Today’s blog post is probably the most emotional I have had to write. We headed to a special orphanage run by the Sisters belonging to the religious congregation ‘The Little Servants of the Divine Providence.’ The home, in Vilangu under the Eranakulam Diocese is run by only 11 nuns, led by the kindly Sister Linda. They cook, wash, clean and care for 117 girls and 1 boy with severe mental and physical disabilities including complete paralysis. We were welcomed in with kindness, shown around the beautifully clean house, complete with its own chapel and meeting with the girls and women who stay there.
We saw many different disabilities, from Down’s syndrome to blindness and severe mental disabilities. The women and girls held our hands as we walked through, wanting to touch us and all those who could were smiling. With such little support and complete reliance on charitable donations, the Sisters rely on some of the girls to help feed those unable to feed themselves. Some lay in beds like cots with rails to protect them, unable to move, unable to speak, or even hear what was happening around them.
We saw one lady crying pointing to a small cut on her finger and Sister Linda stroked her face with love and tenderness to calm her.
The Sisters all came to meet us, gave us coffee and offered us biscuits and fish curry which we declined, mainly due to the fact we didn’t want to eat their rations. We gave them coloured pencils, crayons, colouring books etc. which we now are not sure will be helpful, but hopefully they will at least be able to share them with those able to enjoy them or, if necessary sell them for funds. We were also be able to give them a small donation.
There are now 16 Providence homes in India and 1 in Zambia. All founded from the love and care of a Sister called Sister Mary Litty who had spent time in ‘The Little House of the Divine Providence’ in Turin, Italy founded by Saint Joseph Cottolengo. She was inspired and came back to India determined to set up a similar home. In January 1978, with permission from her Archbishop at the time she started in one small room with one woman who could not walk, speak or attend to her own primary needs. She had practically no food, utensils or even a lamp but soon donations from local people helped her and the Providence homes were begun. There are one 147 sisters and 24 more in training with over 1000 patients being cared for.
Heartbreaking for us was hearing that many of the children came from families who did not want them or could not care for them. We were even told that if a girl dies, sometimes the family do not even want the body returned to them because their neighbours do not know they ever had a child with disabilities. This isn’t a judgement on these families, many of them struggle to survive themselves.
Thankfully, the home does survive thanks to kind donations from people, including our link school, Naipunnya, but we want to be part of that now. We are both determined to share the good work and raise money back at our school and in our local community and send what we can back to the home. They need the equivalent of £400 per month just for medicine, if we can send anything it will be a drop in the ocean, but welcomed nonetheless.
Jackie and I sat quietly in the car on the way back to our hotel, touched by what we had seen and the kindness we had once again been shown. If any one who reads this would like to donate, please send me a message and I will pass on the details of the charity to you.
So our last few hours in India, time for reflection and contemplation on a country of extremes. We sit in our room watching a Hollywood movie while the rain lashes into the bright blue pool outside our door. But the images and memories of this morning and our whole week are in the forefront of our minds.