Enabling people to view what Sanchar as an organisation achieves through its programme of projects has been a privilege for me in the last 6 months. Meeting staff, sharing their experiences and understanding what they do, how they do it and why has been a learning experience for me, not only within the field of community development and informal education, but it has challenged my views, values and beliefs in people, barriers, values and most importantly what can be achieved.

As you can imagine resources are scarce for Sanchar, we know there are economic challenges throughout the globe, so for an organisation that is only managing to run from year-to-year, to then experience cost cuttings, short term reduction and restrictions, I can see the concern for the organisation, but most importantly, I see daily the anxiety of not being able to provide a much needed and in-demand service for the most vulnerable, not only in Indian society, but throughout the globe.

So, when Sanchar was able to call-in favours, involve people in developing a media opportunity, they had to make the most of the potential outcome, which would promote, inform and educate people to what Sanchar stands for, does, achieves and provides. Through support of funders, professionals in media (who gave at very low cost), and some famous actors and actresses (Sanchar staff), this short film was developed.

It is no doubt a film that will inform, but for me watching it – it IS Sanchar, it IS what they do, it IS what they believe in…

Please watch, give comment, and most importantly SHARE with others. It is not always ‘money’ that is required, although in much demand, it is raising awareness, realising a need, believing that people cannot live without this service and making sure they don’t. So, please support not only a great organisation and its people, but advocate on behalf of those that are unable to currently do it!

 

Thank You.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0a6ZLWeCl0k&feature=youtu.be

On Tuesday 27th July Sanchar held a Health Camp. These organised daily sessions are run in partnership, usually, with local health care, or assessment professionals with the purpose of assessing and determining peoples disabilities.

People arriving and sitting in the waiting area, at the front of Sanchar’s main office in Kolkata. The start of a long and valuable process for vulnerable, excluded and hard to reach people with disabilities in the area.

This enables those assessed to gain access to differing health, welfare, education and support services and rights. So, as you can imagine, with the direct correlations that disabilities have with poverty, exclusion, ongoing health issues, lack of educational attainment and livelihood participation, to some, if not most, individuals and families the potential benefits and support being offered are viewed as lifelines in their lives.

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It is brilliant being in India, it is so different from anything you can imagine in the UK.

The transport, food,clothing, housing, weather and shopping is so incredibly different, that it is amazingly exciting.

Hard with the heat, humidity and constant demand for water, but when prepared and out investigating with a camera or small video device your local area is captivating.

Where I live in Diamond Park, South Kolkata, it is a 15 minute walk to local ‘Bazaar’, where shops, stalls and mobile karts are all selling fruit, veg, fish, chicken, and much, much more…

This short film shows my trip to Thakurpukur Bazaar one evening to stock up with some of the essentials, enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ab6I0WS_tMk&list=UUiGcjihyeV0ViFs4mTNxdEg&index=2&feature=plcp

Diamond Park.

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Characterised as a well-to-do middle class area with a ‘communal pond’, the community I live and which houses Sanchar’s main office, has many features that can be held up and said to typify both India and (Calcutta) Kolkata. There are commonly held (mis)understandings, of which Mother Teressa was a major player, of extreme, abject and multi faceted poverty. An aspect, although true, which grinds locals, rightly or wrongly.

This is due to the fact that The City of Joy, the one-time capital of India until 1902, is reputed to be held up, if not nationally, certainly within West Bengal itself, as a social, cultural, literary and creative epicentre of all that is Bengali. Yes, they acknowledge and ‘accept’, to a point, Rhabindrath Tagore and his Nobel Prize for Literature, but, as pointed out, there are other ‘famous’ Bangali’s, Calcuttians that, as representatives of West Bengal go, are held in ‘higher’ esteem by her peoples than Tagore. Although I’m not sure whether they may ever really be known outside India or Asia. That may just be my own western ignorance dictating some perverted need to actually ‘want’ to be acknowledged outside Asia. Read the rest of this entry »

I have co-authored a previous blog entitled: Parents’ Empowerment: Changing the status quo in District Level Practices with Sukanya Chatterjee, who is the manager in Sanchar of the Rights for Deaf Children and their Families in India project. The programme delivery achieves through representation, advocacy and awareness raising, the empowerment of parents and wider families of deaf children to facilitate individual and collective (through parents support groups) action to claim the rights of deaf children in health, education, employment, welfare and other areas, through lobbying and influencing local policy and decision making.

Employing 11 full-time staff, the project is delivered in the four Indian States of Assam, West Bengal, Odisha & Madhya Pradesh, attempting to engage 3,500 families of deaf children in its service provision. With over 2,800 families having already benefited from the service, this is no small project for supporting, fighting and claiming the rights for deaf children in India,

Like all well planned, implemented and managed community development intervention programmes, ongoing staff and parents training is a fundamental aspect to its ongoing success, motivation, achievement and team spirit of support. Built into the annual programme is a 5 day residential experience for the staff and parents to come together and support each other through sharing their skills, learning and future plans. I was privileged to be involved in some aspects of this programme.

A full team picture of those attending the training programme. Read the rest of this entry »

Parents’ Empowerment: Challenging the status quo in District Level Practices

Gajanan recently attended a Sanchar Rights for Deaf Children and their Parents training course, he is pictured developing his India Sign Language skills in a workshop.

This is Gajanan Chadokar, he lives in the rural village of Athner, a village in Athner Block part of Betul District in the State of Madhya Pradesh. Gajanan’s 7 year old son Suresh, who is deaf, has been receiving support from Sanchar for 3 years. Suresh has recently benefited from attending a special needs school, Saoner Deaf School, which is 35 kms away in the neighbouring state of Maharashtra.

Local government structure in India starts at village level, villages make up Gram Panchayats, which make up Blocks, leading to Districts and States. There are 19 Districts which make up the State of West Bengal and 50 Districts in the State of Madhya Pradesh in which Gajanan’s village, Athner, is located.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQDsNU3NE5k

VSO indicated that on whole the main ‘issue’ people discuss when coming to Asian, India and developing countries are the toilets. Or, to be clear, the squat-toilets. At some level I do understand, as the fact is I am going to get stomach issues, and it is inevitable that not being used to this style of facility that I will lose the power in my legs at some point in my adventures. I do remember my first experience in Bangladesh, where I was visiting a very rural programme office that was supporting Adivasi people and their land-rights issues, having an urgent need to attend and make use of such facilities, a toilet, I was shown into a small room, which was very hot, very dark and very bare.

On looking around I was confused, I was about to leave when I noticed an eight inch round hole in the floor of the room, which was on a slight slope. After the initial internalised; NO WAY!, which was followed by a gentle internal reminder that there was emergency afoot, my brain started turning. I then noticed a dark bucket with a small jug in it, which was full of water. The picture, just as my eyes were adjusting to the light, began to get clearer…

So, it was off with the tweeds (trousers); rolled up; under arm; and time to scrum-down, as my mate Cammy would say! Now, for me, this is quite a vulnerable position to be in, especially when it is your first time of trying this out and realising your leg muscles are not sufficient, and then the door of the ‘chamber’ opens suddenly! Yip, no lock! After this traumatic experience, on reflection, dignity wise, it can’t get much worse, so, hey!, as Deepak Chopra says, ‘facing your fears will result in the death of them’ – tube!

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Partnerships for any NGO/Voluntary organisation are key for many reasons. They provide support, information, advice and sometimes access to shared skills and resources. Unfortunately people in the field of community work tend to be shortsighted and see only the monetary benefits to partnerships, relationships and networks, and I feel, through my experience, this may also be replicated in parts of Asia, especially when the ‘other’ organisations are not in Asia, or have international status, which is assumed comes with money.

So, when Sanchar informed me that they would like me to attend a children’s summer school activity camp, which is run for the families of employees of Haldia Petrochemical Company, it could either be adhering to the norms, which is ‘partnership for benefits’, or as we say in UK; ‘you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch your back’; or this may be a real chance to educate the young people of today, who hold the future social, moral and financial influences of tomorrow.

Once the red light went off and sirens stopped in my head, due to my own shortsightedness, and discussions started to take place with my two colleagues; Asmita Banerjee and Sujoy Kar; about the programme for working with 85 children in this summer activity camp. I realised that Sanchar’s approach was, yet again, a breath of fresh air. Making use of fun, games and informal learning, they were able to take an advocacy approach to engaging the young people in informal learning around the needs, awareness and rights of children and adults with disabilities.

So, an action packed programme lasting for 3 hours was planned for a senior group in the morning and a junior group in the afternoon, 6 hours of madness, great! Bearing-in-mind we had to travel and stay overnight at the venue (which is Haldia town, developed, named and implemented for all employees of the company), the planning had to include all resources that we required to take with us, as well as any preparation that was required prior to departure. So, it was thinking hats on and planning heads engaged. And, if you don’t mind me saying, I think we did a great job!

OK, we had the help of a real young person, Monomita Chaudhury, who I was allowed to call Tinni. Her role was to keep the old people from not being very boring, and I must say, she did a good job!

Final plans being put in place the night before the madness of working with 85 children and young adults take’s place. From left to right – Tinni, Asmita and Sujoy.

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As a volunteer along with the challenge of a new language and culture, there are fantastic opportunities also. Whilst in Delhi in March of this year, we participated in an orientation course as part of the In-Country Training. A subsequent, and large aspect of that was Hindi learning. This took place 5 days a week each morning, for most of the 3 weeks of the training.

Our teacher and her husband were dance instructors and invited the group to attend a performance celebrating the Tamil New Year in Delhi, their daughter is one of the dancers. It is great to see different cultural things when volunteering, and there was a feast at the end, and that sold me! I love Indian food…

Here are some pictures and a film of the event, the costume, music and overall energetic performance took my breath away, I was amazed and felt very privileged, having been invited and attended.

Sopme of the VSO volunteers heading off to the Tamil Sangam celebrations.

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This is Rupsha Das, she is 6 years old and was born deaf. She attends Sanchar’s weekly drop-in support group. Her mother, Nanda, found out about this service from another mother in her community whose Son, Nayan Das, attended Sanchar, and has been receiving ongoing deaf support services for over 8 years. Read the rest of this entry »