Posted by Nayanika Das and Gunjan Chandak Khemka of Iswar Sankalpa, Kolkata
Shibani Sinha is a 28 year old resident of Sarbari, a shelter for homeless women with psychosocial disabilities. She had started training at Café Crust and Core (a café cum training unit for these women) in 2018.
Shibani had recently enrolled in an advanced bakery training course at JBL Academy in Gariahat, Kolkata from February 2020. She would travel on her own every day, and come back to Sarbari every evening, with new stories and goodies she had baked that day. In the video she speaks about how the lockdown has taken away the promise of a new beginning from her, temporarily.
Shibani was brought to Sarbari by the Kolkata Police in 2017 when she was found wandering on the streets, in a dishevelled, lost state. She was previously a student of Buddhist Philosophy and was learning Sanskrit in Tripura, but she chooses not to talk about the circumstances that brought her to the streets of Kolkata. She has travelled a long journey since then, having battled her psychosocial disabilities to now being a witty, social and confident young woman.
In the month of December 2019, we were able to trace her brother to Kanpur, where he is working in a factory. Shibani was immensely happy and hopeful. She was motivated to start training harder, in order to secure a good job in Kolkata’s busy café industry. She had planned it out – she was to secure a certificate in advanced training, work for a few months and save money. She would then go to Kanpur, find a job at a bakery, and live with her brother, taking care of him. He is physically disabled, waist below.
She would come back next year and get a diploma in baking, or if she found an institute in Kanpur, she would get her degree there. The lockdown has fallen heavy on Shibani’s hopes.
Hope for people in Shibani’s state is a treasure, and hope that begins to convert into reality is special. Shibani smiles, but she is irritated. Yet, she understands. Her voice is clear – she wants to get out of the Shelter and grow. She is determined to go right back to the kitchen tables of JBL Academy once this lockdown is lifted.
Iswar Sankalpa is a not-for-profit organisation working to protect the rights and dignity of homeless and vulnerable persons with psychosocial disabilities. The flagship programme of Iswar Sankalpa is a revolutionary Community Mental Healthcare Programme where homeless persons with psychosocial disabilities are linked to care networks within the community. These service users make a journey of social recovery within the very community where they were left abandoned.
Iswar Sankalpa’s shelter homes (Sarbari for women, Marudyan for men) and assisted community living programme (Nayagram) are rehabilitation spaces where homeless persons access psychosocial interventions to eventually make a journey of psychosocial recovery – smiling, contributing, working, and living. Many even go back to their families who they haven’t met in years. Others create new realities for themselves – new lives with new purposes. The Livelihood Programmes are designed to provide a platform to such marginalised persons to reclaim their lives and start contributing to society through new vocations.
You can watch the documentary ‘Between Lives’ to know more about homelessness and psychosocial disability at https://youtu.be/BmWd5dHtxgk . To know more about Iswar Sankalpa visit www.isankalpa.org or https://www.facebook.com/iswarsankalpa/