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As featured on 'Better India' - Help save tribal community, through the construction of a school; and the preservation of language, music and folk tales.
Mikey Bramich
448 Facebook Friends
2 Team Members

Welcome to Totopara; a marginalised tribal village in the jungles of North Bengal, situated on the border of Bhutan. The Toto tribe, population 1500, are one of the smallest communities in India to maintain their own spoken language.

In a (betel) nut shell

We're in the final phase of constructing an education centre, focussing on teaching kids in their mother tongue, whether that is Toto, Bengali, Nepali or Hindi. We currently teach a specialist multi-linguistic curriculum in a small temporary classroom. Our single donation on which were relying has fallen through at the last minute, leaving the school and five years of work, laughs, tears and snake attacks - on a knife edge. Our ongoing project activities also include scripting the endangered Toto language, providing jobs to the community, preserving the Toto culture/identity and creating a self-sustainable future. We work closely with the community every step of the way to ensure we are working towards the goals of the tribe.

Your help will result in the completion of the Chitaranjan Toto Education Centre and will help run our project for one full year.

Aside from the construction - we would like, as requested by the tribe, to create a compilation of music, poems and stories for the first time, performed by elders and the youth alike. This will not only serve as a visual anthropological document and invaluable educational resource, but also a perk for some contributors!

Who are we?

We are a small, non-religious organisation of friends, volunteers and locals - an ever evolving motley crew of people in love with Totopara and its folk.

  • Lissa Davies – Project director, founder , educator and anthropologist (BA, MSc)

  • Mikey Bramich– Project manager, creative jack of all trades, teacher

  • Prakash Toto – Teacher, animator and project assistant

  • Adam Pearson - Ethical business co-ordinator

  • Others - We have a number of highly skilled volunteers on rotation, and partner NGOs that help with teaching, drama, linguistic activities and volunteer co-ordination.

We have spoken at both Cambridge University and Jadavpur University in Calcutta about our work in the field at Totopara. If you would like more info about our approach to education and anthropology, please get in touch.

The Chitaranjan Toto Education Centre

Several years ago the tribe leaders generously donated land to our project on which to build a school and heritage centre. We have already built a traditional bamboo house which serves as a heritage site. The education centre is in the very final stages of construction – with the foundations, beams, roof and bamboo walls all in place. This centre will allow us to teach 50 children during the day, and the space can be utilised for cultural activities during the evening. We will be teaching preschool, nursery and K1 classes (between ages of 2 and 7) and will be the only facility of its kind in the village.

Language and cultural preservation

The Toto language is unscripted and listed as endangered by the Indian government. With this in mind, we are working to script the language for the first time, which will not only prove invaluable to the young Totos' education, but also will strengthen and preserve the identity of the tribe. To complement the language preservation programme, we are also collecting the ancient songs, poems and stories of the tribal elders, as well as the more modern tribal youth. None of the elders' traditional songs have been recorded in their entirety and will likely disappear unless preserved. Using professional film and audio equipment, we will be able to create high quality recordings which will be given to the Toto (and Indiegogo) community in DVD, CD or MP3 form.

Where is my contribution going?

We have created the perks in such a way that we can honour them even in the event of failing to reach our target. If we exceed our target, then we will be able to keep improving the school's facilities. If we do not reach our target, then any funds we receive will go towards paying teachers to allow the existing class to continue.


  • £1000 - Outstanding balance due for tin roof and wooden beams
  • £200 - Cement (finish lower walls, pillars, floors and steps)
  • £300 - Wood (to create windows, doors and outside bannister)
  • £500 - Local labour team (mason, carpenter and crew) wages
  • £300 - Bamboo outdoor play area and fencing
  • £300 - Outside toilet
  • £500 - Solar power units and installation
  • £100 - Paint

School and project running costs (for 12 months)

  • £6000 - One year salary and expenses for four teachers and a caretaker
  • £1000 - School materials (sports equipment, paper, pens, crayons, printer ink, paints, chalk etc)
  • £500 - Accommodation
  • £500 - Food for volunteers*
  • £1000 - Office supplies (basic internet access, furniture, xerox, colour ink)
  • £250 - Replacement projector lamp and small PA system


  • £1000 - A used jeep for the safe transportation of children and project staff

Cultural preservation

  • £300 - DVD creation – pressing, artwork, software
  • £250 - Audio (extra mics and new audio recorder)
  • £250 - Replacement lens damaged by dust
  • £250 - Buy and replace musical instruments, including traditional Toto drum and guitars

Lovely perky perks

In exchange for your support we will be offering some very unique stuff, including:

  • Copies of a DVD containing subtitled footage of songs, poems, stories and dancing, giving a real insight into this amazing tribe. This will not be commercially available.

  • Handmade items from the Totos, such as winter hats (it gets really cold here) and drawings

  • Professional photos of the community and group shots of the class of 2014 that you will be helping to maintain

  • Booklets containing recently collected folk tales and poems

You will make an unbelievable difference

You contributions will not only directly impact the education of this community, but will also help preserve the language and identity of the Toto tribe forever. You will leave a legacy of ethical development in a remote area struggling with poverty and cultural endangerment.

This project has been running successfully for 5 years, and the impact on the community has already been very positive. You can be assured that your money will be used to continue this good work.

We promise to keep you fully updated on the progress of the school and related activities.

Other Ways You Can Help

We are always on the look out for skilled volunteers, such as project managers, volunteer coordinators, applied anthropologists and experienced educators.

And, of course, please spread the word on the usual channels!

Facebook page: Headstart Totopara

Find This Campaign On
raised by 64 people in 1 month
18% funded
No time left
£14,500 GBP goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on February 20, 2014
Select a Perk
  • £5GBP

    The warm, buzzing glow of knowing you've contributed to a splendid cause. We'll give you a shout out on Facebook and Twitter.

    9 claimed
  • £50GBP

    You will receive a copy of the DVD and a hand knitted hat, made by one of the tribe. Does not include shipping.

    11 out of 20 claimed
  • £250GBP
    Forest Bison

    We'll send you a copy of the DVD, a hand knitted hat, professional photographs of the tribe and a drawing from one of the children. Does not include shipping.

    1 out of 10 claimed
    Estimated delivery: April 2014
  • £1,000GBP

    You will everything from the 'Forest Bison' perk, plus we will make you a personal thank you film from the children you are helping.

    0 out of 5 claimed
    Estimated delivery: April 2014
  • £5,000GBP

    You (and up to two more people) are invited to experience living with the Totos, plus enjoy a tailor made tour of the area, including wildlife parks, stunning views of Bhutan, jungle treks and an arranged volleyball game against the border police at the military camp. We will introduce you to the school, the children and the elders. Also, we will guarantee the sighting of a wild elephant. Includes accommodation and food, but travel not included. Timing is flexible.

    0 out of 2 claimed
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