Welcome to the incredible story of the Prameya Foundation. In March 2023, Toni, Mark, and Zane embarked on a long journey to Jarkhali, a remote jungle island in the Sunderbans region bordering Bangladesh, to visit a village inhabited by the Dalits - the lowest caste in society, often referred to as "untouchables."
This interview takes place inside Prameya Pathshala, a community education center built and operated by the Prameya Foundation, overcoming challenges like cyclones, limited resources, overcrowding, and first-generation-student barriers. Despite these hurdles, the school thrives and urgently needs more space, with 80 children aged 4-12 sharing a single classroom and two teachers.
Join us as we spend time with the dedicated Prameya staff and the community they serve. Witness the joy of handing out Oceanbags backpacks to each student.
Here's the transcript:
Toni: We, as the new nonprofit company, Oceanbags, just learned about Prameya Foundation and what you're doing here. Coming here is amazing. Can you help us understand exactly in relation for all those who are listening, where we are, how remote we actually are?
Mukut: Yes. First of all, I would like to take the opportunity on behalf of Prameya, to thank you for taking your time out and, you know, come visit this remotest location in West Bengal. It is the last human-inhabited island in the Sunderbans in the south of Bengal, it's called Jarkhali. After that, we have the mangrove forest. We have tiger territory.
Toni: So based on that, we're so intrigued to know what inspired you to come to this place of all the places in the world and take your stand because you truly have.
Mukut: Yeah, actually, we used to trek a lot in the parts of the Sunderbans every alternate here. When they used to come here, we saw how this landscape is changing, how people are changing because of climate change and climate-induced disasters.
What makes a place beautiful is people, and the people in these remote areas, what is their carbon footprint? It's nil, but they are the worst sufferers of global climate change, right? So we need initiatives that are community-based. And from community-based, these initiatives will be community-led there because, without committee-based initiatives, no conservation effort can ever succeed. So that's our principle.
For example, where we are sitting now is called the Prameya Pathshala. It's a community education skill development center. We started this in 2017. Back then, we had a small tent-like structure, and we used to have evening tuition classes. With the digitalization of the Pathshala, we have also installed a smart TV. The internet connection is very weak here, so we installed our router booster.
With the new form of education and activity-based learning, more people were interested in sending their kids in.
Toni: This is so incredible. What would you say your greatest challenge is here in continuing and realizing your final vision for what you see for Prameya?
Mukut: We face challenges every single day, especially in this part in the Sunderbans since it's prone to cyclones. So every alternate year, we have cyclones, so we have to somehow renovate one thing or the other.
And also to motivate the parents to get them on board, because most of them, they [our students] are first generation learners, so it's a bit of a task to continue their education when they go back home. So we need to develop a module so that they don't need to go back home and study.
Because what they will study here, it makes sense. So the rest [of the time] they can spend learning, playing and whatever activity they can do, because we cannot blame the parents, right? Because they are from this community. They have been deprived of so much.
Also, we need to train the teachers in a certain way. So we need to have workshops. We need interactive sessions here. So we need to host certain things so that there can be exchanging ideas.
Maybe kids from other parts, they'll come and interact with the kids because kids are here. They know things, but then they are shy. Yes. So they have to learn to speak for themselves. That is our thing - so that they don't need us anymore.
Toni: This is so admirable, and I know that so many people would love to help, and they don't really know how. I'm going to take this moment to say that as a nonprofit, Oceanbags, we want to help, and we want to facilitate others' helping.
And one way that that can happen is that every time someone purchases an Oceanbag backpack, they're actually contributing to Pramyea financially and even spiritually, if you will, because we are so behind this effort, and we would like to see you be able to carry it through to its most successful end.
As a nonprofit, Oceanbags is committed to support this inspiring effort, and you can help, too. By donating, purchasing a backpack, or sharing our story you'll be contributing to the Prameya Foundation's mission both financially and spiritually.
Let's join hands to make a difference and support this remarkable initiative.