St. Martin's Hostel in Purulia, India

St. Martin's India Ministry

History - 2010

In February 2010, The Rev. Mary Perrin and Social Justice Outreach Chair Pat Vinge went to India for 2 1/2 months. They observed and participated in the work of the Diocese of Durgapur, Church of North India. Impressed with the stewardship of the diocese and its relevance to the critical needs of the community, they sent photos and stories back to St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Kalamazoo. These communications showed the remarkable, life-changing work being done with the poor in this poverty-laden area. The
Bishop of the Diocese of Durgapur visited Kalamazoo later that year, and, when the people of St. Martin’s asked him how they could help, he requested that we build a hostel in the leprosy colony section of Purulia.

Funds Raised - 2010/11

With a goal of $20,000, St. Martin’s raised over $29,000 to build the hostel which can house 30-40 children and equip it with furniture, a computer lab, clean water purification system, kitchen equipment, a generator and educational materials for the children. This Child Development Center includes an after school enrichment and academic tutoring program, which serves 60 children.

Dedication of St. Martin's Hostel - November 2011

In November 2011, 7 members of St. Martin’s Church traveled to India for the Dedication of St. Martin’s Hostel, worked with the children, and met their families and the staff. They saw, first hand, the well constructed, single story facility which housed a girls’ and boys’ dormitory, an office, computer lab, kitchen, and a verandah area for meals, classes, and other activities.

St. Martin's Hostel, a Residence and Educational Program for Children

St. Martin's Hostel, a Residence and Educational Program for Children The children, ages 3-17, who reside in St, Martin's Hostel, are provided with a safe place in which to live, fed three nutritious meals a day, given clothing, school uniforms and supplies, and medical attention when needed. Children regularly attend school and participate in an After
School Program from 3:00-6:00 p.m. This program provides enrichment classes, such as vocal music instruction, traditional Indian dance, recreational activities and sports, Tae Kwon Do, arts and crafts, computer technology, and academic tutoring. Trained teachers and volunteers support this program.

Once faced with despair, hunger, and lack of hope, these children now have the opportunity to gain self-confidence, and to thrive and become educated. This is their chance to break out of the cycle of poverty, to set new expectations for themselves, to become empowered and develop their potential.

Testimony from Toofan

Tufan, an intelligent 16 year old boy, poignantly expressed his gratitude to us while we were visiting St. Martin's Hostel. He shared his deep appreciation for being able to live in the hostel and to have an opportunity for an education. In Tufan's words, "St. Martin's Hostel is like a palace."
As the oldest of six children, he explained that he had been living with his family in a small two room hut with one electric light bulb. It was hard to study because of the inadequate light. Their conditions were crowded and his family was solely focused on surviving. He has been a resident of St. Martin's Hostel for 2 years, regularly attends school, receives support in his studies, and is deeply grateful for this opportunity. Tufan is just one of the 39 children, who are currently being sponsored by St. Martin of Tours members and friends.

St. Martin’s Hostel Addition 2012-2013

In the fall of 2012, we raised funds to build an addition to the hostel, which provides space for a large, 480 square foot multi-purpose room. This is used for classes, activities and programs. Previously, the only real "classroom" that could accommodate all of the children at the same time was a separate one-room building with no windows, no desks and a rough concrete floor.

Two guest rooms have also been added. These allow people to visit the hostel and work with the children. Because the hostel is near the large leprosy hospital, clergy and outside guests frequently visit the hospital and see work that is being done by the diocese in the area. These people could also stay in the guest rooms instead of miles away at a hotel. This is one of the ways support is generated for all the programs that benefit the people of this leper colony.

The addition cost $15,000 to build, and an additional $5,000 was raised to purchase supplies, furniture, and equipment for the hostel and its educational programs.

A group of four travelers from St. Martin’s Church, including a 12-year old parishioner, traveled to Purulia in February of 2013 to see the addition, which was complete enough that both the children and adults were making great use of the new space! The travelers were delighted to stay in the new guest rooms and the kids in Purulia were excited that someone near their own ages had come to visit them from Michigan!

Sewing Center 2013-2014

Volunteers from the diocesan-based Women’s Fellowship in Purulia have been teaching sewing skills to the local women and the children at the hostel. The items that are made are sold by the Women’s Fellowship at the market to raise funds to buy supplies and help the people of the leper colony. The group that visited the hostel in February of 2013 learned that sewing supplies for this project were in very short supply --the children had to unravel old sweaters to obtain yarn and thread for embroidery, and they cut up old saris for material.

The story inspired one of our parishioners and her local chapter of Women’s Life (a national charitable organization) to join with St. Martin’s and put on a fundraiser. The fundraiser was so successful that, not only were sufficient funds raised to meet the needs for sewing supplies, but also to help establish an official sewing center in Purulia, where a qualified tailor-teacher now instructs the women and young girls to sew and tailor clothes. After their training is complete, they can go to the Diocesan Center in Durgapur to be tested, and then be licensed. This enables them to work as tailors or seamstresses elsewhere, or come back to the sewing center which, in addition to being a sewing school, is also a production shop.

In 2014 we funded the renovation and re-wiring of a donated building that will be used as the permanent home for the Purulia Sewing Center, at a cost of $2,500.

St. Martin’s Wall Project 2013

In 2013, we raised the funds to pay for the construction of a 6-foot high brick wall which now surrounds the hostel grounds in Purulia. The wall serves multiple functions: it keeps the large population of goats, cows and chickens that roam the fields next to the hostel from wandering into the building, and more importantly, out of the area where a kitchen vegetable garden is planted. In addition, the enclosed yard also provides a safe outdoor play area for the children, and finally, it serves as added security for the children who live in the hostel and a secure area for parking vehicles owned by the diocese and visitors.

India Ministry Projects for 2016

Funding for one year for the diocesan Anti-Human Trafficking Program which educates people living near theborder of Bangladesh to help prevent trafficking and to rescue people who are being trafficked. Relationships have been developed with schools and community law enforcement, an after-school program has been started that currently serves 60 children, and a safe-house has been created for 10 young girls who have been rescued from human trafficking. Funding for another year has been requested for the program.

In 2015/16 we raised funds to pay for a second story to the hostel in Purulia. This provides more guest rooms, an apartment for the English team (see below), and more space for the children so the hostel can extend its programming.

We will be providing funding to hire, house and feed an English team who will live with the children in the hostel and teach all the children English. Learning English is key for improving the futures of the children.

The Diocese of Durgapur, West Bengal, India - Child Development Centers

The Diocese of Durgapur has six Child Development Centers. These Centers serve children regardless of their religious affiliation. The majority of the children are in fact Hindu or Muslim, with relatively few Christians, yet all live and work together. All of the Centers are partially supported by annual child sponsorships, as well as a huge amount of in-kind local community support to provide food for the program and adult volunteers to teach many of the skill-related programs. A $250 annual sponsorship fee helps pay for school uniforms, books and supplies, food, academic tutoring, and access to computers. St. Martin’s parishioners and friends currently sponsor a total of 9 children. However, there are nearly 60 children who attend the After School programs at the hostel in Purulia alone (about 300 children in all the Centers), so more sponsors would certainly be a gift! We invite you to join us as a sponsor and we are so grateful for the generosity already offered in serving these children.

November 2014 Trip to India

On November 4, 2014, 9 people from St. Martin's, spent 3 weeks in Durgapur and Purulia. We were so excited to see the progress and work that had been done since the last time any of us visited (in 2013). The joy that we receive from seeing and spending time with our sponsored children, whom we have come to personally know and love, is truly a blessing. Summers are brutally hot with monsoon climate, so in 2014, among other projects, parishioners donated funds to buy 490 umbrellas for all the children in the 6 Child Development Centers throughout the diocese. Monies also went to assist tribal villagers with micro-finance projects, training of health care assistants, livestock husbandry, clean water, and other programs.

February 2016 Trip to India

Bishop Whayne Hougland, of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan, his wife, and 3 other people from St. Martin's visited Durgapur and Purulia for 2 weeks in February. We participated in their major Diocesan Thanksgiving Service, with Bishop Hougland celebrating. As we traveled around to see the children and our numerous adult friends, we were on the lookout to see what other needs and projects we wanted to assist with next. We will continue to discern where we can meet the greatest needs for the largest number of people. As with each trip we have made to India, our travelers each paid their own expenses to go. All donations are used exclusively to further the work on our projects there. Thank you for your support of this important work.