Stewards Trust, an Indian Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) founded and established in 1987 by Dr John & Kay Sylvester in Allahabad, India, works tirelessly towards social and physical upliftment, education, healthcare, agricultural facilities and basic amenities to the underprivileged people across Shankergarh and Koraon regions of Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh.
The inception of Stewards Trust began over two decades ago when Dr. J. Sylvester, armed with a Phd. degree in Economics from Allahabad University travelled to America, where he met his wife Kay, at The Christ for the Nations Institute (CFNI) in Dallas, Texas whilst pursuing theological studies. Kay, who was only nineteen years of age, worked as a volunteer at an orphanage in Cochin, India. In 1982 Dr.John Sylvester and Kay married and returned to India to serve the neglected and weaker communities, especially the bonded laborers and children of land mine workers living in the interior villages surrounding the city of Allahabad.
For generations the people of these communities had been living in abject poverty, where education, was a far-fetched dream. The only way to bring about change was opening the doors of communication through education.
The initial years were a challenge for Dr.John Sylvester to gain the trust of these people, since they had been living under years of oppression by the landlords. The scared villagers were skeptical of John, and believed that an educated man from the city was only interested in selling their children into bonded labor.
You may be surprised at the conclusions drawn by the villagers, but the mental psyche was formed over years of being mistreated, branded as untouchables, and subjected to atrocities by the more educated landlords. These villagers were restricted access to even clean drinking water from the wells, forcibly resorting to ditch water. Lack of money to buy food compelled the villagers to resort to eating boiled tree bark to sustain themselves. Their insecurities and lack of trust in an outsider led John to share their ordeal in order to earn their trust and acceptance of his help to overcome these atrocities. John drank the same ditch water, ate boiled barks and even slept outside the villagers’ huts to ease their fear and gain their trust.
John recalls one such instance at the time, “I was travelling by scooter from one village to another and was accosted by a mob of men with axes, sent by the landlords to threaten me not to spread education amongst the laborers. I was warned not to venture close to the villages, else they would kill me,” he said. That warning didn’t deter John from his mission. He fearlessly kept returning to educate the villagers about their basic rights under the Indian government and to assist in educating their children.
Gradually the villagers started trusting John with the education of their children and accepted John & Kay’s efforts to try and help them. John & Kay strongly believe that God helped open doors for them to start development amongst these communities. After 29 years, it is rewarding to witness the transformation and see these village children free from the cycle of bonded labor, educated and assimilated as a constructive part of society.