Hayden Hall Institute- A legacy of Compassion
Hayden Hall is a social purpose organization that was started in the year 1969 with a perspective to enable the then weaker sections of the society who were women and children for income generation, education and health.
Fr. Edgar Burns, a Canadian Jesuit started Hayden Hall, fifty years ago, as a center to expose students of an elite Jesuit school in Darjeeling to the realities of the communities around it. He started an evening college to serve local working youth who could not afford a college education.
The Landslides of 1968 changed the Darjeeling Hills forever leaving a trail of devastation. Fr. Burns realized that Hayden Hall had to play an important role in rebuilding Darjeeling after he was moved by the sight of a woman on the street carrying heavy loads along with her newborn. Hundreds of Houses were constructed and the focus shifted to adult literacy and empowering women financially. Hayden Hall thus opened its doors to migrants, tribals and tea garden labour who had no one else to turn to.
Before the Darjeeling District Government Hospital opened, Hayden Hall served as a hospital. Before the Government began thinking of policies for children’s development, a day care center for children of porters and manual labourers was set up at Hayden Hall. Thus, the three pillars- Health and Nutrition, Education and Vocational Guidance and Livelihood and Entrepreneurship evolved, finally coming together as our flagship intervention- The Integral Community Development Initiative, with a strong focus on sustainability.
Hayden Hall consistently responded to the needs of the vulnerable communities through a vast network of 48 education centers and 14 Community Development centers in the districts of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Jalpaiguri, with a staff strength of 130 Community Development Workers and Volunteer Teachers, impacting over 5000+ families on a regular basis annually. The Institute has maintained a fine balance between, “giving someone a fish and teaching them how to fish” in the words of Mother Teresa. Our vision keeps us relevant and sustainable-A healthy, well-informed, self-reliant and self-transforming community.
After 50+ successful years of working with the communities of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, we have been able to impact the lives of many in ways we can neither conjure up in data nor can we count the number of people that have benefitted from our programs.
Today, the Hills are different, with ever-evolving needs, aspirations and dreams. Poverty and social power structures continue to hinder communities to realize their full potential. Our commitment to Human Development through love and service has never been more crucial to our mission. Hayden Hall’s legacy of compassion continues to live on.