RC Calcutta builds school in a remote Darjeeling village

From L: RC Calcutta secretary Sriranjani Joshi, RID 3291 AG Purnendu Roychoudhury, RC Calcutta president Sujata Pyne, DG 3240 Dr Mohan Shyam Konwar and Lyangsong Tamsang Lepcha, chairman, West Bengal Lepcha Board, at the inauguration of the school.
From L: RC Calcutta secretary Sriranjani Joshi, RID 3291 AG Purnendu Roychoudhury, RC Calcutta president Sujata Pyne, DG 3240 Dr Mohan Shyam Konwar and Lyangsong Tamsang Lepcha, chairman, West Bengal Lepcha Board, at the inauguration of the school.

One of the flagship projects conceived by RC Calcutta, which celebrated in 2019 not only the club’s centenary, but also 100 years of Rotary’s arrival in India, during its landmark year was the setting up of the Rotary Club of Calcutta Centennial Chintan Academy at the Takling Village in Baramangwa of Darjeeling, RI District 3240, which was inaugurated on Nov 25.

“We set it up at a cost of ₹50 lakh, (around $70,000) and the funds for this project were generated from members of the club, other philanthropic donors as well as donor Rotary clubs in ­Germany, such as RCs Buchloe, Mainburg, Weissenhorn, Kaufbeuren and Viersen-Schwalm-Nette,” said RC Calcutta president Sujata Pyne.

Prior to the club’s intervention, the existing primary school, situated on the hilly terrain, on which over 40 students depended for some kind of learning, was a dilapidated “tatty structure, virtually with no room, walls or boundaries to stop children from falling over the cliffs.” As is the case in many remote parts of India, the “students had to walk 10 km up and down the hills to reach the school, in which most of the students are first generation learners belonging to families of farmers, taxi drivers or mechanics,” she said.

I always do projects where the need is, and not just focus our service projects in a single geographical location.

Purnendhu Roychoudhury, past president, RC Calcutta

For RC Calcutta’s centennial president Purnendu Roychoudhury, this was “a personal dream to help the remote communities of Lepcha and Gorkha children in Darjeeling district, who invariably and frequently drop out of schools because they are so difficult to reach in inclement weather conditions and have totally inadequate infrastructure and facilities,” he says.

The spanking new school building is spread over an impressive 2,100 sq ft and replaces the dilapidated structure propped up on bamboo poles, thatched sheets and patched up with broken tin sheets, thatch, etc, leaving the children to the vagaries of nature’s elements. The school is now a proper, colourful and cheerful concrete building, complete with classrooms with proper lighting and ventilation and where children now can pursue their education with dignity, seated on benches with proper desks.

Sujata adds that the inaugural event was colourful and impressive, attended by two district governors — RID 3291 DG Prabir Chatterjee and RID 3240 DG Mohan Shyam Konwar. Along with Sujata, club secretary Sriranjani Joshi, treasurer Debjani Ghosh, past president Purnendu Roychoudhury and other club members attended the event. ­Others who participated included Lyangsong Tamsang Lepcha, chairman of West Bengal Lepcha Board and its secretary Reena Targain.

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To take the education offered here to the next level, the Rotarians have also provided a computer section with five computers, which was also inaugurated. “There is a further plan to start a vocational training centre in this school within this Rotary year 2021–22. The chairman of the Lepcha Board has committed to provide teachers and faculty members for the school as well as books for the children free of cost while DG Chatterjee has promised to provide spectacles free of cost to all the children requiring them in all the 249 schools under the Lepcha Board,” said the RC Calcutta president.

Later, the same evening, a “a historic meeting” of three clubs was held at Darjeeling, attended by the two governors, office bearers of RC ­Calcutta, ­Roychoudhury and other members through a zoom link. Titled “the ­Umbilical Connect, it had ­participation from RC ­Calcutta (102-year-old ­grandmother which had sponsored RC ­Darjeeling); RC ­Darjeeling (mother) and RC ­Darjeeling ­Himalayas (­daughter). Both the ­governors — Chatterjee and Konwar — reiterated the need for the clubs and the two districts to work closely. Once this was done, Rotary could truly bring the world together, as getting funds from the German clubs for a school in Takling, a remote Darjeeling village, had shown, “to build a bright future for the Gorkha and Lepcha children who drop out of schools because of their inaccessibility and harsh weather conditions.”

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“They also pointed out that anyway literacy is a thrust area of Rotary and congratulated the leadership of RC Calcutta and centenary year president Purnendu Roychoudhury for the vision to go beyond RID 3291 and help people and communities in need,” added Sujata.

Roychoudhury later told Rotary News: “I always do projects where the need is, and not just focus our service projects in a single geographical location. Now I am trying to adopt orphaned Kashmiri children with the help of two clubs in Kashmir. They will study and remain with their families, but Rotarians all over the world will fund the cost of their study and cost of living and the project will be monitored by us.”

Added club president Sujata: “It was so rewarding emotionally to witness the joy and hope amongst the budding young students, who displayed immense talent and potential through their interaction with us and performance, encouraging us, Rotarians, to strive and do much more through subsequent service projects.”

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