BRICKFIELD SCHOOLS - BAG TO BAG
Early morning for us today! Today we are visiting the Brickfield Schools, this is a social project that we support. The Brickfield schools are organized by ‘The St Mary Organization’ and provide school lessons to children of migrant workers on the Brickfields (steenfabrieken). The Brickfields are large widespread fields in which the production of bricks takes place. This is often done by migrants of northern India or Bangladesh. These people are often ‘stateless’ as they are not registered in any country because of their migrant nature. The Brickfield production season starts in November and goes on until the monsoon (rain) season in July. Although child labor is illegal, often the migrant children help their parents in the fields. The parents are paid per brick they make, so a helping hand increases their earnings.
The workers on the Brickfield schools take their children out of school to move with them to wherever is work. This means the children will lack behind in school and schools are opposed to taking migrant children back into their classroom after they have been away. The St Mary Organization talks to the schools to convince them to take the kids back and they also try to keep the children up to date with their schoolwork while their parents are working. Everyday weekday the school runs from 09.00 – 13.00, so at least in these hours, the children do not have to ‘help’ their parents. The schools are set up at the premises of the Brickfield production with the approval of the Brickfield owner. It’s good to hear that the owners of the Brickfields are now somewhat welcoming to the Brickfield schools because it is a good thing that they can show when government officials come by for check-ups. Also, the workers are motivated to go to a Brickfield where the schools are provided because they know that their children have a place to go during the day.
Today we are visiting and will also find out if our backpack donation has been useful! Since 2017 we donate 1% of our turnover to different social projects and past year we used this money to donate 3000 schoolbags to the students of the Brickfield Schools. The kids don’t own much and the teachers thought that a school bag would not only allow them to take homework home but would also emphasize the importance of school. Many of these children’s parents have never gone to school themselves and they sometimes do not understand the importance of education. The schoolbag gives the kids a sense of ownership and we hoped that it would make them even more motivated to go to school. We’re curious to find out what the kids think of the bags.
Arriving at the first school, we are greeted with a loud; ‘’GOODMORNING MA’’AM’’ what an energy is in these cuties.The groups are selected by age and the class consists of A, B, and C for the older kids. Normally the kids start with the school from 3 years onwards but a lot of younger kids are also in the class because their siblings have to take care of them. The young kids are coloring while the older ones learn whatever they need extra help with to ensure that they can enroll back in school once they move back. Some of the kids are coloring and two young boys are super concentrated working on their calculating sum and one even puts his arm around the other, true brotherhood. 🙂
We’re happy to see the kids wearing their bags but we’re surprised by how good the bags still look. Then the teachers explain to us that the kids are so proud of their bag that they are super careful with it. This is so cute and you can clearly see that even when they’re playing games they keep the bags on their back as they’re afraid to lose them. We’re happy to see that some daredevils drew on the bag just like we did when we were in school. Although the bags are quite big (this is the normal school bag size in India) and they don’t have much school items to carry with them, it is clear that it gives them an extra motivation to take their homework home and take school seriously. It is impossible for the parents to miss this big bag in their home and the kids are extra motivated to go out with it.
Some kids are so impressed by our visit that one small boy even starts crying. I didn’t know that Jessica and I could be so scary. Happily, when we walk away, he is one of the kids that is waving the most enthusiastic. We notice that the children don’t know what to say and are not used to seeing two western girls coming up to them. After spending some time with them and engaging in a game of; head, shoulders, knee, and toes they are feeling more secure to show us what they are drawing. The words we know in Bengali are received with a big smile.
We’re grateful that this little place in the Brickfield schools is a joyful and fun place where these kids can get a bit of education but most importantly can have fun, engage with other children and are educated. This is what we love and what we support and what we want to keep supporting. On the way back we discuss with Nabanita from the St Mary foundation what a good contribution could be for the year 2018 because we hope that you (our dear customers) together with us will make this happen again!
THE LAST DAY OF OUR TRIP TO INDIA!
This is usually a busy day because we will see all our producers, who will bring along the final samples so we can bring these back to Amsterdam, proudly show them to the OMB team and start testing them. The testing is a very important part of the bag design process, because when you are using a bag on a daily basis you might experience that a certain design looks nice, but is not practical at all. It is also a good way the check the strength, strap length and all the small details of the bag, and of course responses of friends, family, etc. on the new designs also help us out a lot!
The whole day long we were occupied with meetings, in which we discussed the samples, prices and outstanding questions. We are also bringing extra fittings, straps, leather and knob buttons so we have enough on stock to do small repairs back home and be sure that you as our customers can use your O My Bags for as long as possible. Also we receive some nice gifts including traditional Indian sweets for the office!
WE HAVE LOVELY PRODUCERS!
Thanks for this great visit to Kolkata again to Patrick, Veronica, Pinky, Mister Misra, Ashish, Prabden, Swapna, Dipanwita, Ipshita, Dinesh, Sanjay, Utsav, Akhil, Nabanita, Mahesh, Prithiijit, Mister Das, Mohit, Roli and Rahat. Thanks for making us feel so welcome, and for your hard work. And of course also a special thanks to Indra who has joined me on this production trip, and who blended in so perfectly in her colorful outfits that all producers were asking if she was really really sure she was not Indian and some even started speaking in Hindi to her.
Thanks for your hard work, genuine interest, many questions, and sharing your perspectives and thoughts!
Jessica & Indra
O My Bag