This monsoon has been marked with achievements and challenges as we begin the groundwork for Neighbourhood Diaries. We’ve spent the last two months (August and September) setting up the infrastructure for ND – from staff, to partners, to neighborhoods.
It took us quite some time to select the right team of educators for Neighborhood Diaries. August and September were spent looking at applications and facilitating interviews. After meeting many individuals – we are privileged to have Urbi Bhadhuri and Bina Dalui. Both Urbi (a post-graduate in literature from Jadavpur University, experience in alternative education work in West Bengal and Rajasthan, and a passionate to create spaces of writing in Calcutta) and Bina (formerly a poetry workshop participant in Kalam and an activist around issues of women and child rights) are hired on as Kalam staff and will be leading Diaries as workshops begin in November.
We’ve been meeting with various local ngos and community based organizations exploring options for supporting partners and suitable neighborhoods to launch Diaries. Keeping in mind that Diaries is a pilot project we finally decided that is best to work with partners we have strong, trustworthy relationships. We are planning to work with Sanlaap and DIKSHA. Sanlaap is an anti-trafficking organization committed to ending violence against women and children. Working in West Bengal over decades now, Sanlaap has shelter homes for survivors of trafficking and community drop-in-centers for youth at risk to violence. In Sanlaap’s Bow Bazaar community drop-in-center, Kalam will begin Diaries.
The second group – DIKSHA – remains tentative for the time being. Although they are partner we would like to work with and while they are interested in the project, there are two challenges we are still negotiating: 1) the set up of a safe blog station and 2) language of instruction. DIKSHA – is a small and budding grassroots organization working with youth on identity and rights in different urban slums throughout the city. DIKSHA is keen on implementing Diaries in Khidderpore – a Hindi and Urdu speaking dominated neighborhood. Diaries therefore would be facilitated and experienced in Hindi instead of Bangla. While this is an exciting prospect for Diaries to consider (especially in terms of diversifying language and readership), it also means having greater resources and time for its implementation. The second challenge is the set up of a 24 hour safe, blog station. DIKSHA’s community drop-in-center is a rented from the greater Khiddderpore community. Conversations with DIKSHA continue to see if we can work out these crucial details to begin our work.
As the initial groundwork for Diaries takes place, we are considering an important shift in timeline. Workshops are scheduled to start post Durga Puja (Kolkata’s most famous and extravagant festival), hence, first week of November will mark our first session. However, instead of beginning work in two neighborhoods simultaneously we are considering beginning facilitating Diaries workshops simultaneously. Keeping in mind Kalam’s working capacity as a budding organization, planning for safe blog stations, and exploring options for Hindi workshop, we think it will be more effective to work with group consecutively. Through facilitating workshops consecutively we can work with greater focus on the dynamics and nuances of each particular neighborhood, and we can also evolve the challenges our first neighborhood workshop into strengths for our second neighborhood workshop.
This is where we are for the time being. The curriculum is coming to life slowly. Stay tuned for more updates by us. We plan to be around.