Tuesday, December 18, 2007
The principal at the school found that her walls were getting dull and gray and she came up with the idea that the kids could go wild with their artwork like we did at school. Needless to say, it can take a bit of courage to let a group of 20 kids come into your flat with paint dripping from their brushes dying to get a panel!!
Of course, the children enjoyed themselves to no end and really brought the project together once they figured out the purpose of the mural and the technique that worked best. The designs were in their minds and came out with earnestness.
As adults, though, I think we learned the greater lesson in this process: the importance of letting go of our preconceived notions and limits and allowing the children (finally) to express themselves in a totally organic way. There were a few panic points -- but it all turned out so bright and meaningul. You know that when the teachers are also being challenged and learning...that real education is taking place!
NOW we are looking for a real wall outside to cover with our designs!! Spruce up a neighborhood and create some brightness on the streets of Kolkata!
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Yesterday at the Calcutta International School, Class XI students welcomed as many as 12 non-government organizations (NGOs) to the music room, which we had always thought to be a very spacious room until now. Before people could even get their products on the table, the sales began -- with parents, teachers and students buying handicrafts from around 11:30 NON-STOP til about 4:00 pm when it finally slowed down.
This is what I call fair trade! I wanted to bring the idea of BUY HANDMADE to a population that is increasingly buying from big shopping malls, and bring the concept of FAIR TRADE to youngsters who may now understand that choosing to buy something (put their money into one pocket or the other) from an NGO actually means a contribution to a more just, more peaceful world.
People who work for NGOs are often working on very low budgets and long hours, although many understand how important it is to communicate with like-minded people and those groups working toward the same goals, it just doesn't happen because there is not a drop of spare time or resources. I was so happy to see the NGOs themselves doing a lot of networking and interacting and learning from each other. My students from Shikshamitra ran their own table selling handmade cards, bookmarks, gift tags, eco-tote bags, hand-stitched coasters and sweet basil plants. What can I say? They had a BLAST!
My heart goes out to everyone who participated in this event, and made it the success that it was: a cumulative total of Rs. 45,000 in just about 6 hours. One group, Ankur Kala, reported to me this morning that they had record sales, more than they'd ever sold at one fair! All the money ends up going toward dedicated efforts to support disadvantaged individuals who strive daily to learn skills and earn financial stability.
Everyone went home smiling and I am more than sure that several tiny mustard seeds got planted at this event -- let's see how they bloom???!!!
Friday, November 23, 2007
The kids asked Yuuki where he lived and he drew a picture of his little country house back in Japan, with orange orchards in the back on terraced mountains.
He swiftly drew a razor and his own head in the bathroom mirror when they asked him why his head was completely bald.
After interacting, all the students did simple black line drawings to express something to Yuuki about their own lives. Communicating through pictures turned out to be the theme of the session, though we didn't know that until we ended.
And THAT, my friends, is the nice thing about alternative learning!
Saturday, November 17, 2007
All these designs are $1 each
(paid by check; postal transfer in japan; plus postage from India which is usually quite reasonable). Most of the cards featured are printed on handmade paper at Silence and hand-painted to provide further income generation opportunities. Silence is my favorite local fair trade organization, training and employing those who are deaf and 'specially abled' workers. They are the real McCoy when it comes to Fair Trade and I am proud to support them and acknowledge their efforts in my own small way! .
This year, I must say a huge thank you to two very creative and generous people in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Rick and Brenda Beerhorst, who volunteered their woodblock print artwork for the Nativity, the Flying Dove, the Ornament, and the Hope Bird.
There are also beautiful cards made by Calcutta Rescue (the embroidered elephant), Ankur Kala women's support organization (the red mandala and blue snowflake), and the students at Suchana, the school in rural West Bengal that I often visit and help out at sometimes (the set of 6 designs).
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in prices for the other designs, and getting cards sent out to you next week.
By the way, Rick and Brenda also shared designs for 'The Children's Series' featuring quotations by Rabindranath Tagore on the back side which I produced for sale at Alcha in Santiniketan
For other designs and some better photos: see http://www.flickr.com/photos/tik-tiki/sets/72157594306594451/
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
A good friend of mine from college days, and from my hometown too, opened her shop this past weekend in Brighton, UK. The shop is dear to me because the concept all started when I sent a hand-embroidered card to Siobhan several years back -- and she wrote back asking if there were other handicrafts as beautiful as the card to be found in Kolkata. I began introducing her to several NGOs with production units and Siobhan gradually started developing a plan to sell the items where she now lives in Brighton, strictly adhering to fair trade rules and regulations. Three trips to Kolkata later...the culmination of almost three years of collaboration is that the shop opened over the weekend. Congratulations to Kolkata Shop -- I am hoping that many, many people find out about the incredible fair trade handicrafts coming out of Kolkata by entering through your doors!
If anyone knows someone in the London-Brighton area, please be sure to invite them to stop in for a browse if in the neighborhood. They won't be disappointed at the variety and quality...and every purchase is full of hope for the hardworking artisans back here.
I'm so proud of you, Siobhan!
8 Grantham Road
Brighton BN1 6EE
Tel. (01273) 565105
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
I brought in lots of paint brushes and paint, telling the children we needed to clean the school up before leaving. They were elated to know that I meant we were all going to paint the walls that have become very dingy and gray over the past three years. The results were colorful and uplifting! After we finished painting we all went for ice cream at the house of a teacher who lives close by. What a great way to end a long session of hard work. Enjoy the holidays everyone!
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Jane's room is kept there just as she had left it.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Ratna works for the organization Anjali, which brings structured art therapy programs into three government-run mental institutions right here in Kolkata. She spoke to my students about the people she works with and helped the children to understand them a little better: they also need food, clothing, love, human rights and education...just like you and me.
After Ratna left, her message rang out in our class. Do your work with ENERGY! What a fun day we had. Every time a child finished their paper, Ratna boomed out with words of praise and happiness. I'm not sure who was having more fun, the kids or her!
Thanks for bringing your energy into our classroom. We are going to try to build a proper pressing table in our class on Tuesday, as suggested for doing proper printing.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
44 children's books and every single one of them G•R•E•A•T. I need to do a sequel to 'To the Local Bazaar...'
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Thanks goes out to "Pinky-di" and Baliraj who came a long distance to show us how to make the bracelets. Pinky-di, who wanted to become a nurse, learned how to make these at school and sold them to raise money to be able to take her Madhymik exam. She is now working as a doctor's assistant here in Kolkata. She and Baliraj are experts at crafts like book binding, glass painting and quilling and we hope to have them visit the library again soon!
Monday, August 13, 2007
by mustard seeds
My sister found these tote bags (literally hundreds of them) in a thrift shop in arkansas at 10 cents a piece this summer and bought a whole heck of a lot of 'em. We are jazzing them up to promote the idea of "carrying your own bag" to the market ...so less plastic ends up on the streets here!
This sure was a nice way to spend a very rainy monsoon Monday. Hashi and I were stitching and pinning all day. When Girl arrived home from school, she helped me with the labels as we already had an order for six of these.
Refusing plastics, by always carrying an extra bag inside your daily bag, is one of the easiest ways I know to help this planet!
Saturday, August 11, 2007
In 1999, Rosalie, an American speech therapist spent her summer vacation vounteering at one of Mother Teresa's orphanages in Kolkata. She was schocked that disabled children were left in their cribs all day or on the floor without any stimulation or educational opportunity whatsoever. Without hesitation, Roasalie took an early retirement from the New Jersey Public School System and returned to Kolkata to develop the special education programs these children required!
Rosalie now runs Empower the Children , an organization which gives formal structure to the work on-the-ground in Kolkata. ETC works to provide security and opportunity to Kolkata's most vulnerable children, including the disadvantaged and disabled children living on the streets and in the slums-- for whom basic needs are often beyond the financial capabilities of their families.
I am so happy to have Rosalie, and her surge of ever-expanding good ideas, here in Kolkata on the NGO front. Visiting her class at Prabartak Home, one of the eight ETC projects, is always a great source of inspiration for me as a teacher...and as a human being.
Today we learned about elephants -- those majestic gray mammals that roam the West Bengal forests. Rosalie had a beautiful plasticene elephant to show to everyone and some photographs of elephants in their natural habitat. These were passed around as she talked about their LARGENESS and their ROUGH skin and how they sometimes do WORK in forests. She told them how the mother and baby walk - with the baby holding the tail and each student got up to try this with a friend. She talked about how elephants actually walk on their tippy-toes...and then all the students gave it a try. They all tried throwing inflatable hoops on an inflatable elephant. Taking part in the class and having a turn at each topic is a big part of the class and everyone (rightfully) gets excited. Each class ends with a craft and often the components of the craft have been prepared by students in schools in the US as part of a volunteer program (Rosalie likes TOTAL involvement!).
Today each student got a cute little cardboard elephant. First they glued on the rough skin (a swatch of paper that had elephant skin on it); then they added a swatch of fabric that was the elephant's blanket; lastly, they added the head dress (some tassles). The craft requires motor skill coordination and a fresher on things that were presented in the lesson.
Classes usually end with a lot of music and dancing - and hugging!
She has an excellent class on teeth and Tibet also!
Good luck to Rosalie for all that you do. I hope that our collaborative efforts will also be successful.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
We piled into two taxis and made our way over to Gol Park, where Karma Kutir is located by the Ram Krishna Mission. We were first given a demonstration of the batik dyeing process outside on the roof, and how the wax is put on the cloth to create designs. The women at Karma Kutir were extremely kind to us and gave us a warm welcome and an unforgettable experience to carry back home with us.
Shikshamitra students were each given a handkerchief-sized cloth and got a chance to try their own wax designs. They brought along their design notebooks to get ideas. Once their designs were down, they went back outside to dye the cloth. Everyone exclaimed, "Oooooh!" when the colour magically appeared as the handkerchief was dipped into the dye and turned a surprisingly bright color. The last step was taking off the wax in a vat of hot water and hanging up to dry.
As you can see from this photo, we had excellent results and a very fine outing!
Friday, June 15, 2007
RCFC provides free medical treatment and schooling in Kolkata for disadvantaged children with polio and other orthopaedic problems.
I will take the donation to the Centre when I return in July -- thanks so much for your great work!
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
While I travel in the US I am carrying the very first handicraft products developed by the children I teach at Shikshamitra in Kolkata.
In order to launch this afterschool skills training program, which will offer exposure to underpriviledged students who want to expand their vocation possibilities, we are asking for a donation of $5 or more. You will receive an eco-friendly handloom, hand-decorated tote bag made as the first sale-able product by the older children participating in our Learn & Earn Project (the Moon Group) or a set of handstitched coasters handstitched by the Sun Group, who are the younger students.
The children are developing stitching and design skills with CLOTH as the theme. Everyone is very excited about the new program and looking forward to feedback I bring back with me. We had our first sales to well wishers in Montana.
Please be in touch by email if you would like to make a donation or support us somehow from where you are.
BIG THANKS GO OUT TO:
* Margo, Jocie and Chase Baker
* Julie Dozier and the Staff of Batesville Family Practice
* Sarah and Jennifer in Bozeman, Montana -- our first sale!
* Leslie in Memphis
* Tony in SFran, who gave us a digital camera so we can try out some photography classes at Shikshamitra too
Enjoy your products and send us a photo if possible!
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Our April display highlighted some of the best books on environment. One member, Momo, came in with a great poster on reducing consumption and proper disposal of trash and another smaller boy told me that he had cleaned up one small area of our campus so that he could make a secret clubhouse there. Children made magazine beads and worked on their blog. When everyone left, Bapu finished up his foresty Earth Day mural which he has been painting on the wall of the verandah. Malini and I made two Earth Day cakes for her class, now studying rainforests. It was a magically spontaneous Earth Day for our little community
Friday, April 20, 2007
Mustard Seeds presented Godhuli with Rs. 8000 (approximately $200) to help sustain this organization's efforts to address deep-rooted (pardon the farming pun here) problems in BASIC education opportunities for all levels of society. A special thanks to Chris Rickerd, whose quick-hearted donatoin set this meeting into motion, and to friends in Japan who contributed generously in November.
Fundraising for Godhuli and RCFC, the children's center, will be the focus of the next Calcutta 100 Club project. If you would like to make a small contribution of just $5, the idea is pretty simple. With 100 members paying $5 twice a year...we make a total of $1000 per year which can be used for specific projects that can be accomplished with this sort of "mustard seed size" financial push!
MORE ABOUT GODHULI:
GODHULI is an adult education centre located in Nadia, West Bengal. Tarun Bhaduri, who manages an organic farming initiative in this area, organized this school approximately a year and a half back. It is open from 5:30 to 9:00 every night except Wednesdays and Sundays since there is an evening market which farmers sell at. Currently there are 29 students: 8 men and 21 women. They are learning basic literacy and can all now sign their names and write their address in order to sign important papers. They can all count up to at least 20. They are all day laborers, working in the fields which are gradually turning over to organic. A teacher's salary is Rs. 1000 (approx. US$ 20). There is one teacher working here at present, Mrs. Maya Mondal. They are also in need of teaching aids and materials such as pencils, notebooks, sample books, etc.
C/O Mr. Tarun Bhaduri
West Bengal 741223
Friday, April 13, 2007
Making a contribution to Rehabilitation Centres for Children (RCFC)
Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
I would like to take this opportunity to write to you about RCFC once again. We are very proud to have your name on the list of donors and we hope that you will wish to continue helping us in whatever way you can.
Started by Jane Webb in 1973 for rehabilitation of orthopaedically handicapped children, we are still continuing the services relentlessly. We are doing 25 operations per month and patients are coming from remote areas of not only West Bengal but also from Bihar Jharkhand, Orissa, Bangladesh. Around 50 to 60 children are staying at the centre for treatment.
RCFC is now suffering from an acute financial crunch. All the services are continuing but we are facing great difficulty in meeting the expenses since no fund is forthcoming from our foreign donors almost over a year. We are managing both ends with great hardship with our strong determination and goal of services to the children in order to give them a chance to live a purposeful life.
At this point of time I would seek your help for some donation as you deem fit for medical rehabilitation of orthopaedically handicapped children undergoing treatment at the Centre. In the past you have always been kind enough to donate to RCFC on several occasion. We fervently appeal to you for help and would also request you to approach benevolent donors to extend their helping hand to generate fund for the welfare of this Centre. (All payments should made in favour of REHABILITATION CENTRES FOR CHILDREN)
Kindly note that donations of RCFC are exempt from Income Tax under Section 80G
Please help us to continue the work Jane started by giving us your financial and emotional support.
Thanking you once again and we look forward to your esteemed response.
I had been hoping to visit the centre but as it is quite far from where I live, I asked RCFC to visit us to pick up the donations I collected from the coin caddies and kind well-wishers in Japan. Mustard Seeds was able to donate Rs. 7000 to RCFC and with the remainder, we have become Lifetime Members so that we can stay abreast of the work being done at RCFC. Also, children at the library donate from time to time by dropping coins into the coin caddy that sits on the shelf; we for our little stamp collectors, we also collect used stamps and sell them at the library. This money also always goes into the caddy. Today we gave Rs. 110 from the children and have started the collection again by placing the empty coin caddy back on the shelf at the library.
Special thanks to Adarsh Sharma, Noriko Takemura, and Hiromi Yamamgami in Japan for their efforts to collect contributions for the treatment of the children at RCFC. A very special thanks to Mary Ohdai who has been handling the mustard seeds postal account in Japan.
Rehabilitation Centres for Children
59, Motilal Gupta Road
Kolkata – 700 008, West Bengal, India
Cheque should be drawn in favour of "Rehabilitation Centres For Children"
Bank account number for foreign donation
Name of the bank: Standard Chartered Bank
Bank's address: 41 Chowringhee Road, Kolkata - 700071, India
Savings Bank Account Number: 332-1-00-6193-8
Thursday, April 12, 2007
The program began this week. The older kids will come in two days a week afterschool to participate. CLOTH, as you can see from our bulletin board, is the focus. At least for the first two months. On Tuesday, we held a small exhibition of cloth: cloth puppets, wall hangings, clothing, cushion covers, bags, pouches, ornaments, etc. It came together very nicely, especially as some of the children also remembered to bring something in for the display. One boy brought in his sister's embroidery sampler, and another brought in a small hanging she had in her house. We discussed the connections we have to cloth, and how emotions can be attached to pieces of fabric. Sudeshna showed us a quilt her mother made for her using Sudeshna's very own frocks from childhood. After the discussion, the children got to work making their Learn and Earn notebooks, covered in scrap fabric. On Thursday, we began one of the first production projects. We will focus on creating unique products that may be for sale. To start we will be making some patches to sew on bags which I hope to sell in the US this summer to raise money for this project so we can buy supplies and get the kids set up to start producing and selling for themselves.
We are also looking for donations of CLOTH, any old clothes or fabrics that people want to discard will be recycled here.
Some other possible exposure experiences will involve paper, clay, food, etc.
Wish us luck in this endeavor!!
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Searching out bargains and requests from Mustard Seed Library users, the kids and I always spend a long time inside National Book Trust and Children’s Book Trust, two government-subsidized publishers, selling a huge array of children’s books in both Bengali and English (at incredibly reasonable prices like Rs. 13 a book). Both our family and friends enjoy the treasures we find at Boi Mela long after the stalls are broken down and the well-tromped upon area where it was located... is breathing again.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
While visiting the US last year, my sister Margo and I mapped out a project for the Mustard Seeds fund-raising effort called Calcutta 100 Club. Our aim was to financially assist the village patua artist, Karuna Chitrakar, and her family in building a sturdy-but-simple mud house on some land that she acquired several years back in her village of Pingla, Naya in Medinipur.
Margo collected approximately $240 from her friends in Batesville, Arkansas and I sold some of Karuna’s paintings and other Indian handicrafts to raise approximately $600 for Karuna and other organizations in Kolkata while I was in Chicago and Florida (and Japan in November).
Planting another Mustard Seed -- The following people helped to build a house!
Margo Baker and Family • Suzanne and Charlotte Schaeffer • Tad McNulty • Mary Clock • Sandy Taylor • Gayle Ross • Beckey Dickey • Robin King • Linda Baker • Jayne McClure • Charlotte Finney • Cindy Kallshick • Sue Ellen Dial • Angela McMahan • Robin Martens • Melissa Cooper • Pat Collins • Rehana Huq • Jan Fujikawa • Deborah Bachmann • Yukie Kaneshiro • Rashmi Ramaswami • ˙Helen Tsatos
Karuna worked out the details of the house construction, while coming back to us to report her plans. In the end, she decided to take out a loan to make it a bit bigger than what was first planned. Her family is already able to live in their house; but the mud walls need to be done later.
We (our friend Bikram, Hiromi who was visiting from Japan, Joydev and I) visited them in mid-January and were treated to sweets, a huge lunch, and a walk about the village!
Mustard Seeds seeks to introduce the traditional art form of pata scroll painting to a wider audience in the hopes that both the paintings and the painters can persevere. Support and encouragement to rural artisans and their traditions is another aim of our small efforts toward empowering people outside of the big cities. Thanks always for your interest and support!
For the next fund-raising effort we will collect for GODHULI, an adult education centre located in Nadia, West Bengal. Tarun Bhaduri who manages an organic farming initiative in this area organized this school approximately one year ago. It is open from 5:30 to 9:00 every night except Wednesdays and Sundays since there is an evening market which farmers sell at. Currently there are 29 students: 8 men and 21 women. They are learning basic literacy and can all now sign their names and write their address in order to sign important papers. They can all count up to at least 20. They are all day laborers, working in the fields which are gradually turning over to organic. A teacher's salary is Rs. 1000 (approx. US$ 20). There is one teacher working here at present, Mrs. Maya Mondal. They are also in need of teaching aids and materials such as pencils, notebooks, sample books, etc.
C/O Mr. Tarun Bhaduri
West Bengal 741223