The boys are mainly Indian and Nepali boys aged between 5-19. All come from very poor families, and most have lost at least one parent. They come from a Hindu or Buddhist background and they are free to continue practising these beliefs. At the same time daily life at Albella involves Christian input: “Prayers” morning and evening, and boys attend Sunday Service either at Albella or if they wish at the large evangelical church in Kalimpong.
Younger boys attend Albella’s free primary school, Bonami, together with an additional 100 local day-scholars. The Bonami Primary boys are given their free tea & snacks at noon. From class IV upwards, they are taught through the medium of English with explanations in Nepali.
All the secondary boys get up early to do over an hour’s study before breakfast and prayers. Residents are given two meals a day at 7am and 6pm, usually rice, dal, vegetable curry, including meat & egg thrice in a week. The senior boys, who walk to one of three secondary schools, drink only water during the day but get tea when they return at 3.30pm. After sunset, about 6.30pm, the big boys study till prayers at 8.30pm.
Great emphasis is placed on the older boys looking after the younger ones. There is never a shortage of volunteers!
Senior boys have practical, vocational courses in electrics and building skills as well as academic studies. They practise their skills, painting, decorating and repairing, around Albella with supervision.
Life is not all work. Albella has free use of a nearby field for its two favourite sports, cricket and soccer. Albella also has its ownfenced-in basketball/volleyball ground, one TV in Bonami and one in Albella’s dining room, a table tennis room – and a gym for the older boys.
At assemblies, the principal, Heshron, never needs to raise his soft voice – it is heard in absolute silence! Only occasionally are the boys naughty – punishments are cleaning drains or carrying manure; but expulsion follows drug use or smoking.