Bani Mandir was established in the year 1945 by like-minded primary school teachers in and around the village named Khordanahala.
Bani Mandir or the ‘temple of knowledge’ was started for the kids residing in the village. It was first a library, set up to inculcate a reading habit in children. In due course, they conducted welfare and development activities for the poor and needy. Initially, it was also involved in mass awareness, emergency aid etc.
Bani Mandir got registered in 1978 as an organization. The only project then was the library for school children.
“The major breakthrough happened 1985, when we got in touch with SAHAY, an American organization, and requested for funding. They did a thorough research and consented to visit our organization. They agreed to sponsor the education of 50 children,” says Mr Biplab, who is the program manager of the organization.
In 1989, they got FCRA funding and immediately wanted to expand their projects and meet more demands.
The organization started to observe the fate of the men in the villages. They had no stable income as many of them were on daily wages and were working under rickshaw contractors. They used to pay 60% of their earnings to the contractor and take home 40% to feed their family.
Bani Mandir, with the help of donations from various organizations, supplied rickshaws to these people so that they can own the vehicles and keep all their earnings.
“During our sponsorship programme, we started to observe that there was a demand for basic computer education among youth. We then selected few children who were below the poverty line. We started to look for areas with computer coaching centres. After getting consent from them, we enrolled the students into these centres,” explains Biplab.
The village lacked proper medical facilities, and the women were badly affected. Babies were born under-weight and there was no postnatal care, which affected the health of the mothers. This lead to the prenatal and postnatal care project, where the mothers were given nutrition and supplements required during pregnancy. They were also guided about the postnatal care procedures.
“Few malnourished kids from the village were also assessed by the doctors and given sufficient diet like rice, dal, pulses, soya, etc.”
The organization also looks into the holistic development of the village. It conducts recreational activities to the aged such as taking them out for a pilgrimage visit.
What just started as a knowledge bank for the village folk has now expanded to many programmes which cater to their every need. Bani Mandir is definitely a legendary name in the South Paraganas district of West Bengal.