Seven days in Jharkhand

Hi, I am Veronique, the co-founder of BastaSiaBuono. My first post has more to do with a good cause than with biscuits and bakery at large.

Some years ago my father became donor and supporter of the Belgian Jesuit mission in Jakharand.

Jharkand is an eastern state of India. It is known for its immense mineral and forestal resources and yet, despite the relative richness, its population lives below the poverty line and an estimated 20% of the children living there are malnourished.

The Jesuits help “non-scheduled” tribes (i.e. those that occupy a low position within the Indian Caste hierarchy) to gain access to decent education and self-sustainability. Most of all, they help women become self-sufficient.

Personal health training for young mothers in DhanharPersonal health training for young mothers in Dhanwar.

Last year my father decided it was time to visit the mission so he asked me to accompany him; at 78, he needs some assistance when traveling, and a jump to India is a long one.

It came in quite a hectic moment for me but, hey, this was actually his long overdue dream that had to come true. Daughter’s love and the prospective to pass one week together got the upper hand!

But I confess, I was doubly scared: for one, I was leaving a startup in need of much care to land in a country that alters your perception of values: India has been such a country in my past experiences.

It turns out I had no reason to be scared and the people we met during this trip have left us with a lasting impression we both treasure.

During our tour we were met by natives in a poignantly welcoming way and, fortunately, their unassuming sense of duty and their self-worthiness dissipated my qualms of being there in first instance.

Since the beginning of this trip I realised how so little help can make a difference and in the most positive way I can think.

The mission spreads out several schools in different districts: Gumla, Dolda, Danwhar, the city of Ranchi.

Jesuits work in precarious conditions, often struggling for the most basic resources. Their discipline and efficiency makes them adept at delivering a modern education and teaching self-sustainability to thousands of people on a pinch.

Day classes and activities at the school in RanchiDay class and activities at the school in Ranchi

Meet, for example, Father Louis Franken. He manages Kishor Nagar, a community where 630 orphans and youngsters from destitute families study and contribute to their own sustainment by learning farming, raising cattle and maintaining the structure. His major worry is to have stalls built of brick walls so that cattle thieves stay at bay.

Father Marc De Brouwer is the “man on the field”. At 95, he daily rides from Sint Ignatius School to one of the 200 of so tribal settlements he supervises; he never missed any of his daily commutes ever since he came to India, 65 years ago.
Father Marc stresses on the need of dignity and self-determination, his specialty is to find donors and supervise the construction of irrigation wells; he managed to have 5.500 of them built, to date.

Fancy some colourful stories? Father Simon, a small, lively man will calmly tell you when he was attacked by two bears and finally tamed them (and it’s true). Or when he risked his life in a confrontation with the local tribals afraid that he was trying to usurp their leadership.

And what to say of Sister Jocelyn: nurse, pharmacist, all wrapped into one! She runs a pharmacy in the middle of the woods where she also teaches women hygiene norms or helps mothers give safe birth to their kids.
Oh, and she can bake amazing cakes also!

These and many more special people deserve to be helped and here comes the biscuit’s side.

After coming back, I decided to launch a special production of Christmas cookies and double down the entire profit of their sales to the mission. We raised 2.501 Euro; that might not sound like much but it was enough to dig 12 irrigation wells that bring food-independency for around 600 families.

Thanks to a newly built well these ploughed fields in Gumla can be properly irrigated.Thanks to a nearby well, these ploughed fields will give a higher yield next season.

This year the cookies are back with new, stylish graphics and bi-coloured strings.

It’s the perfect Christmas present: one you are proud to give, enjoy and make a difference at once!

A serene Christmas to everyone.

Veronique De Rop

Pupils in BunduPupils in Bundu, the future of a nation.


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