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5 Jan 2017

North Point opens gates for the underprivileged in Hills

Amitava Banerjee, HT, 5 Jan 2017, DARJEELING: St Joseph’s School, Darjeeling, popular as North Point, believes in practicing what they preach. Translating words of the school chorus — “Here’s a hand to a faltering brother, here’s a lift for the lame and the slow” — into action, this elite school has opened its gates for underprivileged children with the unique winter camp programme.
The children are provided with books, stationary and all facilities the school has to offer along with food. “The students come from nearby areas and also from far-flung tea gardens. They attend classes, play games and take part in co-curricular activities,” said Father Shajumon, Rector. This year there are 500 students from kindergarten to Class 10, taking part in the one month-long camp which began on January 2. The entire North Point family including teachers, students and the alumni take active part in the camp.
Even funds for running the camp are collected by students of St. Joseph’s School through raffle sheets and other fund-raising programmes. This unique programme was started in 2007 by then Rector Father Kinley.
“This year we have a theme: educate, empower and transform. We have also decided to extend the programme throughout the year in the form of providing remedial classes, financial assistance to deserving students from the economically backward strata,” said Father Divya, Prefect. There are around 30 student volunteers from the school including two girls from Loreto Convent and one from Himali Boarding School. “It is for a great cause. That is why I do not mind missing out on my winter vacation. In this process we too are learning a lot. The winter camp imbibes leadership qualities, administrative qualities and patience among volunteers,” said Sagrit Pradhan, Class 12 student who is the coordinator for the student volunteers.
The children are encouraged to communicate in English so that their vocabulary increases. Elocution is conducted in each class. The subjects that are mainly being focused on are also imbibed with moral values.
Apart from the teachinglearning process, the children actively participate in sports such as football, volleyball, basketball, throw ball and athletics. They perform cultural dances and music on Republic Day. Talent shows are organised.
“I enjoy each and every day at the winter camp. I get to play a lot of games along with learning new things,” said Amit Thami, a class 3 student from Boudhagram whose father works as a porter.
The alumni play an important role in the camp. “Alumni has organised a lot of activities for the children including sit and draw; visit to the zoo; activities based on environment, hygiene; awareness on child labour and human trafficking, and performing arts. However, all the trainings will have moral values like compassion, relationship, truth, tolerance attached,” said Deven Gurung, president, Darjeeling North Point Alumni Association.
Bal Bhushan Shyangden, an alumnus, has sponsored food and the stay of nine students from the remote Moonda Kotee Tea Estate at his residence for the month-long camp.
The school was founded on February 13, 1888 at Sunny Banks in Darjeeling town with 18 boarders and seven day scholars. Later, extensive property was procured by Father Henri Depelchin, the founder, and the school shifted to its present location at North Point on February 18, 1892. Father Depelchin was instrumental in founding St Xavier’s Kolkata and Mumbai.

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