On 25th of March 1970, James Stevens travelled into the slums of Kolkata and its surrounds, in a bus loaned from Mother Teresa. He rescued 11 children, to whom he promised and delivered, a better life – one with education, food, clothing, and most importantly, opportunity. James’s vision was that UDAYAN would provide the children with a place to grow up as children were meant to, free of the scourge of leprosy and its associated poverty, with the chance to learn, play and live life.
UDAYAN was started at a small property at 60 Barrack Rd, on the edge of the Barrackpore’s Army Cantonment. In the early years James was supported by his close friend Dr. Sen, who continued his involvement in UDAYAN for a further forty years until his resent passing, and a small team of helpers. The numbers escalated rapidly from 11 to 80 within two years and so on; UDAYAN had to move to larger premises, the project moved just down the road to 55-56 Barrackpore Rd, which were two properties next to each other. The older boys lived in one of the houses, and the small boys and girls in the other. This continued to be home for UDAYAN for the next ten years. The success of UDAYAN and the ever growing number of children, again meant that another move was imminent. It was then in 1982 that UDAYAN moved to its current location and now its home for the last thirty years.
The new premises in the village of Sewli, still remaining in the Barrackpore area, was five acres of land surrounding, giving room to develop purpose built accommodation for the children, a dining hall and a small medical dispensary. It was also during this time that Dominique Lapierre was introduced to James and UDAYAN through Mother Teresa. This was to be the start of a relationship which exists till today, after this first meeting Dominique, who is a very successful author with several bestsellers, set up a foundation in France to provide financial support to UDAYAN. Later he went on to write one of his most successful books the City of Joy, a story set in the city of Calcutta and taking inspiration for the various people he had met in this city. Dominique donated half the royalties of this book towards the financial support of UDAYAN.
Three years on in 1985, one of the existing older buildings was converted into a primary school for the children of UDAYAN. This was to ensure that the children got a good quality of grounding before they joined the public schools when they were older.
In the recent past since the last move, more land has been acquired and various other expansion projects undertaken. The current property is now housed on over 8 and a half acres of land, encompassing 6 accommodation buildings housing the 300 odd children and various other multipurpose building including medical facilities.
In UDAYAN’s more recent history, various other individuals and organisations have been involved in supporting the project. The Australian cricketer Steve Waugh, through his foundation and Mrs Shamlu Dudeja’s Calcutta Foundation have enabled the construction of Nividita Bhavan and the reintroduction of girls into UDAYAN. Their continued support has led to the introduction of various training projects for the girls and also an expansion is underway to the existing girl’s wing.
The Friends of UDAYAN, UK in conjunction with the St. Joan of Arc School have also helped raise funds and awareness of UDAYAN’s work in the UK. The children of UDAYAN look forward to the visits made by the sixth formers of The St. Joan of Arc School regularly.
A more recent addition to the expanding work of UDAYAN has been the Geeta –Kalyan Centre. This property in central Kolkata has been very generously donated by Mr Partha Banerjee and his wife Mrs Deepa Banerjee in memory of their parents. This will now allow the students of UDAYAN who have secured employment in Kolkata, a place to stay while they settle down. This had given a major boost to the assistance that UDAYAN is able to provide even after the education process has been completed.
2010 saw the 40th anniversary of UDAYAN, which now houses and supports more than 300 children, providing them with food, clothing, education and a home. The healthy and peaceful setting of UDAYAN is very different from the environment these children were born in. The children leave UDAYAN with the education and self-confidence necessary to be productive members of society.
Past students of UDAYAN call it a paradise and a home away from home, and every week UDAYAN receives visits from its former students – a great testimony to its work! With new projects and ideas in the pipeline, the future of UDAYAN is certain to be as fruitful and exciting as the past 40 years!
To facilitate the care and development of children whose parents are suffering from leprosy. Our vision is to shelter these children from further exposure to leprosy, and to take them away from the stigma attached to the disease. We aim to care for, educate and train these children, for a normal, dignified existence as contributing members of society.
To identify and work with children of economically and socially deprived leprosy sufferers, so that they become educated, skilled and aware. Enabling them to be self-reliant and enjoy a healthy, dignified and sustainable quality of life