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Kolkata’s ‘Saint of Slums’ receives Légion d'Honneur at 92

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Father Franchois Laborde, the silent saint of Kolkata’s slums finally received his due recognition at the age of 92 recently. This is the man who worked relentlessly for destitute children. Father Laborde received the Légion d'Honneur (Legion of Honour) given by the French Ambassador, Alexandre Ziegler.

For the last 60 years, he has been working hard for the welfare of destitute and specially abled children of the slums through his established Howrah South Point. This is an organization which primarily works for children from deprived sections of the society. When he laid the foundation of the school in 1976, there were a handful of children and only eight volunteers. Father Franchois Laborde was highly determined about serving the needy, the sick, the underprivileged with all he could and he made sure that his dream turned into reality.

Many years have rolled by since then. Howrah South Point has expanded to nine homes, five non-formal schools, three formal schools, three specialized schools, dispensaries and vocational training centres. There are around 300 social workers who work for one lakh people in Jalpaiguri, Howrah and Asansol. With age, he has become physically feeble but his dream for serving the poor has remained unwavered. The man has remained consistent in his mission and his unconditional love for the poor is truly inspiring. Father Laborde originally belongs to France but has been given Indian citizenship.

After Satyajit Ray and Soumitro Chatterjee, Father Francois Laborde is the third person from Bengal to receive the highest civilian award of France. Father Laborde dedicated the award to the children whose development has been his only concern throughout his life. The novel ‘City of Joy’ by Dominique Lapierre was inspired by his real-life story.

Even at 92, Father Francois Laborde has miles to go before he sleeps. He spends most of his time in a retirement home in Midnapore these days. He still hopes for a better world where people would not be money minded and look for profits. He believes “People should not be just about themselves. They must be kind enough to embrace the underprivileged and the disabled thereby bridging the gap between the haves and have nots.”