India is the original cradle of our 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.
So in this section, you will find the testimonies of these people, permanent or one day Pilgrims of Charity who share or shared our self-sacrifice with the poor people.
"The spirit of the Lord sent me to proclaim the good news to the poor people" (Is 61,1)
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, our priority is to live with these 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.
For that purpose, two solutions are proposed to them:
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.
The idea to acquire a place where we can welcome directly the children was born 5 years back. It became a necessity to me while I felt helpless with children whom I tried to save and whom certain centers and hospitals refused. A few years ago already, I was able to find a place, 50 km away from Calcutta, in border of a small village of Bengal: Kalyani. It was a school which closed 5 years ago and had an adjacent ground of 1000 m².
This place, which is also a place of prayer, allows:
The ground of 1000 m² allows to realize a park for the children and the possibility of making another building.
The association The Pilgrims of Charity aims at helping the most deprived by the realization of urgent projects:
It is in 2008 that we were finally able to concretize this project and when the House of Happiness was able to open its doors.
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 is our parent house.
For the most part of the children of the station and the streets that we have the grace to serve, the formal education remains absolutely inaccessible, as well educationally than financially.
One of our priorities is to put each of our helps, medical and school in particular, at the level of the children, by offering to them the best of our skills. It is even more true in the field of the education.
So, we decided to open a "non formal school" accessible to the children of stations and slums of Calcutta.
This school gives as first project to be accessible to all the children and the teenagers by proposing a complete program including the brotherly meeting, the education, the sport, meals and night accommodation.
We also propose to them classes of English, spirituality, dance also singing, to develop the talents of each one of them.
The school was inaugurated on February 15th, 2014 by Frédéric Leblanc, member of the Pilgrims of Charity.
It is opened on Tuesday and Thursdays from 5 pm till 9 pm. It works thanks to the presence of four professors who share the diverse subjects to be taught.
Among the children of the railway stations and streets of Calcutta with whom we share our life, most of them are without root and without roof.
Yet the night is one of the most difficult moments because they are exposed to all the dangers. Not only the thefts, the harassment of the dealers, but also they are sexually deceived, beaten by drunk people or being druged by someone when it is not by the very police.
Although we chose, at the request of the children, to sleep one night a month with them, we are conscious that it is not sufficient. It is one of reasons why we decided to open a night shelter.
This night shelter is opened five days a week and the children can arrive in the evening, take a shower, a dinner and have a good night sleep in safety before leaving the following morning after a breakfast.
The night shelter is under the responsibility of Kamal Sardar, member of the Pilgrim of Charity, who officiates there as guard.