is something we all can do about the problem.
Jyoshna La Trobe, who lives in New Zealand, has been visiting us here and exploring the music and dance traditions of the former Rahr Kingdom for many years. She is especially interested in our Kirtan music and is very knowledgeable about it. In fact she earned her PhD in Musicology at SOAS, University of London, by writing her thesis about this sacred music. She is organizing a Festival with us to take place here next April. We are very proud that we now have the infrastructure to be able to run such events. You can see more details by clicking the link below.
Water Project (Riverside Pump)
We have had the new, upgraded riverside pump and extended pipeline for just a few weeks now but are already enjoying the benefits. First we replenished one of the main village ponds that people use for washing and bathing. We were able to fill it up completely so now the water is cleaner. Many farmers, because they have this new irrigation source always available, have gone out and planted additional crops of wheat and vegetables. Any day, if you walk down to the river, you will see at least three farmers tilling more fields. From now on the farmers will no longer be dependent on one single rice harvest a year. These additional, alternative harvests would never have been possible without the new pumping system.
Water Project (New Water Station)
We have just started the next of our water projects, which is to build a water station on PA Foundation’s land across from the school campus. Last week we employed a bulldozer to prepare the site. Yesterday we drilled a deep borehole to provide a new water source.
Drilling the Bore Well
The water station will provide two main services. Firstly, it will provide good drinking water to children, agricultural workers, people herding their animals to graze and anybody else passing by on the road. Secondly, it will supply water to the pond in the stream by the bridge below the school. People like to use this new pond for washing and bathing. However, it is small and so the water soon gets dirty as it goes dry. Farmers also use it as a useful source of water to pump out for irrigation, which means it goes dry even quicker. They bring their own portable machines to pump water out through long, flexible hosepipes to irrigate some of the paddies that can’t be reached from the main riverside system.
We aim to keep replenishing the water regularly from the new water station. The water should be cleaner for washing and bathing while at the same providing a more reliable service as an irrigation hub. This will bring new irrigation to at least 50 paddies that are within 100 meters of this pond. In future the farmers can be more confident in planting additional crops because they are guaranteed a regular water supply
Behind the water station we will also build a new community hall to serve Dabar and other nearby villages. Presently, when people hold events such as wedding and funeral ceremonies, they pay outside companies to set up a temporary tent, cooking facilities and provide tables and chairs. Now they can choose to use the new Hall as an alternative. The people in Dabar and the surrounding villages think it is a good idea. The Hall will be more comfortable and cheaper. At the same time the rent we charge will provide additional income for PA Foundation.
Merry Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year to you all
Sanjay Kumar Mahato