In 1976, Fr. Erviti founded St. Xavier's Social Service Society (SXSSS). For the next decade he took SXSSS into the heart of the slums of the city in an extraordinarily creative and meaningful way. In the formative stage the organization concentrated in fewer slums in the city. The society did rehabilitation work in Sankalitnagar and in 1983 moved on to Mahajan-no-Vando and the Nagori Kabrasthan slum settlements. By this time the organization had moved into second phase i.e. diversification. The organization physically separated itself from St. Xavier's School and started its own premises.
Seen in the photograph above is Rev. Fr. Erviti listening to the hardships of some of the slum children.
Fr. Erviti became a "beacon of hope" to several of the poor and marginalized of the city and was instrumental in inspiring other individuals and groups to respond to the legitimate needs of the urban poor and the tribal migrants. On May 20, 1986 he met with an untimely death at the age of 56; the one refrain on the lips of thousands of his admirers was: "He gave and did not count the cost".
Post Erviti Years:
Fr. M. A. Urrutia stepped into the shoes of Fr. Erviti at a time when the Society was going through a critical phase. The sudden loss of its founder had meant a lot to the organization and to the people at large. However, Fr. Urrutia faced these challenges bravely until he handed over the reigns of the organization to Fr. Cedric Prakash who was appointed the Director of SXSSS on April 25th 1987.
The years that followed could best be regarded as the consolidation phase of the organization. The basic philosophy and work of Fr. Erviti was further consolidated during this period. The SXSSS started a new wing called Center for Orientation, Research and Documentation (CORD) in 1989. It actively and systematically documents the day-to day happenings that affects the life of people and society and disseminate important information for public use. The CORD also acts as an important nodal point among other NGOs, government offices, besides coordination between field areas. Located close to the educational institutions of Ahmedabad, the CORD encompasses the library, a training hall, a conference room, a seminar hall, and discussion halls for program groups to meet.
The National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) is a programme of the Ministry of Human Resource Development. SXSSS was the first accredited institute under this programme in Gujarat since 1990 with English and Hindi as a medium of instruction. In the year 2007 the institute has been granted the status of a study centre along with Gujarati as a medium of instruction.
From its inception SXSSS responded to the vital needs of the society at normal times and in extraordinary situations. During the cyclone, floods, droughts, earthquake and communal riots that have ravaged life in Gujarat, the SXSSS always rise to the occasion and plays a modest, yet very significant role in mitigating the tragedy. By 1994 the organization had covered seven major slum pockets under its operation. With the expansion in the geographical coverage necessitated the increase in manpower and resources. The character of the institution changed from being more informal to formal. In 1995, the organization was named the first recipient of the Anubhai Chimanlal Nagarikta Puraskar for its sustained contribution to the city of Ahmedabad.
On 30th January, 1999, the death anniversary of 'Mahatma Gandhi', who though best known as the apostle of non-violence, the organization launched a new initiative SHANTI (Peace) aimed at promoting communal harmony, justice and peace. In December 2004, Jamat-e-Islam-e-Hind presented the Human Rights Award to St. Xavier's Social Service Society for its unflinching services towards the cause of communal unity and Human Rights in the year 2002.
Apart from its role as a grassroots development organization, it has been playing a larger role of advocacy on many human rights and social justice issues and has networked and collaborated with many national and international bodies. It has acted as a secretariat to some of the major network initiatives. In its efforts to usher in a society which is more humane and more just, the organization has been collaborating with the local governments and with other NGOs to help the poor increase access to primary infrastructural facilities and their basic rights.
St. Xavier's Social Service Society maintains close ties with St. Xavier's School Loyola Hall and continues social awareness and action program with students on a regular basis. On July 31st 2007, Loyola Evening School (LES) was inaugurated. This joint venture of St. Xavier’s Social Service Society and St. Xavier's High School Loyola Hall is an initiative reaching out to the less privileged and marginalized children of the slums around St. Xavier's Loyola Hall High School. Slum children of the surrounding areas come to the premises to study, play and develop into citizens for better tomorrow. They avail of all the facilities of the campus, experiencing “childhood” of a different world all together, of which they are deprived so often.
In June 2001, the organization bid farewell to Fr. Cedric Prakash who was Director for fourteen long years, Fr. Victor Moses took his place. Fr. Paul D'Souza, the current Director, took over in June 2006. At present SXSSS works in 30 slum pockets of 10 municipal wards in the city of Ahmedabad. The organization has made a conscious move to lay more and more emphasis on capacity building and empowerment of the local groups to develop them into vibrant people's organizations.