The Nicco Park in Kolkata is filled with joyful squeals and laughter as children from various orphanages and residential homes across the metro enjoy the swirls, twirls and rides at the sprawling amusement gallery.
The fun package —Annual Children’s Treat, as it is called — has been one of the signature projects of Rotary Club of Calcutta, D 3291, since 1925. What began with 200 children from five orphanages gradually swelled to 1,750 children from various orphanages, NGOs and other institutions. “The children come from underprivileged sections generally associated with our RCCs. The picnic is meant to bolster the morale and confidence of the children,” says club member Amit Ghosh. The club is regularly reaching out to these institutions, distributing stationery, uniforms, footwear, dresses and other educational aids.
This is the longest running children’s welfare programme of the club which celebrates its centenary next year, and has had a record running for 93 years.
– Heena Gorsia, President, RC Calcutta
This is the longest running children’s welfare programme of the club which celebrates its centenary next year, and has had a record running for 93 year, says Club President Heena Gorsia. Over the years the venue has changed from the Botanical Gardens to the National Library, to Alipore Zoo, and since 1993 the Treat has been held at the Nicco Park in Salt Lake area of the city. Rajive Kaul, a member of the club, owns the 40-acre park with 35 exciting attractions, and his magnanimity is helping the club conduct the programme for the children for so many years. The park is shut for outsiders on this occasion and is dedicated exclusively for these children. “It is Kaul’s way of giving back to society,” says Ghosh.
Buses from local schools bring children from various localities including some orphanages on the city’s outskirts. The groups assemble in the open lawn for breakfast and are given a kit containing a cap and refreshments, and the fun begins.
DG Mukul Sinha, IPDG Brojo Gopal Kundu and DGE Ajay Agarwal were present to welcome the children for their fun day out. I spot 10-year-old Neeraj Kumar on a wheelchair. He is a regular at the Treat over the last three years. “Though I cannot go on the rides, I love the outdoors, the get-together and the general camaraderie. It gives us an opportunity to mingle, make new friends and stay in touch,” he beams.
At noon, the children, exhausted but their faces flushed with joy, re-assemble on the lawn for lunch. “We bring the caterers here and hot food — veg and non-veg — is prepared on the spot. Our members man the serving counters and serve the food in new melamine plates which the children take back home,” says Heena. It is no simple lunch, it is a feast, I can see.
Post lunch the children are treated to a cultural performance. This year it is a magic show. As the magician pulls out a rabbit from his hat, or gets a dove out of nowhere, the children exclaim a big ‘Wow’ with loud cheers. The younger ones, exhausted after the hours of fun, blissfully doze off in their chairs.
By 4 pm it is time for home. Heena and her team distribute bags of more goodies to the children and wave them off, until next year, and they are escorted into their respective buses, helped by Rotaractors and staff from the respective institutions.
Pictures by Jaishree