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Calcutta Rescue, India

Calcutta Rescue is a non-government organisation based in Kolkata and Rural West Bengal. It is registered under the West Bengal Societies Act 1991.

British doctor Jack Preger started his dedicated charitable and development work for the poor and destitute people of Kolkata in 1979, by offering free medical treatment to the poor from a pavement clinic in Middleton Row, in the centre of the city. His efforts attracted travellers who supported his work and the pavement clinic. The organisation evolved into an NGO (non-government organisation) which was registered in 1991 under the West Bengal Society Act. Currently we are also looking into the issues of registration as a fair trade organisation.

Calcutta Rescue aims to improve health and education for the urban poor, destitute and disadvantaged of Kolkata. We strive to provide holistic medical care by offering curative and preventive health care and also social and financial support to the patients; efforts are concentrated at four clinics serving about 250 patients per day. We also run health programmes with the local government e.g. a TB and Leprosy programme. Calcutta Rescue also runs two schools, a cr?┬┐che and a computer centre which provide education as well as holistic health and nutrition care to 300 children.

The NGO also strives to improve income or employment opportunities and to increase the participation of marginalised people in society. To this end we run a handicraft project using sewing, embroidery, art, woodwork and other creative pursuits for ex-patients, widows of patients, students and other physically challenged individuals. Two rural weaving centres produce textiles for the handicrafts centre.

The projects produce a variety of handicraft items which are sold to both local and overseas buyers, which gives the producers a chance of financial rehabilitation and sustenance.


Home workers also come to the sewing project once a week, first for training and then to take home-prepared pieces for embroidery/ stitching which are paid per item. Though many ladies now go out to work, there are also many who cannot leave their house, either through family commitment or social pressure hence home working is a good arrangement for them.

The majority of workers at the projects would be unable to find regular paid employment. From being a young child at Calcutta Rescue school or sick / handicapped patients they are no longer 'charity cases' but work in a clean friendly environment where they are paid a fair wage for their work, which is appreciated both in Kolkata and abroad. We are not without our challenges, however. The survival of the project is a challenge in itself, as is the production of items as per buyers' demand, by the project users.

Buying our handicraft items supports our beneficiaries, many of which support their own immediate family plus extended families of grandparents, sisters, brothers and their children. Profit also goes towards Calcutta Rescue's costs including the clinic and schools and training projects.

Our plans for the future include securing and sustaining the project, and developing the business side of the projects; locally and overseas, and becoming a member of the fair trade network.

Jakir Hossain, Calcutta Rescue


Mohammad Jiauddin's story

When Mohammad Jiauddin was 12 his father died, and as Mohammad was the oldest, he had to support his younger siblings. Calcutta Rescue enabled him to bring his brother and sister to school, so they could have education, health care and food. Mohammad began woodwork with Pascale, one of the volunteers. Pamela Wynn continued the woodwork class and formed the art project and Mohammad was given a small stipend to assist him to provide for his family.

He is now 26 years old, a staff member of Calcutta Rescue, and married man expecting his first child soon.

In his own words he 'enjoys very much the new premises and very very much new work especially Ganesha bags.' He does not like being without work. He thinks fair trade is good way of working, and everybody is happy, unlike a lot of work 'outside'.