Saturday, 19 September 2020

SONIA NEEDS YOUR HELP!

Help us support Sonia Suren, who urgently needs surgery to reverse her ‘foot drop’ and lead a normal life, along with sponsorship to learn a vocational skill and build a livelihood!

Sonia Suren slowly works her way through a mound of kitchen vessels – scrubbing them shiny and clean in the hot morning sun.  It’s 11 am in the Jamunabandh leprosy colony in Purulia, and Sonia should be in school. But 15-year old Sonia was withdrawn from school by her family after Class IV when the long walk to school became too much for her to manage.

Sonia suffers from ‘foot drop’ – a common condition brought on by leprosy which she contracted when she was just 9 years old. Whilst ‘foot drop’ can be corrected, and doing so can drastically change the trajectory of her life, Sonia has fallen through the treatment gaps and is facing a life of handling domestic chores at home, and marriage at a young age.

Sonia’s father, a leprosy patient and beggar, passed away when she was young. The family of 7 relies solely on her mother, Rangi Maji, who also suffers from leprosy and puts rice on plates every evening with little money earned from rag-picking.

The first symptom Sonia experienced was slight nerve damage with a tingling sensation. So her concerned mother took her to the local  ‘Ojha’ (practitioner of Unani medicine) who placed her on a restricted diet and activities. 

When the opportunity came to enroll at Udayan, unfortunately her mother decided against it to keep up with the regime outlined by the local ‘Ojha’

Sadly Sonia spends her days helping out at home – washing dishes, preparing food, doing laundry, cleaning the house - and roaming the Colony.  A keen learner, she is desperate to learn a skill so that she can work and build a future.  Without support, her future will include disability for life, early marriage and unfulfilled potential!  

What we need:

·       43,000Rs for Surgery including Pre & Post Operation Care

·       80,000Rs for Vocational Training Sponsorship so that she can learn a livelihood skill (such as beautician, tailoring, mobile phone repair ... )

For every child that Udayan offers a promising future, there are many more languishing in the leprosy colonies of West Bengal – robbed of an education, livelihood and their potential due to the crippling nature of leprosy.  Children like Sonia …

ENTERPRISING BROTHERS

Whilst scores of people are suffering financially during the COVID-19 pandemic, two enterprising brothers – both Udayan ex-students have harnessed their entrepreneurial skills during the lockdown, to kickstart their own enterprise. 

Sandip and Joydeb Mahato, from Purulia, saw an opportunity to invest in a new tractor and use it to support farmers in sowing crops during the farming season, thereby earning Rs 800 per hour.  They even identified an opportunity in the farming off-season to use the tractor to deliver construction materials such as bricks, cement, sand and stone.

 

The brothers are no stranger to working with heavy equipment and both cut their teeth working in Pune at Autocomp Corporation Panse Pvt Ltd – one as a Machine Operator and the other as a Crane Operator. The boys are second and third sons of Bidyadhar Mahato, who was leprosy-affected and died in 2011. Bidyadhar was a daily labourer in agricultural fields with nominal wages.

In 2003, Sandip was admitted to Udayan and spent 9 years earning an education. He passed the Madhyamik Examination and transitioned to the nearby George Telegraph Training Institute to receive mechanical training in Air Conditioning and Refrigerator Machine. He soon got a job at a company.

Following his brother’s footsteps, Joydeb went to Udayan in 2008 and cleared his exams in 2016. He too got an opportunity to be trained at Sandip’s company. Earning Rs 20,000 and Rs 22,000 respectively, the boys managed to save up enough money. They could not only support their family but purchased a tractor and invested in their own business and future.

Post lockdown, Joydeb will continue working with this tractor and Sandip will return to his company job.

Its amazing what our ex-students can achieve in life with education, training, guidance and support!

Annual General Meeting Postponed due to COVID

This time of year, we are busy planning for our Annual General Meeting which is usually held in September every year. However, due to the COVID19 pandemic and delayed audit, as per government guidelines, we will be pushing the AGM to the month of November 2020.

For the first time in Udayan’s history, the AGM will be held via video conferencing due to the ongoing presence of COVID19 and our aim to protect all members.

The AGM will also see the release of this year’s Annual Report which features highlights from the last 12 months at Udayan.  The same will also be circulated online via our website, email database and social media.

Students' Excel in Exam Results

Eight of our children (5 boys and 3 girls) in grade XII appeared for the Higher Secondary Examination conducted early this year. It is a matter of great pride that all of them have passed the exam with flying colours. The Higher Secondary Examination is organized by the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education.

 

Badal Thapa

Binit Mahato

We are delighted to inform that two of our students have scored above 80%. Binit Mahato (Simranpur, Purulia) scored 80.8% and Badal Thapa (Titagarh, Kolkata) got 80%.   

Additionally, Udayan’s 22 children (13 boys and 9 girls) have appeared for the Madhyamik (Class X) under West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, and 21 of them have successfully passed the examination with good marks.

Education is the key to these children escaping the intergenerational cycle of leprosy and building a future for themselves and their families!

You can sponsor the education of one of our children for as little as Rs 6,600 per year - https://www.udayan-kolkata.in/donate

Rebuilding of the Boundary Wall & Campus Clean Up Drive

Clean up is well underway at Udayan in the aftermath of Cyclone Amphan, and further heavy monsoonal rains which uprooted many trees and caused the collapse of almost 1 km of Udayan’s boundary wall.

A huge thanks to the swift support from City of Joy Aid, UK and St Joan of Arc School in UK – the necessary funds were made available to Udayan to commence construction of the boundary wall. This is vital to ensure the protection of our children when they are in the campus.

 

The additional clean up is being executed by Udayan’s staff located in Barrackpore and surrounds who are readily available to visit the campus during lockdown period.  Our drivers, and other staff (cooking, gardening and maintenance), along with Paramedical staff have been working hard to shift debris and coordinate getting the campus back in tip-top condition.

 

Cyclone Amphan caused mass destruction in West Bengal and in particular, Kolkata which was already struggling under strict COVID-19 lockdown.  Essential services such as water, electricity and telephone were unavaliable for several days and people had difficulty getting repairs done to their homes due to shortage of labour with migrant labour returning to their villages.

Renewed Support for Fred Kahl Health Centre

Udayan’s Health and Wellbeing programme received another boost with renewed support for activities by the City of Joy Aid, UK and benefactor Hazel Nash.  Essential health and medical services will be provided to children, including regular doctor visits, check-ups and medical camps (eye, ENT, dental, skin screening). We want to ensure that our children are healthy and happy! 


The programme also promotes hygiene for children and  have provision for toiletries, nutrition supplements (folic acid for girls), outside emergency medical services for sick children, and mental health support via counseling and regular yoga.
 
New medical equipment will also be purchased, including a wheelchair and sterilizing machine to support our in-house healthcare delivery.

A big thanks to COJAUK & Hazel for their ongoing, tireless support!

Friday, 18 September 2020

Udayan collaborates with Monipur Leprosy Rehabilitation Association

Udayan has inked its partnership with the Monipur Leprosy Rehabilitation Association (MLRC) in Adra. MLRC runs a similar home for leprosy-affected children as Udayan.

Celebrating its 40th year this year, MLRC shares a similar mission and purpose to Udayan – to support leprosy-affected children from an early age and provide them with a safe, nurturing environment.
With over 170 children in the home, MLRC is the only other residential facility for leprosy affected children, besides Udayan in West Bengal. 

The two homes have shared an informal bond and relationship for many years, but both parties agree that they are strengthened by working together.
 
“It is important that we work together. After all, we are working towards the same cause. MLRC runs an impressive home and the two organizations can learn so much from each other.” said Udayan Chair Emily R Menon. 
MLRC Founder and Director, Mr. Nabukumar Das, a former leprosy patient himself, is a long-time member of the Sara Bangla Kustha Kalya Samity – an association of leprosy affected people across West Bengal.


Re-opening Udayan - Plan and Process

 
Udayan has re-opened, after over 5 months of closure amid COVID-19 lockdown. 28 senior students were brought back to campus this week and more children will slowly be brought back in a phase wise manner, to ensure adequate quarantining and safety of both staff and children.
 
The Governing Body and Udayan Management have charted out a detailed plan of action, and are taking every precaution to protect children, which includes disinfection of all the buildings and vehicles in Udayan premises.  
Currently Udayan is conducting online classes for Children amid COVID lockdown

“We began taking back children from Class X and above as these senior students are being severely impacted by lack of school and looming important examinations. Children’s safety is of prime importance and we are taking all the precautions to ensure their safety at Udayan.” Said Udayan’s Director Dipak Sahu.
 
All children will be tested for COVID19, along with the staff brought back to supervise and support them.  While children will be at Udayan, strict rules and processes will be followed – such as  maintaining proper social distancing and regular sanitization of premises including classrooms, wash rooms, and other common places.  
 
“We will be strictly adhering to the State and Udayan’s Standard Operating Procedures and will take every measure to keep children safe as we bring them back in a phase-wise manner, and learning.” He said.

Education & Food Support to Students in Lockdown

COVID-19 has caused a lot of distress across the globe and the families of our children are not left untouched by the adverse impact of the pandemic. Being the residents of leprosy colonies, these families have already been suffering social discrimination. COVID has multiplied their challenges, and now they are struggling to arrange proper meals for family members - unable to step out of their homes for their usual jobs such as rag picking, begging and daily labour work.

Considering the tough situation, SBI Life Insurance extended their generous support for the dry ration distribution and more recently, education supplies. With SBI Life Insurance’s support, Udayan has thrice conducted ration distribution drive for the leprosy affected families between May to August 2020 during lockdown.
 

 

Besides food, there was an ongoing concern for children who were lagging behind in their education due to lack of proper stationary, text books and other study materials. Due to poor supply of these items, children could not finish their work and other assignments.   With support from SBI Life Insurance, Udayan distributed education kits to all students to help them with their studies at home.

A huge thanks to our on-ground staff in the leprosy colonies who have been tirelessly working to arrange for such support material , thereby ensuring smooth execution of kids’ education. 

Keeping Up with Children’s Education

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected educational systems worldwide, leading to the near-total closures of schools, universities and colleges.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

As of 27 July 2020, approximately 1.7 billion learners are currently affected due to school closures in response to the pandemic. School closures impact not only students, teachers, and families but have far-reaching economic and societal consequences.  

Of course, the impact has been more severe for disadvantaged children and their families – causing interrupted learning, compromised nutrition, childcare problems, and the consequent economic cost to families who could not work.  

In response to school closures, UNESCO recommended the use of distance learning programmes and open educational applications and platforms that schools and teachers can use to reach learners remotely and limit the disruption of education.

Our primary school teachers are taking online sessions from KG to 4th grade over WhatsApp video calls and through phone calls. The classes are conducted from Monday to Friday from 9 am to 1 pm. Weekly homework and assignments are uploaded on WhatsApp group. Teachers do the necessary correction either by sharing documents or through voice messages.

The Scars Left By Leprosy

Leprosy in India is back on the rise. With one leprosy case being diagnosed every four minutes in India, the country accounts for 60% of leprosy in the world. In fact, leprosy has made a dreadecomeback with a surge in cases in recent years.

The disease poses a major health threat in India where most people affected with leprosy come from an extremely impoverished background. 


Despite the fact that the disease is now curable with Multi-Drug Therapy treatment, several people still do not seek help.  This is mainly due to the attached social stigma and poor knowledge of available treatment – leading to the physical deformity the disease is known for.

However, the effects of leprosy are not limited to physical deformities. The disease scars people’s lives at a much deeper level.


 

 The Impact of Leprosy on a Life

Whilst the most visible effects of Leprosy are on the physical appearance and abilities of a person, leprosy in fact cripples every aspect of life for a sufferer. The humiliation and ostracization that leprosy patients are subjected to, lead to far more adverse impacts on their lives and livelihoods.

1.   Social Stigma

Although leprosy is curable, the stigma associated with the disease still persists, thanks to rigid beliefs that the disease is the result of past sins. As a result patients are neglected and treated as social outcasts – banished to one of the 750 leprosy colonies that still exist in India.  These colonies provide substandard living conditions that further exacerbate poverty and suffering.

Leprosy patients are not only mistreated and isolated by the community but even by their own family members. Many who have contracted the disease have been abandoned by their spouses, shunned by their children and left homeless. 

The social stigma also leads to ‘self-stigma’ where patients develop a severe lack of confidence and negative attitude towards the self – limiting their aspirations and confidence in their abilities. This often leads to depression, alcoholism and other anti-social behaviour.

2.   Poor Access to Education

Children from leprosy colonies may be directly affected by leprosy, or may suffer the stigma due to their affected parents and the colony in which they live. As a result, educational opportunities are sub-standard and limited.  They are sometimes denied access to school.  Those that attend local government schools are often isolated and treated differently – and sometimes even bullied by teachers and peers.  With limited available resources, they lack support via tutoring and often fail to do well at school.  This lack of education minimizes their opportunities and chances of securing a dignified job. Many such kids follow the footsteps of their parents and work as ragpickers and daily wage earners.

3.   Loss of Livelihood

The physical disability of some leprosy patients, along with the stigma, severely impacts livelihood opportunities.  Whilst the deformity that often comes with leprosy sometimes makes it impossible to carry out daily activities, leprosy sufferers who are not physically affected are forced to lie about where they live and hide the disease in order secure a job.  Most do not have the necessary skills and turn to laboring for daily wages, or rag-picking – earning a meagre Rs 3,000 to 4,000 per month. This affects their family wellbeing, and limits opportunities for their children too.  And thus, the cycle of poverty and leprosy prevails.

4.   The Vicious Cycle of Poverty and Illness

Leprosy is spread by prolonged, close contact with patients left untreated for the disease. Due to the close proximity in which they live with their parents, and the lack of proper nutrition, children are most susceptible to contracting leprosy. This happens usually via small droplets shared through the nose and mouth.  Loss of livelihood puts the entire family in a never-ending cycle of poverty and ill-health which adversely affects their future.  As a result, we see an intergenerational cycle of poverty and leprosy on families who live in the Leprosy Colonies.

5.   Rise in social evils

Leprosy Colonies often become hotbeds of a variety of social evils as people struggle with societal and self-stigma, poor socio-economic status and a lack of basic services and amenities which catalyze alcoholism and domestic violence in communities.  The fate of children is threatened – making them vulnerable to child labour, child marriage, child trafficking and prostitution which is common in leprosy colonies.  Additionally, children who grow up in these communities are vulnerable to kids' anti-social behavior and bad habits.   

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Director's Message - June 2020


The last few months had been very hectic for Udayan. While we were trying to proactively avert the Coronavirus crisis and manage things amid lockdown, Cyclone Amphan hit West Bengal which caused massive devastation across the state. Fortunately, Udayan’s staff members are all safe but one-fourth portion of the boundary wall of Udayan collapsed. Luckily all the building infrastructures did not suffer any damages.
However, the impact on Kolkata and other parts of West Bengal was severe with residents reeling in the aftermath.  It took significant time for Kolkata to get essential services like electricity and water back up and running and with lockdown still on, getting help for the ‘clean up’ has been a challenge.
To ensure the safety of our children and staff members, Udayan was closed in March and April. In this newsletter, we bring you the snapshots of major events and activities before lockdown. At the same time, we are also striving to ensure the best for our children and families through COVID-19 relief work. We hope things are soon normalized and Udayan operates in full swing.
 
On behalf of Udayan I wish you good health in these trying times. Keep safe. 



 Dipak Sahu

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Udayan Revamps its Funding Strategy

With our administrative staff working from their homes, it has presented a good opportunity to forge ahead with our work to secure the financial security of the organization going forward.

 

There is great uncertainty in India among nonprofits about the future of funding opportunities and there is an expectation that many funding opportunities will dry up and or decline due to the economic impact of COVID-19 and diversion of funds to tackling the pandemic and its impacts (it is estimated that the pandemic may push 400 million Indians further into poverty).

 

Working with Mumbai based fundraising expert, Nandita Dalal, Udayan is conducting weekly fundraising meetings to revamp our strategy and diversify income sources. As part of our preparation, we are putting all our fundraising collateral in place, developing databases, qualifying prospects and allocating roles and responsibilities across our fundraising team.

 

Udayan collaborated with Nandita Dalal, a Mumbai-based Fundraising Consultant earlier this year to conduct a strategic review of the organization from a fundraising perspective and take Udayan to the next level.

Ms. Nandita Dalal


Udayan also welcomed new staff member, Shourya Chatterjee to Udayan in March who takes up the role of Fundraising Manager.  With extensive experience in raising Sponsorships and working with Schools and colleges in and around Kolkata, Shourya is a great addition to the team to help support our fundraising efforts.

 

Currently, the core fundraising team comprises Nandita Dalal, Dipak Sahu, Adrija Mitra, Shourya Chatterjee and Emily R Menon.