Making a Difference in Someone's Life

In Calcutta - a city that boasts of rich heritage and culture and has been the home over the ages for the intellectual babus - one should not be surprised to see little children, homeless and abandoned, helpless and rejected, dirty and despairing, roaming in the streets and by-lanes of the 'City of Joy.'

They are the street children who were born and grew up in the streets and have made it their home. Shunned by all, they have no hope, no vision, no future and most grow up to become rag pickers, beggars, anti-socials, drug-addicts, delinquents or plain vagrants.

Many go without food for days and love is an alien word to them. The apathy of the local government makes things worse as they are chased, abused, and shunted from place to place as their shanties are often demolished to make way for social progress.

But there are many Christians organizations doing an amazing social works, who takes care and have embraced loveless street children. Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity was one of them which comes into everyone's mind. One which specializes in bringing up street children is Good News Children Education Mission.

Started in 1991, Good News Children Education Mission was the brainchild of Reverend Subir Roy and his wife who always yearned to do something for the impoverished street children and those who were underprivileged and neglected. Drawn to tears upon seeing their suffering and abject poverty, Mrs. Roy, who hails from Korea, took the initiative to learn the local language herself so that she could impart to them proper education and guide them to good way of living. The initiative taken by this God-send couple soon bore fruit as, over the decade, their one-room school in Santoshpur, grew and expanded into 8 institutions that are planted all over the city of Calcutta and caters to over 1500 children.

"In the beginning it was not easy," reflected Rev. Roy. "We were discouraged by many and it took us quite some time before we could gain the confidence of the children themselves or their parents. Now, by the grace of God, we have 6 schools that provide sound education to the underprivileged children of single parents and 2 mobile schools that cater to the needs of the impoverished street children."

When asked about how the mobile schools functioned, Rev. Roy invited the Christian Today team to experience a day in the lives of the street children. As the Christian Today team boarded the school bus, they were taken for a round in the city and were shown the spots from where the street children were picked up in the morning and were dropped off in the evening. And what the team of reporters saw was really amazing. It was impossible to hold back one's tears to see impoverished but smiling parents emerging from small shanties and slums with toddlers in tow, more than eager to hand them over to Rev. Roy so that their children may receive what they have never received - care, concern, love, a sense of being belonged and most importantly, sound education and hope that may make them responsible citizens of the future.

Every child that attends the mobile school is dropped off at a specific location in the morning where they are given proper bath. Indeed, cleanliness is next to Godliness and this Education Mission makes no exception. After they are washed, they are dressed in uniforms that bring into their lives a sense of self-identity and being belonged. In fact, one reporter was amazed to see the transformation a uniform could make in a person as one could hardly recognize them as those who have made the streets their home. Once uniformed, they are rounded up and sing praises. Then they are imparted moral education, followed by basic education in English, Vernacular language and Mathematics. "We also teach them handicrafts to instill in them self-confidence and also conduct a class of physical education that helps them in understanding the importance of bringing discipline in their lives. And we sometimes conduct summer and winter camps too through which we prepare them for their journey of life," Rev. Roy said.

During afternoon, for lunch, they are served generous helpings of nutritious vegetables and rice. After lunch, the children take part in recreational activities or take rest before they are sent back to their parents.

"Our teaching staff comprise of well-qualified and dedicated people who are faithful to the Lord, committed in their work and through selfless service can testify the love of the Lord," explained Rev. Roy.

When asked how their activities influence the development of the society, Mrs. Roy, a mother of three, explained, "A society is not only comprised of us but it comprises of them too. If a society has to grow in a well-balanced way, not only we should be educated, but they deserve education too. They are a part of this society and we cannot simply neglect or ignore them. Instead of dismissing them, if we make them feel loved, cared for, and belonged and give them dream and hope in their lives, even they will be able to contribute towards our society and grow up to become responsible citizens and give up evil ways of life. After all, they are human beings too, they are our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and they deserve to hope and dream and expect too, just as we do."

"Sometimes the government and the local authority misunderstands our purpose and wonders whether conversion is our intention," laments Mrs. Roy. "Conversion is and never has been our intention. We only believe in imparting sound education to these children and make them responsible citizens of our society. Let us not forget that they are the ones who are going to share this world with our own children."

Running so many schools and looking after over 1500 children would have been difficult for Rev. Roy to manage, had not churches and NGOs and individual donors come forward to assist him financially or otherwise. "What we get is barely enough to make both ends meet. But we are never in want for the Lord always sees to our needs," exclaimed Rev. Roy.

Any plans for the future? "Yes," Mrs. Roy confided. "We propose to open 3 more institutions in this city by April so that more children can receive the love of the Lord and rekindle the dream and hope in their lives."

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:14) Indeed, the Lord works in amazing ways and, even though the society may neglect these children of the destitute, He does not. Through Good News Children Education Mission, He is always pouring down His endless love and blessings on these neglected urchins of the street and bringing hope and dream into their lives. Let us always pray for this mission and this couple who are selflessly serving God's own people, bringing good news in their lives every day, and preparing them to become responsible citizens for the Kingdom of God.

If you would like make a difference in the lives of these children and help Good News Children Education Mission with your prayers or financial support, please write to:

Good News Children Education Mission
142-1 Santoshpur Avenue
Kolkata 700075.
India.
Tel: (91) (33) 2416-3041
Mobile: (91) (33) 98312-68117
E-mail: [email protected]
Web site : http://www.gncem.org

- Special Feature: Christian Today South Asia