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Volume 44, Number 2
  
31 January 2012
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2005, a recovering alcoholic attends a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous in Kerala with his daughter. (photo: Cody Christopulos)

From India today comes word that Catholic leaders are considering taking a hard line against drinking, to battle a worsening problem:

Church leaders in Kerala today declared war on liquor consumption, maintaining that alcohol abuse is the root-cause behind many broken families in the southern Indian state.

The Church is planning to list drinking as a cardinal sin that should be confessed, said Father T. James Antony, secretary of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council’s (K.C.B.C.) Temperance Commission.

The commission is drafting a proposal in this regard for the council which should be finalized by June, he said.

People in Kerala are said to be the biggest drinkers in India, drinking three times the national average.

A recent study by the Alcohol and Drug Information Centre revealed that alcohol dependency is even spreading among children aged 10-15.

“Alcoholism is a social menace which is destabilizing families and claiming thousands of lives every year,” Father Antony said.

We reported on Kerala's problem of addiction and the people struggling to recover in 2005:

Each year, the state consumes 2.2 gallons of liquor per capita, about three times the national rate, according to India’s Outlook magazine.

“In Kerala, people tend to start drinking once they are 18 years old, which is the legal age for being able to purchase liquor,” said Father Titus Kattuparambil, a Syro-Malabar priest of the Eparchy of Irinjalakuda and assistant director of Navachaithanya.

“Among the bad cases, you’ll see people who earn about three dollars a day, and they’ll blow two dollars of that on alcohol.”

Both national and local governments have acknowledged the problem of alcoholism, and alcohol advertising is illegal. Kerala’s state government also funds several detoxification centers at public hospitals. But at the same time, Father Titus pointed out, the government in Kerala – as in other Indian states – draws revenue from liquor taxes and therefore has a fiscal disincentive to curb alcohol consumption.

For more, continue reading One Day At a Time in Kerala. For further information on the K.C.B.C. Temperance Council, click here.



Tags: India Kerala Indian Bishops Alcoholism Substance Abuse

23 January 2012
Erin Edwards




Sister Leema Rose makes her evening home visits to the sick and those struggling to make ends meet in Dharavi, a slum in the center of Mumbai. (photo: Peter Lemieux)

Yesterday, Al Jazeera reported that the Indian government is pushing forward with a plan to re-develop Mumbai’s largest slum, Dharavi. The plan could compromise the livelihoods of millions. In the July 2011 issue of ONE, Slumdog Sisters profiled the work of the Nirmala Dasi Sisters in Dharavi.

Already, local authorities, under pressure from powerful developers, are planning a large–scale development project for the area. Ironically, Dharavi’s now international notoriety as India’s worst slum has only intensified efforts to reclaim and gentrify the squatted government land.

In response, Father Pinto and other leaders have begun mobilizing the community, informing its members of their rights and advocating on their behalf. Though Father Pinto senses he faces an uphill battle, he refuses to stand by quietly and watch his parishioners, friends and neighbors forcibly displaced from or priced out of their homes.

“In 25 years,” the priest sighs despondently, “you’ll find a different face on Dharavi.”

Whatever the future holds for Dharavi and its residents, one thing remains certain: the Nirmala Dasi Sisters will continue to serve Mumbai’s destitute, abandoned and marginalized.

For more from the Al Jazeera story, check out the clip below.



Tags: India Sisters Poor/Poverty

9 January 2012
Erin Edwards




Mr. and Mrs. Mathew prepare dinner while Jiya plays with her grandmother.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)


Emigration occurs in many of the countries CNEWA serves. Families generally choose to migrate from their country of origin in order to make a better life for themselves. In Kerala, it is common for a family member to migrate to another country and send home money or ”remittances.“ But those not benefitting from emigration face the harsh realities of poverty and lack of opportunity in Kerala:

About a mile or so from the Peters family’s new home — in a neighborhood where residents claim ”Gulf money“ has built 90 percent of all the houses — huddles the rundown shack that Jeji and Priya Mathew and their 1-year-old daughter, Jiya, call home. A ratty, blue plastic tarp tacked crudely over the entrance collects leaves. Water stains splotch the interior walls of this cramped, makeshift dwelling. Toothbrushes and other toiletries fill the shallow crevices of an exterior brick wall around back. With no running water, the dirt landing adjoining the shack’s rear is where Mr. Mathew shaves, his wife brushes her hair and Jiya plays — mud puddles at their feet.

Unlike the Peters family, the Mathews do not receive any remittances from overseas. The family struggles just to secure the basics.

For more, read Kerala’s Bittersweet Phenomenon from the September 2008 issue. Also, take a look at the accompanying multimedia feature, Meaning and Measure of Kerala Emigration.



Tags: India Kerala Poor/Poverty Emigration Employment

29 December 2011
Erin Edwards




Sister Leema Rose and volunteer Jancy Kuthoor visit the homes of needy residents in Dharavi, Mumbai’s most infamous slum. (photo:Peter Lemieux)

In the July issue of ONE, Peter Lemieux reported on the work of the Nirmala Dasi Sisters with Mumbai’s poor. Many of the people the sisters serve live in Dharavi, Mumbai’s most infamous slum. Today’s front page of The New York Times featured an article on Dharavi and it’s residents’ unwavering hope in spite of the many odds they face.

The computer sits on a small table beside the bed, protected, purchased for $354 from savings, even though the family has no Internet connection. The oldest son stores his work on a pen drive and prints it somewhere else. Ms. Baskar, a seamstress, spends five months’ worth of her income, almost $400, to send three of her children to private schools. Her daughter wants to be a flight attendant. Her youngest son, a mechanical engineer.

“My daughter is getting a better education, and she will get a better job,” Ms. Baskar said. “The children’s lives should be better. Whatever hardships we face are fine.”

Education is hope in Dharavi. On a recent afternoon outside St. Anthony’s, a parochial school in the slum, Hindu mothers in saris waited for their children beside Muslim mothers in burqas. The parents were not concerned about the crucifix on the wall; they wanted their children to learn English, the language considered to be a ticket out of the slums in India.

For more, read In One Slum, Misery, Work, Politics and Hope.



Tags: India Sisters Poor/Poverty

15 December 2011
Erin Edwards




St. Joseph’s girls perform a traditional Keralite dance. (photo: Cody Christopulos)

In the September 2005 issue of ONE we featured a story on St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Pulincunnoo, Kerala:

But for all its classes and study periods, St. Joseph’s Orphanage is hardly a brain-stuffing sweatshop. The girls have plenty occasions for fun, and even the classes are likely to be interrupted by a fit of giggles. On feast days, the girls choreograph elaborate dances, which they perform in their school uniforms and bare feet in the orphanage’s common room. There is also occasion to sing, play sports and gossip. The girls also tend to their pets — tiny turtles that have made their home in the orphanage’s garden.

“Nearly all the girls are scared when they first get here, which is only natural,” said Sister Flower Mary. “But they soon make friends. We try to make this transition period as easy as possible for them by making sure the new girls are well-attended to.

“In many cases, the friends they make here will be with them for the rest of their lives,” Sister Flower Mary continued. “And they will always be a part of my life. Just because they move away and get a job or get married doesn’t mean I don’t stay in touch with them. We are all one big family.”

For more from this story see, St. Joseph’s ‘Orphans’.



Tags: India Kerala Orphans/Orphanages

5 December 2011
Erin Edwards




Boys at Bhorathannoor Ambeaker Harigen Colony show off hats the village sells in larger towns. (photo: Cody Christopulos)

The work of priests in CNEWA’s world is often crucial to the communities they serve. In the November 2005 issue of ONE, writer Paul Wachter explored the sometimes challenging ministry of priests in rural India, work which can even include helping people learn new skills — such as how to weave hats like those pictured above:

Bhorathannoor Ambeaker Harigen Colony is home to 700 families, 100 of whom are Catholic and the remainder Hindu. Most of the Catholics entered the church about 10 years ago, the priests said.

The villagers live in small brick homes — they have one or two rooms each and the roofs are made of coconut leaves. There is a lone, tiny convenience store in the village, which sells a few staple goods and packets of candy that are popular with the children.

“There is a general lack of education in the area,” Father John said back at St. Mary’s. “There is a lot of unemployment and most people are small farmers who work only here and there throughout the year. That is why we try to introduce programs such as basket weaving or making other handicrafts.”

For more from this story see, Village Priests.



Tags: India Kerala Village life

30 November 2011
Erin Edwards




Boys watch at the shore as a boat of fishermen heads out to sea in Kerala, India.
(photo: Luke Golobitsch)


Today is the feast day of St. Andrew, the patron of fishermen. In this image from our archive, taken in 1990, fishermen in India head out to sea at sunset.



Tags: India Kerala

22 November 2011
Erin Edwards




A student band performs at a school and home for the deaf and blind run by the Assisi Sisters of Mary Immaculate in Thalayolaparambu, a village in the Kottayam district of Kerala, India.
(photo: Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)


Today St. Cecilia, the patroness of musicians and church music, is venerated. She is said to have died singing to the Lord.



Tags: India Sisters Kerala Disabilities

17 November 2011
Erin Edwards




Sister Lisi Valloppally, a registered nurse, cares for H.I.V. infected adults at the Grace Home in Kerala. If patients need emergency care or hospitalization, they are sent to the Medical College of Trichur just a few kilometers away. (photo: Peter Lemieux)

In the November 2010 issue of ONE, Peter Lemieux reported on the work of the Nirmala Dasi sisters with children and adults living with H.I.V./AIDS in Kerala.

In addition to caring for H.I.V.-positive children, Grace Home offers temporary inpatient services to H.I.V.-positive adults. “We take in sick patients, patients recently diagnosed or patients who have nowhere to go,” says Sister Lisi. “We try to get them back on their feet and healthy so they can go back to the outside world. Grace Home is not set up for long-term stays.”

Msgr. Vilangadan, however, recognizes the precarious situation in which most of these adults live. “If nobody will accept them, where will they go? They’ll die at the home.”

Sister Lisi spends her afternoons checking in on the home’s 15 to 20 adult patients. She moves swiftly from bedside to bedside, asking questions, checking charts and I.V.’s.

For more about the Grace Home see Full of Grace.



Tags: India Sisters Kerala HIV/AIDS

25 October 2011
Erin Edwards




A little girl at the nursery the Nirmala Dasi sisters run in Dharavi, a slum in the center of Mumbai. The children there are mainly from families that have working mothers. (photo: Peter Lemieux)

Saturday in Mumbai, 285 girls participated in a district renaming ceremony, which aims to “give the girls new dignity and help fight widespread gender discrimination that gives India a skewed gender ratio, with far more boys than girls.”

The girls — wearing their best outfits with barrettes, braids and bows in their hair — lined up to receive certificates with their new names along with small flower bouquets from Satara district officials in Maharashtra state.

In shedding names like “Nakusa” or “Nakushi,” which mean “unwanted” in Hindi, some girls chose to name themselves after Bollywood stars like “Aishwarya” or Hindu goddesses like “Savitri.” Some just wanted traditional names with happier meanings, such as “Vaishali” or “prosperous, beautiful and good.”

“Now in school, my classmates and friends will be calling me this new name, and that makes me very happy,” said a 15-year-old girl who had been named Nakusa by a grandfather disappointed by her birth. She chose the new name “Ashmita,” which means “very tough” or “rock hard” in Hindi.

We recently reported on life in Mumbai in the July issue of ONE. The Nirmala Dasi Sisters in Mumbai work with the poor, the marginalized and children. One priest explains:

“The sisters have been in Dharavi for over 20 years. Their commitment has never wavered. And from that, we as an eparchy have gained confidence and expanded our social services throughout Mumbai. It’s worked out well and has been an excellent boost to the eparchy. We never got enmity from anyone.

“And we’ve learned a lot of things from them — involvement in the community, simplicity, commitment. They get up and do it,” adds the priest.

Five days a week, the sisters operate a nursery school and day care center that enrolls more than 60 children with working parents. The center offers meals and a structured program of educational activities. It has earned a reputation as the best day care provider around; even Dharavi’s more affluent families clamor to register their children on its long waiting list.

For more from this story see, ‘Slumdog’ Sisters by Peter Lemieux and for more about the renaming ceremony in Mumbai see, Name changers: 285 Indian girls no longer 'unwanted' on MSNBC.com.



Tags: India Children





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