A team of alumni from St. Xavier's College, Calcutta, accompanied Father Felix Raj, the college principal, to the United States of America for a cause unlike any undertaken by any educational institute in India.
The aim of the four-member team's visit to San Francisco and Los Angeles - raising funds for SXC Vision 2020 - may seem run-of-the-mill as it includes expansion of the college and setting up of the St. Xavier's University. But what sets it apart is the college's mission to admit 100 students affected by trafficking, starting from the coming academic year.
The first fund-raising event was organised at San Francisco, which was hosted by entrepreneur Rahul Roy, an IIT Kanpur graduate, who though not a Xaverian is committed to St. Xavier's College's vision to make education accessible to many more.
Father Felix Raj was felicitated for his work in the field of education by various officials of San Francisco, including state senate leader Bob Wieckowski and state senator Kenson Chu.
The Los Angeles leg of the trip saw a gala fund-raising event titled "From Darkness to Light" organised by the St. Xavier's alumni and St. Xavier's College Foundation with the help of Chanda Zaveri, the owner of Los Angeles-based company Actiogen.
Chanda, a self-made woman who ran away from her Calcutta home and marriage at the age of 17 and has now become a millionaire, wants to give trafficking surviors a chance to make a life for themselves. "Some kind people gave me the chance to pursue my dreams, I wanted to help the trafficking survivors have a chance to pursue theirs. It is a huge responsibility that Father Felix Raj has taken on and I want to do whatever I can to help," said Chanda, committed to help St. Xavier's College raise half-a-million dollars.
The special guest at the event was Apne Aap founder Ruchira Gupta, who spoke passionately about the need to help victims of trafficking and urged the audience to "help the dreams of every little girl who shouldn't be bought or sold, who should be free to fulfil her full potential". Ruchira will work closely with Xavier's to identify the trafficking survivors who the college will admit.
Father Felix Raj shared SXC Vision 2020 with the gathering, stressing the importance of education and the new mission to admit 100 students affected by trafficking. "The alumni association has already been sponsoring first-generation students for the past few years and now we want to look into the education of trafficking survivors for both school and college," said Felix Raj, who also promised not to stop at 100.
St. Xavier's College Foundation has already raised $50,000, but as Firdausul Hasan, honorary secretary of the St. Xavier's College Calcutta Alumni Association, said: "There is a lot more work to be done before Vision 2020 can become a reality."