Mangalore, Jul 12
Pics - Mounesh Vishwakarma
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangalore (GA)
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Sidhakatte, a remote place near Bantwal, is a place that perhaps not many are familiar with. But St Patrick's Higher Primary School of this region has been a centre of attraction off late, putting Sidhakatte on a global map. Hard as it may seem to believe, a group of students from Holland have been staying here for quite some time now, and practically working for the construction of the school building. From filtering sand to cementing bricks in the walls, these zealous Dutch are working alongside the local masons, in addition to funding thousands of rupees for the construction themselves.
The condition of the old school building was awful, with weak walls and roofs and threatened the safety of children. Owing to the combined efforts of Fr Valerian D'Souza, the present correspondent of the school, Mark Walder, ex-correspondent, Xavier D'Souza, headmister and staff of the school, contributions from Ronald Moras, Virendra Shettigar, Norbert Rego, Lokesh Shetty and this Dutch group, the construction process is underway.
They belong to an organization called 'World Servants of Netherland', that considers social service and service to mankind as its prime objective. The modus operandi and the approach of this organization is similar to the National Service Scheme (NSS) that we have in our country. The contingent comprising of 38 members came down to India on July 4 and has been working incessantly for the school since then.
Their discipline and hard work truly needs to be lauded. Apart from a 2-hour lunch break, there is not a single minute that they spend on anything other than work. "Their punctuality and time sense is flawless. They have a time table for everything and stick to it religiously, unlike us who never take time seriously and keep making petty time adjustments and delays. They don't waste a single minute. When on work, hours together that is, they do not use their mobile phones at all. Their discipline is impeccable" says a happy Mildred Sequeira, headmistress, St Patrick's Higher Primary School.
The local masons too have been having a good time in the company of these energetic Dutch. "They do more work than us. It is like we are here to assist them and not the other way round. Yes, we don't know their language and they don't know ours. But still with non-verbal clues, signals and our broken English, we try to communicate with them and they pick it quite accurately" says a smiling local mason.
The working conditions are truly demanding but the ever enthusiastic Dutch group works hard and enjoys its work. "The weather is definitely a factor. India is quite hot. We don't see such hot and humid conditions back home in Holland and that does make work quite a challenging job. Although the materials that are being used here for construction are pretty much the same we use in Holland, we use things in smaller packages. The cement bags here are of 50 kgs but the cement bags that you'll see in Holland will be not more than 20 kgs. Besides, the bricks and stones that are being used here are quite big in comparison to smaller bricks used back home" says Cees Versteeg Cornelis, the team leader of the Dutch faction.
But it is the feeling of universal brotherhood and empathy that drives them forward in their endeavor to serve, against all hardships. "We have sufficient in Holland and we're quite happy with it. But there are many people in the world who are not as blessed as we are. That's why we're here…To share what we have, to work for the needy, to try and put a smile on the face of those who need it the most" discloses Cees Versteeg Cornelis.
Nevertheless, it has been quite a learning experience for the men and women from Netherland. "India is really nice. The people, the atmosphere, the children… I don't think schoolchildren in Holland are as disciplined as Indian kids. Besides, the 'uniform' for school children is something we don't have in Holland" says a grinning member of the Dutch group. And the food? "Well, its too spicy! We have to keep drinking litres of water when we have Indian food" she exclaims. A couple of people in their group are meant for cooking purpose alone, so that they don't miss home food, and of course, to avoid burning of their tongues due to Indian spices which they are not accustomed to. "Visits to other countries like this make you realize the significance of your home, your parents, and your country. We do miss Holland at times" reveals another Dutch companion.
The European contingent spends quality time with the children studying in the school as well. They sit with them in their classrooms, play with them on the playground, sing and dance with them, and help them with reading, writing, drawing, etc and make them comfortable. After the completion of their stint at the construction site in the evening, they go for house visits trying to figure out the state of the village, the condition of children, whether everyone is sent to school, and interact with children.
They are slated to leave India on 19 of July, and by their own admission, they are going to miss India a lot. Working hard day in and day out, this dedicated cluster of Dutch volunteers is a picture of discipline and composure. Their gesture is 'inspiring' in the true sense of the term. To understand perseverance better, we perhaps need to take a leaf out of their book.
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