To foster integrated community development programme through self help group and people’s participation”
To work for the creation of a conducive environment of the self-sustained and integral development of people, especially for those who are discriminated and marginalized on the basis of class, caste, creed and gender and those who are deprived, exploited and suffer injustice because of ignorance, illiteracy, poverty and unemployment.
How it all started:
Seva Ashram Pipri was established in the year 1994 to foster Integrated Community Development Programme in and around Pipri village of Bagli block, Dist. Dewas, Madhya Pradesh. Seva Ashram is located at Pipri village, 42 km away from block development office Bagli, 120 km away from district head quarter Dewas, and 110 km away from Indore Diocese Social Service Society (IDSSS) Indore. There are 65 villages coming under Seva Ashram unit, with 35000 population. 75% of the total population belongs to the tribal groups, 20% belongs poor backward class and 5% belong to the money lenders and business classes. The Tribal classes are Bhilalas, Bhils, Korkhus, Barela, Jhamrals etc. The Backward classes are Harijans, Meghwals, Kolies, Mankers and Kahars. Till the date SAVA ASHRAM PIPRI (unit of IDSSS) has only worked in the line of bringing awareness on various issues, capacity building of the group leaders, few demonstrations and exposures of developing activities done in other places and areas.
Seva Ashram Pipri, was named as Satchitanand Seva Ashram, by the founding our late, Fr. Anand Anithotathil SVD, who lived in Pipri village for a very short time period of 4 – 5 months in the year 1993. He was staying in a rented house, and visited the villages on foot and at times by buses. He had a rather good contact with villagers and the elderly gentlemen of Pipri. It has a land of 4 acres bought by Fr. Sudhir Shenoy SVD in 1993. After the transfer of Fr. Anand, Fr. George K.V., SVD was appointed as first parish priest of Pipri mission. Fr. George with great interest and enthusiasm took the charge to plan, plant and develop the newly started mission station.
The arrival of Sisters at Pipri and their initial life:
From nothingness the image of Seva Ashram was initiated in a rented house at Pipri village from 15th May 1994. To share the developmental work with Fr. George, 4 nuns (Sr. Stella Maria, Sr. Lucy, Sr. Jancy and Sr. Serta, the sisters of St. Josephs of St. Trudpert, Indore) were appointed in the very same year, who arrived at Pipri on 17th July 1994 by a local transport (Truck) with their necessary utensils. Since Fr. George could not find another hospitable dwelling house for the sisters, he allowed the sisters to stay in the same rented house and he himself pushed out to a temporary mud block shed at parish property at walking distance from village Borpadao. Fr. George is an artist who started construction of building by himself in the very same year. He put his whole heart and soul to facilitate home for the sisters and for himself. By the end of November 1994, a triangle shaped shed called SHANT-KCHETRA was completed where he could lay down his head. But to his misfortune, he could not live in that room since the sisters living in Pipri found themselves unsafe in the rented house. Therefore, the sisters were shifted to Fr. George Kananayil SVD, by nature is a hard working, creative, committed to finish the petty-room with very minimum facility by the end of November. Meanwhile Fr. George got another two companions Br. Bennychan SVD and Deacon Antony Samy SVD, who soldered the starting work progress faster. After three months, the second building was ready where the priest in-charge was to reside. Since the sisters in a small petty-room could only struggle to live their normal life, the priest in-charge, Fr. George allowed the sisters to move to the priests’ residence. Sisters’ residence was under construction and the work was progressing fast under the guidance of Fr. George. By the end of April 1995, Fr. George Geo SVD volunteered to get away from Pipri mission due to his constant ill health. The Bishop of catholic diocese of Indore, Bp. George Anathil SVD told Fr. George Geo SVD to pull-on till the construction of the convent building was over by the mid July 1995. The alternative appointment of priest in-charge in the hand of Fr. Albinus Kujur SVD, who arrived to the mission on July 15, 1995 to take his charge. The completion of convent building was still due, therefore to lay his head, it was necessary to make Fr. Albinus his own adjustments. By the end of July 1995, the constriction work of convent was almost over. Now the inauguration of sisters` convent was fixed on July 29, 1995. So, Sr. Josita the regional Superior of Sisters of St. Joseph’s of St. Trudpert Indore, cut the ribbon and opened the door of the convent. Bp. George Anathil SVD was cordially invited to proceed over the first Holy Eucharist celebration newly constructed convent building and bless it. A good number of priests, religious and the local people gathered for the inaugural function. With this the existing problem of accommodation was relaxed for Fathers and Sisters for time being. But a great pain and sorrow endowed on Fr. George when he was given a simple see-off programme by all the members of Seva Ashram on July 31, 1995.
The mission was just a new born baby in the hand of Fr. Albinus Kujur SVD. He was just appointed and fresh to the mission field. The construction of the building was almost over, now his mission was to build the human communities. The task was not a cup of tea for him. He studied and personalized the prevailing hurdles and challenges before him. The real challenges were:
- Excessive illiteracy among tribal men and women in the area.
- Excessive health problem.
- Excessive dependency on money lenders and landlords.
- Excessive deforestation.
- Excessive use of alcohol and practice of superstition.
- Practice of excessive corruption in the society.
- Lack of transport and communication facilities.
- Lack of socio-political security.
- Ignorant on basic human rights and
- Prevailing low status of women in the society.
Fr. Albinus Kujur by nature was open to the reality, God fearing and trusting in the will of God. The positive impact and the failure of any programme does not become stumbling block in his life. Any kind of invitation coming in pertaining to development of people is accepted as God’s will. He believes that any successful programme is the result of sincere human effort and the intervention of divine grace of God. Failure of any programme is an indication that either one needs to improve from the mistakes he/she has made or rather humbly accept that he/she is unworthy of Gods’ Divine Grace. Do and learn, dive into the deep water to learn swimming is his philosophy of life. Trust in Him and entrust everything to Him is his missionary charism and making sincere effort and openness to all, is his way of life.
For Fr. Albinus, the above said hurdles and challenges were humbly and sincerely accepted as the reality of the given place. He found the area with great scope for social development work, but for the pastoral activity the area is totally barren since there are no Christian faithful in the area. To bring holistic development of human person, an implementation of INEGRATED RURAL COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME was the prime need felt for the area. The condition of the people was bad in all sphere of life, since their economic condition was very bad. The lack of money and over loaded with debts taken from money lenders and other sources, caused the rural villagers to struggle to earn for daily bread, to take steps towards preventive and curative health and hygiene, to send their children to schools and higher education, to go for improved way of farming, livestock development, income generating activity so on so forth.
The formation of SHGs continued in other neighboring villages as well. Men and women both showed great interest to come together and take radical steps for development of their own family and village economy. Thus, the demands for the formation of the groups came from many villages in the area. The banking agencies as well as various other govt. departments were willing to assist the SHGs. Among them Dewas-Shajapur Rural Regional Bank and NABARD were the first one to assist the SHGs by the kind support of Seva Ashram Pipri. The Adivasi Vikas Samitte Katukia was the first SHG to get bank loan for a sum of Rs. 15000/- on 20.6.1997 for the purchase of seeds and fertilizers from RRB, Pipri, which gave boost to the villagers of this area in the work of group formation and management.
Apart from the group formation, Seva Ashram also promulgated various other socio-development programme; such as –
- Construction of bio-gas plants and provide subsidies for the beneficiaries.
- Organizing preventive and curative health care training.
- Health check-up camps.
- Leadership training.
- Exposure visits.
- Training on ‘Panchayatiraj’.
- The centre has formed 16 men and 89 women SHGs with 1375 members.
- The small savings of the 105 SHGs amount a sum of Rs.8,02,585.00.
- The 65% percent SHGs are linked with banks for income generating programme, cultivation, health care, mending house, education etc.
- The status of health and hygiene (in terms of understanding) of the people has improved from 20% to 60%.
- People have started taking preventive measures of health.
- Children are provided nourishing food by the parents.
- The villagers accept the concept of organic farming, soil and water harvesting technique.
- Illegal cutting of the forest has reduced in the area.
- Biogas plants and smokeless Chulha construction is given importance.
- Village level leadership and people’s representation in the Panchayat has brought changes in Gram-Sabha.
- Village level conflicts have reduced.
- Social and habitual drinking of alcohol has come down.
- Numbers of school going children have gone up.
- The villagers are becoming aware of various schemes of the government.
- The SHGs feel the need of coming together in federation.
- The villagers accept the concept of grain storage and seed bank.
- The villagers accept the concept of cooperative society.
- The income generating programme such as fish farming, goat rearing mini-poultry farm etc. are becoming popular in the SHGs.
- The rapport of the people positive.
Pipri girls’ hostel inaugurated: It was a blessing for the people of Pipri village and the surrounding area. A new hostel was built in an effort to encourage education of girl children. The girls numbering around 48 were presently staying at the old building built for the residence of priests. The new hostel building has facility to accommodate 100 children and built with solar electricity system to tackle the regular power cuts. It was the brain child of Indore Diocese together with IDSSS. The whole project was sponsored by Mrs. Paula, Mr. Herman and Mrs. Maria from Germany. Under the supervision of Fr. Vincent Topno SVD the building work began and completed by Fr. Damian Ekka SVD, the present parish priest.
On 24th of November 2010, the hostel was blessed by Most Rev. Raphael Cheenath SVD, Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar in the presence of Most Rev. Chacko Thottumarickal SVD, Bishop of Indore Diocese. After the blessing a colourful programme of dance and songs were presented by the hostel girls. Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal SVD thanked the sponsors for their contribution towards the development of girl children through education, and the sponsors applauded the good work done by the diocese, the priest in charge and the Sisters. Fr. Nicholas Martis SVD, the Provincial Superior, in his speech spoke about the plan to start a primary school in the future to enable the children of the area an opportunity for better education and for better future.
The parish, Seva Ashram, besides running the girls hostel has undertaken several socio-development programmes such as: construction of bio gas plants through subsidies, organizing health care training and health check-up camps, leadership training programmes, exposure visits and training on ‘Panchayatraj.’ All these programmes are undertaken in an effort to uplift the people of the area.
Confreres who worked so far
Name of the Confreres
Fr. Anand Anathottathil
Fr. George Kannanayil
Fr. A. Antony Samy
Assistant Parish Priest
Fr. Albinus Kujur
Fr. Vincent Topno
Assistant Parish Priest
Fr. Damien Ekka
Fr. Cyril Cutinho