The early days at Udayan

Early days at Udayan

The name Udayan which means ‘rising’ was not applied to the first home that James Stevens set up for the children of leprosy sufferers. More important things were at stake: he needed to find some premises and set them up to accommodate children who were living in the worst slum conditions.

Mother Teresa played a major role in helping James. She was inspirational and kept James going no matter how grim things were.

In the chapters, ‘A new beginning’ and ‘Setting up the home’, readers will get an understanding of the magnitude of the exercise. James was starting from scratch. He had no idea where the home would be – it had to be something that was affordable and a place that could accommodate children, a cook and other helpers and be in a location where the children could easily attend school. That was only one of the challenges ahead for him at this time.

But the day came when he collected 11 children from the slums in Pilkhana. That was certainly a traumatic experience for parents – who knew that this was the right thing to do for their child – and for the children who must have been extremely nervous to be leaving their homes even if they were in the worst areas of the slums. People who had leprosy were shunned even by others living in the slums. It was and still is a place where disease and death are commonplace.

The first days at the home in Barrackpore, just out of Kolkata, were challenging. The children didn’t speak English and James didn’t speak their native languages. However, the universal language of song and laughter got them all through.

As James recalled of the first night:

Once I had fed all of the children and put them into their beds [the first they had ever slept in], I created a sigh of relief. I still don’t know who was more frightened about the future, the children or me. I sang to them; this was for my benefit as much as theirs.

It was the start of 50 years helping children from the most dire of circumstances to take their place in the world that would have been unimaginable and certainly unattainable without Udayan.

Read the book, Father, and be inspired by the life of this remarkable man, Fr James Stevens. You can buy copies of the book right here. Profits from the sale of books goes to Udayan, the home/school that is still helping children of leprosy sufferers in Kolkata.

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