Tuesday 3 September 2019

Renewed Education Support: SBI Life Insurance

‘With us, you’re sure.’  This is the tagline of the pan India SBI Life Insurance Corporation who, in 2017 kick-started support for Udayan’s Education program under their CSR initiative.  They lived true to this when support was recently renewed and strengthened, providing a much needed boost to Udayan’s Education program. 

The SBI Life Insurance support helps us with all school related costs for all 270 children, including additional support for educational school excursions, a school counselor, and extra-curricular activities like sports music, arts and crafts.''

 At Udayan, we organise an annual sports event where all our children participate in various games. This helps the children to develop sportsmanship and also a love for sports, thus ensuring proper physical growth and development. SBI Life’s support will help us organise this year’s Annual Sports in a bigger way!
We wish to thank SBI Life for their renewed support towards our education initiatives.

Celebration Time!

Independence Day Celebration: Children and staff members of Udayan celebrated Independence Day on 15th August 2019 in the Udayan School campus. The flag hoisting ceremony was done by Director of Udayan, Mr Dipak Sahu, and a cultural programme was organised by the children. The National anthem echoed in the entire premises.

Raksha Bandhan Celebration: In India, Raksha Bandhan is celebrated to strengthen the bond of love between brothers and sisters. On 15th August 2019 in Udayan, our girls celebrated Raksha Bandhan by tying Rakhi to their Udayan brothers and prayed for their long life.

Tech Savvy Students

Visit the Udayan Computer Lab on a weekend, and you’ll find students hard at work building their digital capacity and skills – learning Desktop Publishing, Paint and Microsoft office. And they are loving it.
It’s all thanks to funding from SBI Life Insurance, and the hard work, guidance and support by the team at The Linde group, who helped devise a curriculum for students, recruit a tutor, purchase new computers and cover the costs of internet charges at Udayan.
Thanks to their support, last year, 71 students from Class VIII to XII, took their first ever Basic Course in Computers, between July to December. This year, 77 younger students, from Class V to VIII have started taking the same course.
A trained Computer Teacher has been taking their classes and is dynamic in engaging children in every class. Of course, computer skills in this day and age, are absolutely vital and applicable in every field of study and work. Having the basic knowledge of computers will definitely help our children enhance their employability – giving them an edge in finding good placements in careers of their choice.
The Linde PLC is a world leading supplier of industrial, process and speciality gases. Linde products and services can be found in nearly every industry, in more than 100 countries.  The Linde Plc in Kolkata houses the Global Delivery Centre – Linde Global Support Centre who have been helping Udayan facilitate and plan the computer classes for children.
“We are delighted to support the students from Udayan in this journey toward Computer literacy, which is now essential in day to day to work and will also help them in long term growth in their career.” Said Shantanu Banik who is the Team Head & Manager, Service Operations at Linde Group.  “Our team is a dedicated group of individuals who designed the course curriculum based on the West Bengal Board and helped Udayan to start the programme in their Barrackpore Campus.” He said.
The partnership was facilitated by our Patron and long-time supporter, Mrs Shamlu Dudeja who made the partnership connection back in 2017.  The Linde Global Support Centre CSR team drives the initiative and we, along with our children, couldn’t be happier with the results!

40 New Children Selected to Join Udayan

In July, a delegation from Udayan hit the road and travelled to 9 different leprosy colonies across West Bengal to identify and select 40 new children to intake at Udayan.  Taking place over a period of 3 long days, staff took the opportunity to interact with families and community members – strengthening relationships in the communities that we have served over the last 50 years.

40 children have been selected and will join Udayan in September – spending the next 4months undergoing special education courses to ascertain their educational level, introduce them to the basics of learning and literacy, and help prepare them to integrate into different classes – according to their level and aptitude. 

A visit to the Leprosy Colonies is vital to fully understand and appreciate what it is we are trying to achieve at Udayan.  Our ultimate aim is that each Udayan graduate is placed in jobs or businesses that offer salaries above 8000Rs per month. For it is in the development of a ‘livelihood’ that these young men and women can help to uplift their families.

AGM & Annual Strategy Workshop

It’s that time of year again when we meet for the Udayan Annual General Meeting.   All Members are invited to attend the AGM which will be held on Sunday 22nd September at 11am at Udayan.
Whilst the AGM is a statutory legal requirement, it presents an opportunity for members and friends to come together and review the progress of Udayan over the last 12months.  It is also the time to re-appoint a Governing Body to guide the strategic direction of Udayan and provide fiscal and operational oversight. 
Governing Body members are coming together on Saturday 21st September for their Annual Strategic Planning Workshop, which will be held from 2-5pm at the Taj Bengal.  The workshop will map out strategies for the next 3 years to take Udayan to an all new level and will cover the following areas:
·      Programs
·      Marketing & Communications
·      Fundraising
·      Finance
·      Governance
·      Human Resources & Operations
·      Infrastructure Development
The plan will help guide management staff and GB members in prioritising key projects and will also help inform budget planning for the future.
The last strategy for Udayan was completed in 2017 and, with many of the priorities identified in that plan complete, it is time for GB members to regroup, set their sights on the future growth and stability of the organisation and document it.

Udayan Girls Win 1st Prize in Singing Competition:

Udayan girls recently did us proud, by taking out 1st prizes in a Group Song Competition - held on 14th and 15th August 2019 in Barrackpore Sub Division and Morning Star College.  
Anjali Pradhan along with 3 children represented Sewli Girls School and won 1st prize in Barrackpore Sub Division competition. Additionally, our Udayan girls, Sima Karmakar, Riya Bauri and Santana Sardar stood 1st in the Patriotic Song competition in the Morning Star College. 
The girls have been training under tuition at the SBI Life Insurance supported ‘Brett Lee Mewsic’ Centre at Udayan which ensures that our children have the opportunity to learn a variety of singing, dancing and instruments such as keyboard, guitar and drums.

Udayan Children Chosen for Representative Football

When you visit Udayan after school hours or on a weekend, you are sure to find our boys busy playing football – after all, most of them are ‘football crazy!’
But this passion is paying off, with 4 of our Udayan boys, Bijay Bauri, Abhitap Bauri, Santosh Goswami and Surajit Bauri representing Sewli High School for Boys in an inter-school football tournament, organised by Barrackpore Sub Division.
It was a brilliant competition, with 10 schools participating in the tournament, and our boys getting the opportunity to compete at a high level. 
There were smiles all round when they returned home victorious - Sewli School for boys won the runner up trophy!
Children in Udayan get plenty of opportunity to excel in sports thanks to the support of House brothers and staff members. Our grown up boys in particular, are excellent in football – which is great for their overall physical development and provides a well-deserved outlet from school and studies!

Australian Consul General Visit

Australian Consul General in Kolkata, Andrew Ford, listens to a student practice his Bengali.

The new Australian Consul General in Kolkata, Andrew Ford, visited Udayan this month to understand our work and tour the campus.  Udayan has had long standing ties with Australia and it is great to forge a new relationship and friendship with the new Government representative in Kolkata.
Andrew comes to Kolkata from a posting in Samoa where he and his wife Christine spent a number of years.  They are excited by the culture and opportunities in Kolkata and India and are looking forward to their time here.

Welcome to Kolkata and Udayan!

Photography Shoot

Sandip Manna, Abhijit Pal, Sreoshi Ghose and Kishan Bahety on the recent Photoshoot at Udayan

With a host of new communication initiatives on the drawing board at Udayan, the team recruited the skills of 3 local, amateur photographers from Kolkata. to spend a morning at Udayan to capture ‘life’ in beautiful still images – to bring to life our work in an inspirational and positive way.
Abhijit Pal, Kishan Bahety and Sandip Manna spent 5 hours at Udayan, shooting high quality images on their professional cameras to support our new collaterals, annual report and digital marketing strategy.
A big thanks to these amazing and talented volunteers who captured beautiful images of our children, in a volunteer effort.  Additional thanks goes to Sreoshi Ghose who facilitated the project and liaised with the volunteers to execute the project.
The results speak for themselves …

Staff Studying Masters of Social Work

Udayan House Brother (and Ex-student) Debasis Kalindi assesses children in Leprosy Colony.

Udayan House Brothers & Mothers are upgrading their education, with 3 staff members pursuing a Masters in Social Work to support their work and strengthen their knowledge.
Mr. Debasis Kalindi is an ex-Udayan boy and hails from Durgapur Leprosy Colony.  Bright, articulate, passionate and motivated, he decided to obtain his MSW just 15 months ago and has already completed 1 year of the 2year course. He finds time to study in between 2.00 p.m. - 3.00p.m. when our children are in school, after dinner from 9.30p.m - 11p.m and on his days off.
But Debasish  is not alone.  House Mother Ms. Padmabati Mandiwas was also inspired to pursue higher studies in the development sector. Mr.Nayan Sutradhar is a house brother, doing his MSW from Netaji Open University. All these above mentioned house Mothers and Brothers are going to appear for their 1st Year examination in the month of September 2019.  
As a part of their course, they have chosen Udayan for their internship and exposure in the child care institution. Their daily experiences of dealing with children and observing development of children through various wellbeing programmes has helped them for deep understanding of  the subjects.
House Mother Ms.Pranati Bar has completed her MSW degree just one year before.
 “Udayan is the best choice for us, for the NGO internship during MSW. The continuous support from our Director and other staff members hashelped us to understand the subject, handholding experience of dealing with children, process of documentation, baseline survey, and monitoring of programmes.” Said Debasis Kalindi.
“We have undergone Resilience Building training in Udayan, which has enriched our knowledge about child development, the same while implementing with our children we found the depth of each exercise and how it help children to overcome from past trauma.”

Padmabati Mandi has found her studies has helped value-add her work at Udayan. “Earlier it was not clear to me about my regular ongoing routine and was unable to correlate it with child development. Now it is easier for me with the support of my seniors and MSW course also helped me to improve my communication skill."
It is a strong sign of a changing future for Udayan.  Udayan is professionalising, evolving and strengthening as a result.  Trained and educated manpower is the need of the hour and we are proud of these dynamic staff efforts and initiative to better themselves – for the ultimate benefit of Udayan and its children.
A big round of applause to these dedicated and committed staff members!

Children Excel in X & XII Exams

It is a feeling of extreme pride and happiness when all of this hard work gets rewarded through the excellent results of our children. Nineteen of our children appeared for their 10th boards and three of them for their 12th boards this year. Nineteen of them have successfully passed their exams. 

Of special mention is Sima Karmakar, who secured first division marks. Sima came to Udayan at an age of 7 years in 2010 from Durgapur after her father passed away - leaving behind a wife and four daughters. To get by, her mother took up odd jobs to sustain the family but found it difficult to make ends meet. 
From the very beginning, she has been a very obedient and disciplined child. Sima not only excelled in studies but also is quiet a pro at music. She was recently felicitated at the local Mohanpur Jagriti Sangha for her excellent performance at the boards.  Sima is now studying Arts in Class XI and hopes to build a career in the hospitality industry. 
Education has always been a focus of our work at Udayan. We strive hard to ensure that all our children are educated and then learn one employable skill to become financially independent. 
Most of these children come from extremely impoverished backgrounds and more often than not, they are the first generation learners in their family. To support them in this journey, we have private tutors who work with our children after school hours, to help them in their weak and challenging subjects.
All the hard work is paying off and we applaud the efforts of our students in doing Udayan proud.

Monday 20 May 2019

Training to Build Resilience Among Children ...

Dipak Sahu facilitates an interactive training session with staff on Resilience Building
A three day Resilience Building training workshop was conducted in May, for all staff members of Udayan by Director, Dipak Pakash Sahu. Dipak is a Master Trainer in Reslience Building, having completed an intensive training from the National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences (NIMHANS, Bangalore).  Here, he talks about the meaning and importance of Resilience Building among children, and why these are vital tools for Udayan Staff. 

What does resilience really mean?
Being resilient is being able to adapt and bounce back to the original state when something difficult happens in our lives. It is to come back to the original position after a traumatised past or a painful experience.

Why is resilience building important?
When we are in a difficult situation, our thoughts and feelings get disconnected and we feel that all things are going south, it becomes exceedingly difficult to regain our balance and control over our five senses. Resilience building helps us to cope and adapt with such situations.
Why is it important for our children?
Our children have all been through various kinds of painful experiences or trauma in the past, they also struggle daily, to cope with it. Resilience building exercises will support them in regaining their self confidence and in turn, help them develop strategies to become more resilient. They will learn about themselves, their strength and concern, and will realise how to manage various situations in life. They will come to know about their own competencies which they might have not been aware of.

What did Staff learn as part of the Training?

Staff were taught 45 different exercises that equip them with the necessary tools to engage with children. Through various sessions, role plays, exercises and activities, they learnt how to help children overcome different emotionally charged situations. This also supported them to become aware of their self, internal and external strengths.  At the end of the three day workshop, all staff realised the importance of Resilience Building exercises and how they can be effective in empowering our children.

Wednesday 8 May 2019

St. Joan of Arc’s Visit to Udayan

Rowan Pugsley of St.Joan of Arc School with one of our girl children

February saw eight girls and two teachers from St Joan of Arc School in Rickmansworth,UK come to India to visit Udayan (the school’s charity) and spend two weeks with us.Sophia McDonnell, Student President at St Joan’s tells us about their experiences:

‘On our first day at Udayan we received a fantastic and overwhelming traditional marigold reception. We were presented with gorgeous orange marigold garlands, and were welcomed with singing and photos; we all felt like royalty! The departure ceremony was also unforgettable; the smiling faces of the children and staff were uplifting; it was a personally touching moment for me. The group could not only see their appreciation for us, but felt our appreciation for them.These memories of Udayan have remained with each and everyone of us now back in the UK.

The continuous work Udayan does for children of leprosy sufferers is outstanding. I speak on behalf of the group when I say that the hard work and love exuded by Udayan has caused us to all think about our own responsibility to care for one another. Our days spent with the children were filled with laughter, learning and dancing! We merged both Bengali and English dance and culture, but I’d have to say the choreographed Bollywood routines put our floss and cha-cha slide to shame. We did enjoy rehashing and performing Aankh Marey on our final night.

We tried to immerse ourselves in the daily routine at Udayan: the 5am wake-ups were hard for some as well as the karate, running, stretches, praying and singing all before breakfast! It was lovely to see how the children were so grateful for what Udayan provided for them, and how they all looked after each other as one big family. We witnessed first-hand throughout our time at Udayan and Kolkata that family, religion and friendship were far more valuable than the materialistic items they owned; a true life lesson that changed our perspectives.

Seeing how self-sufficient Udayan actually is was not only a hit for the geography students, but provided us with fresh, delicious and flavoursome meals every day, for breakfast, lunch, tiffin and dinner - we were never hungry. The hospitality of all the staff was truly visible throughout our meal times. They were fabulous hosts!

Whilst spending time at Udayan we were able to see how the money St Joan’s has raised has been spent through the refurbishment of cottages, purchasing of bunk beds and more importantly keeping the doors of Udayan open. It was great to see the impact Udayan is making for the children of leprosy sufferers.

Udayan has created so many memories which will stay with our group forever, and I can say with 100% honesty that we all miss the people there incredibly! We miss your dancing, kindness, laughter, intelligence, hospitality and love, and we wish everyone at Udayan the best for the future.

To Dipak, the staff, children and students at Udayan, you have all touched our hearts in ways we cannot describe.  We can't wait to return! From all your sisters, brothers and Bachchan at St Joan of Arc - THANK YOU!’

The St. Joan of Arc School Team, Chris Mann from COJA, UK
 and the Udayan Staff Members

Tuesday 7 May 2019

Rest in Peace, ‘Father’

Father James with our children
At Easter this year, we all said farewell to our beloved Founder, Rev. James Stevens who went to his heavenly resting place early in the morning on Easter Sunday. His funeral was held on Saturday 27th April, 2019 and a memorial service was also held on Sunday 5th May, 2019, at St.Paul's Cathedral, Kolkata.  No words can express the sorrow that we all feel at Udayan on the passing of our Father James, however here are some extracts from a speech by Udayan Chairperson Emily Menon, who spoke at the Memorial Service on behalf of the Udayan Family:

“Yes Udayan is a place, an organization, bricks and mortar that over a lifetime James built from the ground up … From nothing. But it is what happens in that place that is the true testament to Father James.  When you look after 300 children, it is very easy to see them as a ‘group’ – as a mass – a lot of faces and smiles and noisy, laughing voices.

But the beauty of Father was in his attention to detail.  And his raw and pure love for the children. He knew every single child at that place. Year in and year out – as so many of the faces came and went and grew and changed. He knew them all. He cared about what they felt and what they thought and who they were then and who they might be in the future.

It’s difficult to imagine how all this started! One foreigner, 11 children … tackling all the odds and obstacles thrown at them …

I often stop and imagine 2 children, friends, born into Leprosy colonies … growing up together in difficult impoverished conditions. Yes there is poverty, but with Leprosy comes an even worse curse – the stigma – one that scars them for life as outcasts of society. So imagine 2 children there, and the course of their futures … one who is chosen to go to Udayan … and one who is not. After all, we only have place for 300 …

And this is the lasting legacy of Father … the way that the trajectory of these children’s lives is so radically changed – because of him! Yesterday I heard a couple of powerful stories, which for me, put into context the significance of his contribution here in Kolkata, to these children, to the issue of leprosy, to India, in fact.

The story of Dhan Singh Shit, the son of 2 rag pickers who had leprosy, who came to Udayan at the age of 7 and stayed till he finished his 12th Standard. Today he owns and operates his own fully fledged transport business, earns Rs.50,000 a month, has his own beautiful, healthy family – the cycle of leprosy was broken … and he is the first to admit that all this, is because of him, Father.

Or there is Arpita Mahato from Purulia, whose father earns Rs.800 per month as a daily labourer, who graduated from Udayan, studied Nursing and now earns more money each month than her entire family earned in a year! Now that is transformation!

But Father also took time to encourage his students to follow their passion. He had a love for music and the arts and ensured that children had a rich experience of both during their time at Udayan. We have one ex-student, Bapi Dey who was always very passionate about art. Father encouraged him to go to Art College and today he runs a very successful Art School! He has over 200 students and earns over Rs. 25,000 per month, following his dream. A dream made possible by Father James.

I know I speak on behalf of all at Udayan, and the thousands of children who have grown up there, when I say ‘It’s time to rest now Father … Rest in the assurance that your legacy will live on!"

Girls' Program Strengthened

The revamped Nivedita Bhavan, which is home to our 100 girls at Udayan.
Our 100 girls at Udayan are flourishing, thanks to the support of the Steve Waugh Foundation, who has helped enrich their lives through a variety of initiatives in 2018/19. 

This is including the revamp of facilities at Nivedita Bhavan, installation of much needed laundry facilities, home supervision via House Mothers and weekly, empowering, Karate Classes.

A key focus of the support, was the provision of Nursing Scholarships.  With a passion for pursuing Nursing, 11 of our graduates are now studying General Nursing Degree on full scholarship support from Steve Waugh Foundation. Nursing is popular among girls at Udayan, who have seen first-hand the impact of significant health issues like Leprosy in their families. 

But obtaining a Nursing degree is an expensive exercise! Not only are the fee’s expensive, but the costs of books, travel and daily incidentals must be met – which is not possible for these girls and their families.

As such, Steve Waugh Foundation is helping these girls chase their nursing dream – a pursuit which helps to uplift their entire family. 

Steve Waugh has a long association with Udayan and it was on his request and support, that girls were first introduced at Udayan back in August 1999.

Since then ‘Steve daa’ has been a part of the Udayan family and his Foundation continues to touch the lives of our girls and their families. Thank you!

Fred Kahl’s Legacy Lives On…

Hazel Nash, at the inauguration of the 'Fred Kahl Health Centre Facilities'

The new ‘Fred Kahl Health Centre Facilities’ were inaugurated at Udayan on 16th April 2019, as a tribute to the late Fred Kahl, a man of wide interests and a generous heart, who had a committed concern for our children.

His wife, Hazel Nash ONZM (Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit awarded to her by Queen Elizabeth II) was here to open the facilities, along with Kathryn Spink and John Coo from City of Joy Aid, UK, who had together raised most of the funds for the project at a gala dinner at Eton College in memory of Fred.

Fred stayed at Udayan on two occasions. During his visits in 2013 and 2014, he became a favourite with our children due to his friendly and supportive nature, and the Udayan senior girls even taught him to dance!

Fred and Hazel had previously, with help from the Juniper Trust, improved the vegetable garden at Udayan by making it monsoon proof and more productive. That garden now provides our children with nutritious, homegrown food. It was at Fred and Hazel’s initiative also that Eton parents and staff gifted soft-toys, cricket sweaters, rugby shirts and even Manchester United football shirts for our children.

Fred’s last visit to Udayan, before Christmas 2014, cemented his relationship with the home and his interest in our children’s welfare. Sadly, however, his failing health prevented him from returning to India.

Recalling that Fred had recognized the need for improving the health care facilities at Udayan, when he died Hazel felt it a fitting memorial to try and introduce such improvements.

Hazel Nash and City of Joy Aid, UK, are now helping Udayan with the health and hygiene facilities and programmes for children at Udayan, starting with the upgrade of medical facilities (the painting and refurbishment of the medical and doctor’s rooms and sick bays), along with the restoration of Father James's cottage, which has been restored and set up as an isolation sick bay.

Udayan is very grateful for all the love and joy that Fred Kahl brought to the children of Udayan, the ongoing support and passion of his wife Hazel Nash, and the generosity of their friends and associates who helped make this project a reality.

The newly renovated 'Fred Kahl Health Facilities' include an isolation ward for sick children.