By Frazer Mascarenhas
May 7th, 2020

St. Stanislaus High School is a 160-year old Jesuit institution, catering to 2200 students of the different religious traditions and cultures of India. As part of the Church’s educational efforts, St. Stanislaus believes in excellence in all-round human formation through action-reflection. The pandemic and the lockdown caught us just as our annual examinations were in progress.

The Archbishop of Mumbai, when approached by Government, turned to this Jesuit school, to offer its premises to accommodate out-station workers stranded in the city without jobs, finance and accommodation. St. Stanislaus immediately responded positively but the Home Guards who were to open this camp, did not act for more than a week. The Jesuit team decided to proactively contact the local Municipal office to offer to host the camp, given the huge need perceived by local volunteer groups. The municipal response was immediate, with the campus being surveyed, the area of the Assembly Hall and the Arrupe Conference Hall identified and sanitized, and orders given for mattresses and other essentials. Facilities were created for 100 men and 24 women migrant workers.

The Jesuit Supervisor of the School, Fr. Felix D’Souza S.J. took up the operations, along with the lay School Administrator Mr. Coelho. Our Principal, Ms. Anna Correa, gave moral support from home, as travel to school was not possible. The School Canteen agreed to provide the food. The Municipality provided health and security personnel. Our first guests arrived on the 18th of April. About 35 have registered with us, including 5 women. The School has also been required to provide separate isolation quarters to 2 asymptomatic patients – a man and a woman.

Caring for these stranded workers did not mean merely providing meals and sleeping quarters. There is a lot of activity around health, nourishment, entertainment and productivity, so that our guests feel cared for. Finding the workers with nothing to do the whole day, entertainment was first thought of by way of Hindi films shown each evening. Fr. Felix then tied up with a Voluntary Organization to manufacture Face Shields for medical use. An otherwise lethargic and sullen group suddenly came to life, turning the Hall into a production unit and producing more Face Shields than was anticipated. Material had to be urgently asked for to satisfy the work instincts of this group! In addition, health checks and treatment for existing ailments, along with health awareness sessions, created a more relaxed atmosphere in camp. Sharing in common tasks like cooking and cleaning, willingly undertaken, has resulted in a family feeling that makes the confinement in the campus bearable. In addition to the camp inmates, about 60 people from the neighbourhood are also given a hot take-away meal every evening. The human need for basic necessities during this emergency is palpable.

The camp is being funded by a local Foundation and by generous donations from an appreciative local population. With the extension of the lockdown in Mumbai, till the 17th of May, this haven of safety continues to be available to anyone in need of shelter. A lady who had just lost her husband was picked up on the street outside a hospital and brought to our camp this afternoon itself. St. Stanislaus is happy to have the opportunity to live the motto it proclaims to its students and parents: Born for Greater Things.