Dear Friends,

When people think of volunteering, they usually look for something in their vicinity, but we are very far away, in Bihar. So a special thank you for considering volunteering with us. If you haven’t already browsed our website please do, it will give you a better idea of what we do.

The Mosamat Budhiya Shiksha Nirman Sangathan (MBSNS), is a registered Trust, focusing on education, in a very broad sense and not just limited to formal institutional education.

Here are two ways you can pitch in: 

Remote Support:

One being wherever you are you can invite us to visit and talk to a group of people who would be interested in hearing about our story and work. We would appreciate if the group has atleast 20 or more people. You can write to us at mbsnsbihar@gmail.com

Other ways you can contribute is by hosting crowdfunding campaigns for specific projects, collection drives (for say books or winter clothing or other needs), finding meaningful learning materials, sharing career or learning opportunities for our youth, designing curriculums etc.

Come spend time with us! Another way you can pitch in is by actually visiting us and volunteering your time, skills (art, music, research, crafts, dance, cooking etc) and resources (films, books, technology etc). If you choose this please keep the following things in mind:

Though every visit is meaningful and every exposure makes things better for us, it is equally true that we hope you will come for a minimum period of 1 week, which will give you the chance to understand our work. However, if you are coming to just visit us, please get in touch with us and we can figure out a mutually convenient time for your visit. To make any meaningful contribution to the ongoing work we feel you need more that one week and that the first week will get spent understanding the work and context. Once here the kinds of work you can involve yourself in:

  1. Do village stays with local saathis, and help engage with the local government school. On of our many areas of focus is to see better functioning government schools.
  2. Be part of youth camp, workshop or children’s club being organised in villages.
  3. Do children’s activities, or organise balmelas etc with children of our members such that children get exposure to new ideas, see learning as fun. We feel involving and exposing children to ideas of equality and justice from an early age, helps them understand the world around them better and also engages them in the sangathan.
  4. Support the work being done by a trust worker.
  5. Help document stories of our work.

We have found that volunteers who come in may find it odd that there is no 9 to 5 schedule in our work. We must understand that working in a rural setting we have to try and respect the rhythm of the local work and communities, therefore during peak agricultural seasons work slows down. The humid summer heat specially in the months of August and September, may make working in the afternoons a no-no 🙂 and things like these. And therefore there will be days when all we do is being at the centre, spending time cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, talking and discussing issues and doing general shramdaan at the centre, and all this is valuable work. In addition helping students study and maintain their schedules.

Most of us associated with the MBSNS, lead simple lives. In your village stays however, the homes you will stay in donot even have basic civic amenities like toilets, running water, electricity etc, please be prepared for this.

We also expect you to accept equality in lifestyle, and chores.

The following are a few standard instructions we would request you to keep in mind and follow:

  1. Kindly bring along your own bed sheets and other essentials like medicines, torch, odomos, water bottle etc. In case you are using sheets/pillows of the organisation you will need to wash and keep them back once you leave. Please also carry a single person mosquito net.
  2. Carry a small bag for your village stays, travelling light to the villages is a very good idea and much needed, because you will have to walk and take public transport and lugging a huge bag, VIP et al with wheels etc are a very bad idea.
  3. Wherever you stay please join in the cooking and cleaning. You can contribute by buying vegetables, cooking oil, rice or dal (other rations) and do try to take part in the cooking exercise. Washing your own utensils is a rule in the Trust. Cleaning common vessels and involving yourself with sweeping/cleaning of living and common spaces is much appreciated. In fact the household you live with may not encourage it but we highly recommend this as it helps you establish that all work is equally valuable, it takes the burden off women of the household because usually they do all these tasks, and it encourages our members to rethink their own behaviour where a male member may make no contribution to household chores and seeing you at it may help them rethink their own lifestyles and attitudes.
  4. At the centre, we try to do work collectively and do shramdaan, and we hope you will also help out in all the activities.
  5. Discipline in terms of time and participation in work will be required to be maintained.
  6. Do try to bear your own local travel costs but if you cannot afford it please let us know in advance, so we can take that into account.
  7. No alcohol is to be consumed during any part of your stay with us.
  8. No smoking at the centre, in office or during work, which includes your village stays. At least do not become a bad role model and smoke in public. 
  9. We follow a dress code to make sure we do not offend local sensibilities. No shorts or revealing garments allowed either for men or women, because we live in the village amongst conservative communities.

Kindly confirm your dates with us, and remind us of your travel plans closer to your date of travel. Also, send us a contact number. Do call us at least a couple of days before you leave. Our numbers 9771950248 / 7283096612.

Please send us a confirmation on line through email about your arrival and other details, as well as text us on the numbers given above. We need to know the exact dates that you will be with us so that we can make arrangements accordingly. If you need a certificate please do draft the same, and get it signed before you leave the JJSS, this saves the hassle of posting later.

For any further information please write to us. Be sure to contact us before booking your tickets. 

Some travel suggestions:

  1. If you coming from the North East, come to Katihar Junction (irctc code KIR).
  2. From Delhi, you can catch the Seemanchal express from anand vihar terminal to Araria Court station (irctc code ARQ) or get to katihar on some of the faster trains like Rajdhani.
  3. From Calcutta, there is a daily train to Katihar (Hate Bazare Exp), and tri-weekly to Araria Court (Kolkata JBN Exp)
  4. From Patna, there are several trains to Katihar, and overnight buses to Araria.
  5. The nearest airport for us is Bagdogra, Bengal. This airport is a 3 hour taxi ride and 6 hours by public transport.

मोसमात बुधिया – एक साहसी किसान

बुधिया मोसमात अररिया में रहती थी. तब अंग्रेजों का राज था. अंग्रेज़ बहादुर का दरबार यहीं केंद्र के पास लगता था. कहते हैं अंग्रेज़ कंपनी मालिक इस इलाके में ज़बरदस्ती नील की खेती कराते थे. नील से ज़मीन बर्बाद होती थी, धान की कमी हो गयी थी और भुखमरी की हालत इलाके में छा गयी थी.

इलाके के किसान बुधिया को बहुत मानते थे और अपनी दुःख की कहानी उसे सुनाते थे. बुधिया से यह सब बर्दाश्त नहीं होता था, उस ने अपने किसान साथियों से कहा आप एक रात के लिए मुझे अंग्रेजों द्वारा दिए गए बीज दें और सवेरे बीज ले जा कर बो दें. किसानों ने ऐसा ही किया.

रात में जब बुधिया के पास बीज आते तो वह आधे बीज भूज कर बाकी बीज के साथ मिला देती. इस तरह पहले साल आधी फसल बर्बाद हो गई, अगली फसल के बीज फिर किसानों ने बुधिया को दिए और उन्होंने फिर आधे बीज भूज कर मिला दिए और इस तरह अंग्रेजों की नील की खेती बर्बाद होने लगी. कम्पनी बहादुर के जासूसों ने यह बात अंग्रेजों तक पहुंचाई की रात भर के लिए किसानों के बीज बुधिया के पास रहते हैं और शायद यहीं कुछ हो रहा है.

मो. बुधिया को पकड़ कर कम्पनी बहादुर के दरबार में पेश किया गया. कहते हैं अंग्रेज़ साहब बहादुर ने बुधिया से पूछा की क्या तुम ने हमारी नील की खेती बर्बाद की है. फिर कहा जाता है कि बुधिया डरी नहीं और उसने अंग्रेज़ साहब बहादुर से पूछा “अगर आप के लोग भूखे मर रहे होते तो क्या आप यह नहीं करते जो मैं कर रही हूँ?” उस के बाद कहा जाता है कि अंग्रेज़ साहब ने बुधिया को छोड़ दिया और नील की खेती इस इलाके में बंद कर दी.

हिम्मत्ती बुधिया को जिंदाबाद!

Health Workshop

The MBSNS, along with the JJSS and CHARM (Centre for Health and Resource Management) is engaging with a community health programme. The JSS and Saathi groups have been terrific resource persons, here is an update on the most recent health workshop, organized at the MBSNS centre.

Shakuntala of SAATHI talks about menstrual health with health workers at the workshop

Third in the series of health workshops being organised in Araria, concluded on the 9th of August, it concluded on a very enthusiastic note wherein participants promised to return for the fourth workshop in December.

As usual, most of the participants arrived on the 6th evening. There were around 30 participants this time. From SATHI Pune, Shakuntala, Bhau and Nitin had come. Bhau couldn’t come for the last workshop and his energy and humour were missed.

Day 1 – 7th August, the session started around 9:30 AM. After a quick round of introduction and sharing of the themes that would be discussed in this workshop, a substantial amount of time was spent on revising and revisiting the topics discussed in the previous workshop. Most of the participants remembered what was discussed about Anemia in the last workshop. Following which, there was a sharing session wherein participants had to do a Panchayat wise presentation of the work that the health workers undertook in their respective Panchayats. Most participants had engaged in some health-related work or the other – from taking patients in their village to public health facility, to raising voice at the local anganwadi center for distribution of food items to pregnant and lactating women, and children. One of the primary focuses of the health programme has been to motivate people to access Government Health facilities. Some of the participants even raised the issue of functional subcenters in their area with the local health administration, with the support from local volunteers.

In this workshop, a concrete plan was drafted as to what all follow-ups and future action steps that needs to be undertaken – for example – collecting and documenting complaints regarding corruption in ambulance services or at the level of health facility, especially during delivery. To achieve this – making of a concrete plan – participants were divided into smaller groups in which they had to discuss what they could do at the Panchayat level to ensure that they have a functional sub center, free ambulance services, free deliveries at a public health facility, etc.

The day ended with the participants watching Pad Man – a mainstream Bollywood film, on one man’s quest to remove menstrual taboos.

Day 2 – 8th August, the session started at 9a.m. Smaller groups had to make presentations regarding future action plan in their Panchayats. This was followed with a larger discussion on strategies to strengthen public health system. Participants were highly motivated to ensure that public health system functions properly in their area. This time, as part of the Health Education component, focus was on women’s health – mainly white discharge, red discharge and uterus prolapse. Participants had a lot of questions and listened very keenly. These are very common issues that women in the villages suffer from. The day ended with participants being divided into 3 smaller groups wherein each group was asked to prepare a short presentation on each of three topics pertaining to women’s health that were discussed.

The day ended with participants watching Manjhi – another Bollywood film, true story of a man who looses his wife due to non-accessible health care and then devites many years of his life to building a road to make health care accessible for his village.

Day 3 – 9th August, the session started at 7:30 in the morning. The three smaller groups that were formed, did presentation on white discharge, red discharge and uterus prolapse – symptoms, causes, prevention etc. This was followed by a revision and repetition of the action plan that was made and what they are supposed to do once they return to the villages. Then the group officially bid farewell to SATHI folks with the hope that all of us will return to this place and meet each other after 3 months – having moved may be a step or two in the direction of claiming our health rights and strengthening the public health system. After a quick lunch, all the participants along with Shaku, Bhau and Nitin made a visit to Araria District Hospital – making themselves familiar with all the departments at the hospital and some of the facilities and schemes that are available at the DH. This was followed by a short meeting with the highest medical officer in the district – the Civil Surgeon. Both participants and the CS were glad that they meet each other. The group dispersed after this. Participants from Forbesganj and Narpatganj blocks, shopping with Shakuntala, Bhau and Nitin proceeded to Forbesganj Block Hospital – as part of the confidence building exercise for the health workers. Visiting the health facility with the health workers boosts their confidence. During the visit, some observations were made such as – IPD wards are not kept properly, patients are not given 3 meals in a day etc. These issues will be raised at the level of Block Hospital administration.

The next workshop will be conducted sometime in December and meanwhile participants are going to raise the issue of health rights in their areas and also disseminate information that was given to them regarding women’s health.

Stories from the centre 2018-21

The children from the centre carry many stories of their own. Each with their aspirations of growth and change. We are now running a campaign to raise funds for their education. If you’d like to contribute, fund this campaign – https://milaap.org/fundraisers/support-mosamat-budhiya-shiksha-nirman-sangathan#

“I have 3 sisters and one brother, and my parents work as laborerers in the village. My parents also help the people in the village. Most of the time, the villagers work as laborers and don’t get paid. It’s been a year since I came to the centre. When I was home in my village, I was very unaware about the society I lived in. I didn’t know about the problems that most of my community faced and the rights that we were entitled to. Through the sangatan, I’ve grown to understand the rights of the labors and farmers. Education at the center is a lot more interesting and I get to interact with people. It isn’t rigid like my old village school. My bua (aunt) had trouble with her property and we were on our way to the court. It was then, that my parents stumbled upon a meeting that was conducted by JJSS where they were distributing pamphlets. My parents became a member with JJSS in 2012. My father went to ask for employment under the NREGA scheme but was denied. So, he protested and was supported by over 90 women. The association with JJSS helped succeed the struggle, especially with the help of the information provided in the pamphlet that was first distributed. Soon, more villagers became saathis with the Sangatan.I want to visit new places and understand what’s happening around the world. An ideal world for me is when everyone has equal rights. There shouldn’t be any discrimination on the basis on caste, religion or gender like it’s happening here.” 

“My dream is to become a singer. I want to help the Sangatan and understand the problems of the people around me better.  I also want to find solutions for those problems. An ideal world for me is when we think about the poor and marginalized and help them. People from vulnerable communities should be able to work and earn money. That’s my dream.”

“Rich people exploit the poor and take away all the money. I want to do the kind of work JJSS does here and help people who have been exploited. A lot of children are taken to cities like Delhi for work and rarely come back. We never hear back from them. I want to study social work and become a professional. My family does not have enough money and I know it will be difficult for me to become who I want to because of this.  The environment in my house and my village was never conducive for me to study, that’s why I came to the centre. I’ve been here for 8 months now. I can see a lot of difference in myself ever since I came here. I meet a lot of new people and my older brother helps me study. My dream was to become a cricketer, but I don’t think it’s possible because of where I come from. Given an opportunity, I will definitely give it my best to pursue my dream. An ideal world for me is a place where everyone gets an equal opportunity regardless of their differences and live happily.” 

“My name is Sulochana Kumari and I’m from Katihar. My parents are labourers. The environment in my house not great ever since my sister married into a family of a different caste  . My parents don’t talk to them anymore. My parents didn’t give me the papers I needed to write my exams so I couldn’t finish them. I’m not sure if I’ll get to finish my exams next year. I want learn jangeet ( songs for the people seeking freedom). I’ve faced a lot of problems for many years now. I don’t have support from my family and we don’t have enough money. Initially there was no gender based inequality in my family but my family has now changed after listening to the society. I don’t like the discrimination based on caste at all. I want freedom for women. All women should be given with the freedom to go outside. Girls needs more rights. Until there’s harmony amongst, this world will remain this way. There shouldn’t be differences based on caste or gender.” 

*Update: Sulochna has since this interview been supported by her sisters to get her papers in place, and she will be appearing for her 12th class exams in 2020. She has joined a tuition class to get back to her studies ever since she was forced to leave home.

“My name is Manish Kumar and I’ve been at the centre for the past two years. My mother has been associated with JJSS and my father works as a casual labourer for the forest department. I
was not able to study when I was home because of financial constraints and there were no coaching centers available. So now, I’ve chosen science and I want to become an engineer and help poor people fight for their rights. I want to try to make a better society. To do this, I’ll learn from the Sangatan and tell people around me. There will always be difficulties but you will have to cope up with them. Most of the difficulties I may face in the future will be related to money. The ideal world for me is when people have equal rights and there is no discrimination on the basis of caste or religion.” 

Contributors : Manisha, Gokhul, Dilip, Kushboo and Meera