By Cheryl Francis
Asansol, Nov. 9, 2018: A group of students from St Xavier’s College, Kolkata, used their Puja holidays to bring the message of cleanliness to tribals in a remote village in West Bengal.
“Xavier’s ka sapna, swachh rahe Bharat apna (Xavier’s dream, let our India be clean),” echoed the Howrah Railway Station on October 21 as some 40 Xaverians boarded the Shantineketan Express to go to Sibda, Ausgram, East Burdwan, some 130 km northwest of Kolkata.
The camp was held during the college’s Puja holidays under the banner of National Services Scheme in collaboration with Asansol-Burdwan Seva Kendra the social service wing of Asansol diocese.
For the next six days the students conducted social-economic surveys, cleaned village roads, campaigned on sanitation and conducted classes on social evils such as child marriage for the villagers. The camp also included a socio economic study of the Dokra community.
The students got to meet the tribal community along with the minority community. After serious work during the day, the campers spent the evening in prayer, evaluation and entertainment. They also carried out camp duties such as preparation of food, cleanliness, and reporting.
“I realized how difficult it is to clean litters. So I have decided never to litter and always use the bins,” said Chumpi, a camper, said during a sharing session.
Nilayan Sen, who won the the best camper award among boys, said the camp “instilled some changes in my very being. I will no longer take the luxuries of my life for granted. I will give back to society as much as I can.”
Arshi Ali, the best woman camper, said, “I had lost myself and my confidence due to some reasons but this camp helped me to find myself back. Now I am confident that not only can I lead myself but also help others who need my help.”
Asansol vicar general Monsignor I P Sarto , the chief guest at the opening session, noted that working in villages is not new to St. Xavier’s, Kolkata.
Jesuit Father Babu Beckers, one of the teachers, used to accompany students for development work in villages; he recalled and added that Jesuit Father Felix Raj, who was a former principal, successful implemented Prayas. “We are responsible for all the things that happen around us. Therefore we must do our bit selflessly,” he urged the students.
Bishop Cyprian Monis of Asansol, the chief guest at the Valedictory program on October 26, said he was overwhelmed after listening to the final camp report. “The camp report in itself speaks volumes about the intense work the campers have undertaken,” the prelate said. He also regretted that “our society” often prevents poor children from getting educated for obvious reasons.
“I am happy to see the city educated youth going to villages not just to spread awareness about social issues but also to motivate parents to ensure children pursue their education,” Bishop Monis said.
Seva Kendra director Father Arbind Tirkey also commended the students.
The program ended with entertainment and a camp fire.
Principal Jesuit Father Dominic Savio said he was “very impressed and happy” with the students.
“I am extremely happy the way the NSS students went to the villages and spread awareness on (cleanliness). I am sure the learning has been mutual and it will remain for a long time to come. St. Xavier’s is always committed to rural outreach works and I want to congratulate the NSS Team for carrying on the legacy of developmental work.”