About 500 poor students of a village in the Latehar district of Jharkhand will find the harsh winter somewhat bearable thanks to a Swiss woman.
Anna Biondi, who recently retired from her job in Geneva, had set aside some money to host a party for her colleagues and friends. However, when she learnt about the work of the Daltonganj Catholic diocese in India, she decided to send the money to support their cause instead.
The diocese bought blankets with that money and Theodore Mascarenhas, the newly appointed bishop of the diocese who would be formally installed on Monday, distributed those among the students of Pandit Nehru Middle School at Dauna village, located in Chechari valley on Saturday.
Most of the students were barefoot and had no woollen clothes. They beamed with joy after receiving the blankets.
“Please pray for the well-being of her family,” the Bishop asked the students after informing them about the gift of the Swiss woman who tried to provide them some warmth in the winter.
“In return, you should study seriously and become successful in life so that you can also be in a position to help the needy someday,” he advised them.
The children belong to the Birjia tribe, classified as belonging to particular vulnerable tribes group (PVTG) in Jharkhand, said Church sources, adding they belong to very poor families that are fully dependent on minor forest produces such as firewood, honey, mangoes, jackfruits and other wild fruits.
These children live in inaccessible, forested villages in such an area that has rough terrain and are also affected by extremism in recent years, they further said, adding the children come to school from distant villages on foot with great difficulty.
“No, I didn’t meet her. She came to know about our work after viewing a video clip and sent the money through the bank,” Bishop Mascarenhas, who was auxiliary bishop at Ranchi archdiocese, replied when asked if he had met Biondi during his recent visit to Switzerland and approached her for helping poor students of Jharkhand.
Bishop Mascarenhas said that this was his first visit to any school in the region after he was appointed Bishop of Daltonganj diocese. He chose the occasion to distribute those blankets.
“There were 10 blankets left after distribution among the students and we gave those to as many needy persons of the area,” the Bishop informed.