The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A ray of hope where the sun doesn’t shine
- gratitude the driving force

Agroup of housewives decided to get together on Poila Boisakh 2000 for “something special”. They took some sweets and went over to Navanir, a home for the aged at Tollygunge, and spent the first day of the Bengali calendar year there. The experience was so “overwhelming” that they went back many times. That was just the beginning. Now, as a registered NGO named Bhalobasha, they are involved with several projects, from orphanages and streetchildren to old-age homes.

Deepa Bose, treasurer, explains: “The satisfaction in doing social work is that because the people we are trying to help don’t expect anything, their gratitude is overwhelming. They are willing to give you all their love and affection in return. That feeling of fulfilment is difficult to define in words.”

From providing daily meals at Behala Bikashan, a home for mentally-challenged children, and Udbhas, a home for spastics in Behala, where they also sponsor nine of the most difficult kids, to giving clothes, books and even rugs to streetchildren at the different schools of Lokenath Divine Life Mission, supporting a childcare centre run by Women’s Interlink Foundation with food and clothing, and presenting kids of sex-workers sweets on Children’s Day and fire crackers on Diwali — their aim is to bring a little sunshine into the lives of those who don’t have any.

Every alternate day, without fail, Bhalobasha provides fresh milk to the aged residents at Navanir, “because they, too, need the little pleasures of life”. Another worthy cause, for which the NGO gets candidates by word of mouth, is providing money for treatment of thalassaemic, cancer and dialysis patients. “We give as much as we are able to. However small the amount, it still means a little help,” says Bose.

Swati Datta, president, adds: “Our motto is cutting down on some unnecessary pleasures, thereby saving enough to give a little to those who don’t have any. Our main restriction at the moment is that we don’t have enough members to do the legwork. We desperately need young blood, dedicated housewives who are willing to spend their siesta time going to the red-light areas or to Navanir, to light up some lives just by being there and listening to them.”

Bhalobasha’s source of funding is its members, relatives and a few well-wishers. “We have one fund-raising show every year, but this time we had two because we really needed the money. There are always one or two individuals who enjoy the show, presented by some of the different charities we work with, and spontaneously donate. Generally, it’s a case of the 18 members, who pay a monthly subscription fee of Rs 100, requesting relatives and friends to donate whatever they can,” says Datta. Their office at the moment is Bose’s home in Mandeville Gardens.

Bhalobasha’s next project, “which is in the distant future, depending on the funds we can gather”, smiles Datta, is building an old-age home. “More importantly though, we need to create awareness, by recruiting people who care. In two-and-a-half years, we have come a long way. But we need to do much more. The more we do, the greater the satisfaction and inspiration,” she concludes.

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