Suchana began almost by accident. Early in 2004, Kirsty Milward and Rahul Bose, who came to live in the area in 2001, set out to do some pre-school activities with their own young children and interested others. The most interested of the others turned out to be primary aged Santal children from the immediate neighbouring village who regularly attended the once-a-week sessions. Their literacy levels were very poor despite being enrolled in primary school, but their regular attendance at these sessions seemed like a clear opportunity to address this. So Suchana’s first teacher, Bhabini Baski, was employed and the Early Learning Group was born.
2004 – 2007
With the advice of the primary school teacher, more children were introduced to the developing programme through 2004 and 2005, and a series of meetings were held with parents to establish communication, objectives and a governance structure. In June 2005, a 14 member village-based Executive Committee was established and Suchana was formally registered as a Society.
In 2005, the Health Project was started in response to a series of unnecessary deaths and health crises which clearly suggested a need for some co-ordinated and sensitive health inputs.
The Early Learning Group continued to grow throughout 2006 and 2007 to its current level of 140 children. A second weekly session was introduced, and a weekly sports/games afternoon. During this period, the library was also initiated and a system which would make it work for the children was gradually developed. Suchana’s curriculum and teaching methods were articulated, discussed, and put into practice. Throughout this period, Suchana ran the Early Learning Group on two days a week on the veranda of Kirsty and Rahul’s house, and later in a now unused pottery studio. But it was evident that more space was needed and that more sustained work would have better results. So fundraising began amongst wellwishers and friends, and a great many people helped to make a proper location and a different future for Suchana.
In mid 2009, Suchana moved into its new building, set on ¼ acre of land just beside the Santal village the original children lived in. At the same time, Suchana officially became an Education Resource Centre and went full time: the building was open for teaching programmes as well as drop in study and play 10 hours a day, 7 days a week. A pre-school, secondary school tuitions, and a computer course were added to the teaching programmes and Activity Groups began as a way to bring local people into education as experts and to broaden the scope of learning. By 2011, there were about 220 children attending different parts of the teaching programmes.
By this time, we were ready for the first outreach venture: the mobile library. With 400 books in colour-coded trunks loaded onto a van rickshaw, the library began by visiting four villages on two afternoons a week. Over the next two years, the number of trips was increased as we gained financial and human capacity, and by 2013 the mobile library was also running 7 afternoons a week and reaching around 600 children.
With numbers of children and numbers of activities both slowly increasing at the Education Resource Centre, it was also time to finally complete the second storey of the building that had been planned but not yet built. So building work re-started in 2012, and by January 2013 the upstairs was ready for inauguration – with a big art room / meeting space, an extra classroom and an open-air classroom on the small veranda.