Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Breaking the intergenerational cycle of leprosy

 

Children born into leprosy-affected families within leprosy colonies get caught in a vicious, intergenerational cycle of leprosy and poverty.



1. Leprosy - Children of Leprosy affected families, are at risk of contracting the disease due to the close confines they live in with their parents.  Leprosy is transmitted via tiny droplets after prolonged, close contact with sufferers who have not undergone treatment.

2. Life in Leprosy Colony – Children grow up in a Leprosy Colony living in sub-standard, unhygienic conditions, where they are at risk of other social evils (abuse, violence), which generates trauma, reinforce self-stigma, inhibit opportunities and exacerbate poverty.

3. Social & Self Stigma – Throughout their life, children from leprosy-affected families experience social exclusion and stigma – so much so that it manifests in the form of ‘self-stigma’ where their confidence levels and self-belief become severely impaired.

4. Limited Education – Those lucky enough to access education, do so at local schools where they are bullied and ostracized by both peers and teachers. Many, especially girls, drop out early.

5. Diminished Livelihood Opportunities – With little education and no skills for decent livelihood, income opportunities are limited to options they ‘know’ and ‘see around them’ – daily laboring, rag-picking and begging.

6. Poverty – Earning as little as  INR 3000-4000 per month, they become trapped in a life of poverty within the only home they know - the leprosy colony. And as their children enter the world – so the cycle continues. 

 

Udayan: Breaking the Cycle of Leprosy

At Udayan we have a single minded focus – to break the cycle and help our children ‘rise above leprosy’ and its associated poverty - via a life of education, livelihood and opportunity.

We aim to break the intergenerational cycle of leprosy by providing a  safe environment for children to grow and pursue studies and later ensure better livelihoods.

It looks like this:


Here is a real life story of Sanjay Neogi who, after attending Udayan, broke free from leprosy colony life and he hasn’t looked back!

1. Early Life in Leprosy Colony: Sanjay Neogi was living in Kakinara Leprosy Colony, North 24 Parganas. His father, Panchanan was affected with leprosy and had lost sense in his finger due to the disease. Panchanan Neogi was a rickshaw puller and his mother, China Neogi was working as an Aya in Gandhi Prem Nivas Leprosy Hospital, Titagarh. 

2. Safe, Healthy Childhood at Udayan: In 1993, Sanjay took admission in Udayan and started his education from Udayan Vidyalaya. Sanjay was a calm, focused and obedient boy; he was very good in drawing and other extra curricular activities.

3. Nutrition & Education Support: He became strong and healthy at Udayan - getting regular check ups and eating heartily each day.  Sanjay completed his Class X examination from Telinipara High School, Barrackpore. In 2006, Sanjay completed his Higher Secondary Examination (Class XII).  

4. Building Aspirations & Personality Development: At Udayan, Sanjay began to dream of a future and different life for him and his family. 

5. Vocational Training & Tertiary Education - After completing class XII and later graduation from  University of Calcutta, Sanjay took admission in  Bankim Chandra College in Naihati  He then started taking tuition classes to support his family as well as prepare himself for a decent respectable job.

6. Livelihood & Escaping Poverty - The life of Sanjay’s family changed when he got an opportunity as Divisional Manager Club Member position in Life Insurance Corporation of India (Public Sector Unit (PSU) under Government of India) in 2011. His monthly salary is INR 30,000  per month. Besides, he gets a festival allowance, monthly incentives and insurance coverage. The job has secured his life and helped him become financially stable. Sanjay purchased land in Barrackpore and constructed his own house. In 2017 he got married to Monalisa, a highly educated lady who has completed her Master's Degree and she has no history of leprosy. Sanjay’s parents, Panchanan and China Neogi stay with him in new house located in Barackpore. Sanjay arranged for physiotherapy treatment for treating his father’s paralyzed finger and now he is fully recovered. Now Sanjay is living a happy life in society without stigma and social discrimination. His wife is now preparing for School Service Test ( SST) under the State Government.

Sanjay with his wife Monalisa



 


 



 






Monday, 11 January 2021

Prasanta shares about his recent birthday celebration

 Hello, my Name is Prasanta Majhi, I am from Tata Nagar Leprosy Colony. I came to Udayan in 2017 with my parents and got admission in Udayan Vidyalaya, I go to Sewli Boys High School and Study in Class V. 


I love to stay in Udayan because I have many friends here. We go to school together, learn Karate together and play together in the evening. I learn Football and Basket Ball.

On my birthday on 3rd February,   I cut cake with my friends. I love eating cake. I want to join the Indian Army after completing my studies at Udayan.

I wish that in 2021 I get to join the regular school and meet all my friends.

Happy New Year!!

Kajal wishes a happy and healthy 2021

 I am Kajal Khetropal, I am a student of class IX. I completed my sixteen years on 28th July. My family stays at Sitarampur Leprosy Colony but I live in Udayan for 10 years. I Love to stay at Udayan. I have 6 closest friends in Udayan. We enjoy spending time with each other and talk a lot!


Here in Udayan, I learn Karate, singing, dancing, drawing and crafts.  I am fond of chocolates and every year I get chocolates on my birthday, by Udayan. After completing my Class XII, I want to become a nurse and contribute towards the treatment of leprosy patients.

This new year, I wish everyone to stay healthy and happy. May New Year brings a Covid -19 free world.

Thanks a lot.

Jeet Bauri sends New Year wishes

 Hello friends!

I am Jeet Bauri, I am from Bankura Leprosy colony. I came to Udayan in 2017. I have completed my primary education from Udayan Vidyalaya. 

I study in class V, my school is Sewli Boys High School.


I love Udayan. Here in Udayan, I regularly practice Yoga and Karate. I love to play with my friends in Udayan. They love me a lot.

My birthday is on 21th August. On my birthday I cut a big chocolate cake and share a with all my friends. We enjoy a lot. I have decorated Christmas tree with my friends and love it.  I want to be an engineer. I have been told to study a lot to become an engineer. I love mathematics.

I wish 2021 brings lots of hope and happiness to everyone. I wish I could meet my friends in New Year.

First Batch of Boys Enrolled in Hospitality

 

For the first time, four ex-Udayan boys who are graduates of Class XII, have taken admission in a 3-year degree program in Hotel Management in ‘Rinpoche Academy of Management & Technology’ under ‘Moulana Abdul Kalam Azad University of Technology, West Bengal.’

 

Online classes kicked off in the first week of December 2020, and the boys are enthusiastic to pursue their careers in the sector which has been booming in India (despite the recent decline due to COVI-19). 

 

Udayan has been actively working to broaden the horizons and aspirations of its children and encourage the pursuit of studies and jobs that students have a keen interest in, and which offer optimum employment opportunities with reasonable salaries.

Here are the four boys from Udayan enrolled in the hotel management programme.


Suresh Mahato

Badal Thapa



Nasir Ahmed


Biki Singh


When asked about the prospects of the Hospitality sector post COVID 19, Udayan GB member & Treasurer, Mohan Chandran (who has over 30 years of experience in the sector with the Taj Group) was confident that the sector would bounce back again strongly over the coming year, in particular, by the time the boys graduate and are ready to find a job!

Annual General Meeting 2020 & Annual Report 2019-20

 

Udayan held its first ever virtual Annual General Meeting on Saturday 28th November via 'Google Meet'.  At the meeting, the Annual Report for 2019/20 was tabled with positive feedback from members on the professionalism and comprehensive nature of information in the report.  Read and download the annual report here.

 

A glimpse of the virtual AGM


Elections were held and a subsequent GB meeting nominated positions.  Governing Body elected included:

 - Emily R Menon (Chair)

- Amrita Isaac Roy (Vice-Chair)

- Dr. Sue John (Secretary)

- Mohan Chandran (Treasurer)

- Raj Kumar Fenn (Member)

- Mahua Hazarika (Member)

 

Geoffrey Rodrigues retired from the GB after a long period of commitment and support to the organization.  Everyone wished him well and he assured all he would remain closely associated with Udayan.

x

Selection Drive for the Next Batch of Udayan Students

 

The Udayan team has been in the field in the first week of January, visiting leprosy colonies and conducting a selection drive for enrollment of the next batch of children.  After visiting 10 Colonies during the week, the team met with over 120 children whose parents were eager for them to attend Udayan.


The selection drive was conducted in the following colonies

1. Nabadiganta
2. Kankarganga
3. Rahamat danga
4. Sitarampur
5. Simonpur
6. Jabunabandh
7. Kalanpur
8. Paiyardoba
9. Barakar
10. Adra

After a rigorous scrutiny of documents and assessing the livelihood status of families, 65 children were shortlisted. Once the enrollment formalities are completed, Udayan will house 289 children in total.

A glimpse of the selection drive


 "This year we visited 2 colonies that we haven't visited in the last few years. The state of conditions there is quite gruesome.  Accommodation facilities, in particular, are substandard and the people are extremely poor and stigmatized.  These colonies are very old and have been in existence for over 50 years." said Dipak Sahu, Udayan Director.

 He further added, "We had a good response from families, and our reputation in the colonies are very positive after years of goodwill. All parents are eager to have their children enrolled at Udayan for a better future." 

The Udayan family is excited to welcome its new members. 

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Basanti Dhar's New Year wish


Hello Friends!

My Name is Basanti Dhar. I am from Gouripur Leprosy Colony. I am Sixteen years old and my birthday is on 27th March. I love to stay at Udayan as I have many friends here and we always support each other. They are from different leprosy colonies around West Bengal.

I love gardening and signing. I learn Karate, drawing, singing and dancing. But I love to sing most.  My favourite subject s geography. I want to visit various tourist places and want to meet people from different cultures. I like to meet new people and make friends. I want to study Hotel Management after my class XII.

My wish for 2021 is to spend more time with my friends in Udayan and have a great learning time at Udayan. I hope New Year brings lots of peace and prosperity for all of us.

Thanks a lot.


2020 Was our Greatest Teacher ...

 

I know what you're thinking!  2020 was a terrible year in so many ways and we're all happy to see the back of it.  But what if we looked at it differently?  What if we saw the lessons it taught us and reframed 2020 as one with a 'silver lining’...?

 

Here’s what we learned in lockdown …

 

1. Even children from leprosy colonies can learn online

The world's children were removed from schools in 2020 and shunted into 'home online learning' creating challenges for both parents and teachers globally.  But how do you compare the plight of first world children to those forced to do the same in rural West Bengal - in a leprosy colony?  Firstly there is no supervision.  Parents need to work to survive, so children are left to their own devices at home and in communities which creates all sorts of challenges.  And then how do they get online to learn?  Firstly hats off to the Udayan Vidyalaya staff who regrouped and found a way to deliver online classes via zoom to students huddled around mobile phones - many borrowed or on loan.  But it happened.  And whilst you can hardly say Udayan is at the forefront of technology, somehow we found a way to ensure our kids were learning. 


 screenshots of the virtual classes held by Udayan teachers



2. Our staff are our greatest asset

Many of our staff are from the leprosy colonies themselves, which gives us an automatic entry point and point of contact in these remote communities to mobilize when the need arises.  And there were multiple needs in 2020.  Firstly, as the lockdown extended and people were struggling to make ends meet, our team hit the ground running to quickly distribute rations to those in need.  Management was in negotiation with donors, old and new, to make sure money was available for this 'new found need' and our team transformed into outreach workers making things happen on the ground swiftly and safely.  Ive never been so proud of our incredible people ...

 

3. Even a Cyclone, in a Pandemic cannot stop us

Just when we thought things couldn't get any worse, the tropical, seasonal and brutal weather of the Bay of Bengal lashed out and Cyclone Amphan unleashed its force on Kolkata - and Udayan did not escape unscathed.  Whilst we were fortunate to escape with minimal damage to the campus, it was still a tough blow in already trying times!  Our Barrackpore based staff quickly assessed the damage and rolled up their sleeves to start the clean up.  Our UK supporters picked up the phone and were quick to move funds into action to rebuild the vast security wall that had collapsed in the storm.  Sometimes you can be beaten down, but the Udayan spirit prevails and slowly, but surely, we recovered ...

 

4. Sometimes you have to buck the trend to do what's right

Whilst the schools remained closed during the lockdown, as an organization we began to worry about the safety of our children as COVID-19 swept through West Bengal at a rapid pace.  Living in poor conditions, with limited nutrition at home, it was only a matter of time before the virus hit the colonies and our kids became vulnerable.  Our Governing Body and Management made the difficult decision to bring children back, in what was a complicated exercise in logistics, as we felt they would be far safer in Udayan and we could more proactively support their continued studies.  Whilst so many NGOs and organizations 'played it safe' and stayed closed, we mobilized, followed safety protocols, and brought our kids back into the safe confines of Udayan.

 

5. One must always be ready to 'pivot'

At Udayan we run a home and our expertise is in education, health, and livelihoods. But in these exceptional circumstances, we had to 'pivot' and become outreach workers, operating and providing 'disaster relief' in risky times.  This to me, highlights the strength and qualities of our management and people who are not, after all, pigeonholed into one type of social work ... but show us all that they are willing and able to do so much more.  This agility is a great quality that I hope we take forward as we spread our wings in the coming years.

 

2020 was a challenge that helped us unite, strengthen our resolve, and overcome.  As we move into 2021 I feel confident that, with the strength of the Udayan spirit, we can handle anything that the universe chooses to throw at us!

 

Warm Regards for a Safe & Prosperous New Year

 

EMILY R MENON

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