A report on our visit to IIMC Kolkata - January/February 2011
by Ivy Silk and Kathy Strickland
We have had an enjoyable and very busy third visit to IIMC, this time travelling together and accompanied for the first two weeks by Susan Dutton, a semi-retired teacher from Shropshire.
We attended the16th Annual Children’s Festival which this year was held on just one day. There are now over 3,000 sponsored children and so it has been decided to only have a three day festival every fifth year.
This year’s festival was dedicated to England & UK and we were asked to raise the Union Flag at the opening ceremony.
It was good to meet so many “old friends” – too numerous to record everyone but to single out a few – Dr. Sujit and Barnali, Pretti, Ratna and Sujetta, Swapan, Sukumar and all the familiar faces in the kitchen, shop, administration, sewing room, bag making,etc.
We did get involved in the clinics and indoor centre but we also had the opportunity to be taken out to more network villages and to see the developing projects as listed below.
Peace Council Programme.
This is the fourth and latest IIMC initiative following those of health, education and economical empowerment for people in the poor villages, The aim is to encourage self-confidence and self-respect through global awareness among the village mothers who are often deprived of human rights, ( see leaflet) and we had the privilege of attending some of their meetings. So far over 20 branches have been set up. An impressive new Peace Council Centre and Conference room is almost completed at IIMC Headquarters.
Network Programme and Health Promotion.
Sujetta is a very dynamic addition to the staff working under Ratna and helped by a new member, Ontera. They took us out to several rural villages where we met the people and their health- workers. A helpful retired teacher named Tapati translated at Global Awareness meetings.
A new centre is being built for up to 50 girls and we were shown around this by Swapan. It is approximately ½ mile from the present centre and should be opened once the government has agreed to widen the access road. Ivy has suggested that some donated money should be spent on providing and outdoor playground. We were disappointed that a table previously made for Sohan was being used to hold a fish tank & his mother was feeding him, having seen him feed himself at his own table in 2009. Also the swing made for his sister had been broken by other children, so depriving her of its use.
Day Care Centre.
They have approx. 25 children of widowed mothers who are really in desperate need of more stimulation. They are lovely children, the majority of whom want to join in when we play with them. With some donated money we bought a CD player so that they can play musical games and “sing along” and we, and Susan when she was there, were encouraging the young volunteers to continue getting involved with these and the handicapped children as well as those in the indoor centre.
Visit to Prasadpur.
This is always a special place for Ivy to visit as the people at St. Peter’s Berkhamsted paid towards the cost of the school. The schools were not open during that week but we were pleased to see the fans installed in the classrooms. We were shown the new micro-finance building by Swapan which is almost completed and which
will enable the banking system to be brought to many more women in this rural area. The
money for this was donated by St Mary’s Church, Bottesford.
Visit to Dhaki.
We spent two nights at the Dhaki Centre following a network visit to - Negendrapur and a trip across to Jata. Shaymel, the manager spent much time with us, and took us out with him on his micro-finance visits and to a Peace Council meeting. The indoor centre is being well used by people with malnutrition and the maternity unit has been used for about 25 deliveries. Most mothers sill prefer to deliver their babies at home. Recently a midwife from Australia spent time there to train the nurses. Dr. Sujit would like to see Dhaki developed further as a main centre but feels this is not possible until doctors are willing to spend time there. Before we left, a newly qualified doctor, Blanca, arrived from Spain as a volunteer and she is planning to go down there for three months. We were very pleased to see the use of solar power for lamps in Dhaki & else where. We had taken clothing for children which was gratefully received at the clinic.
Not much has changed since our last visits. Ivy suggested to Ikbal that footstools would be helpful to both patients and staff when dressings are done to feet and legs. He had some made before we left.
The children here get very little stimulation and we again tried to encourage activities with resources we had brought with us. This can be quite frustrating as anything left with children gets taken home at weekends including clipboards which we gave to them to rest drawing paper on. When we left we hope that some more shelving units were being made for bedside use for the children and their mothers.
We meet our sponsored children & those of friends & family. 2 children required bicycles, so we arranged for Barnali to organise that after we left.