Participants of the DTC-ASHA program finish a day of training in Darjeeling, India. Photo: SASAC/SOJASI.

COVID-19 has killed thousands of people in India and has exacerbated the marginalization of poor and vulnerable people. When the pandemic was at its worst in the spring of 2021, the Darjeeling Jesuits promptly responded in innovative ways to reach communities in lockdown. We focused on relief distribution, vaccination, livelihood support, special education and skills training programs. We continue to implement these programs as we adapt to our current reality.

Human Life Development and Research Centre (HLDRC)

Ensuring continued access to quality education
80% of children in tea gardens had no access to online education during the two years of lockdown. In response, we established 13 new study centres in remote tea gardens in Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri. Today, we continue to tutor 425 students from grades 1 to 10 in these centres.

Youth job placement and training
We established a six-month computer hardware and networking program. The first batch of 30 students have graduated with 22 already employed. Thirty more students started the program last August.

Lok Manch – Livelihood support for women and Indigenous people
Women from self-help groups cultivated and planted vegetables and lentils on vacant land around tea gardens and forests. With support from Lok Manch leaders and the government, they were able to turn 47 acres in 3 tea estates into agriculturally productive land. This project also gave Indigenous people access to sustainable livelihood and augmented their daily wage of CAD$ 3.30. Lok Manch also continues to ensure that government rations, pension and health assistance reach poor people in over 120 tea gardens.

St. Alphonsus Social and Agricultural Centre (SASAC) and the Society of Jesus Agricultural and Social Institute (SOJASI) – SASAC/SOJASI

District Training Centre (DTC) for the Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA)
SASAC/SOJASI established DTC – ASHA for government grassroots health workers in Darjeeling and Kalimpong. This development and training program empowers women to improve health and hygiene in rural communities. They assist pregnant women and mothers and promote access to vaccination for children.

Livelihood support
We provided 48 families with chicks, piglets, sewing machines and financial help to start small businesses. This support addressed some of the issues caused by prolonged lockdowns which resulted in job losses and aggravated the economic difficulties of poor people in Kurseong.

Jesu Ashram

Healthcare facility for poor and marginalized people
Jesu Ashram helped establish a 30-bed COVID-care facility for women and children in Matigara. Patients are provided with food, medicine, shelter and care. In rural villages, more than 50 COVID-19 patients isolating in their homes were given medicine, food, and oxygen. Jesu Ashram also provided 35 unemployed families with dry rations. We also assisted in the repair of 12 homes and 5 tricycles of leprosy patients.

All of this would not have been possible without the help of CJI and their generous supporters. Thank you.