In 2013, residents of Ijeirong Tulimon village in Tamenglong District of Manipur approached Sunbird team members to build a hostel in their remote village. Tucked among gently rolling hills and forests, Ijeirong had one of the better functional schools. Children from as many as 14 neighbouring villages came here to study, some trekking for over an hour and a half each way to reach. Children from the farthest villages stayed with local residents on “rent” as “self-help” boarders doing their own cooking as best they could and managing entirely by themselves. Even then, both the rent and school fees was frequently paid in firewood or rice, the parents not being able to afford the money. There was thus a crying need for a central hostel with basic facilities.
With the assurance of all help from the village community, Sunbird took on the project. A local resident donated his land for the building and the village contributed the wood from their own forest. Local farmers happily allowed volunteers to take out stone for the project from their fields. Sunbird Team members pitched in generously for the materials and construction costs while the Assam Rifles donated the tin sheets. Almost the entire skilled labour force was from Ijeirong and neighbouring villages and the workers were fairly compensated for their work. Sunbird Administrator Amos, from Ijeirong himself, wore many hats – as designer, architect, cost control supervisor and overall Project in Charge. He was ably assisted the other two co-founders of the school John and Amang.
The hostel was inaugurated on 14 Feb 2014 and commenced with 40 hostellers. Sunbird team members further contributed for levelling a large playfield, indoor games and musical instruments besides sponsoring many of the children. In March 2016, a large covered hall was added.
Thanks to an efficient team and a well-run facility, the hostel strength had, by January 2016, almost quadrupled to 150 students. Friendship Hostel is now perhaps the largest hostel of its kind in Manipur, if not the entire North East. Designed for barely 50 hostellers, there is an urgent need for expansion and building a separate hostel for the girl students (Currently boys and girls are housed on different floors).
Concept of Friendship Hostel
Friendship Hostel Ijeirong fulfils a core mission of Sunbird Trust – to provide physical access to education for underprivileged children. Inherent in this mission is creating bonds of friendship – both between donors from across the country and the beneficiary children and their families, but also between various communities and tribes. Children are therefore imbibed with broadmindedness and a spirit of tolerance to diversity in the fractured emotional landscape of a conflict zone.
Construction of a large hostel in a remote area would not have been possible without the help of generous contributors: Rajesh and Renu Chabria put in the seed capital for construction of the hostel and its solar electrification. Luis and Fiona Miranda guaranteed continuing sponsorship of 36 children over three years, thus guaranteeing payment of the running costs of this venture. Have a Heart Foundation under the kind leadership of Manu Chatlani and Haresh Chandi made a major contribution to levelling the large playfield and Nutrition Scheme for the self-help children. Abhijit and Kavita Raha underwrote the hostel furniture while Stephen and Komala Mathias and Priya and Krishna Hegde contributed the cost of the toilets and bathrooms. Many other team members, all of who cannot be named here, contributed in cash and kind to various improvements.