This is Robert, for a change, posting to our Blog. It’s our first since December, the reason being that over the last four months we have all been absorbed in completing three major projects. To remind you, they were:
1] Building a dining room and kitchen for the hostel boys
2] Extending the pipeline to pump water up from the river for irrigation and to replenish the communal ponds
3] On the land across from the school, building a public drinking water station and a Community Hall to cater for marriage ceremonies, funeral occasions and other events.
I’d like to tell you here about these new developments. They have already begun to improve things both for us in Dabar and also people living nearby.
Dining Room and Kitchen
At the same time as we were repairing the storm damage to the school buildings, we built a new kitchen and dining hall. We prepare the boys’ food there and they now take meals at their new home. This together with the extra space in the new sleeping quarters meant we could offer places to some newcomers. So now there are 17 boys living with us. We also cook and serve meals there for Pujas (religious festivals), great and small, and other celebrations taking place at the school.
Riverside Pumping Station
We extended the pipeline again, the one pumping water up from the river to irrigate the fields and replenish the communal ponds. As we told you in December, this development has really helped our farmers. In each of the last three years they lost their annual rice harvest because the monsoon rains ended early. Now they can now irrigate from the river whenever they need to and the farmers can be confident that in future they will always have enough water to complete their harvest. As a bonus, they can also make several additional plantings of mustard, onions. potatoes and a variety of other vegetables throughout the rest of the year.
Now, we can also pump water regularly into three of the village ponds. So we are very fortunate. Since November almost all other ponds near Purulia have gone completely dry. Even people living in Purulia Town itself have had to buy their household and drinking water since then. Yet here we can regularly replenish our ponds. Having plenty of water makes such a difference during a heat wave. People can cool off and keep clean. At this time last year we suffered through what seemed like an epidemic of skin infections and stomach problems caused by bad water. This has not happened this year, even though the weather has been even hotter and we have had no rain since monsoon last year.
Community Centre and Drinking Water Station
We built a public drinking water station on the land across from the school. The people passing by (school children, people herding their cattle and goats to pasture and others) can stop by for a drink of water or to take some with them. Many would like to have a wash too. So we need to think about what we can do about that.
We opened the Community Centre in April. The first event was a four-day Kirtan festival, which Tinku and Jyoshna Latrobe from New Zealand organised. Around 44 groups performed and over one thousand people attended each day. Then Tinku’s family sponsored a celebration for friends, relatives and the local people. Again, during the course of that day, over a thousand people came by to enjoy a meal. This week we hosted a concert of Baul folk music. I hope this will be just the first of many such concerts. The space near the temple is a pleasant and safe place for the audiences to listen and watch. The walls and trees also improve things by deflecting outside noises away and directing the musical sounds towards the audience.
Here are some photographs taken last weekend at the first Marriage Ceremony to be held at the Community Centre. The pond and the shrine are used as part of the rituals. The statute at the top of the shrine is an image of Krishna. The shape of the ceremonial pond evokes his footprint.
So there are plenty of improvements to be pleased about. The hostel boys are doing really well, especially considering the problems each of them was having at home when he first arrived. We hired additional staff to take care of the Community Centre and to assist at events. There are now 45 people on the monthly payroll. The construction workers (as many as 40 sometimes) have been working continuously since before December and have welcomed the much-needed income. Having the new water supply from the river changes many things for the better. The farmers were quick to take advantage their new opportunities. People in the village clearly are already healthier than last year thanks to the cleaner water.
And there are other things to tell you about in our next posting.
Thank you, and not just for your vital financial contributions. Your interest and encouragement make all the difference.