The Nari Dana Production Centre was officially opened on 20 October 2017. The Nari Dana project, CRS’s social enterprise, which employs slum women trained in sewing and embroidery to make products for sale in India and overseas, has been gathering momentum over the last few years.
There is now a dedicated space for the women to make their products, equipped with a set of new sewing machines thanks to financial support from the German Consulate of Kolkata.
The inauguration started with an opening prayer by Rev Nigel Pope, Presbyter of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Vice Chairman of CRS. Mr. Jürgen Thomas Schrod, the Deputy Consul General from the German Consulate then assisted Rev Pope in cutting the ribbon to open the centre.
This was followed by a traditional lamp lighting ceremony by the guests and members of CRS Executive Committee, signifying the ray of hope that Nari Dana brings to the lives of the women.
After Rev James Gomes, Assistant Presbyter of St Paul’s Cathedral, had blessed the new workspace, the women were delighted to show the guests a range of their products.
Dr Andrea Mann, Director of Global Relations for the Anglican Church of Canada, made the long journey from Vancouver to Kolkata in in December. She visited CRS projects at Bibibagan, Pally Mangal and Dum Dum, as well as the Nari Dana production centre, to find out about the children’s and women’s empowerment programmes.
Children from CRS’s Education Centres were treated to a day out on 26 November when the exclusive private school, La Martinere, opened its doors for the annual Mega Children’s Day Carnival. One hundred children from Sukantanagar, Bibibagan, Hastings and Topsia were selected to attend. They enjoyed food and games, and each received gifts.
14th November is the birthday of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India. In honour of his dedication to the welfare and education of children, this date was chosen for the annual Children’s Day. As usual, children at all CRS centers in Kolkata celebrated the day with enthusiasm, and this included performances of dance and song. Thanks to the support of the Rotary Club of Calcutta, Outram, the children also received a packed lunch and gifts.
We are very pleased to report that a substantial bequest has been left to the CRS under the will of Mrs Patricia Payne, who passed away on 15th July 2015. Pat and her husband John, shown in picture attending a wedding, lived in various cities in Pakistan and India over a 17 year period. During their posting in Calcutta, Pat worked as a teacher at the Cathedral School. They both retained an abiding love for the two countries and Pat kindly remembered CRS in her will. The UK Friends of CRS are managing the bequest. To date, an initial payment of £107,000 has been received with a further amount of around £40,000 expected when the estate has been fully wound up. The bequest is being treated by the Trustees as a capital sum to be invested in the long term and ensure the future viability of CRS. Read the full press release.
Shishu Jagat (Children’s World) is a network of grassroots-level organizations working with children at risk. It aims to empower children to carry out action and development programmes in their own communities. The CRS centres in the neighbouring areas of Basanti Devi Colony and Sukantanagar have a Shishu Jagat programme that is very active. Previous news items have covered a range of their activities including environmental awareness and tree planting, a summer camp focused on arts and creativity, the Raksha Bandhan sibling celebration, and an event on International Literacy Day. This month, Shishu Jagat members worked in groups to create a wall magazine for their school. They designed large posters featuring series’ of drawings to tell stories and communicate messages to those with lower levels of literacy.
Revd. Loraine Mellor, who has been elected President of The Methodist Church in Britain for 2017-18, visited Kolkata to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Kolkata’s historic Wesleyan Methodist Church (now under the jurisdiction of the united Protestant denomination, the Church of North India). On 14th October, Revd. Mellor spent a day visiting CRS centres at Topsia, Bibibagan and Pally Mangal where she learned about the opportunities provided by CRS for children and women from slum communities. She also spent time at the new Nari Dana Production Centre in the grounds of St. Paul’s Cathedral. At the end of her visit she said, “I am inspired by the work CRS is doing especially the women’s empowerment programme”.
Over the last few years, the Indian multinational, Larsen & Toubro, have supported a variety of CRS activities through their Corporate Social Responsibility programme. Earlier in 2016 they donated three new sewing machines to the CRS women’s empowerment programme which offers courses in tailoring, embroidery and knitting. The most talented graduates of these courses have been selected for the Nari Dana project. These women are learning to produce very high quality products to be sold both locally and on overseas western markets. Through employment in this small business, they will earn a secure living. Some of their products were put on display at a special event at the Larsen & Toubro corporate office on 26th September.
In addition to offering skills training courses, the CRS women’s empowerment programme encourages groups of women to form Self Help Groups (SHGs). These groups are fully participatory and democratic and have a tremendous impact in terms of giving women a sense of self-confidence and equality as individuals, as well as the skills and resources to be self-sufficient and independent. During September, a representative from the West Bengal Government’s State Resource Centre conducted sessions at the CRS centres at Pally Mangal and Dum Dum explaining the concept of SHGs. The women were very eager to form SHGs so further sessions will be conducted to provide the support that they need to get established.
For the women and girls who take the year-long training courses at CRS centres, the hope is that their new skills can translate into making a living. Those who learn tailoring and embroidery, who can make jewellery or soft toys, or who can do hair and make-up are encouraged to set up their own micro-businesses or join a small business cooperative. Ten women who previously took the tailoring course at CRS’s Basanti Devi Colony centre gathered on 15th September to refresh some of their skills. There is particular demand in the local market for hand towels which are decorated with cross stitch. The CRS Production Leader gave a special training session showing the women how to prepare high quality products for sale. Funding for this event was provided by Anglican Overseas Aid, Australia.