Calcutta Connect is a non-governmental organisation founded in 2010 by past pupils of the Coláiste Éanna India Immersion Project. Our committee is made up of individuals from a broad spectrum of backgrounds who can draw upon their experience to enhance the work we do. We work towards alleviating poverty by supporting education of children and young people from some of the poorest communities in Calcutta and surrounding districts.
One of the first areas we provided help to in 2010 was to support older students in the latter stages of their education. The costs involved with the final years of education can be beyond what many families from poorer backgrounds can afford. Many students were dropping out of school due to these costs. We began our student sponsorship programme to help older students remain in school and complete their education. The programme has seen great success with many students completing their board exams and going on to pursue higher studies.
The projects we had exposure to before 2010 were those started by another Irish NGO called Friends of Calcutta. Their programme, in marginalised slum communities in Kolkata where many of our committee had volunteered. With this link we decided these projects and their older students would be one of the first areas we would assist.
In 2017 we began working with Panikhali Rural Development Society (PRDS). Their project is in a rural community called Panikhali 60km south of Kolkata. PRDS’s aim is to provide pre-school education, follow-up coaching and to help local women. Since 2017 we have expanded our work with PRDS. We work with PRDS in the management of three education centres with 1211 students enrolled.
With the number of students growing in the PRDS centres it became clear we would need to expand their capacity. In 2019 with PRDS we began planning to expand or construct new buildings in each community. Between 2019 and 2022 our three centres we redeveloped to cater for the growing student numbers. Classes now take place throughout the day for students of all ages.
Our final construction project was of the Skill Training, Empowerment and Medical Centre. The building is located in Panikhali Village, 200 metres from the school building. The purpose of the centre is to training local people with a skill they can then use to generate an income. There is also a dedicated medical room where doctors can visit to carry out check-ups for the community.
In the centres we manage in collaboration with PRDS there are now 1211 students of all ages enrolled and 56 staff employed. It is a great source of pride for us to see the continued expansion of the projects, improvement in the infrastructure and growing positive outcomes for so many of the students.