Calcutta

Through the Derby Diocese, we have been linked with Sukantanagar School in the Calcutta slums and in January 2017 Mrs Alton flew out to India to meet the link school and their teachers.

In January 2018, Mrs Alton visited the school again along with Mrs Dent. As the school does not have a fixed address, it is difficult to send items to them, but we can send equipment and other items to Calcutta Cathedral, who will deliver goods to our link school.

In January 2019, Miss Gibson and Mrs Dent flew out and sent emails back to Spondon on a daily basis, and we saw photos of what they had seen in worship. To view the 2019 their blog click here.

Keep your eyes peeled here, for regular updates from Mrs Richards and Miss Allen’s 2020 visit to Sukantanagar School.

Friday 24th January 2020
We are all checked in and are waiting to board, everyone has arrived safely at Birmingham Airport for the first leg of our journey to Kolkata.

Saturday 25th January 2020
After a brief touch down in Dubai, we hurriedly boarded our connecting flight bound for Kolkata. We safely touched down in Kolkata at 07:15 (GMT+ 5.5hrs) to a chilly 11ºC. After being moved along by the police for obstructing the airport arrivals exit, we swiftly boarded the coach which would take us to our hotel. We freshened up, had lunch, before departing on the coach again; this time to visit the Eco Park. The journey to the Eco Park wasn’t without its incidents, but we eventually made it there in one piece, where we were able to see Kolkata families out and about doing the things that we like to do in the UK on Saturdays such as: picnics, cricket and playing on the play park.

Both of us are really tired after all of our travelling and have returned to our hotel rooms to have an early night, as we need to be up bright and early in the morning to attend a special church service at the Cathedral. We’re hoping that all of the beeping doesn’t keep us awake too much tonight as everyone beeps their horns in Kolkata regardless of whether there is an imminent accident.

Sunday 26th January
Today we were out early attending a festival service at St Paul’s Cathedral, Kolkata, to celebrate India’s 71st Republic Day. The service lasted just over 2 hours, and the Reverend gave us a special welcome during his sermon and thanked us for coming all of the way from Derby to visit! Afterwards we were invited to share some breakfast with the congregation, where we met a Modern Day Slavery campaigner called Malay KR Ghosal of Sunderbans who has worked with Bishops Alastair, the former Bishop of Derby (small world).

After breakfast, we walked through the magnificent Victoria Memorial Park which is very similar to Kedleston Hall. It was extremely busy with visitors out enjoying Republic Day. Later on we were taken to the River Ganges, where we boarded a boat for a sightseeing cruise. From here you could see the depravation from a different perspective. We passed a few crematoriums with direct access to the river, a spectacular temple and a bridge constructed by the British.

As we disembarked we were held up momentarily whilst a passenger train went by us at speed, crammed full of people with all of the doors open – how dangerous!

Monday 27th January
Well, we were picked up early this morning and taken to La Martiniere School for Boys’, where we spent the morning training the slum school teachers with our pre-prepared activities. The afternoon was spent planning with the teachers in preparation for our first day in school tomorrow team teaching. The session was not without its challenges as our teachers speak very little English and the only way that we could communicate with them was through the power of drawing, and when that was unsuccessful, we enlisted the help of an interpreter.

The highlight of the day today for both of us was when we visited The Mother House, the house of Mother Teresa – what a moving experience. It was an honour to see her humble abode, from where she conducted the majority of her humanitarian work. Mother Teresa’s bedroom was compact and bijou, the hottest room in the house, but she never complained. We paid our respects in silence at the side of her tomb and spent time in the museum reading the numerous good deeds that she conducted throughout her life.

We’ve eaten a spectacular Indian meal this evening, as Kolkata is reported to be India’s culinary capital – and we weren’t disappointed. However, on our return from the restaurant we walked by people wrapped up in blankets sleeping on the streets, and were met by beggars pleading with us for money or food, how sad. It breaks our hearts to walk by; we simply cannot touch everyone who needs our help.

Tuesday 28th January
This was the day we had been waiting for. Finally, we were going to visit our school in the slums of Kolkata. We were driven, wacky races style (ask your parents) to the edge of the slum, where we walked down to our school. We were met with a welcome sign along with our two teachers and an interpreter. We had to wait a while for all of the children to arrive but as soon as they were all present and correct and a prayer had been shared to open the day, we set about our first lesson.
We taught the children body parts in a CSI way by drawing a chalk line around one of the children in their small yard and asked the children to place pictures and subsequently word cards in the correct positions of the anatomy.
After this, we returned to the classroom to play a game of body parts bingo! Before making counting beads and having a Maths lesson. We had a brief interlude before reading a story in both English and Bengali. The next part of our action-packed visit was to learn the chorus of the ‘Walking in the light’ song in preparation for our celebration day on Saturday.
We were then whisked away back to our hotel, where we had a quick turn around (no time for any lunch) before heading off out to visit the Brace Bridge school. This school made our Sukantanagar school look like a palace in contrast. The inhabitants of Brace Bridge were very welcoming but we didn’t hang around too long because we had a garden dinner to attend at the Bishop of Kolkata’s house, where we were treated to a spectacular traditional Bengali meal. Then it was back to the hotel for an early night in readiness for an early start tomorrow as we are off up to Diamond Harbour, which is reported to be a long journey.

Wednesday 29th January
An early start for us today, so we had a quick breakfast and then we were on the bus before 8am. After three hours on the bus and missing the turning twice, we arrived at our destination; Diamond Harbour. All schools in India were closed today in celebration of the ‘Goddess of Knowledge’ and many families made the pilgrimage to Diamond Harbour to picnic. So we were invited to experience a traditional Bengali Bank Holiday celebration. We had balloons, party music, games (four corners – would you believe it) and food. Our India hosts were extremely hospitable and made it a day to remember.

Thursday 30th January
So today we have been training the teachers at La Martiniere School for Boys’ again. At the end of this session all of the Indian teachers who had attended the two training sessions were presented with a certificate for all of their hard word and engagement with the training programme. Then the heavens opened and the monsoon rain came down, we got drenched just closing the windows in the training room as the building took a battering against the elements. We planned our lessons along with the teachers from Sukantanagar in preparation for our day back in school tomorrow.
After that, we then left for a visit to Nari Dana, within the grounds of the cathedral where women are trained in needle craft skills, offering their handy crafts for sale in the on-site shop. This offers the women of Kolkata opportunities to obtain a skill and experience, which will lead into employment so that they can support themselves.

Friday 31st January
Today we were picked up and driven at speed to Sukantanagar school, where we delivered an exciting selection of lessons. The lessons were designed to demonstrate to the teachers the variety of approaches to teaching that we adopt in the UK, so that they can replicate our pupil engagement in their lessons. The children thoroughly enjoyed learning about ‘My family’, and all of them were captivated by the card sorting activity and games that followed. The craziest time was when we presented the school with their very own parachute to play with – the children went mad over it. Miss Allen taught the nursery children phonics whilst Mrs Richards stayed with the older children to write stem sentences about ‘My family’. The session in school ended with the teachers presenting us with a small gift; a display of traditional Bengali dancing before finally being sang to by the children. In between all of the lessons instead of brain breaks we sang the chorus to the ‘Walking in the light’ song in preparation for the celebration day at La Martinieres, tomorrow.

After saying our goodbyes, we made our way back to the cathedral to visit the ‘Differently Abled Centre,’ where the adults sang to us and presented us with candles that they had made.
Then it was off back to the hotel to spruce up before going back to the Bishop’s House for an evening meal. After a long and tiring day, an early night beckons as it is the celebration sports day tomorrow, so we need to be well rested and in good shape!