Welcome to the next part of our fourth edition of Bekind Update.This section will focus on a number of experiences shared by Brian and Shane on their latest visit to Calcutta on behalf of Bekind Ireland, which took place between May 19th and June 12th 2010.
SEED 5+1 A new project and newly sponsored children
There are many organizations doing good work with needy children in Kolkata and Bekind has been approached by several for support. Making sure that everything is properly run and legitimate is a cause for concern so some homework and a background check is necessary. We visited the SEED boy’s home in Howrah in the company of their long term employees and co-ordinators Mr. Sadre Alam and Ms Madou. They shared all the relevant child care policies and background to the organization with us. Details about SEED and a link to their website are available on the Our Projects section of our website.
SEED (The Society for Educational & Environmental Development)
SEED was established in the year 1990 to bring some betterment in the lives of slum children through providing education. Later it was experienced that street children, runaways and orphans of both sex were at high risk on platforms of Howrah Station. For their survival and protection an intensive care and support in form of shelters and homes were constructed with the generous contribution of friends from abroad. SEED’s efforts helped to develop the status of these children in education, health, socioeconomic conditions and creativity. Besides all that our endeavor gave these children safety and showed them that someone cares about them giving them back their lost childhoods.
The home we visited had 25 boys from the age of 5 to mid teens. The children welcomed Shane and I to their home and each wanted to impress us, showing us their homework, drawings and dancing for us. We spent a couple of hours there and learned more about their backgrounds. If you let your heart rule your head you would want to sponsor all of them but having a son who is studying accountancy has its advantages and we knew our budget would only allow us cover 5 children.
So five new candidates were chosen by Sadre: two boys aged six: Deepak and Sahil, Sandip aged eight, with Souvik and Saddam ten and eleven. Each boy with similar difficult backgrounds, orphaned, abandoned, mistreated it seems the same stories are replicated so many times. Thank God there are organizations and good people who care enough to give these kids another chance of childhood, a safe haven and a future.
You are possibly questioning the title to this section, SEED 5+1. The + 1 in this case, despite trying to control the budget is an older boy named Dilip. He is 16 years old and confined to a wheel chair due to an accident last year. We were informed that Dilip was fetching coconuts from a tree and fell from a height resulting in paralysis. He needs physiotherapy and general care. Bekind will assist in supporting the cost of his treatment
If you would be interested in sponsoring one of these boys, contact us for more information about our child sponsorship programme.
Return to Rupayan - Introducing the boys to their sponsors
Setting up the sponsorship program with Mr. Tapan Banerjee from the Rupayan Home was something I wanted to do from the first time I met the children in 2008. The home caters for boys with similar backgrounds to those mentioned in the previous section.
Last year when the Castleknock Community College students came to Kolkata we took all 14 boys away for their first ever holiday, a weekend in the Sunderban region of West Bengal. It proved as described in last year’s newsletter to be a great success and several of the students and their families are now sponsors.
With Tapan translating for me, I sat each child down individually and told him he had someone far away in Ireland who cared about him and wanted to help with his education. I gave them a picture of their sponsor and their name(s). Bemused and curious, each boy waited his turn to learn of his new-found friend in Ireland. Great excitement ensued afterwards with the boys wanting to know about their sponsors: “Who is my Uncle?...Who is my Auntie?”
Having been rejected and neglected by their own parents it was wonderful to see their emotions as they began to understand someone cared for them, albeit from a distance. For Shane and me it was a real privilege and those special moments will never be forgotten. It was a true case of our motto being put into practice, “If you can’t be there, be kind”.
We took the boys for a day’s outing to a park called Monobitan where they could run and play and enjoy the facilities: swings, seesaws, paddle boats, bicycles etc. All this including breakfast and lunch made for a great day out in a beautiful rural setting away from the noise and pollution of the city. Football and chasing in 40 degrees of heat left us all tired but happy at the day’s end. The boys still had enough energy to hug us to death as we said our goodbyes. Giving them back a little of their childhood of which they had been deprived was truly priceless.
Bowbazar Swimming Club “Pay back time”
Our support for Bowbazar Swimming Club over the past two years has been targeted in assisting boys and girls who come from poor families to pay for swimming lessons and provide transport costs and nutrition. We thought it would be a good idea for the children from SEED to learn how to swim as organized a morning session for them. We struck up a deal with the club manager, Shankar, to provide lessons for this year. Getting into the murky water in the shallow end of this enormous “pond” and almost doing the splits on the slimy bottom of the pool made me question whether this was a good idea for the kids or not?
The pool is located in College Square and was originally built in the early 1900s by the British as a reservoir to supply water to the fire services. Several clubs now use the facilities and although not the most hygienic place I have swam in, it serves its purpose and gives pleasure and sport to many. Concern for the children from SEED was really unfounded as they have heightened immune systems from growing up on the streets of Kolkata and many of them were good little swimmers, having learned to swim in the ghats along the river Hoogly. The ghats are used to cremate the deceased. Afterwards the remains are taken down the steps to the river and left to float away to start the next life…
The Hoogly is a tributary of the sacred river Ganges and is synonymous with Kolkata and despite the fact that much untreated “fluids” and “solids” for that matter enter into its murky depths; many thousands bathe, swim and wash and make offerings each morning and evening. They are watched by many who cross the massive Howrah Bridge which carries over 150,000 vehicles each day and almost the whole population of Ireland, as it is estimated an average of 4,000,000 pedestrians use it on a daily basis!
We left our little swimmers enjoying a packed lunch provided by Bowbazar Swimming Club. Their smiles paid us back for very little effort and the swimming lessons continue in our absence.