Rotary Club of Calcutta, RID 3291, has launched two important initiatives — Prastuti and Gati — to provide technical skills to youngsters and women.
Under Project Prastuti, the club has installed computer labs in five remote villages with the help of local RCCs. “When the Covid pandemic began to wane a little we found many children restless and reluctant to attend online classes. Village children were not interested to go back to school and the parents were happy to engage them in household chores or as extra hands to boost family income. So we came up with this idea to teach basic computer lessons to the children so that they get motivated to learn,” says Arindam Roy Chowdhury, the club’s community service chairman, who aims to provide computer education to at least 500 children every month.
The club has come a long way from training just four students with two computers in its first lab set up in September 2021 at RCC Pragati Sangha in Dara, a remote village in the Sundarbans. As word spread, the centre grew to 15 computers to cater to 175 students. “The number is still growing and we have so many more students on the waiting list,” he says. He is particularly happy with the progress made by two girls — 18-year-old Mamata Mondal and Alpana Sardar who had enrolled with this computer centre last December. “Until then they had not seen a computer. Now they surprised everyone by doing their college course projects and have even designed their CVs online.”
The next centre was set up at Ucchaal Prabaha in Bishnupur, 140km from Kolkata. The local RCC runs a school here for 150 students. RC Calcutta has equipped it with four computers and trains 97 children.
We want to train youngsters in these backward, remote areas with core employability skills so that they can earn a decent livelihood.
One more centre was installed at the Chintan Academy in Baramangwa village, Darjeeling, with five computers. The school, established by the club, was inaugurated last November. “Both the school and the computer lab will be of immense help for the children of the local Lepcha and Gorkha tribes, as the hilly terrain does not have proper education facilities,” says Chowdhury. Twenty-five students are enrolled in the lab here.
The fourth centre is set up at the RCC Jadugoda Adhibashi Bikash Kendra at Ayodhya Pahar, Purulia. Here again the RCC is running a residential-cum-day school for 200 students. One hundred tribal students are being trained in this lab.
“More labs will be added in more villages. We want to train youngsters in these backward, remote areas with core employability skills so that they can earn a decent livelihood,” he says. Each course is for six months and all basic lessons in computer concepts such as making presentations, creating databases, browsing internet, and sending and receiving mails, are taught. Students from Class 6 are included in the digital literacy programme. The club takes care of the administration, maintenance and all related expenses through a special corpus created for the cause.
Post the pandemic, as schools reopened, the club distributed school bags and stationery to children to motivate them to go to school.
To empower rural women and support their livelihood, the club has installed tailoring institutes under Project Gati in remote villages of West Bengal. “Covid has turned everyone’s lives upside down but it is worse for the underprivileged living on the edge, and on a hand-to-mouth existence. For them, extra income is much more valuable. The tailoring classes will help the women with better employment opportunities,” says Chowdhury.
The club installed 40 Singer sewing machines procured from the manufacturer at various RCCs in the district. The community service committee coordinates with the RCC members in identifying the beneficiaries. The tailoring institutes are named ‘Silai School’ in all the RCCs.
The first batch of tailoring classes, began in November, trains 150 women across villages. Each 6-month course, teaches them to stitch salwar suits, blouses, petticoats, bedsheets, bags and pouches. “We will be assisting them in setting up their own tailoring units and identifying the market for their produce,” he says. The RCC members help in recruiting qualified teachers for both the programmes and are also marketing the products stitched by the women in the local wholesale markets.
The Silai School at RCC Joygram Social Welfare, Hasnabad, has bagged an order to stitch 1,400 school uniforms for government schools. “The women are excited and ready to do the job.”
Project Gati is funded equally by the club and the Eastern India Rotary Welfare Trust. Exams will be conducted and certificates will be issued under both the projects.
On March 6, the club inaugurated its mobile repair training centre at RCC Pragati Sangha, Dara, and 25 youngsters are being trained there now.
More recently the club set up an 18-bed sophisticated paediatric ward worth ₹60 lakh at the Ramakrishna Sarada Matribhavan, a 100-bed hospital run by the Ramakrishna Mission, Dakshineswar. The hospital will provide an additional 50 per cent concession above its existing subsidy to patients referred by the club. “This project was executed entirely by our women members led by our president Sujata Pyne.” The club has 278 members, including 60 women.