Fr. V.M. Thomas is a Harvard graduate in Educational Administration, Planning and Social Policy. He is currently the Founder Director of the multi-faceted Don Bosco Institute, Guwahati; Head of the NGO, Don Bosco Youth mission and Educational Services; Secretary, North eastern Education Commission; Secretary, Junior Red Cross, Assam Branch; Managing Committee Member, Indian Red Cross Society; Trustee Member of Mahatma Gandhi Mandap (a State Heritage Institute). A certified Trainer in HRD from the American Society for Training and Development, he is a visiting Faculty member at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, Assam Administrative Staff College, Assam Staff College, Gauhati University and Meghalaya Administrative Training Institute, Member of National Resource Group (NRG) for Education Guarantee Scheme and Innovative Education, Govt. of India. Formerly he was the National General Secretary of the All India Association of Catholic Schools (AINACS), New Delhi, and Director, North Eastern Regional Youth Commission(NERYC), Guwahati.
Fr. V.M. Thomas (Vattathara), widely acclaimed as an HRD consultant, expert trainer, passionate youth worker, ardent educationist, a proactive catalyst of social transformation and an institution builder was born in the southern state of Kerala in 1951, but made North East India, particularly Assam his home from 1962.
In 1978, after completing his High School and College studies he was ordained a priest in the Don Bosco Society, which in course of time became the spring board of activities in pursuit of realizing his dreams and plans for the development of the youth, especially deprived youth and of educators, policy makers and society at large.
His academic and professional excellence and his capacity for networking and social involvement came to the limelight in a short span of time and took him to escalating heights of performance.
The social action instinct of Fr. Thomas has led him now, in his capacity as the Founder Director of Don Bosco Institute, to join hands with intellectuals, Govt and NGOs to launch out into a greater services for peace, literacy, and social transformation.
His organizational and administrative abilities, his charismatic leadership, his youthful enthusiasm, his drive for excellence has made him a well known and popular person. In recognition of his work he was awarded the State Level Sankardev Award for Social Work in 1990, acknowledging his contribution in education and sports.
BUILDING DREAMS…SHAPING LIVES…INFLUENCING SOCIETY
It is this great vision: “Building Dreams, Shaping Lives, and Influencing Society” that brought him back in Guwahati in 1993, renouncing the ambitious post of a Trainer at the prestigious Harvard University. Uplift the deprived and downtrodden and thus serve God– this is the driving force of his life. A visionary to the core, Fr. Thomas has the ability to transform his visions into reality.
Placed at the helm of the Don Bosco Youth mission and Educational Services (DBYES), the nodal agency for youth work and educational services of the Salesians of Don Bosco, Province of Guwahati, his dream began to unfold itself. The beginnings were humble and modest with an office space of 100 sq ft. and a cash deposit of Rs. 10,000/-. But, true to his calibre, Fr. Thomas refused to be conditioned and chained down by external circumstances. The clarity of his vision coupled with his strong convictions, faith in God and in his Collaborators, and above all his single minded purpose brought about a tremendous expansion of the NGO he was heading, adding to it new parameters of service.
He initiated several projects to educate and train youth both in the formal and non-formal settings, igniting a dream in their hearts and giving them a hope for the future. Tangible steps that are being taken to reach out to the deprived youth are:
(i) The “Bosco Barefoot College”, Boko, Kamrup Dt, Assam a new concept conceived and actualized by Fr. Thomas, a similar work being carried out in Bhooteachang, in the Udalguri District of Assam. Under his tutelage the rural vagabonds and the wayward school drop-outs have found ways and means of developing skills within their means such as carpentry, masonry, tailoring, mushroom cultivation, fishery, handicrafts, agriculture, vermicompost, candle making, book binding etc. which would give them a decent livelihood.
(ii) The Deprived Urban Children(DUC) project offering bridge courses for the out of school children and mainstreaming 5100 of them in 2003.
(iii) The CARE project a massive literacy project in the Districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang Assam which continues to provide education to violence-hit children of the 1996 ethnic violence many of whom have made their permanent settlement in the relief camps and remote villages. He has built 5 full-fledge school buildings in Kokrajhar and Chirang Districts of Assam.
BUILDER OF INSTITUTIONS AND BUILDER OF PEOPLE….
Meanwhile the dream continues and another Brain Child of his is born in 2004 with the setting up of Don Bosco Institute, a centre for Human development, Training and Leadership. This well-equipped and well furnished centre, with the Training Block, Training Hostel and two Students’ Hostels – built atop the picturesque hillock with the expanse of the mighty Brahmaputra reveals his vision, creativity, dynamism, resourcefulness, organizing capacity, ecological sense and above all his humanitarian heart and passion for development. Inaugurating the Don Bosco Institute on November 22, 2004, Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, paid homage the Institute and to the Visionary behind it with these words: “I believe, if we exploit and develop the tremendous human resources of Assam and North Eastern region, then, it is surely possible, as never before in the human history to leapfrog in the race for social and economic development. And one small example of how this can be done is being exhibited so brilliantly by the Don Bosco Institute….This is one of the projects to which I attach great importance …; What you are doing shows us the way to move forward. May your path be blessed”
Fr. Thomas ensures that maximum use is made of the facilities created, running impressive programmes simultaneously, his services always cutting across all communities, groups and categories of people – IAS, IPS, ACS, MCS officers, Corporate giants, Company managers, Doctors, Engineers, NGOs, Schools Principals and Administrators, Teachers and Students from Schools and Colleges. The institution also organizes, hosts national and international programmes in education, management, and social action themes.
“It (Don Bosco Institute) is one of the best examples of focused project management. My most sincere compliments to Father Thomas and his team for creating such a lively institution out of nothing.”
-Mr. Nripen Bharali, GM (Production), OIL Duliajan, Assam.
“It is a sheer delight to be at the Don Bosco Institute, particularly because of its focus on the poor and marginalized section of society, in training them for vocations which will not only provide them employment but also a purpose in life”
– Dr. T.K. Oommen, the Padma Bhushan awardee -2008 during his visit to DBI.
Fr. Thomas has the courage to dream more things… He is incapable of sitting back on his laurels. He believes strongly “anything that the mind can conceive, can achieve”. He is instrumental in the following productions:
1. Mist & Magic – a musical video presentation on the Northeast India
2. Peace Initiative. A Northeast Indian Perspective, (eds.) Thomas Vattathara & Elizabeth George, Don Bosco Institute, Guwahati, 2004, pp. 212, PB, Rs. 125
3. Youth Vision. Guidelines for Youth Ministry in Northeast India, Don Bosco Institute, Guwahati, 2002, PB, pp.340.
4. Effectiveness of Salesian Schools. Province of Guwahati Report 1998, Don Bosco Youth Mission & Educational Services, Guwahati, 1998, pp.xxvii, 581
5. My Pledge. Yes to Peace, No to Violence, A collection of signatures from 26, 606 individuals from a wide spectrum of life in the city of Guwahati, Junior Red Cross, Guwahati, 2001
6. Thomas Vattathara, “Youth for a New India”, in Youth Quest. An Exploration into Values, (eds.)K. Kattikaran & C. Vettikathadam, KJC Publications, Bangalore, 1978, pp.175-208.
7. Thomas Vattathara, “Whither Education”, in Youth Quest. An Exploration into Values, (eds.)K. Kattikaran & C. Vettikathadam, KJC Publications, Bangalore, 1978, pp.153-174.
Fr. VM Thomas initiated several projects and mobilised funds for building up of schools in remote areas with zealous effort to give best to the least. He has set up several training centres and schools to uplift the underprivelege section of people.