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KSN (KHRISTIYA SEVA NIKETAN) - Home of Christian Service
Latest: A report from Chris and Linda Berry, describing their visit to KSN in September 2022
Khristiya Seva Niketan (KSN) is a remote mission hospital in Sarenga, a rural town in West Bengal, India.
By rural I mean that most of the houses away from the main street will have a few chickens, or goats or cows, and water is collected in buckets from taps or wells in the street. Once outside the town, there are fields upon fields of rice in various stages of growth, along with potatoes and mustard, until you reach the jungle.
The hospital was founded in 1914 by Methodist missionary Dr Caleb Davis, to serve the Santhal tribal people working on the Indigo plantations in the area. The link with The Square Methodist Church came through Karen Drayton, wife of Rev Neil Drayton who was our Minister at the time. Karen's parents, Rev John Hastings and his wife, were themselves missionaries in the area, and Karen's brother was born in KSN hospital. Karen grew up in India and went to school there.
Because of her links with KSN Karen was asked to gather a group of people from the UK, who would visit the hospital at the beginning of 2014, the centenary year. To this end she sent out an open letter to members of The Square, which she called, "An invitation of a Lifetime." Six people responded to that invitation and became part of a larger group of about 20 people who made the journey to Sarenga.
Since those days, several of us at The Square have maintained our relationship with KSN, and regularly make visits there.
Here is a collection of photos, showing various aspects of life at KSN. You can hover over a photo to see a larger version:
The first photo is the main hospital building. There are male and female wards, children’s ward and maternity. Other parts of the hospital include the Operating Theatre, X-Ray and Ultrasound, Pharmacy, Pathology and Out Patients.
This second photo is of the Marshal Duar girls hostel. This takes girls from poor backgrounds between 4 to 18 years old, who are given board and lodging, plus education at a local school. They are a delight as you will see in the next photos.
Two young people from The Square taking part in activities with the Marshal Duar girls
Two older members from The Square with the Marshal Duar girls, and Karen Drayton – who started it all – plus four young midwives from the L&D outside the nursing student dining room
Nursing students in the nursing student hostel
Some of the UK visitors in the nurses dining room, with some students.
It is important to realise the role which the dining room plays during our visits. We go there three or four times every day during our stay. When there is a largish group of us, the nursing students serve us our meals, and it is during those times that we get to chat with them and find out about their lives. They are not all confident at speaking English with us, but gradually they come out of their shells and we have a lovely time together.
Students inside and outside the chapel. The daily chapel prayers are part of the rhythm of life at KSN and all the students, whatever their religion, say that it is something that they miss when they leave KSN at the end of their course.
A range of operations are carried out at the hospital, including cataract surgery being performed here.
We have normally taken blankets or clothes knitted by crafty people at The Square. Premature babies still need to be kept warm even in a country like India.
Links between The Square and KSN
The following sections have been edited together from separate contributions by Ivor Mitchelmore and Linda and Chris Berry.
It is important to realise that Khristiya Seva Niketan (KSN) is not just the hospital. There is also a residential Nursing Training School with 75 nursing students, tutors and other staff, plus Marshal Duar girls hostel, which takes girls from poor backgrounds from the age of 4 to 18. The hospital, nursing school and girls' hostel are interrelated to a greater or lesser degree, and are in turn an integral part of Sarenga town and the surrounding villages.
I think it’s fair to say that many people would prefer to help specific people with a specific need rather than making general donations. Our relationship with KSN I think achieves that and therefore it is always our aim to include as many people in getting involved with what is needed at KSN.
Support for the hospital
- Fundraising through several church projects since 2014. This money has helped to fund things such as the refurbishment of ward areas and purchase of new equipment such as the digital X-ray machine and new operating microscope.
- Craft groups at the Square have knitted warm clothes and made blankets for newborn babies. These are not just used in the hospital but are also given to parents to take home.
- There are other members of the church (who do not belong to the craft group) who have annually gifted baby jackets and bonnets for the maternity unit and patchwork blankets for the hospital
- Old spectacles have been collected and taken out to KSN, where they are put to good use for the patients there.
- Visitors to KSN from The Square have helped in practical ways with redecoration or gardening work, and those with clinical skills have worked alongside local staff in maternity, theatre and the laboratory.
- Visitors to KSN pay a nominal daily fee for their accommodation which more than covers the costs and so that is another way that people from The Square support the hospital.
- Visitors have led morning prayers and worship in Grace Chapel for staff, students and patients.
- Emergency Appeals have been supported by the Square and Circuit churches during COVID for emergency supplies and food parcels for the poor rural communities in Sarenga and Durgapur
Support for the Nursing School
- Members at The Square sponsor nursing students from poor backgrounds through their training.
- In the past, training has been given in practical skills to the students, and also some classroom teaching.
- Nurture groups and Bible studies have been led by members from The Square.
Marshal Duar Hostel
- Places for girls at the hostel can be sponsored
- Games, books and other gifts have been provided
- Ground clearance and redecoration has been undertaken by visitors from The Square
- Funding provided for major renovation and redecoration of the Hostel post Covid, when the building was empty for 18 months.
- Hostel girls can apply for sponsored places at the nursing school provided they are successful in their Board Exams.
In all areas, The Square supports KSN in prayer. Those who visit can additionally give support by interacting with staff and students and taking an interest in their lives. They can spend time with the hostel girls, singing, playing games and helping with craft activities.
In addition to KSN, visitors from The Square have made links between local schools in Sarenga and schools in Dunstable, carried out visits and run activities for the children. We have also organised, or taken part in, services at Sarenga Central Church.
There is a KSN wish-list on Amazon (amzn.in/60DmxyO), enabling individuals to purchase items for the hospital directly. In conjunction with people from other churches around the country, a new charity has been set up called 'Friends of KSN'. Both of these ventures are supported by members at The Square.
Specific ProjectsAround 2017, there was a particularly cold winter in Sarenga and the Hospital was in desperate need for warm bedding in the maternity Unit. An appeal was sent out and many ladies from The Square, and churches in the Circuit responded by making warm blankets and baby clothes. It was wonderful for us to deliver these items to the Maternity Unit and get pictures to take back and show the ladies how much their items were used and appreciated.
More recently, on our last trip in 2020, we had a request from Pradip, the Hospital Administrator, that one of their needs was to brighten up the Children’s Ward. It got us thinking how best we could achieve that, and made us think of a similar request a few years earlier to brighten up the Baby Room. There, Linda had drawn and then painted, with the help of some of the Nursing Students a large Peacock, the National Bird of India. Could we do something similar?
Well, our thinking led to an idea. This idea then led to fruition. Linda challenged all the children at her local Primary School Lark Rise Academy to draw an image that would brighten up the Children’s Ward at KSN. A deadline of three weeks was given, which was in fact very close to our departure date to India. Linda collected all the images and took them all the way to KSN.
After a few days
into our stay at KSN, Linda lined up all the pictures in the Chapel. Then, as each staff member or student nurse
left, they were given a stone. They
were told to place their stone underneath their favourite picture. The picture with the most stones was the
winner, and that image would be transformed on to the wall of the Children’s
Ward. Now the children have an image
on the wall that can capture their attention and bring fascination and
Last but not least
Perhaps the most important way in which The Square has supported KSN is by raising awareness in the church and local community, and in providing a yearly opportunity for a wide range of people to make the trip to India. At a rough count, 40 different people have visited KSN as part of a group organised through The Square, ranging in age from 15 to 87! One of these is a local photographer who has helped to document several of our visits, and has held exhibitions of his photographs of KSN in the Epworth Hall.
At the end of our first visit in 2014, one person wrote, "Looking back, it seemed to me unclear why there should be such regret (on the part of KSN) at our leaving. We had brought some gifts for the hospital and the midwives had performed some service, but many of us had done little to evoke such a response. But then I realised that just as they were probably unaware how deeply touched we had all been by their hospitality and friendship, their kindness and warmth, their politeness and their smiles, so we likewise were unaware how much it meant to them that people should come half way round the world to join in their celebrations."
Would you like to contribute?
If you would like to contribute to Friends of KSN Hospital, please see this Gift Aid and Standing Order Form.