Monday 20 May 2019

Training to Build Resilience Among Children ...

Dipak Sahu facilitates an interactive training session with staff on Resilience Building
A three day Resilience Building training workshop was conducted in May, for all staff members of Udayan by Director, Dipak Pakash Sahu. Dipak is a Master Trainer in Reslience Building, having completed an intensive training from the National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences (NIMHANS, Bangalore).  Here, he talks about the meaning and importance of Resilience Building among children, and why these are vital tools for Udayan Staff. 

What does resilience really mean?
Being resilient is being able to adapt and bounce back to the original state when something difficult happens in our lives. It is to come back to the original position after a traumatised past or a painful experience.

Why is resilience building important?
When we are in a difficult situation, our thoughts and feelings get disconnected and we feel that all things are going south, it becomes exceedingly difficult to regain our balance and control over our five senses. Resilience building helps us to cope and adapt with such situations.
Why is it important for our children?
Our children have all been through various kinds of painful experiences or trauma in the past, they also struggle daily, to cope with it. Resilience building exercises will support them in regaining their self confidence and in turn, help them develop strategies to become more resilient. They will learn about themselves, their strength and concern, and will realise how to manage various situations in life. They will come to know about their own competencies which they might have not been aware of.

What did Staff learn as part of the Training?

Staff were taught 45 different exercises that equip them with the necessary tools to engage with children. Through various sessions, role plays, exercises and activities, they learnt how to help children overcome different emotionally charged situations. This also supported them to become aware of their self, internal and external strengths.  At the end of the three day workshop, all staff realised the importance of Resilience Building exercises and how they can be effective in empowering our children.

Wednesday 8 May 2019

St. Joan of Arc’s Visit to Udayan

Rowan Pugsley of St.Joan of Arc School with one of our girl children

February saw eight girls and two teachers from St Joan of Arc School in Rickmansworth,UK come to India to visit Udayan (the school’s charity) and spend two weeks with us.Sophia McDonnell, Student President at St Joan’s tells us about their experiences:

‘On our first day at Udayan we received a fantastic and overwhelming traditional marigold reception. We were presented with gorgeous orange marigold garlands, and were welcomed with singing and photos; we all felt like royalty! The departure ceremony was also unforgettable; the smiling faces of the children and staff were uplifting; it was a personally touching moment for me. The group could not only see their appreciation for us, but felt our appreciation for them.These memories of Udayan have remained with each and everyone of us now back in the UK.

The continuous work Udayan does for children of leprosy sufferers is outstanding. I speak on behalf of the group when I say that the hard work and love exuded by Udayan has caused us to all think about our own responsibility to care for one another. Our days spent with the children were filled with laughter, learning and dancing! We merged both Bengali and English dance and culture, but I’d have to say the choreographed Bollywood routines put our floss and cha-cha slide to shame. We did enjoy rehashing and performing Aankh Marey on our final night.

We tried to immerse ourselves in the daily routine at Udayan: the 5am wake-ups were hard for some as well as the karate, running, stretches, praying and singing all before breakfast! It was lovely to see how the children were so grateful for what Udayan provided for them, and how they all looked after each other as one big family. We witnessed first-hand throughout our time at Udayan and Kolkata that family, religion and friendship were far more valuable than the materialistic items they owned; a true life lesson that changed our perspectives.

Seeing how self-sufficient Udayan actually is was not only a hit for the geography students, but provided us with fresh, delicious and flavoursome meals every day, for breakfast, lunch, tiffin and dinner - we were never hungry. The hospitality of all the staff was truly visible throughout our meal times. They were fabulous hosts!

Whilst spending time at Udayan we were able to see how the money St Joan’s has raised has been spent through the refurbishment of cottages, purchasing of bunk beds and more importantly keeping the doors of Udayan open. It was great to see the impact Udayan is making for the children of leprosy sufferers.

Udayan has created so many memories which will stay with our group forever, and I can say with 100% honesty that we all miss the people there incredibly! We miss your dancing, kindness, laughter, intelligence, hospitality and love, and we wish everyone at Udayan the best for the future.

To Dipak, the staff, children and students at Udayan, you have all touched our hearts in ways we cannot describe.  We can't wait to return! From all your sisters, brothers and Bachchan at St Joan of Arc - THANK YOU!’

The St. Joan of Arc School Team, Chris Mann from COJA, UK
 and the Udayan Staff Members

Tuesday 7 May 2019

Rest in Peace, ‘Father’

Father James with our children
At Easter this year, we all said farewell to our beloved Founder, Rev. James Stevens who went to his heavenly resting place early in the morning on Easter Sunday. His funeral was held on Saturday 27th April, 2019 and a memorial service was also held on Sunday 5th May, 2019, at St.Paul's Cathedral, Kolkata.  No words can express the sorrow that we all feel at Udayan on the passing of our Father James, however here are some extracts from a speech by Udayan Chairperson Emily Menon, who spoke at the Memorial Service on behalf of the Udayan Family:

“Yes Udayan is a place, an organization, bricks and mortar that over a lifetime James built from the ground up … From nothing. But it is what happens in that place that is the true testament to Father James.  When you look after 300 children, it is very easy to see them as a ‘group’ – as a mass – a lot of faces and smiles and noisy, laughing voices.

But the beauty of Father was in his attention to detail.  And his raw and pure love for the children. He knew every single child at that place. Year in and year out – as so many of the faces came and went and grew and changed. He knew them all. He cared about what they felt and what they thought and who they were then and who they might be in the future.

It’s difficult to imagine how all this started! One foreigner, 11 children … tackling all the odds and obstacles thrown at them …

I often stop and imagine 2 children, friends, born into Leprosy colonies … growing up together in difficult impoverished conditions. Yes there is poverty, but with Leprosy comes an even worse curse – the stigma – one that scars them for life as outcasts of society. So imagine 2 children there, and the course of their futures … one who is chosen to go to Udayan … and one who is not. After all, we only have place for 300 …

And this is the lasting legacy of Father … the way that the trajectory of these children’s lives is so radically changed – because of him! Yesterday I heard a couple of powerful stories, which for me, put into context the significance of his contribution here in Kolkata, to these children, to the issue of leprosy, to India, in fact.

The story of Dhan Singh Shit, the son of 2 rag pickers who had leprosy, who came to Udayan at the age of 7 and stayed till he finished his 12th Standard. Today he owns and operates his own fully fledged transport business, earns Rs.50,000 a month, has his own beautiful, healthy family – the cycle of leprosy was broken … and he is the first to admit that all this, is because of him, Father.

Or there is Arpita Mahato from Purulia, whose father earns Rs.800 per month as a daily labourer, who graduated from Udayan, studied Nursing and now earns more money each month than her entire family earned in a year! Now that is transformation!

But Father also took time to encourage his students to follow their passion. He had a love for music and the arts and ensured that children had a rich experience of both during their time at Udayan. We have one ex-student, Bapi Dey who was always very passionate about art. Father encouraged him to go to Art College and today he runs a very successful Art School! He has over 200 students and earns over Rs. 25,000 per month, following his dream. A dream made possible by Father James.

I know I speak on behalf of all at Udayan, and the thousands of children who have grown up there, when I say ‘It’s time to rest now Father … Rest in the assurance that your legacy will live on!"

Girls' Program Strengthened

The revamped Nivedita Bhavan, which is home to our 100 girls at Udayan.
Our 100 girls at Udayan are flourishing, thanks to the support of the Steve Waugh Foundation, who has helped enrich their lives through a variety of initiatives in 2018/19. 

This is including the revamp of facilities at Nivedita Bhavan, installation of much needed laundry facilities, home supervision via House Mothers and weekly, empowering, Karate Classes.

A key focus of the support, was the provision of Nursing Scholarships.  With a passion for pursuing Nursing, 11 of our graduates are now studying General Nursing Degree on full scholarship support from Steve Waugh Foundation. Nursing is popular among girls at Udayan, who have seen first-hand the impact of significant health issues like Leprosy in their families. 

But obtaining a Nursing degree is an expensive exercise! Not only are the fee’s expensive, but the costs of books, travel and daily incidentals must be met – which is not possible for these girls and their families.

As such, Steve Waugh Foundation is helping these girls chase their nursing dream – a pursuit which helps to uplift their entire family. 

Steve Waugh has a long association with Udayan and it was on his request and support, that girls were first introduced at Udayan back in August 1999.

Since then ‘Steve daa’ has been a part of the Udayan family and his Foundation continues to touch the lives of our girls and their families. Thank you!

Fred Kahl’s Legacy Lives On…

Hazel Nash, at the inauguration of the 'Fred Kahl Health Centre Facilities'

The new ‘Fred Kahl Health Centre Facilities’ were inaugurated at Udayan on 16th April 2019, as a tribute to the late Fred Kahl, a man of wide interests and a generous heart, who had a committed concern for our children.

His wife, Hazel Nash ONZM (Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit awarded to her by Queen Elizabeth II) was here to open the facilities, along with Kathryn Spink and John Coo from City of Joy Aid, UK, who had together raised most of the funds for the project at a gala dinner at Eton College in memory of Fred.

Fred stayed at Udayan on two occasions. During his visits in 2013 and 2014, he became a favourite with our children due to his friendly and supportive nature, and the Udayan senior girls even taught him to dance!

Fred and Hazel had previously, with help from the Juniper Trust, improved the vegetable garden at Udayan by making it monsoon proof and more productive. That garden now provides our children with nutritious, homegrown food. It was at Fred and Hazel’s initiative also that Eton parents and staff gifted soft-toys, cricket sweaters, rugby shirts and even Manchester United football shirts for our children.

Fred’s last visit to Udayan, before Christmas 2014, cemented his relationship with the home and his interest in our children’s welfare. Sadly, however, his failing health prevented him from returning to India.

Recalling that Fred had recognized the need for improving the health care facilities at Udayan, when he died Hazel felt it a fitting memorial to try and introduce such improvements.

Hazel Nash and City of Joy Aid, UK, are now helping Udayan with the health and hygiene facilities and programmes for children at Udayan, starting with the upgrade of medical facilities (the painting and refurbishment of the medical and doctor’s rooms and sick bays), along with the restoration of Father James's cottage, which has been restored and set up as an isolation sick bay.

Udayan is very grateful for all the love and joy that Fred Kahl brought to the children of Udayan, the ongoing support and passion of his wife Hazel Nash, and the generosity of their friends and associates who helped make this project a reality.

The newly renovated 'Fred Kahl Health Facilities' include an isolation ward for sick children.


Three Udayan Girls - waiting to be sponsored!

Udayan will launch a new and improved Child Sponsorship Program this month, along with a campaign to find sponsors for 300 children affected by Leprosy!

The campaign, nicknamed #Operation300 will be the first, full blown attempt, to find sponsors for all 300 children – so they can live, study, grow and flourish at Udayan! To support the initiative, Udayan friends in Australia, India, UK and Canada are coming together to help reach our goal of all 300 children sponsored!

We are looking for caring individuals (and companies) who can play a small role, sponsor a child, and take care of the costs of their home and education expenses. As such, there are two types of sponsorship available:

  1. Education Sponsorship – through this sponsorship, you will be able to provide a child with quality education for one year. Your donation will help us with their admission fees, school uniforms, school shoes, bags, books and stationery, and also private tutor costs for studies, dance, music, karate and yoga. These children need constant support for their studies. We provide them with qualified private tutors who help them with their studies. Our children have gone on to become nurses, physiotherapists, entrepreneurs, artists, hotel management professionals, computer engineers, government school teachers and more. The education sponsorship of one child is Rs. 6600 (75GBP or $135AUD) per child per year.
  2. Home Sponsorship – this sponsorship covers all other costs required to run the home support provided for the children. Apart from education, we provide the children with nutrition (three meals and snacks every day), 2 sets of home dress (undergarments and winter clothes), their very own bed, blanket, pillow and towel, toiletries and linens, medical support. We have a doctor visiting Udayan every week to see children and support where needed. We also have a full time medical staff to take care of day to day problems. Given the medical background of the children we regularly monitor them for leprosy patches and if found, prompt medical attention is provided. The Home Sponsorship is Rs.10,200 (115GBP or $210AUD) per child per year.
To support the campaign, Udayan Member, Mahua Hazarika and her company Rickshaw (an advertising company based in Mumbai), have provided pro-bono support and developed a beautiful Child Sponsorship Brochure. 

Udayan is home to children of leprosy affected families. Often stigmatised, these families have to live in colonies and settlements outside the main city or town. They have very less income opportunities and therefore can hardly provide for their children. Arranging two square meals a day becomes tough for them, and education is always a distant dream.

“At Udayan, we strive to make the lives of these children better. Our aim is to make each child educated and have them stand on their own two feet. Our aim is every child should have one employable skill, either through professional or vocation course” says, Mr Dipak Prakash Sahu, Director, Udayan.

But this cannot be done alone! 

It is YOU and YOUR generosity that will help us achieve this dream – to help us find sponsors, email us at and we will send you a Sponsorship Kit to forward to your family and friends!

Udayan Celebrates 49th Year Milestone

Our boys performing the difficult 'Pyramid' at Udayan's 49th Anniversary Celebrations.
The 49th Birthday of Udayan was celebrated with great gusto on Udayan’s ‘Foundation Day’ on                      25th March, 2019, at Udayan premises in the presence of our beloved Founder, Father J G Stevens 
and his wife Ms. Lalita Stevens.

What was special about this celebration was that, our newly formed Children’s Cultural Club planned and organised the entire event on their own, with a little help from House Mothers and House Brothers.

The girls gave a praiseworthy performance of songs and dances, whilst the boys did an excellent job at performing various kinds of yoga poses and Pyramid, in front of well-wishers, staff, and community.

The day also marked a very important milestone as we now ‘step into our 50th Year’ and a social media campaign was launched, #Steppingto50 to highlight this big, upcoming event and reflect on key moments over the last 50 years.

We are now in the process of planning our 50th Anniversary ‘Silver’ celebrations in 2020, with both staff and Governing Body members ideating for a fitting program of activities to mark the occasion.
Watch this space …