2006 Systemic Change Award - Province of North India
The goal of our new venture is to produce leaders to work for the poor segment of society.
Vincent de Paul loved children and cared much for them, especially foundlings and orphans. He would shake the consciousness of the Ladies of Charity (AIC) saying: “You have become their mothers by adoption and by abandoning them you become their executioners.” We, the Vincentians in India, have inherited his passion for the well being of children. They enjoy the highest priority in our evangelization efforts. We concentrate on their education. We do it by running schools and hostels.
Hostels are shelter homes for children for a specific purpose: their schooling. We work in rural areas, which are typically mountainous terrains. The villages are scattered in the jungles. Some are too small to have a school and, in addition, there are no proper roads connecting these villages. Hence many children remain deprived of schooling.
An alternative is to gather them in a place where there are schools. Right from the beginning our veteran missionaries did that. In fact, every mission station began with a small house by way of a shelter for the missionaries and a few children gathered from the villages for schooling.
At present we have 21 hostels in which 1491 children stay and attend nearby schools. The children are provided with accommodation, food, clothing, etc. Obviously these children come from very poor families. Ethnically 85% of them are tribal children and the others are Dalits, considered low castes. Both groups occupy the lowest rung of the social ladder economically, socially and politically.
Our hostels have positive effects on the poor segment of society in three ways:
- The poor are powerless because of their lack of knowledge and awareness. Our hostels help to change this situation.
- A Catholic atmosphere envelops the hostels and the residents learn the first lessons of Christian life there. They become catechists in their villages, thus opening the way for Christ. Understandably, the hostels have become an integral part of our evangelization work.
- Hostels are our most cherished possessions for they link us directly with the poor.
A new venture we have initiated aims at creating leaders from the very poor segment of society.
Students are not able to make it to the top since they come from a very poor educational background. As a result, there is very little influence and presence in the administrative level from the poor segment. This has opened our eyes recently. Hence we launched this ambitious project, giving the best education to a selected few children.
In 2004 we started a hostel for that purpose. Poor children who are exceptionally clever are selected from the villages and brought to our hostel at Gopalpur–on–sea. They study at our school, which is one of the best in the locality for academic excellence and discipline.
Other hostels run by the North India Province