Fighting the Covid Pandemic in India

Children in india at residential charity school

Dr Michael Tedder spent his professional career in further and adult education in St Austell. Since his retirement, Michael has taken a particular research interest in the early bishops of Truro, from Benson to Hunkin. He is a Trustee for the Epiphany Trust (Truro) Limited and he succeeded Canon Peter Goodridge as Chairman of the British Supporters of Navajeevan Bala Bhavan (BSNBB). Here he introduces the work of the charity.  There will be a display in the cathedral demonstrating the charity's work running for the next two weeks. At present, there is a special appeal for donations towards Navajeevan’s work fighting the Covid pandemic.

"For many years there has been a special relationship between Truro and Navajeevan Bala Bhavan (NJBB). Navajeevan is a charity in southern India that promotes the rights of street children and exploited young people. The phrase means New Life Home for Children. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Navajeevan staff have continued their work with children but are also actively supporting migrant workers and people in disadvantaged communities offering them health information as well as material help. They are desperately short of funds to carry on this work.

In the early 1990s the Canon Librarian of Truro Cathedral, Peter Goodridge, was on holiday in southern India visiting his sister, Ruth, a hospital matron. He was introduced to Father Thomas Koshy, a Roman Catholic priest, and was so impressed by Koshy’s work with street children that he agreed to sponsor the education of three disadvantaged boys. That decision led to the establishment of a charity in Truro to support the work of Father Koshy’s organisation. In 2003 a service took place in St Mary’s Aisle in the Cathedral and the charity was registered with the Charity Commission as the British Supporters of Navajeevan Bala Bhavan (BSNBB).

Navajeevan was formed in 1989 following a request from the mayor of Vijayawada to Father Koshy, a priest of the Salesian order, for advice about the growing number of street children in the city, children trying to escape from abuse, poverty and exploitation. The Salesians follow the principles of Don Bosco, an Italian priest and teacher who had a commitment to reason, religion and lovingkindness in education. The organisation respects local cultures and does not actively evangelise. In Vijayawada, Navajeevan staff, other than the Salesian fathers, are mainly Hindu and there are some Muslims. The majority of the children they work with are Hindu. The success of Navajeevan’s project with street children led the city authorities to ask what more could be done to combat the exploitation of youngsters. There has since been a steady increase in the range of social and educational projects that Navajeevan leads or takes part in.

 Navajeevan projects include:

A Street Presence Team gives guidance and counselling to street children and child workers.
Many are helped to return home but for those who stay on the streets, there is a 24-hour shelter with safe sleeping accommodation, facilities for washing and eating and non-threatening adults.
For those who want a more organised way of life, Navajeevan offers ‘reorientation courses’ and a range of hostels and training facilities. Most children are housed in purpose-built cottages and hostels and can resume their education.
Workshops for adolescent boys and girls give them vocational and life skills training.
Specialised facilities provide accommodation and support for children addicted to street drugs. This includes Vimukhti – a de-addiction centre run in memory of Canon Peter Goodridge.
Crèche facilities and early years education for the children of poor workers such as street cleaners and recyclers and for children from urban and rural slum communities.

BSNBB raises funds to help Navajeevan. Many supporters donate a regular sum of money, monthly or annually, and some sponsor a particular boy or girl. Others make occasional donations. At present, there is a Special Appeal for funds to support the work with poor communities struggling with Covid-19. Online donations can be made via the GoFundMe Page for BSNBB"

Dr Michael Tedder