News

New place, new beginning

I had already informed you all earlier the need for Sophie centre to move to another place. We had been thinking and planning this project from last November 2014.
Sensing the signs of the time we were convinced that we need to use our resources, financial and material to provide education to the needy, move to another place where children from lower strata need our support, encouragement and social uplifting.
We wanted this work to be attached to one of our established ministries where the disadvantaged will profit.
Front of new buildingInside corridorOutside
Our Sisters have such a ministry in the neighboring state of Jharkhand, predominantly a tribal belt. They work in Khunti District at empowering children and women of the tribal community through education. The presence there of our Sisters of the Society of the Sacred Heart created an environment for education in these villages. Children have now acquired the habit of coming to school and thus enjoy their studies. We sincerely hope that this change will not only provide education to the most needy but also, gradually become financially viable.
We informed the children in the nearby villages about the new Sophie Centre.
They immediately started enrolling their names with tremendous enthusiasm. To have a good building where they can sit down in classrooms was like a dream come true.
Today the building is almost complete, the classes have started from June –July 2015!
New School buildingInside new buildingHappy school kids

All this was possible with your constant help and support.
Thank you very much.

Change in the New Year 2015

Fourteen years have gone by! In 2001 the Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Patna began an adventure of providing education to children from the lower strata of society in Kurji-Digha area. Beginning with eleven little children, the school grew fast. Innovative from time to time attracted many more children to Sophie Centre.
Thirteen years ago, finding a small place in a poor locality was our first struggle but we did find a helpful landlord. We decided to give preference to the education of girls as this is a neglected area among some families.  However, the biggest difficulty was to get the girls to school – they were only to work at home!  We begged, insisted, threatened, if necessary, and succeeded. Gradually our school had more girls than boys and mothers learnt to value them.
Restricted by various factors we may not have been able to provide the best education to these children. Nevertheless we have seen tangible interest, improvement and enthusiasm among parents and children for good education and character formation.
Our purpose has been achieved.
In the past years we have had teachers and volunteers for short periods of time from the Netherlands, England and Germany coming to work and get some experience of a different culture and system of education. The children always enjoyed having someone from a different culture and race.
We are grateful for their generosity, openness and dedication.
We must acknowledge here our debt of gratitude to the Sacred Heart Alumnae and their friends together with Sacred Heart Family all over the world for their constant support and encouragement, without those help we would not have been able to carry on this work in these past years. We are also especially grateful to Simon and Dominic in Germany for creating Sophie Centre web site.
St. Paul’s High School in Digha will take Sophie Centre in Patna forward.

Deeply aware of our mission to the needy, we are guided by the Spirit to look for new avenues to serve the disadvantaged who no doubt carry within them, hope for a better life. Sensing the signs of the time we were convinced that we need to use our resources, financial and material to provide education to the needy, move to another place where children from lower strata need our support, encouragement and social uplifting .This time we wanted this work to be attached to one of our established ministries where the disadvantaged will profit.
Our Sisters have such a ministry in the neighboring state of Jharkhand, predominantly a tribal belt. They work in Khunti District at empowering children and women of the tribal community through education. The presence there of our Sisters of the Society of the Sacred Heart created an environment for education in these villages.  Children have now acquired the habit of coming to school and thus enjoy their studies. We sincerely hope that this change will not only provide education to the most needy but also, gradually become financially viable.
“For all that have been-THANKS.” Sophie Centre with renewed vision continues its journey of education for the needy.

SOPHIE CENTRE – new information

Many of our girls and boys have joined the mainstream of government education because we made families understand the importance of education for the girl child. Some have finished middle or high school education and are engaged in small employment. They will surely educate their children – some have already shown interest in ensuring that their younger siblings go to school. Our purpose has been achieved.
We are deeply grateful to you and to all our alumnae group and benefactors for your continued help all these years.

In Patna city, children do not now need the coaching class we provided. Some go for private tuition after school. The small number of children who may continue to come could be cared for by St. Paul’s School where we now function. They have the space and the financial help to continue with this work if need be.

We need to use our resources for providing education to the needy in some other place not yet well developed- where the children of the lower strata still need our support, encouragement and uplift. Our Sisters have such a ministry in the neighbouring state of Jharkhand predominantly a tribal belt. They work in Khunti District at empowering children and women of the tribal community through education.
The presence there of our Sisters of the Society of the Sacred Heart created an environment for education in these villages. Children have now acquired the habit of coming to school and thus enjoy their studies. They are able to understand Hindi. They pressurise their parents into coming for the parent-teacher meetings. The attitude of the parents too, has changed. Where they used to keep their girl children from class for household chores, they now let them study.
Therefore we intend to move to Torpa, a place you have visited when you came to India. There we already have a lower primary school.
We are planning to choose children who have the potential to study, bring them to the existing school which is campus where we stay and a hostel for tribal girls. It is also in the rural area but not near the jungle (earlier Elephants used to stray around looking for food).
Now the place is developed and crowded in some areas. There are open vast fields and other facilities today like shopping area, small Government hospital etc.

Our needs.:
We need to construct 2 classroom attached to the existing building. Then we need some furniture and other teaching aids. We will transport some of the useful things we have in
Sofia from patna.
This new section we are proposing will be named as Sophie centre- a continuation of our work for the poor.

Teacher’s Day celebration 2014

In India 5th September every year is celebrated as Teacher’s day.

Here is story for you:
“Ravi was a village lad, who had the good fortune of attending a fairly affluent school.
Ravi was a well adjusted boy and so was content with giving the teacher the best he had. He went into his father’s field and plucked the choicest red pumpkin.
The next day Ravi proudly carried the fairly huge red pumpkin and gave it to his teacher.
The other children had brought flowers and small gifts well wrapped in shining papers.
The next day the teacher thanked all the children by name for their gifts. Ravi’s gift was not mentioned. He wondered why and he sat silently thinking that the teacher did not like his gift – an ordinary pumpkin. At the end the teacher brought out a big box and told them that she has got something special to give it to all the children. The children guessed that it was something edible. Everybody waited eagerly smacking their lips.
The teacher had made a delicious cake with Ravi’s pumkin.The teacher cut cake and distributed to all the children and everybody enjoyed it. Ravi was delighted, his sadness tuned turned into great joy. Ravi had left an indelible imprint on the heart of his teacher and his classmates. A teacher affects eternity, she/he can never tell where her/his influence stops”. Henry Adams.
This year Sophie Centre children organised the celebration and managed it better.
They surely have demonstrated the value of team work and good spirit of co-operation. The teachers were happy to see and experience their hidden talents and abilities.
Butterflys IButterflys 2

Early Summer Holidays 2014

This year the heat wave in the north of India forced the primary school children to start their summer holidays in the middle of May 2014. Most days in June we lived through the rising temperatures between 41C and 48C in Patna. In some other parts of North India the mercury went on rising even higher. Electricity cuts sometimes made it more difficult to cope with the intense heat. People carried on with their life and business. Children will be out of their homes in the hot summer evenings to play and enjoy their long holiday season.
Rain at the end of June brought some relief from the scorching days of heat and dust. Unfortunately this year they say India would receive less rainfall! However the hilly areas in the north have experienced good rainfall.
Some of our children returned to school in the last week of June. Some are still in their villages giving a helping hand to their elders during this sowing season. This is also a season for wedding celebrations. We hope our children will be back in the month of July. This term is busy with studies and other activities to keep the children busy and out of mischief.

Winter Holidays 2013/ 2014

Before Christmas holidays began Sophie centre children had their long awaited sports day.
No doubt all enjoyed taking part in sports competitions and winning a small piize. Almost the whole of January days were closed for all primary school children. We had to go through some very cold days in this winter season with some unexpected rain in Patna city.
Roads were flooded making it impossible to move except for big vehicles and cycle rickshaws. Some school grounds too were flooded.
Towards the very end of January the children returned to school after a month long waiting!
February and March are the months of all final exams in schools. For these two months the children do some serious studies and spend less time for play and other acivities. All will be anxiously waiting to go to the next class in the new academic year beginning from April 2014.

November 2013 More Celebrations

Immediately after Diwali holidays the much awaited Children’s Day came.
The older boys themselves planned the day for the whole school. Some were busy preparing a few new games for class 1 to 111 the others spent some time choosing some modern hits for dance. The first half of the afternoon on 14th November all participated in games and the latter part spent in vigorous dancing paying no attention to rhythm or music.

Some were shy to dance. They preferred to sit and watch while some were busy learning some new steps joined by the teachers too. Altogether it was an enjoyable day for all. Snacks and a piece of chocolate were distributed before they went home to have a relaxing week-end.

2013 Diwali Celebration

In 2013 Diwali was celebrated on 3rd. By the end of October children were eager
to start their holidays and get into a mood of celebration. Some of the older children displayed their creative ideas in colour and in flickering lights. They were given one day of school hours to prepare and exhibit their symbols of Diwali celebrations.


The next day was the last  day of school. The children wore bright coloured clothes. An atmosphere of joy pervaded everywhere. Some of them had brought their favourite CD with them to play and they danced for more than an hour. It was wonderful to see the older children teaching the little ones how to dance to the tune of music. Diwali is one of the most spirited festivals for all.

Sofia Centre – Patna: Twelfth Birthday Celebrations

Sofia Centre celebrated their 12th birthday in St Paul’s School hall.
Mrs. Reena Mary Singh (with us since the beginning in Patna), was the chief guest and
as soon as she entered accompanied by our Sisters, the programme began with a short welcome by one of the teachers, then the school song in which most of the little ones joined whole heartedly (in differing keys, of course!) Then a small student of Std 3 announced the first item and they were off.

There were the folk dances of Bihar, the strutting of film dances, the jumping of bunnies shaking their very visible tails! The discipline was amazing, as were the smooth organization and silence – a tribute to the teachers in whom “our ways” have been patiently inculcated by Sister Mary Varghese.
And so we all trooped down the stairs and into the compound where a wholesome snack was awaiting us! Hot puris and a tasty mixed vegetable curry were prepared on the spot, by the canteen manager of the school. To serve snack we used environment-friendly leaf plates instead of plastics. Sitting in expectant groups, it was amazing to see the polite waiting of the little ones till all were served and then the concentrated feeding!
The evening ended with a cup of ice-cream.

Mid-day meal mishap

It is said that India’s mid-day meal scheme is the largest feeding program for schools existing in the world. The implementation of this widely appreciated scheme is a big challenge as well.
Until a few years ago Government school class rooms in Bihar had a deserted look, empty and uncared for. Today the state run schools in Patna and its adjoining suburbs have classrooms overflowing with children. The mid-day meal and other valuable incentives have drawn children to schools. The Government has taken measures to ensure that the children stay in school till the stipulated time and do not run away after the meal.
Earlier the teachers cooked and served the meal in the school but this method took from the number of teaching periods bringing down the academic progress of the children.
Then the  school appointed a separate set of  staff to prepare the meal so that the parents could be assured of both studies and a plate of hot, nutritious food once a day. Here all children eat together, irrespective of caste, creed or colour.
Involvement of the parents and the local community was one of the original goals of this scheme. After this unfortunate event the parents themselves have decided that they would play an important role and not leave it to the school authorities alone. It will take a long time to restore the trust in government and school authorities.

You must have watched the heart rending scenes on T.V. screens – the death of 23 children of a primary school situated in a village about 60 km away from Patna city.
The 2 children of the cook too were among the dead. The deeply grieving parents laid their children to rest in a ground close to the school that served the meal for them perhaps the only meal for some. The government has announced compensation for all the families.

In Sophie Centre, the majority of our children come from these state-run schools.
Some of them are from living conditions where cleanliness and health care are neglected.
Our school has stored soap, oil and first aid articles to supply to the children as needed – sometimes just for a good wash as the little ones come looking dirty and unkempt. Constant reminders to keep themselves clean have created an awareness among the older ones; the new- comers require time to develop the habit of cleanliness.

Summer 2013

Summer has arrived and with it, naturally, the sweltering heat. The summer flowers are in full bloom Laburnum ,a garden tree known as the “golden shower tree” can be seen every where in Patna.
All the schools close in mid May. As the mercury rises the numbers of children attending school gradually decrease. They go visiting their villages, see their grandparents, uncles and aunts and have some frolicking time with their friends.
The last event in Sophie Centre before the children dispersed for summer vacation was a drawing competition.

Many of them brought crayons with them this time. In the past the school had to provide colours to the majority of them. This is a sign of self reliance and self expression.
Change is slow but certainly coming!
The children left in high spirits after a little snack wishing each other “happy holidays”.

Winding up the year 2012

The year 2012 went by smoothly with normal activities and celebrations.
This year we noticed a marked improvement among most children in their academic performance and they seemed to be better motivated. One of the reasons is that there are industrialists wanting to make investments in Bihar which in turn will provide job opportunities. The parents though they are uneducated they are quick in seizing opportunities to improve their economic and social condition. To achieve this goal education of their children is a must. Sophie centre provides an incentive and opportunity to our children at their early stage and their response is very encouraging indeed to our 11 years of relentless effort for the most needy children.
Another new experience for our older children was a visit to Tarumitra, a bio reserve centre nearby. There they spent a few hours in the afternoon threshing the wheat in the field. Some of them have helped with threshing in their villages and for some it was their first experience. They enjoyed doing it here as a group with their teachers.
We are very grateful for the help and generous support received from Alumnae friends, benefactors: Dr. Helga and her friends, volunteers in the Netherlands and Canada. Our special thanks to Hermine Wennekers, Regine and Mr.Hupperetz the Director of Sofianum who initiated the process and supported Sophie Centre in the past years.
We are lucky to have received help and some gifts for our kids from some children from Germany through Dominic one of our past volunteers, his friend Simon for creating a website for Sophie Centre and the generous help received from Annie Werner and her friends. Our heartfelt thanks to all.
The examinations are over. After a short break from studies in between all are waiting to return to school and begin the new term by April 2013. It is the season of spring.
Arrival of spring is celebrated with colourful feast of Holi, music, song and festivity.

December 2012

Winter holidays

Sofia children took a break from their school work in the month of December 2012.
We had planned to take the class 111 and 1V to Tarumitra Ashram and Bio-Reserve Centre. The Centre very kindly sent the bus to take our children.
They spent  sometime getting to know the green environment around.
The teachers and the children then went on to the wheat field to thresh the wheat.
Here the threshing is done manually.

Some of them have helped with threshing in their villages and for some it was their first experience. They enjoyed doing it here as a group with their teachers.
When they returned it was obvious that they thoroughly enjoyed their break from their daily routine, refreshed, energised and now waiting for another chance to spent more time in the Bio-Reserve Centre.
The weather cock has predicted that we were racing for a few days of freezing winter this year. Meanwhile we wish you all a very Happy Year 2013.

November 2012
Deepawali Celebration in Sofia- Centre

This year the 2 main festivals “Chath” and “Dewali” came fairly close to each other.
We had one day celebration for both.

“The Chhath Puja”, also known as Surya Shashti, is a Hindu festival in which a Puja (worship ritual) is performed to offer thanks to the Sun God, Surya, for supporting all the life on Earth. The Puja is performed with spirited enthusiasm and reverence, on Kartik Shukla Shashti i.e. 6th day of the month of Kartik, according to the Hindu calendar, typically in the month of October or November (as per the Gregorian calendar), exactly 6 days after another famous Hindu festival called “Deepawali”.

On the last day of the school before “Deepawali” the children came with required colours to make “rangoli” designs. This year the quality of this special art was definitely better than the previous years. For the first time we had the participation of a few boys.
Their display was quite creative and blended with the season’s festival spirit.
The children seemed very proud of their team work.
After the day’s hard work the children were delighted to have games of their own choice for an hour and went home with a Cadbury Perk each.

August-September 2012
School Day Celebration

August 6th, 2012 marks the 11th year of our school. BeIong a rainy month it also saw the smallest number of children we have had on the anniversary!
This is a certain sign of the changing times –Most of our children have chosen to go to established schools, either government schools or many private schools which have mushroomed to cater to better-earning families now determined to educate their children. Our original purpose has been fulfilled.
Even the tailoring classes which attracted many young girls in the past years are looking for better opportunities. There are now malls and boutiques which pay well for different kinds of work. A small number of our girls are doing well in these jobs after their 10thclass.

On August 6th to mark the school day celebration we organised a few games and a short entertainment programme. The children enjoyed themselves playing an extra 45 minutes. The day ended with a picnic style snacks in the school compound.

May-July 2012

You may have noticed the world climates recently? The monsoons in the tropics have been delayed by 2-3 weeks and India has had one of the longest summers in recent history! Patna in north India has its summer holidays for schools in June which is usually the hottest month. And this year has seen the hottest holiday in recent memory.
The government issued a warning to people not to go out in the late morning and early afternoons. Home was the best place to be! Few people could leave the city at all because travel had become expensive as had vegetables, fruits and other basics.
There were many public prayer meetings held by the different religions in India, all praying for rain. Trees and flowers withered, the great mango was most disappointingly scarce!
Thank God people in Bihar did not really experience scarcity of water in these summer days. Animals too had their miserable day. In the hot afternoons one could see the roaming buffaloes running in great speed to dip themselves in the cool waters of Ganga. This year Schools were closed on May! 2nd 2012 due to rising temperature.

The end of June brought one small drizzle and one small shower to the parched earth and drooping flowers and we look forward now to the monsoon rains bringing lower temperatures so that schools can function!
Some children came back to school, to their new classes and teachers and we are all happy to be together again.

February 2012

Sofianum Teachers Visit Sofia Centre in Patna

Ms. Miets and Ms. Marijke, two teachers from Sophianum in the Netherlands were in Patna for some days in February 2012. We were very happy to welcome them to
Sofia Centre, Patna.
The staff and children of Sofia Centre greatly appreciated their visit - days spent with our children teaching and interacting with them. We are indeed very grateful for their up-grading of our work with computer technology and other teaching aids.

Now the teachers can use these visual aids in the classrooms so the teaching and learning become more effective and interesting. The children rarely had the chance to learn with AV aids in the past years. Now, these children from deprived backgrounds feel proud and excited to have good things in their school! This will surely heighten their motivation to learn. Reciprocatin their long awaited visit the children entertained our visitors with a small programme of songs and dance.

Having Miets and Marijke staying with us Sisters was a great joy. They fitted into our way of living with simplicity and friendly acceptance of everything while their eagerness to learn opened to them new horizons of our Indian culture. We are glad they were able to make a quick visit to Bodh Gaya where the great Buddha received his enlightenment.
We were delighted to exchange ideas, information and hopes on youth and the education of youth today. We were all teachers together sharing experiences and dreams for the future. Sophianum embodies a tradition which has trickled down two hundred years!
Thanking you on behalf of Sofia Centre, in the name of the Society of the Sacred Heart, with great good wishes.

SEASON’S CELEBRATIONS WITH SCHOOL ACTIVITIES 2011

Having completed our 10th year of Sofia Centre it was time for the great feast of Diwali, the festival of lights signifying the victory of good against evil. Sounds of crackers can be heard everywhere and  glittering diyas (lights) can be seen every where.
The children got holidays for a few days. It is an opportunity for them to visit their village greet their families ,exchange greetings and gifts at this festival of joy.
By November the weather began to cool down. 14th November is celebrated as Children’s day all over India. Sofia Centre held sports activities on that day and many won prizes. Toffees, crayons, rulers, pens and note books were given as prizes. All those who were not lucky to win prizes this time were given a pencil each.
Every one received a packet of chocolate biscuits.

At the end of November the teachers prepared simple tests to make sure that they
do their studies as well in the midst of all these seasons of celebrations.
December being the end of the year there is excitement for more celebrations and activities like drawing and craft before the Christmas holidays. Small children draw Christmas trees coloured them with crayons and decorated them with stickers.
The school provided the paper and crayons and the children were happy to take these cards to their parents. The class teacher wrote Happy New Year on each card.
This year all classes made different things with paper with the help of 2 volunteers from Germany .Their work was exhibited for all the children to see. They were all happy to do something different from the previous years and to be displayed for the whole school to see. Thanks to the volunteers’ interesting contribution.

Christmas holidays started earlier this year as the northern region in India witnessed the season’s coldest days in the 3rd week of December. However just before Christmas the appearance of the sun brought much needed relief to the people from the intense cold days.
The school reopened on 4th of January 2012.No doubt the children were happy to be back to school after almost three weeks holidays!

OCTOBER 2011
SOFIA CENTRE CELEBRATES10 YEARS!

October 2011 Sofia Centre completed 10 years in Patna. This had to be celebrated.
It was their first opportunity to perform in front of their parents and some invited guests. Imagine the pride of the mothers watching them! They were proud of being congratulated by our special guests and  visitors. We remembered with ever-growing gratitude our generous benefactors, local and foreign  without whom this jubilee would not have been possible. We also expressed our gratitude to our past and present teachers ,volunteers and to our support staff who gave their service to Sofia Centre.

Some Highlights…

Children waiting to begin the programe (left) Yellow shirts (center) Expressions of joy
by class 3 (right) Read the whole article under Sofia centre celebrates 10 years.


SOFIA CENTRE HIGHLIGHTS IN 2011

In 2011 we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of Sofia Centre.
Children are looking forward to and getting ready for a small and exciting celebration.
Some special activities like drawing and painting, Rangoli (a form of Indian creative art) done on the ground, varieties of coloured powders or grains, pulses, leaves,
earth-dust, tea or coffee powder are used. Different designs, images, sceneries
can be created.


Rangoli – a form of Indian creative art.

SOFIA CENTRE HIGHLIGHTS IN 2010

The sweltering 2010 summer in Patna kept the school closed till the end of June. Some children on holiday in their villages, waited for the monsoon to arrive, helping the family in the sowing season. The almost complete lack of rain in most places in Bihar foreshadowed a drought situation. In the 4th week of July the children returned from their villages. By early September we had more than 120 children attending classes. New admissions continue to come even now.Sofia Centre introduced new steps to enthuse parents to send children to classes regularly. In line with present Government thinking to improve education in Bihar and parents’ keenness on their wards mastering English and mathematics, the children were divided into smaller groups for these subjects. This method of group learning speeded up understanding and more interest in the above subjects.
This year we also worked out a plan for the teachers to interact more with the parents. Two teachers at a time visited their homes, met the parents together with the children in their own living environment. Getting to know their living conditions is an important goal of this program. To our surprise the teachers found that there were many children, especially girls, who continued to stay at home, engaged in household duties while their parents were out working.
In a short time the teachers visited the houses of some 70 children. Visiting families in their own environment (one-room house with all talking done outside), listening to their economic and domestic problems, made the teachers aware of the daily struggle facing these families ( some with as many as12 children) Education of girls for their future responsibility of bringing up a family was an important point of the discussion.
They realized that their teaching methods have to be adjusted to the needs of the children. These encounters were mutually benefitting for teachers and parents. Gradually there was a rise in regular attendance, better learning and more co-operation between parents and teachers. Of course we demanded that the parents send the girls to school.
We provided some incentives for girls, like notebooks and pencils at cheaper rates.
Though this project was time consuming, required extra expense for travel and a lot of walking from house to house, it proved to be a great benefit.
In August the school celebrated “School Day” with much enthusiasm.
A few group competitions were held on this occasion. This year a kind donor had given them 15 pairs of new rubber sandals to be distributed to the children. A few pairs were given to those who had none .
The other pairs were distributed as prizes for painting and on the spot talent competition. The kids prepared a short entertainment program with songs, dance and action songs in Hindi and in English.
Every child was given a notebook, pencil, rubber and a packet of biscuits. We observed that more activities and small gifts gave them incentives to be more regular in attending classes and in performance too.
At the end of August with the co-operation and generosity of the school director we were able to provide a meal for them.
We held a few sports activities for them in November.
We distributed crayons, notebooks, pencils, rubbers,
rulers, hair bands for girls pieces of soap etc as prizes. Older children got pens and note books.
In September the children were given oral and written tests.
The teachers observed a marked improvement and enthusiasm in children on all fronts.
Once in two weeks the children received special value education classes where they discussed their domestic problems, got guidance to cope with them in life.
A number of children have joined mainstream schools. In 2010 March more than 20 children sat for the entrance test in Government schools to get admission to Middle school. All our children passed the tests successfully and they are continuing their education. A few who are older, have dropped out of the school and are engaged in some income-generating/vocational training – needlework and tailoring, bicycle repair, helping at petrol pumps etc. We have great hope that these children, in spite of the complex situations they face, would make use of the education they have received and try to stand on their own strength and purpose.