Promoting Neighbourhood Human Communities (NHCs)/Basic Human Communities (BHCs) in West Bengal Sikkim Region, India

Contemplating the recent happenings in India, especially in Orissa, and keeping in mind the mandate of the Church, “prudently and lovingly, through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, and in witness of Christian faith and life, acknowledge, preserve, and promote the spiritual and moral goods found among these [people], as well as the values in their society and culture" (NA 2), we have tried to reach out to our brothers and sisters belonging to other faiths. The Small Christian Communities (SCCs) were made aware of the teachings of the Church regarding our relationship and our responsibilities towards people of other faiths in our neighbourhood. "All the faithful and every Christian community are called upon to practice dialogue" (SEB – Synodal Episcoporum Bulletin April 25, 1998).

The SCC Regional Council was of the opinion that we, as members of the Church in India, have to go through a fresh process of understanding the Church and re-identify ourselves in relation to the concrete communities (ethnic, religious communities in our India) whose life and struggle we share. West Bengal is affected often by cyclone, storms, landslides, floods and also by terrorist and other violent groups.  All irrespective of religion, class and caste suffer from these calamities.

Taking this as a common issue in the region we have initiated Neighbourhood Human Communities (NHCs)/Basic Human Communities (BHCs) or KPGs (Khudro Pratibeshi Gosti is the literal translation in Bengali, the local language) in West Bengal of Eastern India. With the help of different NGOs we have managed to establish 477 NHCs. The aim of NHCs is to promote neighbourhood communities with people of all religions and castes and thus to promote inter-religious harmony. These units are spread out into whole of West Bengal and Sikkim states. We had been conducting awareness program and training for animators. The ideal size of a KPG is 15 to 20 families and it meets once in two weeks.

It is based on “a dream of a new socio-political and economic world order.”


The model was shared during a training on Neighborhood Human Community (NHC) by Fr. Edwin M John and Fr Augustus from Kanyakumai in South India , Feb 13 to 16, 2008 at Seva Kendra Calcutta and again from 30 June to 3rd July 2008 at Palli Unnayan Samiti – Baruipur, 24 Pargana (South) District near Calcutta.

OUR VISION:
To transform our society into a just and sustainable social order, where Gospel values are nurtured and lived

OUR MISSION:
To build a community of persons by restoring the dignity of the poor and the marginalized through an empowering process.

OUR AIMS:

  • To ensure, protect and uphold the human dignity of every person.
  • To promote the basic human rights of all.
  • To strengthen the bond among neighbourhood communities and persons.
  • To promote meaning in every area of life and uphold moral values in the society.

JESUS:

  1. Jesus took the initiative to start a Jewish-Samaritan dialogue, even though the Samaritan woman (John 4) was at first reluctant to converse with him because of her anti-Jewish prejudices.
  2. Jesus went to the Samaritan woman as one who is need of her help.
  3. Jesus is not prevented in engaging himself in dialogue with the woman because of her irony, slowness in understanding nor with her past life.
  4. He listens to her with respect and attention.
  5. He does not push her beyond what she wants to talk about and but he enables her to see the truth.
  6. As Jesus could transcend his hunger and thirst to lead the Samaritan woman and the disciple from the material level to the spiritual level of life, so the Christian community in third millennium is called to challenge the materialistic and consumeristic society to go beyond the material and the physical issues to the deeper and spiritual dimensions of human life. This has to be done by witnessing to an integral life, a life animated by the Spirit of God.
  7. It is in the SCC people live their everyday life and it is there they encounter people of other faith in the course of their everyday routine.
  8. The Samaritan woman comes to the village well to draw water (John 4:7), an ordinary routine action which she does every day, unaware that it is going to be the most important day of her life. Her prejudices stop from seeing who Jesus really is. But Jesus deals with her patiently and transforms her into a messenger of the Good news.

GANDHIJI
Sarvodaya:    Sarva = all
        Udaya = rising    
Antyodaya:    Uplift of the last and the least    and Antyodaya is the soul of Sarvodaya

The goal of Sarvodaya became the KINGDOM OF GOD (Ramrajya, as per Hindu scriptures). This Kingdom was to be attained on earth and had to be created and nurtured. Create equality among all people in order that they may be held together in the “silken net of love.”

VINOBA, a religious leader in India
TOWARDS A NEW CARING AND SHARING SOCIETY
Vinoba devised DAN (GIFT) Programmes:

  1. Shramadan (labour- gift): Contribution of part of one’s labour.
  2. Sadhandan (things- gift): subsidiary means of production, such as bullocks.
  3. Sampattidan (wealth-gift): Dedication of one’s property or income.
  4. Buddhidan: (intellect-gift) dedication of one’s mental abilities and knowledge.
  5. Jeevan dan (life-gift): Giving one’s whole life and energy.

Conception NHC/BHC:  In W. Bengal-Sikkim Region KPG-Small Neighbourhood Communities is used as a strategy for effective implementation of Community Based Disaster Preparedness (CBDP) Program.  Realizing that the SCCs are in the initial stage in our Region the Diocesan SCC Coordinators along with the Regional Service Team for SCC decided to keep the KPG with the Social workers of the Region with the guidance of SCC Regional Coordinator. Sr. Christin, HC and Regional Social Forum Secretary, Fr. I. P. Sarto and the diocesan directors of social works.  Fr. Reginald Fernandes of Calcutta, Fr. Y. Soosaiappan of Baruipur,  Fr. Puthumai Nazarene of Raiganj, Fr. Valentine Rai of Darjeeling, Fr. Oswald Xalxo of Jalpaiguri, Fr. Robin Mondol of Krishnagar, Fr. James Gonsalves of Siliguri and Fr. Wilson Fernandes of Burdwan actively encouraged their staff to form KPGs from their existing other groups.  The bishops of the region are also very encouraging this effort. Archbishop Lucas Sircar, SDB of Calcutta is the chairperson for the SCC Regional Council in the region. He encouraged and supported us by his presence during the first training of NHC.

The SCCs of West Bengal-Sikkim Region decided to follow the Community Network of Nagercoil model. The model was shared during the first “Mission in Communion” programme of the Region in Asansol, Feb. 11-12, 2008. The model was shared during a training on Neighborhood Human Community (NHC) by Fr. Edwin M John and Fr Augustus from Feb 13 to 16 Feb. 2008 in Calcutta and again 30 June to 3rd July 2008 at Palli Unnayan Samiti – Baruipur, 24 Pargana (south) District.  35 participants from the eight dioceses of the region participated and understood the meaning and objectives of KPG.  The Staff of the Regional Social Forum were given special training by Sr. Christin so that they in turn may train the village animators. Sr. Christin and Fr. I. P. Sarto were also personally present in some of the local trainings to motivate the animators using various teaching aids. A series of charts and posters were also prepared for the same. 

The participants of the NHC training met regularly on a quarterly basis to assess the progress of starting NHC in their respective areas. In March 2009, the members unanimously decided to name it as KPG after a prolonged discussion and sharing of experiences.


Training the Theology Students in Morning Star Regional Seminary, Barrackpore, Calcutta to be animators of KPG
(Khudro Pratibeshi Gosti)

Rationale:

  • Community preparedness has to be neighborhood–based preparedness
  • It is the neighbors who are immediately available when a disaster strikes.
  • The task force needs to be formed at neighborhood level and trained for effective use.
  • Neighborhood communities are well organized means with well–defined membership, more accountability, ownership and emotional involvement of each member, clear terms of reference.

Process:

  • Normally the disabled, elderly and more vulnerable are affected severely during disasters….
  • Thus we wanted to create a fellow feeling for the vulnerable through KPG and enable them to keep a track of the more vulnerable in the locality.

KPG in Disaster Preparedness will work:

  • In preparedness for any disaster as giving early warning
  • In life-saving
  • In relief operations and doing first- aid
  • In rehabilitation planning
  • In analyzing the village problems
  • In planning for integral development
  • In community monitoring


Morning Star Seminarians are taken to KPG for exposure program


Progress (formation of KPG)

The District Coordinators and Animators working in CBDP (Community Based Disaster Preparedness) programme are given with necessary guidance and training on a regular basis.

Each KPG was given a name and leaders were selected by the members. The members are to have meeting bimonthly and keep record of the meetings.

During the training in the month of May 2009, all 10 CBDP partners were given with target of forming more KPG every month.

Group formation:

  • Every KPG will be for 15 to 20 families
  • It is formed in each paras (cluster of houses) of the village
  • Sometimes the whole family together, sometime according to various sections
  • Various guidelines are given to them on how to form….SNC/KPG

Various groups in KPG
Children Groups, Adolescent Group, Mothers Groups, Fathers Groups, Aged persons Groups.


KPG/BHC Meeting

NGOs who are partners in promoting KPG in the region:

  1. Catholic Charities Krishnagar
  2. Jalpaiguri Seva Sadan
  3. Sanaskriti Samaj Unnayan Parishad, Malda
  4. Asansol Burdwan Seva Kendra
  5. Palli Unnayan Samiti, Baruipur
  6. Sreema Mahila Samiti, Ranaghat
  7. Spade, Calcutta
  8. Social Welfare Institute, Raiganj
  9. Darjeeling Social Service Society Anugyalaya
  10. Seva Kendra Calcutta 

 

Progress (training of KPG)
    After formation of KPG the training topics were discussed and finalized for each group under KPG.

    Main objective of forming KPG to strengthen CBDP was under process. The training topics were selected in such a way that all the Task Force Training should fall under either of the group of each KPG. These are to prepare the community to well in advance how to help themselves pre, during and post disaster periods.

Training 1:

Male group / Female group / Adolescent girls / boys group

  • Water purification method
  • Tube-well purification method
  • Tube well raising method
  • Use of bleaching powder and halogen tablets.


Training 2:

Female group, Children Group, Adolescent girls / boys group, Male group, Old people’s group

  • Preparation of ORS
  • Health and hygiene issues
  • Use of toilets


Training 3:

Female group, Male group, Adolescent boys / girls group, Children group

  • Family Survival Kit keeping method
  • Child Survival Kit keeping method
  • Keeping of valuable documents
  • Keeping other important items
  • Safe Keeping of books from being soiled during floods

Training 4:

Adolescent boys / girls group, Female group, Male group

  • Rescue of drowning persons and doing First Aid for the victim
  • First Aid for snake bite
  • First Aid for injured, bone fracture, burnt

Training 5:

Male group, Adolescent girls / boys group

  • Rescue of vulnerable people
  • Rescue of physically / psychologically challenged people
  • First Aid

Training 6:

Male group, Female group, Adolescent boys/girls group

  • Temporary shelter making with the help of locally available resources
  • Temporary toilet making with the help of locally available resources

Training 7:

Male group, Female group, Old people’s group, Adolescent boys/girls group

  • Collection of Early Warning information
  • Dissemination of Early Warning information with the help of locally available resources


Training 8:

Male group, Female group, Adolescent boys/girls group, Old people’s group

  • Discussion about Government schemes and grants
  • Method of accessing the benefits


Training 9:

  • Safe migration
  • Awareness on exploitation of workers going out…..
  • Human dignity of labourers…

Various responsibilities:

  • Task Force on EWS (Early Warning system)
  • Task force on Rescue
  • Task force on shelter making
  • Task force on Water & hygiene
  • Task force on sanitation
  • Task force on first Aid
  • Core coordination task force

Responsible groups:

  • Coordinating Task Force
  • Adolescents girls group to monitor trafficking of girls
  • Community Vigilance group to keep track of people going out for work

Challenges faced:

  • Initially Animators did not understand the strategy and thought that it was a separate project.
  • Initially animators were finding difficulty to form KPG and organize the meeting as area was vast and scattered.
  • Male group was not able to provide time for meeting regularly.
  • Political divisions
  • Caste systems
  • Expectations of the people
  • Family disputes
  • Migrations
  • Geographically scattered households
  • Lack of knowledge
  • People have no time
  • Inhibition and unwilling for any new idea

Strategies used to tackle:

  • Use of scriptures of various religions at the meetings
  • Use of Seven steps of Lumko Method
  • More emphasis on action planned and follow up
  • Emphasis on participatory planning and execution
  • More trainings and evaluations

Advantages of KPG

  • Accessible
  • Conveyable
  • Involves everybody
  • Stable

Dream of KPG based on the realization that

  • Nobody is more interested in people than people themselves
  • No body can be counted upon to solve the problem for people than people themselves


Identifying marks of KPG/NHC

  • Small number
  • Neighborhood community
  • Service to the neighbor universal
  • Linked to the global world
  • Based on the teachings of the sacred scriptures
  • Participative nature

by Sister Christin and Father I. P. Sarto, Calcutta

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