India is the original cradle of our Pilgrims of Charity's Association
It is here that the Providence guided Brother Francis-Mary to work at the service of the poorest of the poor people.
Every day, our mission perfects, our projects move forward and our power of action widens. Stage by stage, we set up new structures which come to complete the previous ones to offer a range of solutions always wider for the improvement of the life of these people in despair and suffering.
In Calcutta, hundreds of children survive on the platform of stations, most of the time, they are without root and without roof. Many come from Bihar, a State situated 500 km away from Calcutta, where the living conditions are very difficult. Not to starve, children land one day on the platform of the railway stations of Calcutta, thinking of finding a Promised Land there... The station where they arrive becomes then a place of survival. There, they live by begging, get back pieces of plastics or old cardboards which they resell to the black market, carry crates of vegetables to the market or carry some travellers' suitcases. Sometimes, they prostitute themselves, consume drugs (as early than the age of 10 years) or still sniff some glue which leads them to forget their hunger. They have no slightest safety and are exposed to all the dangers. The accidents of trains are unfortunately very frequent.
For your information: 41 % of the Indian population, that is 275 millions, are children. On this number, 188 millions work, among which 140 millions in rural areas and 40 millions in cities. 15 % of the victims of the S.T.D. (sexually transmitted diseases) are children under age 14. The children with whom we work are homeless and without the slightest medical care.
Working for more than 6 years now on the platform of the railway station of Sealdah (one of the two railway stations of Calcutta) with other Indian missionaries, Pilgrims of Charity's priority is to live with these deprived children: join them, look after them, to feed them where they are also by proposing them games and activities in the place where they are. In brief: humanize the place where they live. Then when it is possible, to place them... because humanely, they have no chance to come out there.
But on the platform of the railway stations, we meet many sick and handicapped children. There, it is harder and harder to find a place to welcome them. It is necessary to wait and meanwhile, the health of the child gets degraded.
Ashram of the Gift of Life is an apartment situated at approximately 15 minutes of the station of Sealdah. It is at the same time our place of life, an informal school and a night shelter for the children of the railway station.
It is also here that the mother house of the Pilgrims of Charity is located in India.
Projects for villages outside Calcutta are progressing. In a village in Jarkhand, the construction of a small dispensary is taking shape.
Didima has been on platform 5 of Calcutta station for 40 years!