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Traffic survivors in Xavier's 2016

A hundred trafficking survivors will make it to the St. Xavier's College rolls from the next academic year.

The college has taken a step towards inclusive education by setting aside seats for trafficking survivors. Earlier, it had reserved 25 per cent of seats for students from rural, poor and disadvantaged backgrounds besides giving scholarships to first-generation learners.

"The idea came up at the first meeting of the board members of the newly set up St. Xavier's College Calcutta Foundation. The alumni association has already been sponsoring first-generation students for the past few years and the board members suggested that we also look into the education of trafficking survivors for both school and college," said Father Felix Raj, the principal of St. Xavier's College and the president of the Foundation.

This is one of the causes that the Foundation will take up at its fund-raising dinner-dance-auction events in San Francisco and Los Angeles on October 8 and October 10, respectively. The twin events are aimed at raising funds for St. Xavier's College Vision 2020.

"We are expecting 400 people in Los Angeles and in both places it won't be just Xaverians but other people from India and some local philanthropists and philanthropic organisations as well. We are sure it will be well attended," said Firdausul Hasan, the honorary secretary of the St. Xavier's College Calcutta Alumni Association and of the Foundation.

The Foundation was set up to facilitate donations from people settled in the US, which would also give them tax benefits. Chanda Zaveri, the Calcutta girl who fled her Kankurgachhi home and an arranged marriage at 17 and went on to become a millionaire American entrepreneur, is the director of the Foundation and has committed to raising funds for St. Xavier's University and Vision 2020 in her role as an "honorary Xaverian".

For Principal Felix Raj, the gesture is "our commitment to society". "We will take 100 trafficking survivors as students every year. That is our commitment to society. We will look for NGOs that can help us in the task and identify really deserving students. It is a sensitive issue and will need to be handled with sensitivity," he said.

Felix Raj will be travelling to Belgium and Rome on his way to San Francisco for the fund-raiser. "I am going to visit the University of Namur, Belgium, from September 27 to October 2 along with Father S. Xavier, the head of the department of environmental studies, and Panchali Sen, the dean of international studies and programmes, to finalise plans for student and faculty exchange as per an MoU we had signed."

In Rome, he will attend a meeting of a special group of seven people from all over the world on papal encyclicals. "We are studying all the documents by the Pope to bring out responses from different perspectives and we hope to present the final draft of the book to the Pope," said Felix Raj.


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