MEN AT WORK: Building the annexe at Arunima Hospice brick by brick turned these boys from La Martiniere into men
A band of boys from La Martiniere who had never held a masonry tool toiled at a construction site for the past three months to build two rooms, brick by brick, for the inmates of a Behala hospice.
It was the first time in his life that Arihant Sancheti was “building anything” and the Class X student feels enriched by the thought that it was all for a cause.
“It also made me understand how difficult my father’s line of business is. Dad visited the site to see what I was up to and contributed some bags of cement to the project,” Arihant, a member of the Habitat Club at La Martiniere, recounted.
One of the two rooms gifted by the group of around 30 to the girls of Arunima Hospice, off Diamond Harbour Road, will house a library. Ashoke Biswas, the Bishop of Calcutta and president of the board of governors of La Martiniere, inaugurated the boys’ labour of love on Thursday.
The team included Abhinav Gandhi, who has a board examination coming up. But the pressure of studies did not deter the Class XII student from helping build the annexe at Arunima Hospice.
The boys’ brief wasn’t limited to arranging for funds, procuring raw material and supervising work. They did everything a mason does. They even painted the two rooms all by themselves.
“We split into teams and first approached prospective sponsors for funds and raw material. Then we took turns visiting the construction site and physically working during weekends. I visited the site six times and worked nearly the entire day on every occasion,” Arihant said.
Since none of them knew anything about construction, the boys hired a mason to show them the way. The job was tough but their enthusiasm made up for the lack of experience.
Class IX student Ayush Sharda, among the younger members of the group, credits his mother with inspiring him to volunteer for the project. “I visited the site seven times and worked from 7.30 in the morning till 3 in the evening. Laying bricks can be tiring but I never felt exhausted. Work was fun, especially when we mingled with the children of the hospice. We bonded big time,” Ayush said, smiling at the thought.
His classmate Kabir Azhar found painting the finished rooms the most enjoyable experience. “We did not know how to paint and had at first ended up painting ourselves!” Abhinav said.
The boys’ supervisor, senior-school teacher Indrani Chakraborty, shared their enthusiasm.
“Our principal Sunirmal Chakravarthi wanted the boys to not only contribute money and material for a social cause but to work for it. Such projects are a good opportunity for them to do their bit and get a reality check. They never hesitated to devote a day (and more) to social work despite board exams looming large,” she said.
The Habitat Club boys are looking forward to being part of a larger project. “I want to be a businessman in future and build schools,” Ayush said.
Before working on the Arunima Hospice project, a team of 15 from the Habitat Club had helped build seven houses in Konark, Odisha, as part of a project in association with Habitat for Humanity International, a global charity organisation.
“We put in a total of 600 hours of labour at the site. We used to work from 7am till 6.30pm with a short break. It was an exhausting experience but we were happy to get our hands dirty. For the Arunima Hospice project, we worked on Sundays and it was our first independent building initiative. It was a great learning experience too,” said Abhinav, the secretary of the club.
Habitat for Humanity International builds houses for the underprivileged against long-term, interest-free loans. The organisation forms habitat clubs in schools and involves students in the process of building for charity.
“LMB was our pioneer project in Calcutta. The Habitat Club was formed in the school in May 2011 after a student approached us to do so. We guided them on how to construct houses and gave them some field experience before letting them carry on with individual projects,” said Arun Durairaj of Habitat for Humanity.
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