The Human Life Centre, Bhubaneswar, was started in January 1981 by Rev Fr William Petrie, sscc, an American priest of the congregation of the Sacred Heart. The best way to describe it and the concept behind it is, “To promote Personal, Inter Personal and Community Growth.” This is the purpose of any activity at this centre. It is a collaborative effort which brings together local communities, irrespective of caste or creed; all groups to participate in the activities and can even join in its administration through the governing body.
It began small. A Reading room and a small library were opened in a rented house at 20 Satyanagar. In 1983, it was moved to 1 Satyanagar, by the side of the main Janpath Road it remained until 1st November 1987, when it was shifted to the new building constructed on the North West corner of the St Joseph’s School campus, becoming an educational extension of St Joseph School.
When Jesuits decided to associate themselves with the Human Life Centre (HLC), Fr Petrie continued to be the Director. Fr John Guidera assisted him as the Administrator for some time. When Fr Gautam Choudhury from Calcutta joined HLC staff, he was designated as the Co-ordinator of Academics. Mr Julian Boyle was involved in the HLC work from April 1981 was responsible for the Spoken English Courses, which were very popular among College students. Fr Gautam was working with him for two years and also gave courses in public speaking and leadership. Besides the regular Spoken English classes, Julian was giving a series of classes to the staff of CARE. Initially the spoken English classes were held at St Joseph’s school building.
In February 1987, Fr Michael Bogaert took over from Fr Gautham as the Co-ordinator of Academics and started a course on “How to give an interview”. Later on 31 August 1987, Fr Ed McGrath of XLRI fame, succeeded Fr Bogaert. With the generous support of Fr John Guidera and Mr A. G McCarthy of Loyola Foundation, a new three story building was constructed and on 1 November, 1987 , HLC was shifted to the new building which we have at present.
HUMAN LIFE CENTRE (HLC) runs six slum schools for the poor, needy and underprivileged children. The aim is to generate a taste and appreciation for education and then see the children move into regular schools. Through this programme, HLC not only aims at basic education for children, but also concentrates on social awareness, health and hygiene, training of our teachers, income generation, and village meetings. In this way, HLC is doing something very constructive for the underprivileged slum dwellers of 6 slums in Bhubaneswar.
HThese slums are located in different parts of the city of Bhubaneswar. Tribals, (mainly Ho and Santhals) inhabit most of these places. Basically, these tribal groups are migratory in nature, and they come mostly from the districts of Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj. They are basically daily-wage workers. Both men and women go out in the search of work. As such, the school becomes a very important place for them since they can keep their children there all day. Most of these people are illiterate. They do not have the privilege of enjoying even the basic facilities in life. Just two slums for instance have an electricity connection. Most of the schools are built by peoples’ participation i.e. they have contributed in the form of labour. These slums are located on government land and hence the people can be asked to leave the place any moment.
A GLANCE AT OUR SLUM SCHOOLSNilapadia Jeevan Jyoti Bidyamandir: (Balwadi to std V.) It is situated at a distance of about five k.m.s from the city. There are at present 60 children and two teachers in the school. About 80% of them are tribals who have migrated from poorer districts of Orissa and Bihar. The school is housed in a two-room hut. The literacy rate in this slum is very low. The low literacy rate keeps the people backward, and they are hence easily swayed by false promises.
Jhadi Jeevan Jyoti Bidyam: (Balwadi to std V.) It is one of the better schools in terms of quality of teaching and the number of students. The slum is situated on the outskirts of the city, and the co-operation of the people here is good. There are three teachers and about 111 children.
Tuigutu Jeevan Jyoti Bidyamandir: (Balwadi to V) There are two teachers and about 60 children in this school which is in a very unhygienic place. People are very poor. It is a homogeneous group. People are becoming conscious of various forms of exploitation of their labour. Due to this the elders in the slum want their children to be educated and thus give a lot of support to the school.
Patrosai Jeevan Jyoti Bidyamandir: (Balwadi to III) It was started on 4th November ‘98. There is one teacher and about 35 children. People are happy about the school and are supportive towards its endeavours.
iban Jyoti Primary School, Salia Sahi (Balwadi to V) this area is a tribal dominated area. The school was started on 12th October’98. There are two teachers with about 50 children in the school. The people here are very poor.
Nilakantha Nagar Jeevan Jyoti Bidyamandir: (Balwadi to std-v). The number of students here is about 95. There are 3 teachers. This is the biggest slum area consisting of 1500 slum dwellers (400 families). There are people of different communities here, and they are faced with a variety of socio-economic problems. Firstly there is a division among the tribal population and the non-tribals. Secondly: a number of political parties use these slum people for protest rallies etc. Thirdly: the place itself is not very safe for slum dwellers to live in, because it is right in the middle of the town. We are determined to carry on the good work in this place.