St. Xavier Social Center, Nepal
|Norbert D’Souza, SJ|
St. Xavier Social Center, Nepal, began as St. Xavier's Social Service Residence in 1970, servicing street children, and extended its services to those with substance abuse. Over the years it expanded to several Jesuit, social service initiatives in Nepal. In accord with Nepalese law, proselytizing has been notably absent from the Jesuit mission to Nepal, in spite of heavy Jesuit investment in education in this country that remains in the "least developed" category.
In 1970 Fr. Tom Gafney, S.J., picked up on the work of two French graduate students who had harbored nine street boys, and expanded his work until the time of his murder in the Jesuit residence in 1997. By that time he had purchased a house accommodating 80 street children near St. Xavier's School, Jawalakhel, opened Nakipot Farm Center for boys with blindness, tuberculosis or leprosy, and founded Freedom Center for the rehabilitation of young drug addicts. Nepal has been a world-prominent drug center, and this has wreaked havoc with the country's youth. Gafney's pioneering work exposing and decrying the drug problem in Nepal was from the start an embarrassment to the government. Until the 1990s Gafney's was the only drug treatment and rehabilitation center in a country whose official position was that there was no problem. His services reached city-wide, with special attention to the young and drug addicts. After completing his term as superior at Xavier he began full-time work with the needy, serving also as their spokesman and advocate, and heavily involved in counselling.
By 2011 the Freedom Center housed 28 men ages 18-24 and continued as a residential center for those suffering from drug dependency, as well as a continuing support for those who have passed through the program. Nakhipot Farm Center houses 25 men with serious diseases or mental illness. The men are taught income-generating skills like poultry farming, and the making of rope and chalk. They may stay at the center until they become self-sufficient and obtain a job. The center's goal is to expand to where it can reach more of the rural people who have problems with addiction or are physically or mentally handicapped, as well as orphans. 
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