The Prayer sparked the beginning of the School in May 1981; for the hospital staff children and for the wider community as a source of influence on health, hygiene and education. The desire for starting the School was also fuelled and motivated by Ms. Catherine Jones who was running a School in Punjab.
One day Mr. Ahmed Syed and Dr. George Varghese took the rickety ride by Himachal transport bus to Shimla to seek permission from the Bishop to start the School. The Bishop Rt. Rev. Anand Chandu lal was not only pleased to grant the permission but laid emphasis on the Educational needs of Society at large.
In 1984 things slowly moved towards starting the School. In the following year, 25 children were selected including the children from Manali community, for two classes Nursery and Kindergarten. Mr. Ahmed and Mr. Kranti Singh were involved in the selection process. In December while Drs. George Varghese and Sheila were away in Pune, the teacher who was to take charge had expressed her unwillingness to work for the offered salary. Mr. Ahmed Syed quoted to her, Dr. Varghese’s favorite saying ‘If money is the reason that brought you here, we can only give you what has been offered but working here may possibly change your life for better in other remarkable ways.’
Later Dr. Varghese called from Pune that Miss Carol Almeida would be coming in May 1985.
Mrs. Carol Harland reminisces ‘It was summer 1985 in Pune; the class I was teaching was overcrowded and dusty. Creativity was not appreciated and I was very discouraged. Then I went to a spiritual lady for guidance, she prayed and told me not to apply anywhere until God places a new job in my lap. At that time Dr. Varghese visited Carol and requested her to come and start the School. At once Carol realized that this was from God and accepted the offer.
Carol took the train to Delhi and then the night bus to Manali .As the night passed the morning light lit up the mountains, the trees and flowers brimming with life .she praised God for this beautiful place and for the surprises beyond her imaginations.
I wonder how this young lady made this long journey into uncertainty; everything was uncertain, salary, job security, retirement benefits, above all friends and away from home….. There were no deluxe/luxury buses, the road was narrow, single lane not enough room for two buses to cross at certain places. It is a challenge for the present generation of luxury seekers, most of them have taken the way of Cain, they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error, they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion, they are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind, autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted twice dead.
This reminds me of how one young man could not bear the roar of the river Beas in the middle of the night, was frightened and left the School! (Those days one could hear the river!!) Good excuse may be river phobia!
When Carol visited Drs.George and Sheila’s home she saw a note on the kitchen board ‘Lord, a school here in Manali’ now this prayer was answered, it was time for thanks giving and Praise.
There were 25 children by now in two classes Nursery and Kindergarten but no class rooms; the only room available was that of the church hall (a small room) Mrs. Jamdei (Ammaji) was the helper. No school name yet! Mr. and Mrs. Rod Gilbert suggested the name ‘Day Star Academy’ the star that remains in the sky through the darkest night and stays till morning light appears, referring to Christ, 2Peter 1:19. There was more to be done after the school name. There was no School uniform. School song was written by Drs. George & Sheila, Carol and Jane. The song is revised and put to music in the Silver Jubilee year. The School motto Dignity, Equality and Responsibility, was contributed by Dr. Sheila Varghese.
The first memories of Ms. Carol, taking classes under the tree in the warm sun shine, Rinchen quick at Math, Pawan reciting poetry, Cherring sitting on the logs and chatting away and Mariam running and trying to keep up with the boys.
The first members of the management board were Drs. George and Sheila Varghese, Mr. Ahmed Syed, Miss Carol Almeida and Mrs. Joyce Davis.
In the year 1986 one of aunty Beryl’s foster children Mr. Karma Dingyon joined School, a very gentle and kind person, during story time children would climb all over him! He would mesmerize them with never ending Agu Temba stories; even now children cherish those stories. He would carry the fee receipt book in his pocket and receive fee whenever and wherever parents gave it to him! In those days everything was done by everybody!
Now the growing school required more rooms and furniture. A few parents contributed some money and wood for this.
After Karma, Vibha (from Pune) joined, she taught children a Gujarati dance for the cultural programme. As the need increased more people joined us – Cheme Dolma, Kasturi, Barkha and Promila.
It was time for Carol to return home before she left Ms. Grace Navamoney joined as the Principal after her retirement in Pune, a very strict and upright lady, my first guru as a teacher trainer.
Both Ms. Grace Navamoney and I joined the School on the same day. I had a desire to work in a place of need; at that time I received a letter from my friend Mr. Benjamin Daniel that Day Star needs me. Carol writes about me ‘soft spoken unassuming young man little did we realize that he would stay long and contribute so much to the leadership of the School’.
Uncle Sonki, Mr. Thakur and Mr. Kishan who were hospital employees did all the repair and maintenance. Lady Willingdon hospital supported and nurtured Day Star School for over a decade till it became self sufficient. The School and Hospital continue to help each other in many ways.
Mrs. Joyce Davis took over from Ms Grace N. This was the time of real challenge to run a formal school had begun, in 1990 Lady Willingdon Hospital and Day Star School Society was formed and registered under the Registration of Societies Act. The founding members of the Society were Drs. George & Sheila Varghese, Mr. Syed Ahmed, Mr. Aloysius Phillips, Dr.Ray Thomas, Miss Grace Navamoney and Miss Joyce Sawdon. The school was up to class five and it was time to seek No objection certificates and Affiliation to a board. We faced problems at every turn till the end. Finally the school was affiliated to the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations.
Some of the significant staff development workshops were, English Curriculum development by Mr. Mike Maunder, Teaching in kindergarten by Mrs. Lorina D’Cruz Principal St.Mary’s college Pune, Math by Mr.Jose Paul and Ms. Ruby Mangaldas (from Hebron School Ooty), Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation by Prof. H.S. Srivastava Head of The Research, Development and Consultancy Division along with Mrs. Sangeetha Bhatia from the Council. Central Board of Secondary Education is now trying to implement continuous and comprehensive Evaluation, which we have successfully implemented more than a decade ago; this makes us proud, a nondescript school in remote state of Himachal, Manali, ahead of its time!
Mr. and Mrs. Albert Davis led the School in the right direction, modeled values and teaching methods for the young teachers to emulate. Mrs. Joyce Davis led the School for ten years and passed on the leadership to Mr. Elias Paul. At this time we decided to have a three year term for rotating the leadership between Elias, Sheela Subhakar and Rekha George. Ms. Sheila successfully completed her term but unfortunately Mrs. Rekha George left and could not fulfill her term. Later on, in 2009, Ms. Beulah Abraham was appointed as the Principal. She led the School till 2012.
The School is currently headed by Mr. Yogesh Kumar Gajju. He is blessed with a team of committed people who are passionate to lead the institution with a renewed vision, i.e. to bring transformation in the lives of individuals and community through education.
We appreciate the contributions made by many Volunteers across the Globe; they have helped us by assisting teachers, organized dance, drama and music clubs, painted murals, made one to one reading possible and have taken care of special needs children. Some of the volunteers are from TEAR FUND and GAP now LATTITUDE and some individuals like Mike Maunder and Evi Rosino.
Meera and Joyce who joined the School as volunteers came through a friend, Prof. Sudhakar Solomon Raj, from Wilson College, Mumbai. They continued here as Staff. Most of the volunteers are now friends forever of the School.
We were surprised to get first financial gifts from two ladies (trekkers) who had received medical care at the Lady Willingdon Hospital during their travels here.
Sponsors and Donors are the backbone for supporting the School infrastructure and meeting the Educational needs of the deserving children, some of them are from Manali Hospital Fund (Dr. and Mrs. Donald Macallister & friends), Drs. Murray and Ann Herbert Millichope foundation, Eo Metterdar, Evi rosino Duer & Friends and Sigma Corporation, Martin Sulzer, Aunty and Uncle Salve through Santosh memorial trust, they have always stepped in at times of financial crisis, also supported education of the Dar-ul-Fazl children at the Day Star School, in the beginning.
We are grateful to all the friends and sponsors in India and abroad for their help, without their support we wouldn’t have achieved what we have.
In late eighties when computers were rare Day Star entered into an agreement with Apple computers to take up Computer aided learning.
Ashish Home for the very needy, the construction of the building is complete. At present there are 14 children living there, they all come from different backgrounds and go to different schools, 10 of them come to Day Star. Financial support is being raised for about 5 children.
Free or subsidized education for the deserving is provided; some children are supported even for their higher education in different schools and colleges outside Manali.
Smart Class: this program is used in all the classes. It is the latest and advanced software and multimedia technology to aid the child’s learning. Teachers are using it to explain difficult concepts and for better understanding of the topics.
Special needs is being effectively managed by a full time teacher and other team members. Much remains to be done. This department is nurtured and taken care by Mr. Benoni and his team in catering to the needs of differently abled children.
In 2013, the Handimachal therapy unit which was founded by La maison des Himalayas(France), signed a MOU with Day Star School to carry forward the services provided by the unit much more efficiently to the disabled children of Kullu valley.
The saddest moments were the untimely loss of our students
Naresh Thakur, Sonam Chering, Liakat Ali, Aman, Pema Dorje, Samarth Behl, Urja Rai and Abhishek Thakur, Ishan Thakur
A Jubilee of faith and grace
Day Star has now grown to be 28 years old, with excellent infrastructure and enough class rooms. A beautiful well stocked library (the pride of Day Star). The computer lab with latest computers with comfortable backup system, well equipped Biology, Physics and chemistry labs, envious indoor swimming pool.
Mr. Ahmed remembers one of the bank officers saying that this school will be the best in the region, a place where children would not only learn to read and write and pass examinations but also they would learn how to communicate, behave and conduct themselves in a well educated and trained manner.
These above words uttered in 1984 have been proved prophetic. Many lives have been touched and changed remarkably in many ways. The people I have spoken to young and old reflect my feelings and agree with my thoughts that Day Star has touched and transformed us, here we have learned more than we taught and received more than what we have given.
Mrs. Joyce Davis remembers, ‘Now as I look back I must thank my colleagues especially for the questions they asked and continue to ask. It is this feature of the Management that made the working of the school very dynamic. Living in Bangalore now I know that many schools here are not asking questions that you are and therefore you are in many ways ahead of your times’.
Rt. Rev. P.K. Samantaroy the present Bishop and the Chairman of the Society and Dr. Philip Alexander, Secretary of the Society are a source of inspiration and a guiding force at all times. The support and cooperation of many well wishers and partners of the School are part of this success story and will be together taking the School forward in the future.
Day Star is vibrant as ever and continues to live in many lives.
We look to God for blessings and guidance in our endeavours to bring this transformation in every child’s life at Day Star School!