Concern for the social uplift of the people was integral to the work of the missionaries right from the beginning. Father Anthony Debono , at the start of Jesuit Santal Mission at Majlispur in 1925 , had to take up the cause of the helpless Santals (the largest tribe in India) against the money lenders. Every missionary tried in his own way to defend the Santals from exploitation by others. As Santal Mission developed into the Santal Region of the Society of Jesus, we find the emergence of a Coordinator in the area of social uplift. In 1964 Fr.Bernard Bugeja SJ, one of the pioneers designated as In Charge of Social Welfare. At the outbreak of the Bangladesh war in 1971 when thousands were pouring into India in West Dinajpur District of West Bengal, Fr.Yvo Laferla was appointed Coordiator of the Refugee service and from then on the Promoter Of Social Apostolate in the Region as well. In 1979, Fr.Aloysius Camilleri SJ was appointed Coordinator of Social Action (JESA), succeeded by Fr.Anthony LaGreca SJ in 1980. However, Fr.A.Camilleri SJ is once more appointed the Coordinator of Social Action in 1982 and in 1984 was succeeded by Fr.Aloysius Zammit SJ.
Sona Santal Samaj Samiti
On 19April 1985, the death of 15 Santals , among them Mr Anthony Murmu, by police firing at Banjhi, shook everyone and challenged the Jesuits of the Santal Region to show solidarity with the Santals of Borio Block who were protesting against the highhandedness of the money lenders and business people. Fr.Thomas Kavalakatt SJ and Scholastic Michael Raj SJ were assigned to render whatever help they could to the Santal community. They took up residence at Kodma among the Santal people in Borio Block to help them in legal matters in connection with the firing. Some of the programmes carried out from Kodma include : non-formal and adult education; village councils to solve village disputes; channelizing government funds for implementing government schemes; schemes to boost agricultural production, opening of villages schools, producing santal cultural primers for schools, etc. Kodma has set up and monitors seven village schools in Borio Block with more than 2000 children.
Paharia Samaj Sewa Kendra
The apostolate among the Paharias was started on 1 May 1983 when the then Regional Superior, Fr.Emmanuel Stellini SJ missioned Fr.P.A.Chacko to initiate this work of integral development of the Paharias. Fr.Chacko availed himself of a small building belonging to the diocese at Daharlangi. In 1984 the Pradhan of nearby Satia, a Paharia village, offered land to set up a centre to carry out activities among the Paharias. The Centre was built in 1985. The initial approach was to get to know the Paharias, history, culture, value systems, aspirations, etc. A programme for social education was drawn up to help the people to get in touch with their own resources for development. People based institutions like Gram Sabha, public distribution system, saving schemes, etc began to take shape.
The need was felt to attend to the health of the people since they are a prey to virulent diseases all through the Rajmahal hills. The Paharias were to be exposed to the effective use of herbal medicines available in their surroundings. Frs P.A.Chacko and Varghese Puthussery initiated JEEVODAYA CHIKITSALAYA at Satia in 1989. Regular courses in herbal medicine are offered at Satia and are carried out by competent people. Sanjivini oil is much sought after all over the country. Another crying need of the Paharias was education for their children. Their literacy level in the area is a mere 2.5%. In 1990 an environmental education programme was launched with a residential school for Paharia children. JEEVAN JYOTI School at Satia equips its students with a formation in and about their environment together with a formal school syllabus and thus make them useful in their social set-up.
Some of the programmes are carried out at Satia are:
(1) Social Education - non-formal & adult education; Gram Sabha, Public Distribution Scheme; Saving Scheme; etc.
(2) Medical- Herbal Dispensary; Herbal Medicine Training programmes.
(3) Environmental Education at Jeevan Jyoti Residential School for Paharias.
A number of other schools have been established in other villages.