Siliguri-based engineer-turned social researcher Anirban Nandy and wife Poulomi are co-founders of Live Life Happily (LLH, estb.2017), an NGO which runs a mobile library and sanitary pad bank for children of tribal communities in 30 villages and 16 tea gardens in five northern districts of West Bengal. The mobile library houses 7,000 textbooks for class V-XII students including reference books for competitive exams such as NEET and IIT-JEE. Moreover, during the past four years, LLH has distributed 12,000 free-of-charge sanitary pads to adolescent girl children living in these remote districts of the state.
Newspeg. On January 31, LLH introduced beauty and skincare professional training programmes for adolescent girls of two tea estates in Darjeeling district.
History. An alumnus of West Bengal University of Technology and BIT-Mesra, and currently a senior research fellow at IIT-Kharagpur, Anirban was raised in Siliguri (pop.1 million), a tier-II town located in the Himalayan foothills and trading centre of the verdant tea gardens of Darjeeling. “Growing up I witnessed the huge education deficit and poor standards of sanitary hygiene in the tea estates. A large number of children especially girl children, drop out of school to work on the estates. In 2017, Poulomi and I decided to start LLH to do the best we could towards improving education and hygiene standards in these neglected districts,” says Nandy, whose Ph D thesis research at IIT-Kharagpur is focused on rural development in the tribals dominated areas of North Bengal.
According to Nandy, both these projects — mobile library and the sanitary pads bank — have proved a big hit with children and parents. Under the mobile library initiative apart from lending books to children, the duo also provides ‘10 takar tuition’ in computer science, economics, maths, political science, and English for a token fee of Rs.10 per month.
The sanitary pads initiative has also received enthusiastic support from the local community. “This was our first project started in 2017. We set up an online platform inviting the public to gift sanitary pads. This online system which also connects donors with beneficiary girl children is a huge success,” says Poulomi.
The NGO’s annual budget of Rs.5 lakh is mainly self-financed with contributions from friends-turned-donors, education activists and local village authorities such as ASHA health workers, SHGs (self-help groups) and district administrative officers.
Future plans. Inspired by the success of their initiatives, this idealistic duo plans to introduce additional skills training programmes for children and youth of North Bengal. “Hitherto unknown skills such as financial literacy and basic accounting need to be taught to youth to make them employable. Simultaneously, we intend to expand the reach of the mobile library to cover a larger number of rural girl children and encourage them to undertake vermicompost, mushroom cultivation, and organic farming projects. Our prime objective is to bridge the gaping education and health inequality gap between rural and urban children,” says Anirban.
May your tribe increase!