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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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CIMA Gallary

BDO adopts forest kids
- Free education and food for poor children

Kalchini (Alipurduar), March 2: A good Samaritan has plucked out a handful of children from the seclusion and poverty of the forest to bring them up at his house.

The 16 children were living in the villages inside West Buxa hills and had to discontinue education as the walk to the nearest school and back took them six hours. They were spotted by Kalchini block development officer Thendup Sherpa during a visit to the forest and he brought them to his house.

Palm Lam Dukpa and the others are happy now. They attend school everyday and have learned “etiquette”. The cost of their education and food is borne by the BDO.

While 10 are with Sherpa at his official residence at Kalchini, six stay with his family in Darjeeling.

Sherpa said the parents were not initially ready to send their wards with him. “They were all living in the forest under tarpaulin sheets. The children had to walk three hours each on their way to and back from school. When I asked the parents to send the children with me, they were hesitant. Their fear was that the children would be trafficked. I managed to convince them that the kids would stay with me so that they could go to school,” said Sherpa.

All the children are aged below 12 and they follow a fixed routine at Sherpa’s house. They wake up at 6am and study from 7am to 9am. The children then pray with Sherpa and take breakfast before proceeding to the nearby Nepali Primary school. There are study sessions in the evenings also before the children go to bed at 10.

Palm Lam Dukpa, who came third in the Class II final exam, said she had learned everything from Sir.

“We did not know what discipline and punctuality are. We learned manners from Sir. We know how to pray to God and eat and interact with others. He spends a lot of time with us after his official work. We are very happy here and do not want to go back to the forest.”

The BDO said when the children had started living with him, they were unaware of personal hygiene. “I had to tell them how to brush teeth and use toilet. They learned manners and can interact with others now,” he said.

Sherpa said he didn’t have to shell out much for the children’s food. “We all take vegetarian food and Rs 300 is enough for a week. My friends and relatives also extend financial help to me. In Darjeeling, four children are accommodated at my house and two at my brother’s residence. I am sure the children will attain new heights in their life,” said Sherpa. He has two daughters and a son and they stay with his wife in Darjeeling.

Sherpa has a message for everyone. “It’s not your financial capacity that matters in social work. The question is whether you have the zeal to serve the society.”