Ichhe Dana – What a Way to Start our First Weekend in Kolkata

The CSC India 19 team and IBM Kolkata volunteers spent the morning of March 9th at Ichhe Dana meeting with their amazing students.

The children are all very talented and presented Bengali poetry, art, dancing, musical drama, and science. Mikimasa was the star of the morning  with a Polaroid camera to give the children (almost) instant photos. He also led 4 groups of children in making origami cranes and hats. The rest of the CSC team tried to follow along but got lost after the first 3 or 4 steps. The children did so well and successfully completed at least an origami hat.

Elsa brought Salsa music and, with help from Jocelyn, taught several steps. In return, the children taught us Indian Bollywood dancing. The morning was one of the highlights of our stay in Kolkata.

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I love my original piece of art! See more photos from our Ichhe Dana visit at flickr.com/jilldaffodil.

Ichhe Dana encourages children continued access to education that they typically don’t receive at their regular school and allows them to develop and grow their talents in language, science, visual & performing arts and reading.

Visit http://www.ichhedana.org.in/ to learn more about this organization.

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A Great Day with Prayasam and CSC India19!

I’m thrilled to end week #2 on a positive note. Fides, Tiago and I had a wonderful time during our workshop on Personal Branding and Media Awareness today. We spend 2 hours with the Prayasam team discussing best practices, role playing and sharing experiences. The Prayasam team has been great to work with and it was so fun to have the opportunity to spend the entire morning with them today Thanks!

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“Peace begins with a smile”

– Mother Teresa (Before leaving for India I did a Google search on quotes from Mother Teresa. The simplicity of this quote really resonated with me.)

During our first week in Kolkata, the CSC India 19 team visited Mother Teresa’s Mission and Motherhouse. The sisters in the Motherhouse were very friendly and helpful and had a smile for every visitor. You can’t help but feel welcome during your visit.

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We paid our respects at Mother Teresa’s tomb within the Sisters of Charity’s Motherhouse and toured the small museum displaying Teresa’s worn sandals, worn utensils and other artifacts. Mother Teresa’s room is up the stairs and displays a crown-of-thorns above her bed.

The house was quiet and peaceful – a nice contrast to the sensory overload of being out on the streets of Kolkata. The noise and activity is really fun to experience but was a bit overwhelming at first.

On the other end of the noise spectrum, but equally interesting, was our visit to the Kalighat Kali Temple – a Hindu temple dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali.

Getting to the temple was an adventure in itself. We took the Metro and then walked a few blocks up the crowed streets and through a street bazaar to get there.

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We were told that Kali is worshiped much like a human mother and visitors bring her their domestic problems and prayers for prosperity, often returning when their prayers are fulfilled to express their gratitude.

We had a guide to show us through the temple and take us to the Kalighat Temple Tank (Kundupukur), which is situated in the south-east of the temple outside the boundary walls. We were barefoot the entire time which was a bit unnerving. However, I was not brave enough to wash my feet in the water from the tank at the end of our tour.

It was awesome to visit at night so that we could see the lighting colors slowly change.

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Corporate Service Corps – India 19

I’m totally looking forward to our first in-person meeting with our project partner, Prayasam, next Monday! I will be working with two other team members and Prayasam for the month of  March as part of IBM’s Corporate Service Corps program. The Corporate Service Corps (CSC) was launched in 2008 to help provide IBMers with high quality leadership development while delivering high quality problem solving for communities and organizations in emerging markets. The program empowers IBM employees as global citizens by sending groups of 10 – 15 individuals from different countries with a range of skills to an emerging market for four week community-based assignments. During the assignment, participants perform community-driven economic development projects working at the intersection of business, technology, and society.

To learn more about Prayasam, visit their website at http://www.prayasam.org or read on….

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Prayasam was registered under the Registration of Societies, West Bengal Act XXVI of 1961. One of the most pressing concerns of any developing country is health. In India, health services fall grossly short of the country’s needs, making the adage “prevention is better than cure” particularly relevant. Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989 states, “Children have the right to the highest possible standard of health, and to access to health and medical services,” and all states signed on the Convention, including India, are bound to honor the statutes enshrined within it. Unfortunately, India faces increasing cases of child deaths caused by malaria and diarrhea, both of which are preventable.

Although the onus to provide basic health facilities is on the government, the state faces significant constraints for resources and infrastructure. Primary health care centers in rural areas are over-stretched, and clinics for the urban poor are even worse. The majority of the budget of urban local governments is set aside for infrastructure—roads, streetlights, water, and waste disposal—while services for education and health are neglected. In fact, education and health services are being eased out of the realm of local government, because in the era of privatization they are still seen as free services with little revenue-generating potential.

In this context of falling budgets and uncertain government services, preventive health programs grounded in communities offer some hope to the urban poor. This not only impacts their health, but also their economic earning potential, as disease robs daily wage earners of their income and forces them to spend large parts of their meager income on medicine.

Prayasam has developed a unique model of child-led activism in which the children of slum areas act as change agents by forming groups and spreading awareness on health, hygiene and sanitation within their community. Prayasam supports theses “area health minders” by providing information and first aid training, creating educational materials, and helping them to become real advocates for their cause. The children have collaborated with more than 60 schools to help form more groups of “area health minders” in the adjacent municipal area, effectively reaching more than 5,000 students and their families.
Stay tuned for all the details about our project as it unfolds!

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Testing my new camera for the CSC India 19 assignment

Just one more day to go before I leave for Kolkata. I got a new camera for my trip, actually two new cameras. I dropped my point and shoot over the holidays and needed to replace it. I also got a new compact camera system with interchangeable lenses. After quite a bit of research and family debate, I decided on the Sony NEXF3 with two lenses. I love it!

I have been testing it out on two willing subjects in my house…the dog and the hamster. The detail that it captures is amazing and it is so easy to use.I can’t wait to start taking pictures in Kolkata.

You can see my test photos in the following stream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/93622689@N03/

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