To all of our friends, benefactors and supporters, and to everybody we know, we at Prabhatalloi send our thanks. We wish everybody a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
We last posted to our blog in June. It’s been a long gap and we are sorry about this. We’ve been working hard at a variety of projects to help improve things in our community, and have also had a lot of things that needed attending to. I’d like to take this opportunity to bring you up to date with what we have been doing.
Work at the Leprosy Village, Nabakusthashrum
This was our main project for 2017. Nabakusthashrum is a special place, a village specially built for lepers which is about 10 minutes walk from Dabar, along our side of the river. It’s been so moving to learn details of its history, which goes back to the days of British rule. A German Lutheran missionary founded two villages in what became Purulia District specifically for men and women afflicted by leprosy, where they could live full lives with dignity. These villages and the Leprosy Mission in Purulia Town have become a part of our heritage. Unfortunately, the village was badly damaged during a great flood over 15 years ago and it has also been neglected ever since. In recent years we at Prabhatalloi have taken over much of the responsibility for the welfare of the villagers living at Nabakusthashrum.
This year we installed a pump to supply a new water tank, from which we circulate filtered water throughout the village. We also connected the village to the main electricity grid. We repaired and repainted the living quarters, some of the walls and the temple.
We’ve appointed an administrator, who visits them most days. He organizes their affairs, helps them to look after their properties and arranges the care they need. We supply them with rice every month, and make regular medical checkups and provide free medicine to those who need it. We’ve also hired to cook for them and to help for them with the heavy jobs.
We’ve renovated one of their public rooms as a club room. Inside we store boxes of storybooks and other useful items, and a television so that they can keep up to date with the news and listen and see news and other things.
The villagers asked us to help set up regular a day-long Kirtan concerts where they can perform their own traditional spiritual music and others can come and hear them perform. So we’ve organised monthly events to which anyone can go and listen to their music, see their dancing and enjoy their plays. In years past, when the men there were still young enough, they even had their very own Chhau dance team.
For this work we got help from many benefactors: from our friends Laura and Nick in Switzerland, from Robert, Erica and their many relative in the USA, from the villagers of Dabar themselves, from our founding benefactors at PAI in Australia, from Cherie and Gary in New Zealand and from others in Europe. The villagers are very much touched by what we’ve been able to do thanks to your generosity. Some of the older and fitter men there came out during harvest to help us with our cultivation. They wouldn’t take any money for their work so we paid what they should have received into their new bank account. Most of the villagers now also have their own individual savings accounts, where they deposit their pensions.
Our heartfelt thanks to you all. You have restored the happiness to this place.
Other Prabhatalloi news
Because we had a good monsoon this year, we also had a successful harvest. However, the first rains came in the form of violent storms, which caused some damage. Thankfully none of the buildings suffered serious damage. However, two sections of the walls around our school did collapse, but it was the walls surrounding the Community Centre that suffered the worst damage. Amost all of one wall collapsed completely.
We had to act quickly to put this damage right, before the heaviest rains came, so we needed find the money for repairs at very short notice. Many of you were able to contribute, including PAI in Australia, Paul Williamson in Australia, Lorenz from Austria, Jyoshna la Trobe from London and New Zealand, Gary Willoughby and Cherie Conrad from New Zealand, Robert’s family in the USA and from Dr. Sanatan Dutta here in Purulia.
As a result we could make the repairs in time and put a new, stronger wall, the better to withstand future storms. We also repainted the whole of the school.
Last year we inaugurated an annual Kirtan Festival and Competition, in collaboration with Dr Jyoshna la Trobe from the UK. This year we repeated the Festival and Competition btween the 27th and 30th October. Our aim is to foster, promote and preserve this and other traditional singing styles and their ragas.
Erica, one of Robert’s nieces, came from America to visit us. She stayed here three months, doing some teaching and getting actively involved in our social work. She learned a remarkable amount of Bengali language in such a short time. She helped us a lot at Nabakusthashrum and did so much which helped to restore that community to their happier state
In October our great friends and benefactors Laura and Nick Packer came on a short visit us. They were at last able to meet everybody and we could let them see how all our projects were progressing, especially the ones they have been taking a particular interest in. They seemed pleased with what we have been doing and contributed some helpful suggestions for our future projects. We felt so happy and honoured to have them here among us.
Our long-time friends ,Gary and Cherie, came from New Zealand to visit us. They hadn’t been here for two years so, of course, we were very glad to see them again. And as a big bonus, they brought with them a proposal for us to start tailoring and manufacturing clothing for them again, which they will sell in New Zealand—Great news for them and for us.
In January we’ll send you some details of our plans for 2018.
Sanjay Kumar Mahato