History Of Dependability Saint Francis Home, Pathankot
It was in 1992 that the idea of starting a well-equipped charitable institution to serve the needs of the mentally and physically challenged children was mooted. Bp. Symphorian Keeprath , the then bishop of Jalandhar, was very keen to start a project for the welfare of the children with special needs and gave all support for the Project. In 1993, Saint Francis Home Society was formed and registered under Society's Registration Act of 1860. It took another four years to find a suitable plot of land and purchase it in 1997. An amount of Rs. 5695155.00 was paid for twenty one acres of land and one more acres was purchased for the price of Rs.800000.00 in 1998. At the time of the purchase of the land, there was a Panchayat Road across the railway line. But the construction of a new railway station closed the road and it took another four years of pleading and bargaining with the railways to get a railway crossing and an access road to the campus on lease from the railways. By that time, the diocese had spent the entire funds allocated for the land and infrastructure, and the Society was informed by Bp. Symphorian that the Society had to raise funds for the infrastructure from elsewhere. For years, the progress of the Project was stuck on its track for lack of funds.
Providentially, Mr. Alexander Pereira, Director, Zurich Opera House, came forward, offering his help to raise funds for Saint Francis Home Project. He established Saint Francis Home Foundation Zurich to raise funds for the Project. In September, 2004, he held a two- day charity Concert conducted by Maestro Zubin Mehta to fund the construction of infrastructure for Saint Francis Home. But there was further hurdle in getting the funds as the Society was yet to receive approval from the government for funds.
Meantime, Mrs. Bhinder, Member of Parliament was kind enough to sanction seven hundred thousand rupees to put up a four room structure as infirmary-cum-therapy centre. With funds received from two Punjab ministers, the therapy centre was equipped for Occupational and Speech Therapy. By 2006, Saint Francis Home became operational. The three- member team consisting of the occupational and Speech therapists started the CBR Program in the neighboring villages. Those who needed more specialized therapy were called to the Centre. Within a year, the CBR Program provided rehabilitation services to over hundred and thirty children living in thirty one villages of Pathankot and Dhar Division. A number of medical camps for the disabled were held and Disability Certificates were issued for the deserving children. Special seminars and awareness courses were conducted so that the people in the field might be able to identify children with special needs and persuade the parents seek professional help.
By the time, funds from Saint Francis Home Foundation Zurich became available; Saint Francis Home Pathankot had become an institution known for its services rendered by trained and qualified professionals. With the funds from Zurich, the existing building was expanded and Special School for the MR children was opened on August 6, 2007 with six students and today Saint Francis Home Pathankot serves the needs of one hundred and three differently abled children and of which forty-two girls live at our hostel. Today Saint Francis Home Society is running the following programs for the mentally and physically challenged children:
1) Saint Francis Special School for the MR and CP children. 2) Saint Francis Home Special School for Hearing Impaired 3) Saint Francis Occupational and Speech Therapy Centre. 4) Saint Francis Home Hostel for the mentally challenged girl children. 5) Saint Francis Home Counseling Centre 6) Saint Francis Home Early Intervention Centre 7) Saint Francis Home Pre-Vocational Training Centre 8) Saint Francis Home Special Educators' Training Centre (D.ED) Two Year Diploma Course.
This is the only institution in the region approved by the Government of India to provide rehabilitation services to the mentally and physically challenged children as it is registered under National Registration Act and People With Disabilities Act(PWD Act)
It has been the endeavour of Saint Francis Home to give witness to the compassionate love of Lord Jesus for the children with special needs as enunciated in the preamble of the Memorandum of Saint Francis Home Registered Society. So it is a matter of great joy for the Society that it has been providing its services totally free of costs so that no child with special needs be left behind. Moreover, it is also a gesture of appreciation for the brave parents who lavish their love and affection on these children without hoping anything in return. Of course, Saint Francis Home, Pathankot does not have any special funds at its disposal. As long as Saint Francis Home, Pathankot provides its services totally free of costs to the mentally and physically challenged children irrespective of their caste, creed or their economic conditions, it would remain financially dependent on the generosity of others, government grants and the public contributions. But the moment it imposes a fee, however minimal, Saint Francis Home as an endeavor to give witness to the compassionate love of Lord Jesus for Godâ€™s special children would lose its raison dâ€™Ãªtre for its existence. Perhaps the worry about finding funds to run Saint Francis Home Program has a positive side as well; it gives a sense of adventure to this undertaking of love.
In conclusion, Saint Francis Home, Pathankot has been trying to give witness to the compassionate love of Lord Jesus for the children with special needs by providing the best service possible free of cost. It is not an easy undertaking but the Divine Providence has been keeping it going despite the frequent fund crunches. No wonder for those who have been involved in the running of Saint Francis Home, Pathankot, it is a miracle in every sense of the word. Of course, many of the children would never be able to understand what Saint Francis Home does for their welfare nor would many of the parents appreciate its work. It is the strong faith in God that keeps the staff and others who work for the mentally and physically challenged children from getting disillusioned or discouraged as they do not have much to show for the hard work they put in at Saint Francis Home. But its hard working staff members and generous benefactors can be proud of the fact that they have become active partners of Saint Francis Home Pathankot in its ongoing endeavor to provide a better life for the Special Children of God. You too are welcome to join this adventure of love.