Calcutta Connect is an organisation, founded in 2010 by past pupils of Coláiste Éanna CBS, a secondary school in South Dublin. Our committee is made up of previous participants in the school’s India Immersion Project, which involved students from the school travelling to Calcutta to spend time volunteering with several projects in the city. Since 2002, our members have come across many educational projects in Calcutta in some of the most underprivileged parts of the city and we started Calcutta Connect to provide assistance to some of these projects.
In 2010, one of the first areas we saw in need of support was with many of the older students’ who were in the latter stages of their secondary education but were having great difficulty in affording the ever-escalating costs of their education. Many student’s families could not afford to cover the costs and the students were faced with the possibility of dropping out of school; as a result, we decided to provide assistance to these pupils and cover the costs of their admission fees, books, copy books and stationery. This was our first programme which became known as our student support programme and it has become a cornerstone of our work in Calcutta where today we support the education of ninety students in the latter stages of their education. With the success of supporting older students we have seen a number of them progress to college to pursue higher studies.
The projects in the city that we had the most exposure to in the years before 2010 were those started by Friends of Calcutta in some of the most marginalised slum communities in the city. With our committee’s extensive experience volunteering in these centres we decided this would be our first area to assist by providing sponsorships to the older students in the four Friends of Calcutta centres.
In 2017, we began working with Panikhali Rural Development Society (PRDS). The project is based in a rural village 60km south of Kolkata called Panikhali and aims to provide pre-school education, follow-up coaching for students and assistance to mothers in the surrounding communities. We quickly developed a great relationship with PRDS and its management team and as a result, we quickly expanded our work with them over recent years. In the summer of 2017, we began coaching for Class V-VIII students in a neighbouring village to Panikhali called Boria and in January 2018 we opened a third centre with PRDS called Alor Disha. In total, we are supporting the education of 850 students with PRDS in 2020.
In late 2019 we began an exciting infrastructure programme with PRDS when we began upgrading and improving the school building infrastructure in all of the communities where we work together. Our first big task was the construction of an entirely new school building in Panikhali and this was followed by an extension of our Alor Disha centre by adding an additional level to the school building. We have additional plans for more exciting new projects in the coming months with a brand new school building our next major planned piece of work.