Sunday, 31 May 2020

Udayan Responds Quickly to COVID-19

  • COVID-19 Relief Work
Despite initial response by the Government with supply of rations to our Leprosy Colonies and some support by 'local groups' it soon became apparent that our children and their families would need more support to make it through the extended lockdown with adequate supplies to ensure proper nutrition.  Like so many in India, due to lock-down people in the colonies have not been in a position to go out from their home for begging, rag picking and petty labour work, as a result they are not being able to arrange their bare minimum food to survive. 

We approached Wipro Foundation on April 22nd 2020 for providing Humanitarian support to distressed 600 families (2400 people) of 10 leprosy colonies.  On 27th April 2020, Wipro foundation approved the proposal and transferred the INR 6,00,000 (Rupees six lakhs only) to Udayan account. Our staff members and community volunteers from the respective colonies quickly mobilised and coordinated with local grocery shops to finalise the rate of dry rations for relief work, with the support of our Director.   

Dry ration support was provided to 600 families in 10 colonies under the district Bardhaman Bankura & Purulia of West Bengal. Each family received Rice 20 kg, Soybean 1 kg, Potato 3kg, Masoor Dal (Red Lentil) 1kg, Mustard Oil 1liter, Sugar 1kg, Suji 1kg, Salt 1 kg, soap 1pcs. Distribution of dry rations started a week before and completed on 12th May 2020.

Additionally, with confirmed support from SBI Life Insurance for the year 2020/21, we approached them to divert funds allocated for food and nutrition of our children at Udayan, towards providing ration relief at this time.  An amount of 3lacs was harnessed to supply 1 month's ration to our 270 children from 197 families.

With our staff located in many of the colonies, we have been undertaking certain education and awareness activities to highlight the importance of 'social distancing', wearing of face masks and hand-washing.

  • Education of our Children
We are doing our best, under difficult circumstances, to keep the educational interests of our children at front of mind.  As such we are harnessing the little technology our families have access to, to communicate with them and try to continue imparting education during the lockdown period.

Children (From Classes KG to IV) of Udayan Vidyalaya attending on-line classes from their respective colonies, conducted by our primary teachers through whatsapp and phone calls. WhatsApp groups from classes KG to Class IV have been formed by our Udayan teachers and they are taking subject wise online classes from Monday to Friday (from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.) they also share assignments through WhatsApp.  Children clear their doubts by raising questions in the group. Children who don’t have their smart phones are getting support from their neighbours to stay connected with teachers for their academic updates.

Children from Class V to XII who attend local Government Schools have completed their online sessions which starting from 13th April 2020. Now their summer vacation has been started from 15th May it will end on 10thJune 2020. Again, the online sessions will start from 11th of June 2020 while we await announcement of the Government for re-opening of schools in the state.  The State Government has also taken initiatives for subject wise classes (class V to XII) on television, and our children are following that also.
Our 7 children, pursuing Nursing courses in Chhattisgarh are also regularly attending online classes from 10am to 5pm conducted by Nursing colleges.

  • Scenario Planning Post Lockdown
The NGO sector in India has been in a state of 'flux' over the last 2 months during Lockdown, as it tries to re-imagine life post COVID 19 Lockdown and how to resume programme delivery whilst protecting beneficiaries and staff from the virus.  The Governing Body of Udayan has been working with our Director Dipak Sahu to develop a range of scenarios, including relevant budget, to look at how we might operate in a post lockdown environment where the virus remains a risk. 

We are refining our plans at the moment and are looking at taking the following courses of action:
  • Disinfection of all the buildings and vehicles of Udayan.
  • Compulsory screening for all people entering through gate with thermal scanner - no staff should come for duty with fever.
  • All the people entering into gate shall be permitted inside only if they are wearing a mask.
  • Hand sanitizers/Handwash shall be kept ready at the entrance for all children, staff members and outsiders.  After entering everyone will sanitize their hands before proceeding to Udayan buildings.
  • Visitors/sponsors/volunteers are not allowed to visit the Udayan cottages and interact with the children during COVID 19 Pandemic period. They can visit the office with permission from Udayan authorities.
  • Special attention will be given to wash rooms/toilets every day, cleaning with phenyl.
  • Sanitisation of Walls/Doors /Windows and all fittings will be done twice in a week.
  • ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ during COVID -19 pandemic will be given to House Mothers and Brothers, which will be displayed at a visible place in each of the cottages.
  • Wearing of masks will be compulsory for all the staff members and children inside Udayan.
  • Before coming to Udayan, children should get a fit certificate issued by a doctor.  Children having cough, cold and fever will not be allowed at Udayan, they will be allowed only after they recover from the infection.
  • Keeping of sanitizers / hand wash in all cottages and at prominent places and in the office will be done. Availability of hand washes in toilet of each cottages & Kitchen basin will be ensured.
  • Concerned House Brothers and House Mothers will promote regular and thorough hand washing for children.
  • After lockdown, when Udayan will be reopening, we will bring the children onto the campus in a phase wise manner.
  • For each cottage there will be a Covid-19 point of contact person. The focal person will be responsible to report the health status of children on a daily basis to paramedical staff and paramedical staff will bring to notice any illness to the Director.
  • Staff members will avoid crowds and will ensure they maintain social distance while working and interacting with children.
  • All the staff members shall daily sanitize their respective Mobile phones, Laptops, Computer touch pads with sanitizer before using it in office.
  • All the groceries and vegetables will be properly cleaned and  sanitized as soon as they are brought from outside before using in kitchen. All the kitchen staff members will use hand gloves, head cover and mask while cooking in community kitchen. Frequent hand wash by cooks will be monitored by Accountant and Store Keeper.
  • Food will be served by maintaining social distance. All the food will be served by using utensils, touching of food by hand will be strictly prohibited. 
  • The Public Helpline numbers of the Central Government of India (1075) and Government of West Bengal Help Line Number (1800313444222/03323412600) to be displayed in all prominent places inside Udayan premises. All House brothers & mothers must keep the same saved in their mobile phones.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

International Volunteering Program

Udayan has re-launched its International Volunteering Program and has developed a detailed ‘Guide for Volunteers’ to help them in making the decision to volunteer and spend time at Udayan.  With the help and support of City of Joy Aid, UK and Hazel Nash, the program has kicked off with a bang – with 3 recent volunteers from the UK and more volunteers set to arrive in the coming months!

  • 2 x New Volunteers from UK

2 New Volunteers arrived this week from the UK and are presently spending time with our children in Udayan. Miss Joanna Musty passed her Bachelor of Arts with honours in Politics at Newcastle University and is presently working in an accounting Firm in Jersey. She is fond of teaching children & spending time with toddlers in Udayan. Miss Anna Sophie Rowan has completed her studies in Business Management from Newcastle University with first class honours degree. She has experience in working in corporate communication and is eager to use these skills to support Udayan Communications efforts. She likes to spend time with children and teach sports to the girls of Udayan.  Both of them would like to help Udayan in near future.  

  • 3 x Volunteers from UK

Udayan played host to 3 volunteers from the UK in late 2019 who spent a month at Udayan upgrading the Library, planning a revamp of Dominique Lapierre Park, teaching English and sports to children and partaking in all aspects of daily life at Udayan.  The experience provided an amazing cultural exchange for both the Volunteers and Udayan Children and Staff – injected loads of positivity on campus and motivating everyone.

“Udayan was honestly the most amazing and interesting experience of my life, and I am so grateful to you for organising it! 

For me, the most wonderful part of the experience was the people. Both the staff and children were so lovely, friendly and kind. The staff in particular went out of their way, bending their backs to help us and ensure we had a good time in every way they could. The love and positivity I felt from the children, is something I will always remember. And the friendships I made with the older girls is something I hope will last.

As well as this I also really enjoyed learning about leprosy in India, and the challenges faced by those affected by it. I really appreciated the conversations we had with Adrija, as she patiently answered so many of our questions. However, in a way a low point was visiting a nearby leprosy colony, as I found it extremely sad and heart-breaking to see the conditions there. However, it was uplifting to see the work that had been done there to improve it.

The highlight for me has to have been completing the library project. It was really hard work planning it, sorting through the books and painting it, and I can’t tell you how relieved I was to have finished it, and pleased I was that the children now have a pleasant and exciting library.” – Olivia Lewine Mair, Volunteer from UK.
  • Upgrade of Guest Rooms 
To support the re-launch of our International Volunteering Program, Hazel Nash has generously supported the revamp and upgrade of the Udayan Guest Rooms to be more homely and comfortable for long-term volunteers.  The upgrade included the installation of small kitchen appliances & equipment (fridge, kettle, cups, bowls, cutlery), furniture (dining table & chairs), recovering of an old sofa and lounge chair, purchase of Almirah for storage, clothes line for drying clothes and installation of mirrors, hooks and soft furnishings.  An air conditioner was also installed.  The Rooms will soon be painted and water proofed in preparation for monsoons – giving them a new lease on life!  Guest rooms are now warm and inviting and offer the comforts of home – a great asset for all guests for Udayan.  A huge thank you to Hazel & City of Joy Aid UK for their ongoing support, passion and drive!

  • Carbon Offset Program
In order to offset the carbon footprint made by volunteers who fly from abroad to Kolkata, City of Joy Aid, UK, Hazel Nash and Udayan are collaborating to establish a ‘Carbon Offset Program’ whereby trees are planted in the Leprosy Colonies that we serve.  It’s an exciting environmental initiative and one that many internationally are conscious off these days.  We also hope that the program doubles as a beautification and greening program for Colonies and can offer livelihood supplementation to colony residents who will plant and look after the trees in the long term.  Trees will consume the CO2 generated by airplane flights and of course provide oxygen into the atmosphere to help tackle climate change.

50th Anniversary Celebrations

Udayan celebrated its 50th Anniversary with gusto on 26th January with many dignitaries, donors, members and friends joining in for a wonderful day of celebration!

Australian cricket legend, Steve Waugh was present to help bring in the occasion and addressed children and guests - recognising the incredible feat of having educated and empowered children affected by leprosy for half a century!

To celebrate the milestone, over 150 people attended an event at Udayan, which saw the inauguration of a statue in memory of the late founder, Father James Stevens; a tree plantation by VIP guests; a historical photographic exhibition; and cultural program by Udayan children.  

A new family centre was also unveiled as a tribute to Lallita Stevens who has now moved to the UK to be with her son Ashwini.  The lalita Stevens Family Centre will provide an undercover, seated area for families of our children to congregate on visits to Udayan.

Udayan was decked out in style with many buildings receiving a facelift and paint job prior to the event. Even staff donned a new uniform for the occasion ...

Children put on a grand performance of singing, dancing, playing instruments, displaying karate techniques and perfoming the Udayan School Song!

We are proud of our long history and legacy here at Udayan, and look forward another 50 years transforming the lives of leprosy affected children.” She said.

Friends of Udayan: Australia & Kolkata

We are thrilled to announce the launch of our first ever ‘Friends of Udayan, Australia’ and the re-launch of ‘Friends of Udayan, Kolkata.’
  • Friends of Udayan, Australia – Deborah Bedford, who penned the recent biography of Udayan Founder, Father James, has been a staunch supporter of Udayan, along with her husband Paul Bedford, for many years now.  In the hope to extend more financial support from Australia and generate awareness of Udayan and Leprosy among Australian’s, they have launched Friends of Udayan, Australia and will be helping to drive Child Sponsorships from among the Sydney and wider community.  Udayan has a long history of association with Australia, thanks to Steve Waugh, and more recently, Chair Emily R Menon, and we hope that the Friends of Udayan Australia grows to become an integral spoke in our international wheel of support.
  • Friends of Udayan, Kolkata – Australian Christine Ford, who recently moved to Kolkata with her husband Andrew Ford (the new Australian Consul General, Kolkata), has offered to drive the re-launch of Friends of Udayan Kolkata with the help of existing Patron, Shamlu Dudeja, and newcomers to Kolkata David & Linda Enlers who are also from Australia.  David & Linda have been living in Chennai for the last 9 years and recently moved to Kolkata and visited Udayan on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary, along with Christine & Andrew Ford.  We look forward to growing the group and kickstarting meetings, events and activities to support the work of Udayan from within the Kolkata community.

We thank both Debbie & Christine for their enthusiasm, passion and time in supporting Udayan and helping to grow our ‘family of supporters’ both within Australia and Kolkata.

Strategic Planning - 2020 & Beyond

In September 2019, Chair Emily R Menon & Director Dipak Sahu led a Strategic Planning Workshop with Governing Body members to chart out the strategic objectives of the next 5 years at Udayan.

It was a powerful workshop and many insights were captured.  Key highlights of the strategy include:
  • Launch of a Community Outreach program to provide Early Childhood Education to children pre-Udayan; educate parents on the importance of education/livelihoods and leprosy.
  • Improvement of Education outcomes at Udayan via capacity building of teachers, implementation of specialist programs for Foundational Literacies (literacy & numeracy, digital, science, English speaking, finance); strengthening of evening tutoring program.
  • Strengthen Employability program via skill training (particularly boys), sessions to build aspirations for children, career counselling and institute/industry visits.
  • Development of a detailed Personality Development program to overcome Self Stigma and foster workplace competencies and character traits in children for livelihood.
  • Detailed Infrastructure Development Plan to address campus issues and upgrade facilities.

“Strategic Planning is an important annual exercise and we at the GB will be holding an Annual Strategic Planning Workshop to ensure a strategic, big picture focus to drive Udayan into the future.” Said Emily R Menon, Chairperson at Udayan.

Child Sponsorship Program & Online Donation Facility Launched

A new child sponsorship program has been launched and sponsorships have been coming in from across India and the world to support our children.

The program offers individuals the opportunity to support children in a number of ways – providing donors with options according to their budget and interest:
  • Education Sponsorship
  • Home Sponsorship
  • Full Child Sponsorship
  • Vocational Training Sponsorship
  • Corporate Sponsorship
One Child Sponsor recently visited Udayan and said she had decided to sponsor 2 girl children because she herself had 2 boys.  “I wanted to support some girls and have them join my family.”

Another sponsor from Dubai had been looking around for a program to sponsor a girl child, and was thrilled to be able to select and pay for the sponsorship via Udayan’s new online payment portal.

Thanks to the support of Dana Mojo, Udayan has set up and new donation facility on our website so that people can donate and support us easily, from their mobile phone and with the ease of their credit/debit card.

“Donating should not be an arduous process” said Chair Emily R Menon.  “People want to help, but when the process is complicated, they get frustrated and shy away from giving.”

“We have been receiving donations every second day from across India and internationally, in places like Dubai, US, UK, Australia and Singapore.” She said.

Fundraising Expertise Injected at Udayan

In order to take Udayan to the next level, Udayan recently invested in some fundraising expertise via the support of Mumbai based Fundraising Expert, Nandita Dalal, who conducted a strategic review of the organisation from a fundraising perspective to devise a new positioning for fundraising success. 

“Nandita has helped us develop our Case for Support – which is a strategic fundraising tool (a brochure) which clearly defines why a donor should invest their funds with Udayan.” Emily R Menon said.

The new Case for Support is a game-changer for the oragnisation and already, GB members are in talks with International NGOs, Corporates and National Social Service organisations, using the new messaging to upgrade existing and secure new donors.

To support the new Child Sponsorship Program and to support and drive our corporate fundraising efforts, a new Fundraising Manager has been appointed and commenced work on 3rd February.

Shourya Chatterjee is very experienced in raising individual sponsorships via schools and other educational institutions and has experience in corporate fundraising with such organisations as Smile Foundation, Haemophilia Federation India, Global Cancer Concern India and Laxmi Distributor.

A new fundraising office has been established at the Jodhpur Park Apartments, donated to Udayan over a decade ago, to enable Udayan leadership and Fundraising Manager to conduct key meetings and have easier access to corporates and potential funders in Kolkata.

World Leprosy Day Rally

 Once again, the children of Udayan, staff members and members participated in the World Leprosy Day Rally – creating awareness on the issue of leprosy with placards and banners. With 5 different Leprosy NGOs taking place in the rally, significant attention was raised as the march started from Maniktala crossing in Kolkata and covered 3-4 Km. stretch of the city. 

Udayan boy’s drummer group participated in the rally which attracted the eyes of pedestrians.  The rally disseminated information about the disease of Leprosy, stigma related to it and social integration of leprosy affected people.  The police patrolling van followed the rally and made the rally successful on the busy roads of Kolkata.

Latest & Greatest from Our Children

  • Exam Results

All the children at Udayan achieved good results in their recent exams and have successfully promoted to the higher classes.  A total of 25% of children have secured marks above 90% and 27% of children have secured 80% in aggregate marks in their final examination held in December 2019.
Moreover 85% children have secured marks above 75% in aggregate marks. The quality of education in Udayan has increased significantly thanks to new methodologies of teaching,   resulting in improvement of education among the children.  

Compared to the annual examination result in 2018, 20% children have succeeded in getting higher marks in their Final Examination in 2019.  Well done children and a big thanks to our teachers and tutors for their diligent efforts in this area!

  • Udayan Children Dominate Sports Meet

In the month of January 2020, Sewli Boys’ High School celebrated their Annual Sport event. A total of 65 children from Udayan participated in the Annual Sport event, and among them 25 children have won prises in 100 meter & 200 meter races, Shot put, Riley race and Long jump.  Udayan students always perform well and this meet was no exception!  Sports and participation in meets like this do wonders to help our children overcome the ‘self-stigma’ so common among leprosy affected people – boosting their confidence, self-esteem and elevating them in the eyes of others also!  Congratulations kids …
  • New Football Coach at Udayan

Did you know that our kids are mad about football?  They play it at every chance they get and to encourage them further, Udayan engaged a new Football coach in September 2019 to strengthen the technical skills of our children in Football and rigorously build their fitness levels for the sport. Mr Santanu Sengupta, who is a dedicated football coach in the district, has helped many Udayan boys qualify for under 19 years state football league and comes highly regarded.  He visits Udayan twice in a week and teaches our children passionately – instilling values and ethics like discipline, hard work and team work along the way.  We look forward to seeing the progress of the children in the coming year!
  • 31 New Students Integrate Well

31 new children have arrived at Udayan to kickstart their education and Udayan home life.  Aging from 6 years to 11 years, the new children suffered from homesickness for the first couple of weeks, but soon found support in the friends from their colonies and of course, made new friends.  Older students also have been displaying great leadership in taking new students under their wing and nurturing them – teaching them about life at Udayan and all aspects of our daily routine.
  • Christmas Cottage Competition

Once again the Christmas Cottage Competition took place at Udayan with students working long and hard to decorate their cottage in a variety of themes.  This year, for the first time ever, the girls from Nivedita Bhavan took out first prize with their sculpture themed around the environment and reducing plastic use. The Boys cottages were also been decorated with innovations and social themes. It was surprising to see how ‘waste materials’ could be reused and utilised for decoration at Christmas. The children used earthen idols which were discarded after Puja, old silk materials, sand mixed with dry colours, twigs, straw and many more materials for their displays.  The children of Udayan took themes like water conservation, reducing plastic, global warming and recycling of materials which surely shows their concern about environmental social impact.