Rural West Bengal has the highest levels of naturally occurring arsenic in its water table than anywhere else in the world. Arsenic causes fatal illness and deformities in unborn children. Villagers rely on water, drawn from the ground by tube wells, which are sometimes broken beyond repair or non-existent. Many villagers have to walk miles to collect clean water. Since 2004, Stepping Stones has built 11 deep tube wells, each one providing clean water for up to 500 families.
Natural Disaster Relief
Families living in poverty are extremely vulnerable to changing weather conditions and West Bengal is hammered by cyclones and floods every year between the months of June and September, killing hundreds or thousands annually and displacing tens or hundreds of thousands of families. Most vulnerable are those living in the low lying areas in the Ganges Delta. Stepping Stones assists villagers by providing blankets, clothing, food, water and medicines, as and when they are needed. Our centre also runs a food bank so that those in need can come to us for provisions.
During the Covid 19 pandemic our staff and volunteers have been distributing food to families who have lost jobs or a bread winner has died and their source of income was lost. Finances have also been made available to those who have been unable to pay for Covid vaccinations. Sadly, due to corruption and greed it is the norm in India for people to pay for vaccines which has made them inaccessible to millions of poor. Our vaccine assistance programme has made vaccinations possible for many families in our region.
Shoe Box Distribution
Stepping Stones – India is the main distributor of Samaritan Purse shoe boxes in Nadia District West Bengal. Staff and volunteers work together each year to distribute hundreds of boxes to village children living in poverty. Boxes are packed with all kinds of goodies including toys, school supplies and practical items like soap, hairbrushes, toothbrushes, hats, gloves, torches, etc. The boxes are given directly to the children and the team arrange an afternoon programme in each village that the children enjoy.
Camps are hosted by Stepping Stones annually. We have good relations with the local health service who bring a team assisted by our volunteers. Local people are invited to come and give blood which is stored in the local hospital for the benefit of local people. Many peoples lives have been saved as a result over the years. Over the years dozens of lives have been saved directly as a result of one of our blood camps. Each year donors’ que up to give blood and receive boiled eggs, bananas, biscuits and a cuppa!
Save the Children estimate that more than 8,000 children 12 and under, are either abducted or sold to gangs of human traffickers each year in West Bengal alone! This is considered a underestimated figure by many charities working in the area. Other estimates put the figure at more than 20,000 males and females abducted annually aged 19 years and under. All the children in our care were and are at risk of being dragged into slavery, mostly to meet the demands of the brothels and sweat shops across India. Stepping Stones has launched a campaign to raise awareness of human trafficking to villagers, distributing information and help line contact numbers.