Cooking Fiesta at Jan Shiksha Bhawan, Gaunaha

‘It is better to teach people to catch fish by giving them a fishing rod rather than give them fish.’ One of the new approaches of empowering the poor and the marginalized is by enabling them to stand on their own feet through self support. This new approach is introduced in the lives of the hostel children at Jan Shiksha Bhawan, Gaunaha. There are around 200 children in the hostel. There is no cook in the hostel. Then, how do they get their meals? They cook for themselves. After the class hours, they begin their cooking fiesta in the campus. It is cooking fiesta every day. Each of them has a stove, in which rice husk is burnt and in no time the meals are ready. It is nothing less than a miracle. The family members bring the provision for the children every week. In such an arrangement, the old practice of charity approach is changed into empowerment approach.

This was the initiative of Fr. Joseph Srampickal, SJ, the former director of Jan Shiksha Bhawan. He evolved this approach to educate the villagers of their responsibility towards the education of their own children. He was there to support them in the process by providing them with hostel facilities. The present team at Gaunaha continues with the same arrangement as they too see it as a powerful example of self supporting activity. In the process, the parents take responsibility for their children and the children are trained to be self supporting. It also gives them a sense of dignity and self worth as they are not mere recipients of our charity but people who can manage their lives by their own efforts and capacities. The campus has a festive look when children are out there cooking and eating and enjoying the company of one another. Often, there is heart touching scenes of the elder ones extending their helping hands to the younger ones. In fact, it is a powerful example of little ones supporting oneself and one another. They support themselves as much as they can, but they need our support too.